As I explained before, some of the content of my posts will feature assignments that I write for the FUNDAEC course on Constructing a Conceptual Framework for Social Action, which I am taking by distance learning. Below are a few paragraphs that I wrote based on a reflection exercise on the assertion that a lasting peace will not be attained unless and until the unity of humankind is firmly established; why is this so and in what way is unity the prerequisite of peace?
The text that precedes this reflection question quotes from the portion of The Promise of World Peace that lists the issues that are immediately relevant to the establishment of world peace. This reading led me to reflect on the role of the press in this process, whether its maturation would be reached upon the attainment of a lasting peace or as one of the steps towards bringing about the necessary unity for peace.
Bahá’u’lláh made reference to newspapers in several Tablets, calling them mirrors that reflect the deeds and pursuits of mankind and an amazing and potent phenomenon; even commanding journalists to approach their work with justice and equity, gathering all of the facts and setting them down1. (As an aside, it interests me to note that there is no mention of “objectivity”.)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá elaborated on the how the press will operate in/towards a world of peace: “A newspaper must in the first instance be the means of harmony between the people. This is the prime duty of the proprietors of newspapers to obliterate misunderstandings betwixt religions and races and nativities, and promote the oneness of mankind”2. For an industry that trades in adversarialism and prides itself in such idols as objectivity, “checks and balances” and freedom of excessive speech, it is clear that a complete reordering of the core values of this institution, so essential for governance, is needed. In case it wasn’t clear the first time, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reiterated to the newspaper proprietor in Minneapolis with whom he spoke during his visit to America, “Newspapers must be the first means of amity and understanding amongst men. Newspapers must be the heralds of the oneness of humanity”3. Every journalist will find this statement to be a challenge to the fundamental belief of Western democracy that a reporter’s job is not to have an agenda or opinion, but simply to be an observer of events and to make sure that every “side” of the story is told.
I’m sharing these thoughts in answer to the question of why and how unity is a prerequisite to peace in case you might also see in this exercise an illustration of the need for unity in achieving peace: Reflect on the quotations above and then imagine how such a press will operate and how this transformation—from the “watchdog” of the ruling class to publications “of high thoughts” that are “the dynamic power in the arteries of life” and “the very soul of the world”4—will influence its readers. You can see that without unity (especially the shedding of corruption and oppression in the governments) this peaceful picture of the press cannot exist. Without leaders who are committed to the welfare of all the peoples of the world, without just economic and legal systems, without recognition of the oneness of God, religion and man, the fourth estate cannot, or at least will not agree to, do its job in a way that advocates amity and understanding, harmony and oneness.
The history of news reporting, however, is rife with tales of courage in the face of great challenges and opposition. Perhaps the proprietors of the news media will, indeed, have the foresight and maturity to be trailblazers to peace, taking an active role in attaining their destiny that Shoghi Effendi depicted in his letter The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, “The press will, under such a system [a world commonwealth], while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples.”5
1 Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-‘Aqdas, p. 39
2 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: the Centre of the Covenant, HM Balyuzi, p.273
3 ibid. p.275
4 “The Secret of Divine Civilization”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 109
5 The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi, p. 204