The Baha’i community of Spain has long explored how to bring together different sectors of society—government, NGOs, academia, the private sector, and faith-based organizations—to collaborate for social progress.
At the heart of this endeavor, Baha’is express the conviction that, when oriented toward the betterment of society, a dialogue that engages science and religion can give rise to new and important insights necessary to navigate a rapidly changing world:
…the religion which does not walk hand in hand with science is itself in the darkness of superstition and ignorance.
Much of the discord and disunion of the world is created by these man-made oppositions and contradictions. If religion were in harmony with science and they walked together, much of the hatred and bitterness now bringing misery to the human race would be at an end. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 144.
The Spanish Baha’is’ exploration has yielded a number of developments over the past several years. This month, a new publication titled Gobernanza y religión (Governance and Religion) has been released, compiling contributions from leaders of thought in Spain on the transition toward more just and peaceful forms of social organization.
Edited by the Office of Public Affairs of the Baha’i community of Spain, the publication considers the contribution of religion to social organization in general and to governance in particular. The publication is one of the outcomes of a conference held last year in Barcelona.
“There is a growing consensus here that we need new models of social organization to address the complex realities of a world confronted by an increasing number of challenges, whether environmental, social, or structural,” explains Sergio Garcia, Director of the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs and editor of the new publication.
“One dimension of this is to discover new forms of governance. We believe to make such a leap requires us to look at all the systems humanity has, and religion is one of the most powerful.
“Religion is one of the two systems of knowledge and practice, together with science, that has propelled civilization. What we are learning is to draw on the insights of religion and its constructive contributions to navigate the new realities we face.”
The new publication covers a breadth of relevant subjects, exploring both theoretical and practical aspects of religion’s contributions to social organization. Among the themes it highlights is the historical role religion has played in inspiring new modes and patterns of human interaction and conceptions of governance.
Some of the authors seek in their chapters to identify principles, approaches, and mechanisms for better and more effective forms of governance, drawing on experiences in which religion has played a role in decision-making, conflict resolution, and social action.
The belief that religion would disappear as societies become more modernized has proven inaccurate, the publication points out. While in some societies the influence of religion in the public sphere has been controlled and relegated to the private life of the individual, it has continued to exert a profound influence on the development of thought and behavior at the individual and collective levels. This influence on hearts and minds should not be underestimated.
Gobernanza y religión is the latest publication in the Serie Gobernanza (Governance series) and is one of the outcomes of a conference co-sponsored by the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs in Spain, as well as the University of Barcelona, UNESCO’s Association for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Government of Catalonia’s General Directorate of Religious Affairs. The first publication in this series, La gobernanza y sus enfoques (Approaches to governance), was released earlier this year.
“Many interfaith groups and grassroots organizations in Spain have been thinking about these ideas already,” explains Dr. Garcia. “With these conferences, we wanted to bring those experiences into a broader discussion with social actors from government, civil society, academia, and the private sector to better understand the practical problems of governance and explore the possibilities for new models.”
Future conferences will explore other aspects of governance, including political economy and collective security.