Over the past few days I have been sharing a little of what was said at the Spiritual Summit Conference attended by Thomas Merton in Calcutta in October 1968. I am doing so to give a sense of the milieu of interfaith thought and dialogue that Merton was immersed in during his time there. Today, a perspective from a noted Indian Baha'i.
Dr. H.M. Munje, of the National Spiritual Assembly of Bahai's of India, was invited to present "A Baha'i Viewpoint" at the conference. Dr. Munje is, among many other things, the author of a book entitled "The Whole World is But One Family" or "Vasudaiva Kutumbakam".
Dr. Munje notes that it is fitting for the Spiritual Summit Conference to be held during the year in which Baha'is are celebrating the "centenary" year of the proclamation of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i faith (1867). He goes on to say that...
"the most important and emergent question of the world today is a planetary solution for the whole of mankind, for a living peace and justice in action."
Dr. Munje frames the important question of "relevance"...
"Indeed, the lessons of two world wars have not sufficed to bring mankind to its senses. We are numbed with fear and do not want to dwell on the awesome reality of atomic warfare. Philosophies, economic systems, and politicians have led us nowhere. It is crucial for mankind to find out whether religion has the answer. Hence the question of relevance to modern society; the economic plight of the world and the injustices we see everywhere. How powerful is religion to revive the failing fortunes of a harassed humanity?"
Munje quotes prophetic passages of lament from the writings of Baha'u'llah to underscore the relevance of religious teachings to a "world in travail". He sees in the 19th century words of Baha'u'llah a relevance to the tumultuous issues of 1968.
"The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned toward waywardness and unbelief... How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?" Baha'u'llah
The Winds of Despair
"The winds of despair are, alas, blowing in every direction, and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective." Baha'u'llah
To my own thinking the words of Baha'u'llah echo the even more distant words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah who laments...
"The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant." Isaiah 24
Hope in Unity
In truly prophetic style Munje then goes on to proclaim a message of hope for world peace and unity "through divine love". He speaks of healing and reconciliation founded on the Baha'i understanding of the essential unity of God, religion, and humanity. He quotes Shoghi Effendi:
"The Baha'i Faith upholds the unity of God, recognizes the unity of His Prophets, and inculcates the principle of the oneness and wholeness of the entire human race."
Munje says, in effect, that for religion to be relevant it must be a cause for unity amongst humanity and in harmony with science and reason. He also notes, wisely I believe, that it is the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of scripture that has caused division and wreaked havoc.
An interesting Baha'i viewpoint on this day in history.
Peace be with all... Rob
"The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity and dissension."
A Sixties Lament - Barry McGuire