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July 15, 2012

Question:  What would your faith say about ‘bullying’ in today’s society?

 One of the Bahá’í prayers closes with the following line: “Verily, Thou art the helper of the weak and the defender of the little ones, and verily Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty and the Unconstrained.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and the perfect exemplar for every Bahá’í, counsels: “Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, and the patrons of the disadvantaged” (Selections, p. 3). His father, Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), has exhorted in one of his scriptures: “Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 93). Defence of the weak against the strongly tyrannical is required of every steadfast believer.

Exceptions exist to Christ’s counsel to “turn the other cheek”: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 38-39). This teaching exists to teach us forgiveness and not to seek personal revenge; it is not a recipe to permit abuse. Although the law of love, that binds all the great religions together, is universal, it must also be practised in conjunction with justice. This great attribute is, says Bahá’u’lláh, “The best beloved of all things in My sight” (The Arabic Hidden Words, #2).

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in interpreting the teachings of his father, has written the following: “It is not advisable to show kindness to a person who is a tyrant, a traitor or a thief because kindness encourages him to become worse and does not awaken him. The more kindness you show to a liar, the more he is apt to lie” (Bahá’í World Faith, p. 412). Clearly, bullies are tyrants. Preventive and punitive action must be taken against them. But how such action should be taken is a question for another day.  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen July 15, 2012
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