SANTIAGO, Chile — How can spiritual principles such as justice and oneness guide the development of cities, and how can large urban centers promote the participation of their citizens in decision-making processes?
These were some of the questions explored by civil society leaders, representatives of the Bahá’í community of Chile, and members of the public at a panel discussion titled “From social injustice and segregation to a new model of human-centered cities.” The event took place at the Bahá’í House of Worship in Santiago.
“To move toward a society that cares for the welfare of all requires a reconceptualization of prosperity—one that promotes harmony between the material and spiritual dimensions of human life,” said Veronica Oré, director of the Bahá’í House of Worship in Santiago, in her opening remarks.
The event was organized as part of “Open House Santiago,” a week-long city-wide initiative that stimulated public discussion at numerous venues on how environmental and urban design, architecture, and engineering can contribute to the quality of life of that city’s citizens.
Participants highlighted how the Bahá’í principle of consultation can enhance the effectiveness of public forums that attempt to address growing social disparities, such as in access to public services and education.
“Many conflicts in neighborhoods arise from the implementation of policies that do not take into account the views of local residents,” stated Danae Mlynarz, Director of the Latin American Center for Rural Development.
She added: “How many times have people been invited to join a public discussion only to learn that key decisions have already been made, and the meeting was held to simply validate the decisions taken by others who are distant from the local reality?”
Luis Sandoval of the Bahá’í Office of External Affairs spoke about the role the House of Worship has played over the past several years in creating inclusive discussion spaces, bringing together government officials, leaders of faith communities, and thousands of the country’s citizens to consult together on the topic of social cohesion.
“The temple and its environs have become a center of attraction for all people who long to work for the renewal of their society. When people come here, they are uplifted by the temple’s spiritual atmosphere. They have the opportunity to consult with people from diverse backgrounds whom they would not have otherwise met,” he said.
Mr. Sandoval explained that the House of Worship holds tremendous potential for contributing to the transformation of Chilean society. “Visitors receive inspiration from reflecting on the principles of service and worship promoted by the temple—principles that resonate with the aspirations of the Chilean people.”
A recording of the discussion in Spanish is available here on the official YouTube channel of the Bahá’ís of Chile.