Bahá’í perspective on family

Flora Teckie Correspondent
As we mark International Day of Families on May15, it is opportune to reflect on the role of family as our source of hope and strength — particularly at this time when humanity is burdened with global health challenges.

The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families.

The 2020 theme is “Families in Development: Copenhagen & Beijing + 25”.

This year, the day is commemorated at a time families have been “split” by Covid-19 as millions of people observe lockdown rules and stay indoors, away from their families and loved ones.

Such challenges call for mindfulness towards safety and well-being of ourselves, our families, our neighbours and communities. They call for faith and courage, for generosity and for acting in solidarity.

An outcome of the current situation is the opportunity for us to spend quality time with our families, and have closer involvement in the education and development of our children.

Love and unity in our families give us strength and resilience, when facing tests and difficulties in life, and help the members of the family advance with greater strides.

According to the Baha’i Writings: “If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual; but if enmity and hatred exist within it, destruction and dispersion are inevitable,” and “ . . . where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world, their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all”.

Ideal conditions for the well-being of a family

A loving, unified and joyful family can provide the ideal conditions for the well-being of its members in all aspects of life — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

Unity in a family is achievable when practices of control, competition, and excessive individualism and independence give way to those of equality, cooperation, universality, and interdependence. This transformation can take place when the individuals try to serve one another, while at the same time keeping justice as the family’s guiding principle.

The belief and practice of the equality of men and women, is viewed by the Bahá’ís, as an important factor which transforms relationships within a family.  Practicing gender equality within the family creates a nurturing and positive atmosphere; it helps building partnership between the members of the family; and thereby further strengthens the family unit.

Gender equality is an essential aspect of a broader principle: the oneness of humanity. Belief in the oneness of humanity is essential in order to have justice.  Observing justice is a requirement for attaining unity and lasting peace.

If the vision held by the family is a global one and one of unity, children from the earliest age learn the principle, and the reality of the oneness of humanity. They learn to associate with people of all races and religions and respect the ideas of others and have open minds.

According to the Bahá’í Writings: “Children must be so raised as to regard every soul, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or any other affiliation, as a fellow human being and to hold dear the words [of Bahá’u’lláh] that capture the spirit of the age: “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch”.

The positive impact of our families on our communities

Attitudes and behaviours learned in the home have a direct bearing on the order, prosperity, and peace in our communities and of the world at large.

The family lays the foundation of both the individual’s spiritual and intellectual development and happiness, as well as society’s cohesion and advancement.

It is within the family that character is developed, moral and spiritual attitudes are formed and one learns to serve the common good; it is within the family where the values of tolerance, peace and social responsibility can be initiated and taught; and it is in the family where sense of responsibility and of values such as loving, caring and sharing are developed.

Through appropriate education, according to the Universal House of Justice, the governing council of the Bahá’í international community, “children gradually learn to look beyond their own interests to those of their family. With yet further training, they recognise the importance of respecting the interests of others and see as a sacred obligation service to their neighbours.

At a higher level still, proper education can help children to broaden their horizons and set their sights on the advancement and glory of their nation. And when their breadth of vision expands even wider, they will undoubtedly come to see the progress of the entire human race and the furtherance of the true interests of all the peoples of the world as a guiding purpose of their lives.”

It is within family that such principles can be taught and nurtured, and generation after generation can become convinced that well-being of the individual is closely linked to the progress and well-being of others. It is within the family that the children learn to associate with people of all races and religions and appreciate the different cultures and the contributions of different people. It is within the family that they can be taught the concept of oneness of humanity and to contribute to creation of a just and peaceful global society.

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