Viewpoint: Education – The Gateway to Peace

The Bahá'í Writings state: “The primary, the most urgent requirement is the promotion of education. It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward”

Most of us in Guyana are concerned and involved in education. We await exam results with breathless anticipation, hoping that we, or our son or daughter will be at the top. Our concern, however, is primarily with acquiring knowledge and skills. We want our children to top the class, to be the best in the dance class, the swimming team, the art competition, the piano recital. This is not the kind of education that will bring about peace, at least not in isolation. The world is full of people who have accomplished in academic learning and skills of all kinds and still we do not have peace.

What we need to concentrate on is spiritual education, for spiritual education is the gateway to peace. Spiritual education is the moral and spiritual training that develops the spiritual qualities that are latent in each person. Spiritual education is not to be confused with religious instruction, which by and large is acquiring knowledge about a religion. Spiritual education is about those universal qualities of truthfulness, justice, humility, respect, generosity, unity, trustworthiness…and the list goes on. These are the qualities of the spiritual or higher nature of mankind. We are in reality, spiritual beings that happen to be in a physical body during our span of life on this earth. If we do not develop spiritual qualities during our life on earth, we will be handicapped in the next world, which is a spiritual world. In addition our lives on this earth will be of benefit to no one without these qualities in our life.

The ability to acquire academic learning varies from person to person as does the ability to master certain skills. Some of us will never top the class; some of us have two left feet while other cannot carry a tune. But everyone…each and every single person can develop spiritual qualities. Our ability to develop and show forth spiritual qualities has nothing whatsoever to do with intelligence or talents and skills. In fact, knowledge and skills without spiritual and moral education can be (and often is) dangerous.

Now, obviously the best time to pay attention to spiritual education is when children are very young. If we want to grow a beautiful tree with luscious fruits or a plant that will be a thing of beauty, when do we put forth the most effort? When the plant is young, of course…and if we nurture our young children in spiritual education, as a loving gardener tendeth his plants; then our efforts will bear fruit. We will rejoice in the accomplishments of our children whatever they are – for we will know that whatever they do they will be of benefit to humanity because they will live their lives according to spiritual principles.

The evidence of man’s lower nature is all around us. Lack of spiritual education is the cause of injustice, corruption, disunity, prejudice, war and violence. So naturally, spiritual education is also the solution. Who should be teaching spiritual education? You should, I should, parents should, teachers should. It should be in the school curriculum at all levels and of course the adults who are engaged in teaching about spiritual qualities need to be striving to further develop these qualities in their own characters, because children learn best by example.

Do we really want peace or do we think it is only a dream? Peace is possible, but it has to begin with spiritual education, for you and me…but especially for our children. The Bahá'í Writings state: “Every child is potentially the light of the world and at the same time its darkness, wherefore must the question of education be accounted as of primary importance.” “Children are even as a branch that is fresh and green, they will grow up in whatever way you train them. “…the indispensable basis of all, is that he should develop spiritual characteristics and the praiseworthy virtues of humankind.”

Let us make sure that the children we teach and train will become the light of the world and not its darkness.