When trying to come to terms with the abuse I suffered as a child, I desperately wanted to know that there would be justice served to my perpetrators. What follows is a brief compilation of quotes which helped me come to terms with this subject. Hope you find it helpful.
How do we know that God sees the violence and abuse which goes on in homes and on streets around the world?
Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight . . . All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 63)
What is Justice?
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 2)
Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164)
Justice is not limited, it is a universal quality. Its operation must be carried out in all classes, from the highest to the lowest. Justice must be sacred, and the rights of all the people must be considered. Desire for others only that which you desire for yourselves. Then shall we rejoice in the Sun of Justice, which shines from the Horizon of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)
Who Deserves Justice?
Is it not an evidence of the justice of God that each of us, irrespective of family background, is assessed in terms of the efforts we have made to seize whatever opportunities existed in our lives, to develop and use our allotted talent, be it large or small? “Each shall receive his share from the Lord”, is Bahá’u’lláh’s assurance. (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)
Each man has been placed in a post of honour, which he must not desert. A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant. Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159)
How does God Exercise Justice in the Next World?
O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Persian 64)
. . . see for themselves beyond any doubt that there is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 136)
O heedless ones! Though the wonders of My mercy have encompassed all created things, both visible and invisible, and though the revelations of My grace and bounty have permeated every atom of the universe, yet the rod with which I can chastise the wicked is grievous, and the fierceness of Mine anger against them terrible. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 325)
It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 171)
The penalties for wounding or striking a person depend upon the severity of the injury; for each degree the Lord of Judgement hath prescribed a certain indemnity. He is, in truth, the Ordainer, the Mighty, the Most Exalted. We shall, if it be Our Will, set forth these payments in their just degrees — this is a promise on Our part, and He, verily, is the Keeper of His pledge, the Knower of all things. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 39)
It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed — that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice — for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)
How does God Exercise Justice in this World?
Know thou that ordeals are of two kinds. One is for tests, and the other for punishment of misdeeds . . . that which is for punishment of deeds is sever retribution. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)
In the same way they consider that the spiritual punishment, that is to say the torture and punishment of existence, is to be subjected to the world of nature, to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties; to be characterized with dark qualities, such as falsehood, tyranny, cruelty, attachment to the affairs of the world, and being immersed in satanic ideas; for them, these are the greatest punishments and tortures. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 324)
But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites, and he would not content himself with simple foods. Rather, he prepared for himself food that was compounded of many ingredients, of substances differing one from the other. With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life. The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152-153)
Sometimes it Seems that Abusers “Get Away with It”
Shouldst Thou ordain evil for a servant by reason of that which his hands have unjustly wrought before Thy face, Thou wouldst test him with the benefits of this world and of the next that he might become preoccupied therewith and forget Thy remembrance. (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 192)
He hath, however, caused you to be entangled with (the) affairs (of the world) , in return for what your hands have wrought in His Cause. This, indeed, is a chastisement which ye, of your own will, have inflicted upon yourselves, could ye but perceive it. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 209)
I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: Taste ye what your hands have wrought! (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68)
Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God . . . The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)
Do we have a Responsibility to Punish People in this World?
Question. — Should a criminal be punished, or forgiven and his crime overlooked? Answer. — There are two sorts of retributory punishments. One is vengeance, the other, chastisement. Man has not the right to take vengeance, but the community has the right to punish the criminal; and this punishment is intended to warn and to prevent so that no other person will dare to commit a like crime. This punishment is for the protection of man’s rights, but it is not vengeance; vengeance appeases the anger of the heart by opposing one evil to another. This is not allowable, for man has not the right to take vengeance. But if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities, but he who is oppressed by a transgressor has not the right to take vengeance. On the contrary, he should forgive and pardon, for this is worthy of the world of man. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 268)
What is the Purpose of Punishment?
Some people are like bloodthirsty wolves: if they see no punishment forthcoming, they will kill men merely for pleasure and diversion. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 270)
How are we to Punish?
