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Statement to the United Nations International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

Vienna, Austria
17-26 June 1987

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The Baha'i world community, comprising Baha'i communities in some 140 independent nations, and representing a cross-section of humanity of over 2,000 ethnic backgrounds, with a membership of four and a half million children, youth and adults of both sexes, lives by the principles and teachings of Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith. One of these teachings stipulates the "total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs." (From the Baha'i Writings)

It is only natural, therefore, that in its commitment to this interdiction, the Baha'i International Community has been collaborating wholeheartedly with the United Nations campaign on drug abuse; and it enthusiastically welcomes the present International Conference on Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking as a significant step in finding ways of preventing and eradicating the dehumanizing habit of drug and substance abuse.

In the spirit of continuing cooperation, we would like, therefore, to offer the following observations.

The pervasive spread of substance abuse is not confined, as we know, to the affluent societies of the Western world. Its alarming signs can now be discerned among the nations of all continents. It is not limited to certain social groups; rather it has penetrated almost all layers of human society. Today, millions of human beings, of all ages and all walks of life, submit their minds to the influence of illicit drugs.

At a time when most of the attention is being directed toward combating the devastating effect of drug abuse, we welcome the increasing interest in prevention, and call for a greater emphasis to be placed on this dimension of the issue. We also propose that, since the demand for drugs constitutes a major human involvement, the attitude of the individual towards drugs, whether relating to production, traffic or consumption, should receive special consideration.

Behavioral scientists are today in agreement that "attitudes more than knowledge influence the shaping of certain behavior." They note furthermore that attitudes "are acquired during early education and adopted later as a way of life" and that such "learned attitudes become values, and the values guide decisions about behavior." [Ghadirian, A.M., In Search of Nirvana: a New Perspective on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. George Ronald, Publisher, Oxford, England, 1985, p. 48.]

In developing preventive and educational programs, therefore, the role of the spiritual dimension of human reality should receive particular recognition. The spiritual reality has been misunderstood or confused with religious superstitions and fanaticism, and thus is often dismissed as unnecessary. Since, however, in the Baha'i view, the fundamental basis of divine religions is one, closer collaboration and unity of thought and purpose among the peoples of the world regardless of their religious or ideological affiliations is, in our view, both possible and desirable in promoting the fundamental nobility of man in creation, and in protecting his mind and soul from the adverse effects of illicit substances.

In the Baha'i teachings man is viewed as "the supreme Talisman," (From the Baha'i Writings) created noble. The power of thought constitutes his essential reality. Through this gift, assisted by education, a human being can reveal his full potential in the journey through this world.

Thus the Baha'i International Community believes that an understanding of the spiritual meaning and purpose of life is one of the fundamental steps in educating mankind for the prevention of drug abuse; and perceives happiness as a natural outcome of man's quest for such a realization in daily life, and not as the product of chemical substances.

Likewise, the Baha'i writings emphasize the crucial role of home and family in cultivating a sense of security and purpose, and in setting behavioral examples. As the non-medical use of drugs is forbidden to Baha'is, by following this commandment, parents serve as effective role models for their children.

In this connection, we would like to underline the powerful influence of role models, whether in the family or in society at large, in any campaign for prevention of drug abuse. The value of important social figures -- including government officials, teachers, parents, writers, legislators, artists, health professionals, sport stars, and other celebrities and influential personalities -- in setting an example by abstaining from illicit drugs, cannot be overstressed.

Finally, it is the hope of the Baha'i International Community that the governments of the world, regardless of their cultural, economic and political differences, will, in the present conference, come closer to adopting a common goal in preventing drug abuse, as well as in curbing the cultivation and trafficking of narcotics and other forms of drugs, except for medical use.

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