Bahá'í Perspective on Spiritual Aspects of Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development:
Attempt is to encourage a discourse on the spiritual value of cultural diversity and how such It will be suggested that the fundamental principle that underpins the maturation of sustainable development policy is a spiritually and materially integrated understanding of the value of humans, their cultures and the environment in which they live.
…every Faith has given rise to a culture which flowered in different forms…
The fundamental principle of the oneness of mankind, and the aim of the Faith to promote unity in diversity, underlie the Bahá'í approach to indigenous peoples. Their rights are inseparable from human rights for all, and the Bahá'í Faith upholds the right of indigenous peoples to develop and take pride in their own identity, culture and language.
Acknowledging the spiritual value of culture for development in the international discourse
We refer to two elements of the term ‘spiritual’ here. One refers to the spiritual value systems of differing cultures that lie at the source of guidance and inspiration in the civilising virtues they inculcate such as tolerance, compassion, trustworthiness, kindness, willingness to sacrifice for the common good, humility and others. The second meaning of spiritual I refer to is the intrinsic spiritual value of culture itself. In other words the essentially unique gifts that each culture carries in what they offer of preserving and expressing different truths of what it means to be a human being. Essentially these are really both the same, but one is on the level of faith and belief and the other is the level of being and becoming. These elements of spirituality are at the heart of development but often lack the explicit and conscious attention they deserve in policy and legislation.
While spiritual issues in culture have traditionally been considered almost taboo in the international discourse of development, the past 28 years has seen a considerable rise in discussions acknowledging its importance. The growing acceptance of the spiritual value of culture sometimes stated as celebrating the unique intrinsic value of every culture, is most recently reflected in both the UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, Reaffirming that culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs, Cultural diversity widens the range of options open to everyone; it is one of the roots of development, understood not simply in terms of economic growth, but also as a means to achieve a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence.”
Development from a Bahá’í Perspective
The Bahá’í International Community (BIC) writes:
Development, in the Bahá'í view, is an organic process in which "the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material."Meaningful development requires that the seemingly antithetical processes of individual progress and social advancement, of globalisation and decentralisation, and of promoting universal standards and fostering cultural diversity, be harmonised. In our increasingly interdependent world, development efforts must be guided by a vision of the type of world community we wish to create and be animated by a set of universal values. Just institutions, from the local to the planetary level, and systems of governance in which people can assume responsibility for the institutions and processes that affect their lives, are also essential.
From a Baha’i perspective, the primary principles governing development is a combination of this organic understanding of the co-evolution of the spiritual and the material combined with a consciousness of the oneness of humanity.
Bahá'u'lláh teaches that recognition of the fundamental spiritual principle of our age, the oneness of humanity, must be at the heart of a new civilisation. Universal acceptance of this principle will both necessitate and make possible major restructuring of the world's educational, social, agricultural, industrial, economic, legal and political systems. This restructuring, which must be ordered by an ongoing and intensive dialogue between the two systems of knowledge available to humankind -- science and religion -- will facilitate the emergence of peace and justice throughout the world.
Continuing its exploration, the BIC suggests an initial five spiritual indicators for development. These five are:
On a practical level the BIC has offered a regular newsletter offering summaries of successful and thriving examples of local and regional efforts at sustainable development that often reflect these spiritual indicators.
There is a tendency to feel that other peoples’ cultures are less refined than one’s own. This feeling is confirmed when contact with another people is superficial. But whenever those from outside penetrate another culture and discover its depth and subtleties, they develop an attitude of genuine respect for the people. At the most profound depth of every culture lies veneration of the sacred. – The Baha’I International Teaching Centre
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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