The most important lesson of this pandemic may well be that none of us are safe until we’re all safe. Nature herself seems to be insisting that it’s time to concede humanity’s essential oneness. The Bahá’í sacred writings contain these two passages, written well over 100 years ago:
It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.
Our physical well-being is tightly tied, not only to our spiritual unity, but our social and political unity as well. The story of the vaccine has underscored the need for greater international collaboration. In spite of the international COVAX effortfor vaccine equity, by 19 April, only 1 in 500 had received the vaccine in poorer countries, versus 1 in 4 in the richest.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of the lead coordinators of the COVAX campaign, which has the welcome support of luminaries, such as Greta Thunberg. Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle, to their credit, are teaming up online today, with a host of stars to present Vax Live, (Saturday, May 8th at 5 p.m. PST) with the message that “everyone, everywhere deserves access to a COVID-19 vaccine”.
Tens of millions of doses of the vaccine have already been sent to over 100 locations that might otherwise be breeding grounds for the virus. Although much more is required and COVAX itself represents one small example of the collaboration needed in many critical areas, it also represents the future. It deserves our recognition and support for the same reason we applaud the first exciting steps of a young child: not because they’re perfect but because we know they will lead to that same child’s effortless grace in a few short years.
Effortless grace on the part of our international institutions may yet be far off. But at this critical juncture, with the climate crisis and other catastrophes nipping at our heels, the attention and support of the world is essential.
The influence of the world’s “second superpower”, civil society, has been steadily growing. Groups like Together First have formed alliances of concerned citizens groups to come up with concrete proposals (see their Stepping Stones report) to address our most urgent issues.
Can we reform global institutions into effective, responsible and just bodies? The climate crisis and the pandemic have illuminated the need for a system of global governance that can transcend conflicting national interests to act in the interest of all humanity. There may be cynicism from various quarters, but cynicism is unwarranted when world public opinion is onside with solidarity and the status quo is increasingly untenable.
What can you do? Join with others in civil society groups like Together First. Check out Global Governance Forum. Read the downloadable book, Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions of the 21st Century. Movements are started by people educating themselves.
The Bahá’í International Community noted in its statement, “Governance Befitting”, that we “find ourselves at the threshold of a defining task: purposefully organizing our affairs in full consciousness of ourselves as one people in one shared homeland”. Perhaps the time is ripe.
Sheila Flood is a member of the Bahá’í community and Secretary of the Victoria Multifaith Society.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 8th 2021