I once asked on a course I was teaching this question, “What is the origin of human rights?” Very quickly a woman from Sweden said, “Human needs.” This struck a deep chord in me and I began to wonder how that might be the case and what were the implications for those of us that are interested in Baha’i-inspired development and education.
Recently I found this quotation included with Wendi Momen’s long list of human rights established within Baha’i writings. The most significant aspect of the quotation for me is the assertion that in governments, and in religions, autocratic governance actually prevents (presumably true and desirable ) development;
`Under an autocratic government the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail — that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs — development and growth are inevitable.’ Abdu’l-Bahá 1912
Thanks Wendi – your list and this quotation really go to the heart of the matter don’t they?
The free expression of opinions is not a ‘human right’ so much as a human and social necessity without which (true and desirable) progress is not possible. To achieve inevitable development and growth three conditions are necessary freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech. Pow!
As someone interested in education I can see the importance of these three, not least because elsewhere Abdu’l-Baha establishes discursive method, or dialogue (dia-logos) as desirable method over book-learning. Very simply Baha’i-inspired development and learning require the dialogic, and the dialogic requires freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech.
Why are these needs? To release effictively human potential both in relation to the individual, your son or daughter or pupils, but also for mankind collectively. The Revelation of Baha’u’llah is not His Writings it is I suggest human consciousness – slightly manifest, mainly still in the potential state. I dont say this just because of this;
There are certain pillars which have been established as the unshakable supports of the Faith of God. The mightiest of these is learning and the use of the mind, the expansion of consciousness, and insight into the realities of the universe and the hidden mysteries of Almighty God. To promote knowledge is thus an inescapable duty imposed on every one of the friends of God. SAB p. 126-7
But more because of this;
Say: The first and foremost testimony establishing His truth is His own Self. Next to this testimony is His Revelation. For whoso faileth to recognize either the one or the other He hath established the words He hath revealed as proof of His reality and truth. Gl105
So the task is to release potential, from our selves and from others – that I suggest is ‘the Revelation’ It = +/- x right actions. By Revelation + – I mean the Revelation is human consciousness in two states 1) manifest and 2) potential. If not then, “Where is the Revelation of Baha’u’llah – in the ink on sheets of paper?” Right actions = those processes that we need to strengthern the transfer from the potential state to the manifest state. That = the new civilization. It seems continuous and multi-level dialogue supported by freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech are the keys.
Thank goodness we can demonstrate this as a way of ‘teaching’ the world. Nothing would undermine efforts more than rank hypocrisy.In the presence of God there is no room for hypocrisy………(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 116)