What Good Is The United Nations? – Part One

United Nations
Does the United Nations actually help in our crisis-laden world?

Can they actually do anything that counts—anything that addresses humanity’s ills and facilitates solutions?

From Forbes: A Real Election Choice On The United Nations “U.N. reforms proclaimed with fanfare in recent years have fizzled.”

From the New York Times: U.N. Blocked From Pulling Workers Out of Congo “…the peacekeeping troops were overstretched in trying to protect the civilian population, which is caught in the middle of vicious fighting between a rebel group and the Congolese Army.”

From The Hindu: Give developing nations a say in financial crisis talks “A day before the United Nations meets to discuss its taskforce on the global financial crisis, ActionAid, along with more than 400 civil society organisations across the world, has issued a statement demanding that developing nations be included in crisis talks.”

This post will present some of the most pressing international concerns as discussed in a major document presented to the United Nations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of its founding in 2005. It was presented by the Bahá’í International Community, a Non-Governmental Organization registered with the UN. The document is called The Search for Values in an Age of Transition. It is not casual reading and there’s also a detailed Study Guide to help understand the issues and solutions it provides.

I’ll give you the essence of the issues dealt with in this post and the solutions they present in the next post.

One of the most powerful statements in this document is: “The great peace long envisioned by the peoples and nations of the world is well within our grasp.”

Quite a statement, eh? How in the world can an organization make such a statement when we have issues like these to deal with:

“The advancement of men and boys at the expense of women and girls has sorely limited the creative and material capacities of communities to develop and address their problems…”

“…the neglect of cultural and religious minorities has intensified ancient prejudices setting peoples and nations against one another…”

“…an unbridled nationalism has trampled the rights and opportunities of citizens in other nations…”

“…weak states have erupted in conflict, lawlessness, and massive refugee flows…”

“…narrow economic agendas exalting material prosperity have often suffocated the social and moral development required for the equitable and beneficent use of wealth.”

One of the most stunning issues brought up for consideration is the growing importance of the role of religion in discussions of global crises:

“The existing debate about religion in the public sphere, however, has been driven by the voices and actions of extreme proponents on both sides—those who impose their religious ideology by force, whose most visible expression is terrorism—and those who deny any place for expressions of faith or belief in the public sphere. Yet neither extreme is representative of the majority of humankind and neither promotes a sustainable peace.”

Here are a few more snips from the first part of the document:

“…the question of values must take a central place in deliberations, be articulated and made explicit.”

“…the search for shared values—beyond the clash of extremes—is paramount for effective action.”

“…we can no longer be content with a passive tolerance of each other’s worldviews; what is required is an active search for those common values and moral principles which will lift up the condition of every woman, man, and child, regardless of race, class, religion or political opinion.”

This is, no doubt, a challenging document but these are, certainly, challenging times.

You may also be interested in my post, Sweet Words Are Crying Out for Potent Action, one of the most popular posts on this blog, which has the text of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In the next post, we’ll look at some of the changes proposed for the United Nations, to transform it into the global peace-promoting organization it was created to be.

Spiritual Quote:

“No social body, whatever its form, has power to maintain essential human rights for persons who have repudiated their moral obligation and abandoned the divine endowment distinguishing man from beast. Civil definitions of political and economic status, if devoid of moral value and influence, are not equivalent to essential human rights but express the expedients of partisan policy. An ordered society can only be maintained by moral beings.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights, Presented to the first session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

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Wrong Religion? Not A Citizen!

prayerStill working on the UN Posts…


The Bahá’ís of Egypt are being confronted with an impossible situation. There’s a group trying to organize a world-circling prayer-ring to, hopefully, aid them in their test of Faith:

From: Horaciones
“All Egyptian citizens must declare their religious belief in all official National documents which include their ID cards and birth certificates. The documents only allow them to choose one of three religions recognized by the Egyptian government: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Baha’is have the ridiculous choice of either renouncing their Faith by registering as a follower of another religion, or renouncing all their civil rights, such as education, work, health.

“By October 20th, the Egyptian Supreme Court was to decide whether to allow Baha’is to obtain ID cards and leaving the religious affiliation space blank. The Court decided to postpone the decision to November 3rd.

“To support the process, we are organizing another World Wide Prayer Chain for November 2nd, as we had done previously for October 20th. For the entire 24 hour duration of the day, people around the world will be praying in 15 minute intervals that, God-willing, the decision towards the recognition of the Baha’i Faith in Egypt will be taken.

“On the last occasion, over 100 people participated from every part of the globe, from Europe to the Americas, from Bahji to the Temple of Sydney, and even Iran! We are confident the same will happen again….”

