The Role of Religion in Social Development

Comments on the Draft Declaration and Draft Programme of Action for Social Development (A/CONF.166/PC/L.13) presented at the second session of the Preparatory Committee for the World Summit for Social Development

New York, U.S.A.
22 August-2 September 1994

"Religion," Bahá'u'lláh states, "is the greatest of all means for the establishment of order in the world and for the peaceful contentment of all that dwell therein."

Religion exerts a profound influence on all societies and many of the world's peoples. Throughout history, it has proven to be the primary force for social progress, motivating individuals to develop spiritual qualities, and empowering them to sacrifice for their fellow human-beings and to contribute to the betterment of their communities.

Those universal spiritual principles which lie at the heart of religion -- tolerance, compassion, love, justice, humility, sacrifice, trustworthiness, dedication to the well-being of others, and unity -- are the foundations of progressive civilization.

At the same time, it must be acknowledged that the perversion of religion has been a primary cause of social disintegration, intolerance, hatred, sexism, poverty, oppression and warfare down through the ages. Indeed, many of today's seemingly intractable problems, including many of those highlighted by the Social Summit process, can be traced to the corruption and misuse of religious authority.

It is, thus, obvious, that if religion is to help meet the manifold challenges confronting the world community, it must be free of ignorance, prejudice and animosity.

Foregoing any tendency to promote a purely personal or limited-group salvation, religion must emphasize that the individual's spiritual fulfillment and well-being are tied up with the collective progress of the entire world community. Through service and an active commitment to justice and unity, religion can bring an enormous, positive force to bear on the issues of social development.

The Bahá'í International Community, therefore, urges that the Declaration and Programme of Action address in a substantive manner the constructive role that religion should play in social development.

BIC Document #94-0824