In countless places we don’t usually hear about around the world, humanitarian aid workers labor every day to assist people who need help.
Have you ever traveled somewhere solely to help others?
That’s what international humanitarian aid workers do. They heroically go into dangerous places where people’s lives are at risk, and they selflessly put their own lives at risk to help others. Far away from their families and their home countries, most international humanitarian aid workers put themselves in harm’s way because they feel a strong sense of the oneness of humanity.
Their sacrificial humanitarian actions save lives. In many ways, humanitarian aid workers function as the active conscience of humanity, giving aid and assistance to whoever needs it.
If you view the world as a harsh, loveless and unfeeling place, just visit any country where humanitarian aid workers work. You’ll no doubt see an enormous outpouring of love, caring and unity coming from people who have just one primary reason to be there: empathy for the human race.
When you hear of a disaster somewhere on our planet, whether natural or man-made, the news coverage tends to highlight the human suffering and tragedy of the event. What most news coverage doesn’t tell you about is the enormous outpouring of love and human oneness that follows most disasters.
That’s why every year the United Nations celebrates August 19th as World Humanitarian Day, honoring the wonderful souls who bring assistance, relief and selfless service to millions.
World Humanitarian Day draws attention to humanitarian needs worldwide, and to the importance of international cooperation in meeting those needs.
In a fundamental way, World Humanitarian Day recognizes the essential oneness of humanity and our interdependence on each other. In times of crisis—when natural disasters, famine and war cause immense suffering—the international relief community strives to deliver life-giving assistance and long-term rebuilding and rehabilitation. Regardless of nationality or race or gender or religion, if you become a refugee or a disaster victim, that community will try to help you and your family.
This is new. Never before in world history has such a massive humanitarian response mechanism been possible.
The Baha’i teachings promised, more than a hundred years ago, that “unity of thought in world undertakings” would emerge—and now, in many ways, we can see the international humanitarian relief community doing exactly that. Even the most idealistic aspirations of the past century could not have predicted the development of such a remarkable global mechanism of humanitarian assistance. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, calls the Baha’i teachings the original source of the growth of this progressive planetary effort:
So honor a humanitarian today, and express your love and gratitude for the powerful, important and selflessly spiritual work humanitarians do for all of us.
The Baha’i teachings proclaim the oneness of humanity and the oneness of the world itself. Ultimately, Baha’is believe, the world will transcend the boundaries between nations, races and ethnicities and unite. Distinctions and barriers between people will fall. The old global divisions — East and West, North and South, Occident and Orient, first- and second- and third-world, developed and developing countries — will all disappear. We will live as one, as world citizens, as inhabitants of our beautiful, united planet. The Baha’i Writings compare this period in human history to the adulthood of the individual:
…there are periods and stages in the life of the aggregate world of humanity which at one time was passing through its degree of childhood, at another its time of youth but now has entered its long presaged period of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere visible and apparent. Therefore the requirements and conditions of former periods have changed and merged into exigencies which distinctly characterize the present age of the world of mankind. That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race could neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day and period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former degrees of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moralities, new capacities. New bounties, bestowals and perfections are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and graces of the period of youth although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of the world of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity. The playthings of childhood and infancy no longer satisfy or interest the adult mind. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 9.
This stage of maturation, the adulthood of our species, can only come about with a new consciousness of the oneness of humanity. We know scientifically that all human beings are cousins, related to one another through our common African ancestors. Now, Baha’u’llah has proclaimed, the time has come for all of us to embrace our commonality, to encourage the recognition of our unity and to make a commitment to act with love and kindness toward the entire human family.
Bahá’ís of Botswana
Bahá’í communities are working together with their neighbours and friends to promote and contribute to the well-being and progress of society. In urban centres and rural villages, in homes and schools, citizens of all backgrounds, classes and ages are participating in a dynamic pattern of life, taking part in activities which are, at once, spiritual, social and educational.
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