Sign-up here!

Spiritual Quote:

“Reveal then Thyself, O Lord, by Thy merciful utterance and the mystery of Thy divine being, that the holy ecstasy of prayer may fill our souls – a prayer that shall rise above words and letters and transcend the murmur of syllables and sounds—that all things may be merged into nothingness before the revelation of Thy splendor.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 70

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Financial Strain

debtThose posts on the United Nations are still in the works but another Internet friend shared a song with me today and, in light of the global financial situation, I want to share it with you.

First, let me share the lyrics she uses:

“Should prosperity befall thee, rejoice not, and should abasement come upon thee, grieve not, for both shall pass away and be no more.”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words, #52

I want to hazard an interpretation but be aware, when distilling the meaning of holy text, the ultimate interpretation comes from your  heart…

Rejoice not if prosperity blossoms because it can swiftly pass away.

Grieve not if you slip into abasement because you can swiftly rise.

Basically, to me, the words convey a need to remain detached from material circumstances; certainly, we need to pay attention and work toward our goals but we also, to remain spiritually whole, need to keep our hearts beating far above the twists and turns of mundane happenings…

The song is by Elika Mahony. Here’s a clip from her bio: “Vocalist, composer, pianist, and artist, Elika considers herself a world citizen; her parents are from Iran, she was born in the US, raised in Kenya, and now lives in China. Elika’s love of music began when she was a child growing up in Africa. In between she has lived in Israel and Hong Kong. Her music beautifully expresses the diverse cultures that have been a part of her upbringing, blending and reflecting the influences of this varied background, drawing upon classical Western structures but incorporating instrumentation and styles from Iran to Ireland and China to Spain.”

Enjoy her angelic vocal rendition of Bahá’u’lláh’s Words:

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Peace Through Music

musicI’m working on a couple posts about the United Nations and whether it’s effective in bringing the contending nations of the world together. They should be done in a day or so but I wanted to immediately share a marvelous musical experience that my friend Robin Easton shared with me.

It took ten years to make the video and involved traveling to many different countries. There are about 100 musicians all playing or singing the song, Stand by Me.

The fact that these people were separated by many physical miles didn’t stop them from coming close together to create a wondrous (and rockin’) rendition of the song.

So, sit back, crank up the sound, and indulge yourself in a musical peace fest!

Spiritual Quote:

“The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and colour from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 53

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Game of Life – The Rewards

game rewards
What are  the Rewards for Playing the Game of Life successfully?

In the preceding posts on the Rules and Play of the Game of Life, I explored how the rules of any game shape the playing of that game. Also, the play of a game determines the rewards possible. Seemingly simplistic, eh?

Actually the formula is Rules > Play > Reward , and changing any  of those three factors affects the others.

A fairly cool little game to play is to reverse the formula: Reward > Play > Rules . It runs something like this: “If I want reward X, I need to play Y, and that means Z is in effect…” A quick practical example: If I want ice cream, I need to pay some money, and that means I have to work. Simplistic, again, but I think you can see a few applications…

While I was researching ideas for this series of posts, I was playing the game Civilization IV. It’s an awesome simulation of the conditions and processes of civilization-building. It endeavors to model history, so, most of the normal play of the game involves politics, subjugation, and war.

I luckily discovered an option the designers provided called Always Peace.

Change the rules and you change the way you play the game and the rewards you can expect…

So, what rewards did I reap by playing Civilization in the mode that eliminated war and all its nasty offspring?

The first reward was realizing things I’d already learned intellectually in a hands-on, emotional way.

Next would be the awareness that building a prosperous civilization is very hard work even when war isn’t in the equation.

Then, the painful awareness of my citizens’ suffering from my mismanagement of the factors of growth.

And also the joy, even though it’s only  a game, when I’d managed things well and my people were fed and happy and productive.

There are many other rewards I gained but those four stand out like blazing stars in the dark of life’s struggles.

I need to mention another simulation game that has a multitude of practical applications—it was created as a training tool for nonviolent response to oppressive situations–A Force More Powerful.

So, here ends the tale of my playing life-imitating games. What about the Rewards gained from Playing the Real Game of Life?