The other kind of torment is gross — such as penalties, imprisonment, beating, expulsion and banishment. But for the people of God separation from God is the greatest torment of all. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)
Observe how many penal institutions, houses of detention and places of torture are made ready to receive the sons of men, the purpose being to prevent them, by punitive measures, from committing terrible crimes — whereas this very torment and punishment only increaseth depravity, and by such means the desired aim cannot be properly achieved. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 262)
If someone is Punished in this World, will God Punish Him in the Next?
As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 178)
Is Forgiveness a Part of Justice?
But if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities . . . (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 268)
The canopy of existence . . . resteth upon the pole of justice, and not of forgiveness, and the life of mankind dependeth on justice and not on forgiveness. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 28)
The community has no hatred nor animosity for the murderer: it imprisons or punishes him merely for the protection and security of others. It is not for the purpose of taking vengeance upon the murderer, but for the purpose of inflicting a punishment by which the community will be protected. If the community and the inheritors of the murdered one were to forgive and return good for evil, the cruel would be continually ill-treating others, and assassinations would continually occur. Vicious people, like wolves, would destroy the sheep of God. The community has no ill-will and rancor in the infliction of punishment, and it does not desire to appease the anger of the heart; its purpose is by punishment to protect others so that no atrocious actions may be committed. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)
What is the Attitude of the One Being Punished?
You have already, through at last facing yourself and acknowledging that you have both failed and erred in managing your life so far, set your feet on the right path. But now this new and spiritual condition in you is going to be proved – and the proving, the testing, will surely consist of the way you determine to take your punishment. Life is based on laws: physical, man-made, and spiritual. As you have broken the laws of the society in which you live, you will have to stand up like a man and take your punishment. The spirit in which you do this is the most important thing, and constitutes a great opportunity for you . . . at present, until your sentence is up, you must live within yourself in a way not to spoil the new future awaiting you. You must not become bitter – for after all you are only reaping what you planted. Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through no crime of their own, spent the better part of their lives in exile and imprisoned, but they never became embittered although they were the victims of injustice. You, on the other hand, are the victim of injustice which you have inflicted on yourself – therefore you certainly have no right to be bitter towards the world. He urges you to grasp firmly the teachings of our Faith, the love of your family and many Bahá’í friends, to put the past behind entirely, realizing that it can do you no more harm; on the contrary, through changing you and making you spiritually aware, this very past can be a means of enriching your life in the future! (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)
What role do the Institutions play?
As to the punishments for such acts as rape, these will be determined in the future by the Universal House of Justice. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 8 June 1982)
It is inevitable that this community will, at times, be subject to delinquent behaviour of members whose actions do not conform to the standards of the Teachings. At such times, the institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness in full confidence that the Divine Law is the means for the true happiness of all concerned. However, it should be recognized that the ultimate solution to the problems of humanity lies not in penalties and punishments, but rather in spiritual education and illumination. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)
He (Bahá’u’lláh) has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. It has decided for the present that all cases should be referred to it in which the conduct or character of a parent appears to render him unworthy of having such parental rights as that of giving consent to marriage. Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as a consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)
In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters. Nevertheless, if a believer’s behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights. This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)
While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57)
What about loss of administrative rights?
We wish to emphasize, however, that although all immorality is condemned in the Teachings, it is only flagrant immorality that is now sanctionable. You should not pry into people’s affairs, and only in cases of flagrant immorality should you consider imposing sanctions, and then only after you have patiently explained to the believers concerned the Bahá’í laws involved and given them ample time to comply. Particularly in the application of these laws to indigenous people should you be patient and forbearing. The emphasis should be on education rather than on rigid enforcement of the law immediately. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, pp. 383-384)
The general basis for the deprivation of voting rights is of course gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status; and even then it is the duty of the National Assembly, before exercising this sanction, to confer with the individuals involved in a loving manner to help them overcome the problem; second, to warn them that they must desist; third, to issue further warnings if the original warnings are not followed; and finally, if there seems no other way to handle the matter, then a person may be deprived of voting rights. The Guardian however, wishes the National Assemblies to be very cautious in using this sanction, because it might be abused, and then lose its efficacy. It should be used only when there seems no other way to solve the problem. Answering specifically the questions you raise, if a person is deprived of his voting rights, he may not contribute to the Local or National Funds; he may not attend Nineteen Day Feasts. Of course, not attending the Nineteen Day Feasts, he can take no part in consultation. While it is not forbidden for the friends to associate with the individual, yet their association should be on a formal basis. So far as the individual who has been deprived of his voting rights, teaching the Cause, he is of course free to do this, as every individual has been encouraged by Bahá’u’lláh to teach the Cause. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, pp. 50-51)
We feel that the Assembly should exercise its utmost wisdom when depriving believers of their administrative privileges, each case should be considered on its individual merits, and it should be realized that the application of Bahá’í sanctions is not an automatic action in response to a verdict of the court. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 53)
Applying these principles requires mature understanding and judgement and great love for one’s fellow men. It is a weighty responsibility which rests upon the shoulders of the members of Spiritual Assemblies. Undoubtedly errors are made and will continue to be made, but the more the friends are united and wholeheartedly support their Assemblies, the sooner will these mature in their decisions and actions, outgrow their mistakes, and become strong magnets for the Faith. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 22 July, 1981)
What about Confession and Making Amends?
