January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. The Bahaís in particular love to celebrate King’s birthday and pay tribute to him. The essence of King’s life work is about oneness and unity and humanity. The pivot of the teachings of God in every age is also about oneness and radiance and humanity. One of the most important legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. was his defense of being human and what it means to be human no matter what color of skin we happen to come with.
When Elnore Roosevelt finally helped put together the charter of human rights a total of 30 basic human rights were identified to make sure we know how to treat each other and how to set limits on how we are treated by our fellow human beings. Treating the others with humanity, especially treating kids with humanity is just one side of the equation. We assume when children are the recipients of just and human treatment by others that basic regards for human rights is fulfilled.
I would like to argue that what others do to us is only a credit to them. What we do for others is actually a credit to our own humanity. As they say it takes a human being to recognize another!! Children have human rights of being treated with humanity like full size human beings. We even argue the human rights of unborn children.Children also have the human rights of being educated about what it means to be human. One of the most important human rights of every human being is the very exercise of what it is to be human.
What are the attributes of being human and claiming distinction for it? The fact that we think and feel and act is not unique to human beings. A lion also thinks about hunting a pray. A haina also gets up and thinks about whatever it can do to protect itself and its offsprings from danger. A wolf feels the pain of an empty stomach, a gazelle rejoices about being able to drink as much as it wants from the clear spring in peace. Thinking to find food, shelter, safety and feeling sadness and pain is not unique to human beings. What is unique about us is that we can think about what we think and therefoe we have the responsibility of choosing what we think about, and what we do or do not do about it. It is within this window of choice that we are responsible to act like a human being and have regards for the human rights of others and our own selves. Education in this regard is a big issue. Our religious education in particular bears a big responsibility to teach oneness of humanity.
To be kind, generous, radiant, giving, audacious, happy, benevolent, knowledgeable, sacrificial, to prefer others above ourselves, to be patient and to be just and fair is all part of our human rights and the human rights of all children.
The Bahia’s of Iran including the Baha’i children of Iran take this aspect of their human rights very seriously. They consider their basic human rights to protect their spiritual radiance; to continue to shine even despite the hurricanes of prejudice and ignorance around them. They consider their basic human rights to exercise goodness and be the breeze of joy and patience in the face of clouds of injustice thickening around them by the very government and law that is supposed to protect their human rights. The Bahaís do trust that no matter how thick and filthy the cloud of dust and smoke around them, ultimately the light of the sun will cleft it asunder. The divine attributes are meant to conquer the satanic force, the divine fragrances are designed to win the nostrils of humanity, the divine rain showers of justice and love are eventually destined to wash away the filth and gunk of injustice and brutality.
In the beautiful passage about the Seven Candles of Unity, Abdu’l-Baha who himself was the target of a lifetime of injustice and imprisonment, informs and assures humanity that ultimately light will conquer the darkness.
“Behold how its light is now dawning upon the world’s darkened horizon.
The first candle is unity in the political realm, the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned.
The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed.
The third candle is unity in freedom which will surely come to pass.
The fourth candle is unity in religion which is the corner-stone of the foundation itself, and which, by the power of God, will be revealed in all its splendour.
The fifth candle is the unity of nations — a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.
The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race.
The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse.
Each and every one of these will inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 31)