Viewpoint: UN Day of the Family

Today we are marking the United Nation’s Day of the Family, May 15th and thus focus our thoughts on the family: what are the instructions on the family we have learned from the religions of God, what are the principles upon which this first, primary unit of society are based, what is the goal and purpose of two people coming together to build their ‘family’?

As we reflect today, what principles have been brought by the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, the most recent of the Divinely inspired Educators?

We will focus on two principles brought to the world by Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith:

1)    The necessity of fully embracing the equality of the sexes is the basis of that unity within the family: marriage so that it can become our “fortress for our well-being and salvation”.

2)    The vital importance of unity and harmony between the couple and within the family itself is built on regarding the roles, rights and responsibilities of the members of the family: mother, father, son and daughter.

First then is the equality between a man and a woman, the husband and wife, so that their marriage will become what it should be: a place of security for their mutual and equal well-being in all aspects of their lives and for their individual and collective salvation. Their needs for education on all levels should be regarded so that both the wife and husband may learn and develop capacities to serve in the world within and outside the family.

The soul, that spiritual reality within each of us, has no ‘sexual’ identity! That is obvious and for a Bahá'í , this equality of the sexes, can be represented or explained by looking at a bird; how does it fly?

“Humanity is like a bird with its two wings- one is male, the other is female. Unless both wings are strong and impelled by some common force, the bird cannot fly heavenwards. According to the spirit of this age, women must advance and fulfil their mission in all departments of life, becoming equal to men. They must be on the same level as men and enjoy equal rights.”

An earlier viewpoint focused nicely upon this principle.

Next, then, after we have looked at the equality of the man and the woman in their marriage, the basis, the beginning of the family unity, next is that principle of unity and harmony between the couple:

    The Bahá'í Writings give much importance to it as seen in this quotation:

“If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual; but if enmity and hatred exist within it, destruction and dispersion are inevitable.”

How do we do this? This sense of a community is built by each member’s understanding of its duties and responsibilities and its respect and regard for the other members.

“The family…is a very special kind of ‘community’…The members of a family all have duties and responsibilities towards one another and to the family as a whole, and these duties and responsibilities vary from member to member because of their natural relationships. The parents have the inescapable duty to educate their children – but not vice versa. The children have the duty to obey their parents – but the parents do not obey the children; the mother – not the father – bears the children, nurses them in babyhood, and is thus the first educator, hence the daughters have a prior right to education over sons…The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development. A corollary of this responsibility of the mother is her right to be supported by her husband – a husband has no explicit right to be supported by his wife:

And further, as we look at the family, today, International Day of the Family; “According to the teaching of Baha’u’llah, the family being a human unit must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered and the right of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother, none of them must be transgressed; none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father likewise has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and any other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these right and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each the comfort of all; the honour of one of the honour of all.”

To summarize, then, as we reflect today, in commemoration of the International Day of the Family, May 15th, when people all around the world are looking at this most important unit, the most vital foundation of our lives; our families, we have asked and replied to these questions.

What principles can we find as a foundation for building families that will be sources of happiness and progress for each of us?

First and foremost is the equality of the sexes so that the marriage, the beginning of each family will become a fortress for their well-being and salvation.

Secondly, the need for unity and harmony can only come from a reflection upon and understanding of that equality by regarding and respecting the rights and responsibilities of each member of that family.

With these thoughts and viewpoints, I hope that you have a joyous celebration of your family today – International Day of the Family, May 15th.