Catherine Martinez: Beacon of hope extends hand to war-weary world

The Baha’is of Palm Beach County met at Freedom Park in Greenacres to celebrate the birthdays of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

Baha’is all over the world were celebrating the birth of their founder, Baha’u’llah, when the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris broke this past Friday.

Ironically, this is the first year that Baha’is commemorate that day according to a unified calendar. Previously, the eastern Baha’is followed the lunar calendar so that the holy days rotated throughout the year on successive days, but in the West, the dates were fixed on the 12th of November and 20th of October, respectively. The worldwide governing body, the Universal House of Justice, in order to resolve this discrepancy, “unlocked” the days from the solar calendar and set them to vary between Oct. 13 and Nov.14, starting this year on Nov. 13 and 14.

The great irony is that the Baha’u’llah worked tirelessly to bring about world unity and peace through the power of his inspirational words and the example of his life. Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria works to bring about its goal of worldwide domination through terror and death.

Baha’u’llah offered 150 years ago to the kings and religious leaders of his day, the opportunity to set aside their differences and work for the unity of humankind, although none of them accepted his challenge.

The Universal House of Justice 30 years ago set forth the principles needed to establish world peace, including the elimination of all forms of prejudice, economic justice and the equality of men and women.

The institution asserted that world peace is not only “possible but inevitable” but warned that humankind might have to endure “unimaginable horrors” if it refused to give up the outdated patterns of behavior that lead to war.

At the same time as Baha’is were gathering in their communities to celebrate the birth of their founder, coordinated attacks from a small dedicated group of ISIS fighters were killing innocent civilians in the heart of Paris, one of the great capitals of Western culture. The attacks may come to be known at France’s 911. The casual observer can ask why France? Why is the news media focusing on those atrocities as opposed to others around the world? And what is the solution?

France is vulnerable because of its relative proximity to the Near East. It has an open, secular society but with large groups of disaffected, marginalized young people of Middle Eastern origin. The influx of Syrian refugees also provides excellent cover for anyone planning to carry out a terrorist agenda.

France has a democratic government and a civil society ruled by law, which makes it a prime target for a group that seeks to destroy all aspects of Western culture and prove that democratic governments are powerless to prevent its march to power. ISIS has reinterpreted history and Islam to justify a pan-Islamic state ruled by a totalitarian regime that seeks to maintain power based on military might and fear.

This is a worldwide problem that requires a worldwide solution. Bombing every Middle Eastern country back to the Stone Age, as suggested by Donald Trump is not a viable solution. The U.S. government can kill 100 Jihadi Johns with 1,000 drone strikes, but the problem is a many-headed hydra that will re-emerge in another location.

Many on social media are publicizing their support of the French people, while others descry the media’s lack of interest in people dying in similar attacks by different groups in Israel, Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The fervor over the 147 teachers and children killed by Al-Shabaab in Kenya this past April has already died down. The 300 girls kidnapped in Nigeria last year have been forgotten by everyone except their families. The Yasidi women in mass graves in Sinjar are a Page 2 news story.

Thousands of Baha’is from every race, nationality, cultural group, and religious backgrounds in every part of the world demonstrated the power of “an idea whose time has come” and offered a beacon of hope for a war-weary world.

Baha’u’llah said more than 100 years ago, “Power hath been seized” from “kings and ecclesiastics.” Now it is the people at the grass-roots level who will have to carry forth the banner of universal peace.

There may be temporary setbacks as with the terror attacks on Friday, but I believe in the force of history is against the evils of hate, prejudice, and greed for power. In the long run, the French people will emerge stronger, and the lovers of peace all over the world will come out on top in the end.

Catherine Shore Martinez is a National Board Certified teacher at Pahokee Middle Senior High School in Palm Beach County, Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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