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June 26, 2011

Question: What is Canada’s ethical role in the world?

I mention first ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statement written to the Bahá’ís of Canada in 1917, following his visit to Montreal in the fall of 1912: “Again I repeat that the future of Canada, whether from a material or a spiritual standpoint, is very great. Day by day civilization and freedom shall increase.” (Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 94).

Canada’s material prosperity and domestic peace place a burden of responsibility on our government and service-oriented individuals to reach out to the world to share our material, human and spiritual resources with the developing world. Bahá’ís have no official position on what Canada’s ethical role should be in today’s world, but we believe that our moral and spiritual teachings require concrete social action. Responsible global citizenship is required.

The Bahá’í International Community translates its ethical concerns into various socio-economic development projects worldwide. Through partnership with the Canadian International Development Agency, the Bahá’í Community of Canada has collaborated on a number of development projects overseas. This outreach includes increasing collaboration with the UN and international aid agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

Canadian Bahá’í agencies keep our government informed of the gross violations of human rights inflicted on the Bahá’í community in Iran. These actions have resulted in parliamentary resolutions condemning the Iranian government’s treatment of the Bahá’ís in that land.

Any approaches to international development must go far beyond “technology transfer” to include a two-way exchange of wisdom. This exchange must include close consultation with local leaders, communities and agencies to avoid the post-colonial “top down” solution mentality. Any proposed solutions must result from grassroots participation. These development projects demonstrate how Canadian Bahá’ís view Canada’s ethical role in the world in terms of concrete social action.
- Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen June 26, 2011
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