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In the Ridvan Message of 2000, the Universal House of Justice tells us:

In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate.  Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially.  Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty . . .  It grieves our hearts to realize that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made the objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimization too numerous to mention.  Many such horrors are inflicted by the parents themselves upon their own children.  The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation.  (Universal House of Justice Ridvan Message 2000)Many Baha’is who come to Assemblies for help are not only bringing forward a pressing problem in the present, but also a lifetime of accumulated events which led up to this moment.  The depth of emotions which accompany their presenting problem may well be the result of past trauma, so let’s start by looking at trauma and how it affects people.

According to national experts convened by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, trauma results from events or circumstances that are experienced by an individual as harmful or life threatening and that have lasting adverse effects on these levels:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Psychological
  • Mental

As a result, the person experiencing the distressing event may feel:

  • threatened
  • Anxious
  • frightened

In some cases, they may not know how to respond, or may be in denial about the effect such an event has happened.

These events may:

  • shatter someone’s sense of security
  • making them feel helpless and vulnerable in a dangerous world

While many individuals experience traumatic events without lasting harm, trauma can place a heavy burden on individuals, families and communities. Trauma-informed supports can help.

Societal Contributions

What are the forces in society which lead to any of these traumatic events?  The Baha’i Writings have a lot to teach us!

Let’s look at the quotes first:

The steady and alarming deterioration in the standard of morality standard of morality as exemplified by the appalling increase of crime, by political corruption in ever widening and ever higher circles, by the loosening of the sacred ties of marriage, by the inordinate craving for pleasure and diversion, and by the marked and progressive slackening of parental control, is no doubt the most arresting and distressing aspect of the decline that has set in, and can be clearly perceived, in the fortunes of the entire nation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p.124)

…previous to his belief in God and his acceptance of His Manifestation, he had set his affections on the things of the world, such as attachments to earthly goods, to wife, children, food, drink, and the like, so much so that in the day-time and in the night season his one concern had been to amass riches and procure for himself the means of enjoyment and pleasure. Aside from these things, before his partaking of the reviving waters of faith, he had been so wedded to the traditions of his forefathers, and so passionately devoted to the observance of their customs and laws, that he would have preferred to suffer death rather than violate one letter of those superstitious forms and manners current amongst his people.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p.155)

In his material aspect he expresses untruth, cruelty and injustice; all these are the outcome of his lower nature.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.60)

What is the dust which obscures the mirror? It is attachment to the world, avarice, envy, love of luxury and comfort, haughtiness and self-desire; this is the dust which prevents reflection of the rays of the Sun of Reality in the mirror.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.244)

How often has it happened that an individual who was graced with every attribute of humanity and wore the jewel of true understanding, nevertheless followed after his passions until his excellent qualities passed beyond moderation and he was forced into excess. His pure intentions changed to evil ones, his attributes were no longer put to uses worthy of them, and the power of his desires turned him aside from righteousness and its rewards into ways that were dangerous and dark.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.59-60)

The breeding-ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past — imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.247)

This physical world of man is subject to the power of the lusts, and sin is the consequence of this power of the lusts, for it is not subject to the laws of justice and holiness. The body of man is captive of nature; it will act in accordance with whatever nature orders…  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p.119)

An individual who chooses to surrender to the promptings of his material nature can sink to levels of depravity and bestiality which are abhorrent to the discerning eye, and which are totally unworthy of the human station.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September, 1992)

The lack of spiritual values in society leads to a debasement of the attitudes which should govern the relationship between the sexes, with women being treated as no more than objects for sexual gratification and being denied the respect and courtesy to which all human beings are entitled.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

Our children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause.  They should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers.  (Universal House of Justice Ridvan Message 2000)

It must be borne in mind, too, that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the unavoidable outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely . . .  (Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, Ridván 2000)

The institutions of a Bahá’í community that has been allowed to become complacent will find it difficult to protect the younger members from the forces of gross materialism, with the accompanying moral decay, that are assailing society.  (Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, April 2013)

The National Assembly is keenly aware that children and youth live in a world that informs them of harsh realities, and many face a cruel fate: “Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism,” which is “seizing the hearts of people everywhere.” These conditions are not limited to a particular social or economic segment: “The social dislocation of children in our time is a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition — it cuts across them all.”   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

And then look at them one at a time:

  • deterioration in the standard of morality
  • increase of crime
  • political corruption in ever widening and ever higher circles
  • loosening of the sacred ties of marriage
  • craving for pleasure and diversion
  • slackening of parental control
  • attachments to earthly goods, to wife, children, food, drink, and the like
  • amassing riches
  • procuring the means of enjoyment and pleasure
  • wedded to the traditions of his forefathers
  • untruth, cruelty and injustice
  • attachment to the world
  • avarice
  • envy
  • love of luxury and comfort
  • haughtiness
  • self-desire
  • following his passions
  • excellent qualities passed beyond moderation and into excess
  • prejudice
  • blind imitation of the past
  • power of the lusts
  • choosing to surrender to the promptings of a material nature
  • sinking to levels of depravity and bestiality
  • debasement of the attitudes which should govern the relationship between the sexes
  • treating women as no more than objects for sexual gratification
  • denying women respect and courtesy
  • children abandoned by parents centered on their own desires
  • children not being nurtured spiritually and integrated into the life of the Cause
  • children being left to drift in a world laden with moral dangers
  • children being informed of harsh realities through the mass media
  • children being forced to mature prematurely
  • a Bahá’í community that has been allowed to become complacent

I think when we call ourselves to account, we’ll recognize that we are all guilty of some of these things; thereby contributing to the problem!  This is what makes studying the Baha’i Teachings so important – we know that Baha’u’llah came to help us overcome these failings; and having lists like these help us to know where we need to focus our attention.  When we heal these things in ourselves; we will no longer contribute to the violence and abuse in the world; and we will be in a better position to help others.

For more information you might find this helpful:

Getting to Know Your Lower Nature 

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