International Year of Peace
In representing the Baha'is of the countries and islands in the Pacific, the Baha'i International Community is very happy to be able to present a statement to this meeting of the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations.
This year, declared by the United Nations to be the International Year of Peace (IYP), marks a particularly significant point in the ever advancing development of mankind. The issue of an enduring peace and the greater unification of peoples, central to the survival of the human family, is now being critically examined not as a utopian dream but as both a necessary and attainable reality. It presents simultaneously a task and a challenge to the leaders and administrators in the Pacific. On the occasion of the IYP, the Universal House of Justice, international governing council of the Baha'i Faith, has issued a statement on peace, addressed to the peoples of the world. The statement, which is being presented to all heads of state, outlines political, social, economic and spiritual requirements for the establishment of world peace.
The peoples of the South Pacific, characterized by their communal and collective spirit, their tolerance, acceptance, forbearance and neighborliness, provide a good basis upon which to build the realization of higher endeavors and ideals conducive to dynamic community growth and peaceful existence. As in most developing countries of the world, community values are best sustained in rural settings where the majority of the population reside.
The strength and the quality of a country's growth depends upon effective and meaningful participation of its population in the nation-building process. It has always been a point of admiration that the islands and countries of the South Pacific region, despite the enormous problems imposed by geographical isolation, the often limited resources and their racial and linguistic diversity, have been able to consistently bring about, under their respective leadership, a sense of purpose and focus and to forge a meaningful sense of identity, through a process of participation such as is evidenced in this meeting.
A society's fundamental values determine the type of living and education to which a nation aspires. This in turn influences its technological pursuits. Whereas the advancement of education and technology is a must if we wish to better harness the benefits of science, it must be recognized that they are means and not ends in themselves. The question then is: towards what end are we planning our future and how best can we marshall all our resources towards its realization?
The Baha'i International Community wishes to express the view that in the process of ordering human affairs our attention should be directed towards bringing into being a world unified in all the essential aspects of its life. This implies the achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical requirements of life on earth. We recognize that the presence of a unifying spirit is an indispensable prerequisite towards the bringing about of meaningful social and economic growth and the peace and security towards which the region aspires.
Amongst the Baha'i community throughout the Pacific, even in the most remote villages, there is a recognition and a striving towards the goal of true unification and the harmonization of spiritual and human needs. This is expressed through the establishment of national and local institutions, elected by the Baha'is themselves, and which, conducting their affairs through commonly accepted consultative principles, serve spiritual, social and economic needs.
The constant practice of the art of consultation in all matters, large and small, is a principle fundamental to Baha'is. It is upon this principle that joint decisions resulting in joint efforts are translated into the reality of community action. The key to success, Baha'is believe, lies in the spirit of unity in action. Social and economic activities are carried out by Baha'is at grassroots level throughout the Pacific region, some of which are in full operation, others in their infancy. These include community development projects such as the cooperative boat building scheme in Fiji, women's development activities in Western Samoa and adult literacy programmes in Vanuatu. Kindergartens and tutorial schools are functioning in Tuvalu, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, while small beginnings in health and nutrition, agricultural and livestock programmes have been made in communities notably those in Western Samoa and Papua New Guinea. These are resulting from the application of the principle of communities coming together to consult and deliberate on matters pertaining to their welfare and development. This is based on the conviction that the spiritual and material forces necessary for development are potentially within individuals and communities. Whereas these are modest attempts offered by a relatively small Baha'i community in this region restricted by limited resources, there is full confidence and hope that in time such efforts will not only contribute to national endeavors in development but also offer some of its operational principles and methods as models for the upliftment of whole communities.
The education and advancement of women is a key responsibility of local and national Baha'i institutions. Baha'is believe that only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge. The exercise of this principle by Baha'is is evident from the high and increasing degree of willing participation of women in not only Baha'i institutions but also in other forums concerned with issues regarding the development of women and the community at large.
In addition, the Baha'i International Community recognizes opportunities for other specific areas of collaboration between Baha'i undertakings and government and private agencies concerned with social and economic activities in the South Pacific. The following describes some of the areas which may warrant consideration:
- Development activities initiated by Baha'is could provide field settings and opportunities for students from surrounding schools to undertake their social service and practical assignments. Exposing students from an early age to the idea of purposeful participation in community work inculcates in them a mind-set suitable for future responsibilities in their adult life.
- The existence at grassroots level of functioning Baha'i institutions provides resources which government planners, administrators, and extension workers can draw upon for local information, the identification of problems pertaining to the community, as well as for other types of assistance including technical and consultative.
- Accessibility into remote and isolated villages in some of the territories of the South Pacific is often a problem. In some instances, the people residing in such areas may not have the elementary organizational infrastructure or the benefits of modern knowledge to take advantage of the many programmes and schemes designed for them by their governments. The problem of motivation and sustaining local initiative makes the benefit of many of these schemes short-lived. Baha'is in these isolated communities, aided by their respective local and national institutions, can assist in generating a spirit of cooperation vital for community growth and open possible channels for dialogue.
- National and local Baha'i institutions throughout the South Pacific maintain close relations with one another. Such communication enables them to share ideas and experience. While the Baha'is value the assistance they receive from their respective governments, the Baha'i International Community is also happy to share its expertise and service, as has already been done in relation to the South Pacific Commission.
These are the areas which come to mind and there will surely be others which may emerge as Baha'i communities and their social and economic activities in the region consolidate and expand.
The Baha'i International Community is indeed grateful to the organizers of this meeting for the opportunity to offer some of its views. The commitment of the Baha'i International Community to the idea of meaningful social and economic development in the South Pacific has already been expressed in earlier forums such as this. It will continue to demonstrate keen interest, contribute its participation and seek for opportunities to render its services to the development of the region and its peoples.