Spiritual Quotes:

“The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous, he was ignorant and becomes wise, he was neglectful and becomes vigilant, he was asleep and becomes awakened, he was dead and becomes living, he was blind and becomes a seer, he was deaf and becomes a hearer, he was earthly and becomes heavenly, he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth, and becomes a new creature.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 323

“As the usefulness and powers of the life (of a child) were not seen in that dark and narrow world (of the womb), but when it is brought into this vast world, all the use of its growth and development becometh manifest and obvious in it, so likewise, reward and punishment, paradise and hell, and the requital of deeds and actions done by it in the present life become manifest and evident when it is transferred to the world to come—which is far from this world! Had the life and growth of the child in the womb been confined to that condition, then the existence of the child in the womb would have proved utterly abortive and unintelligible; as would the life of this world, were its deeds, actions and their results not to appear in the world to come.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 644

“The sacrifices involved, the courage, faith, and perseverance…[a pioneering spiritual life] demands, are no doubt very great. Their value, however, can never be properly assessed at the present time, and the limitless reward which they who demonstrate them will receive can never be adequately depicted…. Such a reward, it should be noted, is not to be regarded as purely an abstract blessing confined to the future life, but also as a tangible benefit which such courage, faith and perseverance can alone confer in this material world.”
Shoghí Effendí Rabbání, The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 67-68

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Game of Life – Playing It

game of life_playing
How do you play the Game of Life?

What Rules have you adopted?

What Rewards do you expect?

In the last post in this series I explored ideas about how the rules adopted for a game define the way it’s played and the rewards it can offer.

This post is about how we play  the Game of Life.

In preparation for writing this series of posts I resurrected a game I’d played about a year ago; a simulation game that lets you learn the basics of how to build a civilization. I highly recommend this game, as a fun pastime and as a tool to sharpen your awareness of what actually goes into the long and arduous process of civilization-building. Check it out: Civilization IV.

As far as the effect the rules of a game have on how it’s played, I’ll offer this experience:

A year ago, I played Civilization IV for a number of months. Since it models the actual circumstances of many cultures and nations, over most of recorded history, as they attempt to establish their conception of “civilization”, it’s real heavy on the implementation of war and all of its necessities.

I “gamely” persisted in being a peaceful participant in these attempts at building “civilization”. I became, in spite of the game’s superb design and its fidelity to historical circumstance, extremely frustrated. All my attempts to introduce peaceful principles were engulfed by the war-centered Rules of the game…

When I resurrected the game, to research the principles underlying these posts on the Game of Life, I fortuitously discovered an option called “Always Peace”.

Eureka!!!

Now, I could play the game and avoid the grit and grime and death and destruction of war.

Some of the people on the forum that supports the game were puzzled by my desire to play with all the options of war eliminated. Someone even declared that it must be real boring.

Nope, not boring at all. In fact, with war eliminated, I could actually concentrate on what builds  a real Civilization. I could pay attention to the people  in my cities—their  wants and needs—, I could make profitable decisions about how much industry we needed, how much culture we needed, how to balance material and spiritual aspirations (Yes!  This game includes spirituality and it has profound effects on the material success of civilization-building.)

And, to broaden the whole concept of playing the Game of Life, please realize that people don’t have to actively embrace war to have inclinations of behavior that can and have  led to war: selfishness, prejudice, intolerance, religious extremism, egregious nationalism, racism, and materialism, to name just a few.

So, let’s entertain those opening questions again:

How do you  play the Game of Life?

What Rules have you  adopted?

What Rewards do you  expect?

Spiritual Quotes:

“Their own instincts, no less than the fury of conservative forces, the opposition of vested interests, and the objections of a corrupt and pleasure-seeking generation, must be reckoned with, resolutely resisted, and completely overcome. As their defensive measures for the impending struggle are organized and extended, storms of abuse and ridicule, and campaigns of condemnation and misrepresentation, may be unloosed against them. Their Faith, they may soon find, has been assaulted, their motives misconstrued, their aims defamed, their aspirations derided, their institutions scorned, their influence belittled, their authority undermined, and their Cause, at times, deserted by a few who will either be incapable of appreciating the nature of their ideals, or unwilling to bear the brunt of the mounting criticisms which such a contest is sure to involve.”
Messages to America: Selected Letters and Cablegrams Addressed to the Bahá’ís of North America, 1932-1946, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 144

“The fate-laden world ordeal is moving in steady, pre-ordained crescendo. The blaze of a seemingly uncontrollable fire is leaping, ravaging the last remaining great Power on the European continent. Shadows of God’s retributive act are fast gathering. As the arena of world convulsing contest broadens; as wounds it inflicts deepen; as issues it raises aggravate and multiply, so will the operation of the spiritual forces, destined to cast the burden of a travailing age, be accelerated.”
Shoghí Effendí Rabbání, Messages to America, p. 48

Major Statement of how People’s Rights have been Subjugated with the prevailing Rules of the Game:

“By far the greatest tragedy resulting from this latest contest for world domination was the blight that it cast over the hopes with which formerly subject peoples had welcomed the opportunity they believed they had been given to build a new life of their own devising. The obstinate determination of some of the surviving colonial powers to suppress such hopes, though doomed to failure in the eyes of any objective observer, had left the urge for liberation in many countries with no recourse but to assume the character of revolutionary struggle. By 1960, such movements, which had already been a feature of the political landscape during the earlier decades of the century, were coming to represent the principal form of indigenous political activity in most subject nations.

