Bahrain: National forums highlight religion’s pivotal role in social progress
MANAMA, Bahrain — The discourse on coexistence in Bahrain has received renewed attention in recent weeks following a series of national gatherings titled “The Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence," which has been promoted by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
Some of these gatherings have included the participation of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar. These forums have also brought together other religious leaders, government officials, representatives of civil society, members of Bahrain’s Bahá’í Office of External Affairs, as well as Bani Dugal, representative of the Bahá’í International Community, to explore questions concerning societal harmony.
The contribution of the Bahá’í community to these discussions, which has received coverage from a wide range of national media outlets, focused on the important role that religion can play in social progress.
In a radio program broadcast nation-wide, Jalal Khalil, a member of the Office of External Affairs, spoke about a devotional gathering that has been held monthly by the Bahá’ís of Bahrain, bringing together social actors at the national level.
“These gatherings promote the inherent oneness of humanity, and they enable participants to appreciate that the well-being of individuals is linked to the well-being of their society,” said Mr. Khalil.
He explained that the Bahá’ís of Bahrain see tremendous value in forums that enable people from different backgrounds to build a common vision for a materially and spiritually prosperous world. “Interfaith dialogue on tolerance and service to humanity is of utmost importance,” he said. “It enables people to arrive at a common understanding that religion, in its essence, can be a means for love and unity among all peoples.”
The relationship between prayer and service was further explored by officials and representatives of faith communities at an event held by the Office of External Affairs, which featured comments from Ms. Dugal.
“Worship and service to humanity are inextricably linked,” she said.
“Prayer must ultimately be lived in purposeful lives,” continued Ms. Dugal, “This is a principle that is embodied in places of worship that are being raised in national and local Bahá’í communities around the world. Such places… are open to all people without exception… and stand as evidence that religiously diverse communities can indeed advance the cause of peace.”
During an interview in a widely viewed national TV program, Mr. Khalil emphasized the principle of unity in diversity by drawing on the metaphor of the human body to highlight the interdependence of humanity.
“Each organ and cell in the human body,” he said, “has its specific function and composition. What makes the human body perfect is the unity and cooperation that exists between these organs and cells. In the same way… humanity can work together. And this diversity must be a source of beauty and richness.”
Mr. Khalil added that although coexistence represents a lofty goal, this metaphor points to something greater. The concept of unity as described in the Bahá’í teachings, he said, calls on people to not only transcend differences but to operate at a level where they act for the betterment of all.
This theme is the inspiration for a new video produced by the Bahá’ís of Bahrain featuring young people from different backgrounds singing about inclusivity, oneness, and service to one’s fellow human beings. The video, which was aired on national TV programs, coincided with that country’s National Day celebrations and is part of the contributions of the Office of External Affairs to the discourse on societal harmony.