“Since the driving force of colonialism itself was economic exploitation, it was perhaps inevitable that most movements of liberation assumed a broadly socialistic ideological cast. Within only a few short years, these circumstances had created a fertile ground for exploitation by the world’s superpowers. For the Soviet Union, the situation seemed to offer an opportunity to induce a shift in the existing alignment of nations by gaining a preponderating influence in what was by now beginning to be called the ‘Third World’. The response of the West—wherever development aid failed to retain the loyalties of recipient populations—was to resort to the encouragement and arming of a wide variety of authoritarian regimes.

“As outside forces manipulated new governments, attention was increasingly diverted from an objective consideration of developmental needs to ideological and political struggles that bore little or no relation to social or economic reality. The results were uniformly devastating. Economic bankruptcy, gross violations of human rights, the breakdown of civil administration and the rise of opportunistic elites who saw in the suffering of their countries only openings for self-enrichment—such was the heartbreaking fate that engulfed one after another of the new nations who, only short years before, had begun life with such great promise.”
Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 88

The next post looks at the Rewards of the Game of Life.

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Game of Life – The Rules

rules Let’s accept for the moment that Life can be viewed as a Game.

The rules of any game define its play and determine the rewards possible. Kids are real good at trying to change the rules mid-game to adjust the play and, hopefully, make the rewards favor their position (and, sometimes, they’ll want to change the rules just to see what happens—flexing their creativity).

Before I present some of Life’s Rules, I want to mention just a bit of game history:

There are two games that could claim the oldest tag: The Royal Game of Ur and Senet. Both were found in tombs since the respect afforded games back in the 2000-3000 B.C. era was so high—spiritually powerful in some estimations—the rulers were given a game to play while they roamed the realms of the afterlife, helping them cope with the dangers of the Journey.

Some links on game history:

Astral Castle

Royal Game of Ur

Senet

So, if Life can be viewed as a Game, what are the Rules?

It used to be said that Life doesn’t come with Instructions. Some rely on the old (and generally true) adage, “Mom knows best.”

It can be difficult to discern the Rules of the Game of Life. There are so many Players, each hoping the Rules they’ve been using will help them reach the Rewards they seek—so many different sets of Rules, so much disunity—that we witness in our Family’s history conflict after conflict, all based on particular rulers’ sets of Rules, all played to secure material rewards (even those that claim a spiritual purpose).

If you believe there’s a spiritual foundation to Life—if you think there are Principles that can help the Rider of Soul control the Horse of Body—you will eventually discover that Life is a Game that demands Sacrifice, Compassion, Courage, Honesty, and many other virtuous Rules.

We struggle to stay in the Game, we change the Rules when we feel we’re losing, we play with fervor when the Reward is within reach. Let’s hope we all can learn the Spiritual Rules of Life—learn them so well we don’t make others run from our Game, know the Rules so well we don’t abandon them when the Rewards seem far away and our poor physical Horse gets frustrated and tries to throw off the Soul-Rider…

Spiritual Quotes:

“O ye beloved ones! It is the moment of the ecstasy of the soul and consciousness and the season of running in the arena of sacrifice! Show ye kindness to all; be ye engaged in the refinement of the souls. Become ye as ignited lamps and adorn ye the orchard of being! These days are swiftly passing and this mortal life will remain fruitless and without result. Therefore, while there is yet time and the arrow is in the bow, enter ye the chase and strike ye the game. This game is the good-pleasure of God, and this chase is the merciful Providence; that is, living in accord with the divine instructions.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 573

“The young prophet from Nazareth was indeed asking of His auditors a great deal. He was asking them to give up usages and customs, ways of thought and habits of belief which had been honoured among them for centuries and which had become firmly entrenched in the hearts and the lives of all. He called upon them to trust themselves, soul, spirit, and body too, to the new teaching of one who offered them no recognised human credentials whatever. The crisis was indeed a test of spiritual faith and of moral courage. It was meant to be so. It was designed to separate the true-hearted from the insincere, those who genuinely believed in God from those who played a game of make-believe.
George Townshend, The Heart of the Gospel, p. 118

The next post will explore how we actually play the Game of Life

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