Bahá’u’lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one’s sins from, a human being, and enjoins the sinner, when alone, to repent before God, for it is He Who forgives. In this connection the Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer: “We are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.” (Baha’u’llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 64)
The Guardian wants to point out, however, that we are not obliged to do so. It rests entirely with the individual. (From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 19 March 1973)
You have asked about the need “to make amends for transgressions of a personal nature”. As you know, each individual must resolve his own tests according to the promptings of his conscience. (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)
What compensation is there for the victim?
He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)
Let not the happenings of the world sadden you. I swear by God! The sea of joy yearneth to attain your presence, for every good thing hath been created for you, and will, according to the needs of the times, be revealed unto you. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 69)
O my servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 69)
So great are the things ordained for the steadfast that were they, so much as the eye of a needle, to be disclosed, all who are in heaven and on earth would be dumbfounded, except such as God, the Lord of all worlds, hath willed to exempt . . . I swear by God! That which hath been destined for him who aideth My Cause excelleth the treasures of the earth. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 71)
With them [the Prophets of God and His chosen ones] that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 156).
The friends must not feel too crushed by the sufferings that are so piteously afflicting humanity. They must realize that the hotter the fire the more malleable the metal becomes, and take hope that out of the agony of the present the future will be born – the glorious future of peace and unity amongst the sons of men. Evidently only intense misery will prove sufficiently strong to purge the hearts of men. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 26 March, 1942)
In addition, we know from the Bahá’í writings that man’s soul ‘is independent of all infirmities of body or mind’, and not only continues to exist ‘after departing from this mortal world’, but progresses ‘through the bounty and grace of the Lord’. Therefore, an evaluation of man’s material existence and achievements cannot ignore the potential spiritual development stimulated by the individual’s desire to manifest the attributes of God and his response to the exigencies of his life, nor can it exclude the possibility of the operations of God’s mercy in terms of compensation for earthly suffering, in the next life. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 662)
As to the subject of babes and infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors: this contains great wisdom and this subject is of paramount importance. In brief, for those souls there is a recompense in another world and many details are connected with this matter. For those souls that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world and the growth and development of this place of mortality. If it be the will of God, when thou shalt be present this will be explained in detail by word of mouth. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 372)
On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are heart-rending trials of the innocent . . . With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children ‘who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor’, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls ‘the afflictions that they bear in life become a cause for them of . . . an outpouring of divine mercy and bestowal’, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is ‘preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts’, and He promised that ‘in the world to come a mighty recompense awaiteth such souls’. Much, indeed, might be said upon this theme, and upon how the afflictions that they bear in life become the cause for them of such an outpouring of Divine mercy and bestowal as is preferable to a hundred thousand comforts and to a world of growth and development in this transitory abode. (Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)
Are there Any Prayers Which the Abuser can Use to Turn his Life Around?
O Lord! I have fled from Thy justice, and have sought Thy grace, have turned from thy wrath and implored Thy pardon. I beseech Thee, by Thy power, Thy sovereignty, Thy glory and Thy favour to illumine mankind with the light of thy knowledge, that all things may show Thy handiwork, may unfold the mysteries of thy power, and may reveal the light of Thy knowledge. Thou art the One that hath caused all things to be made manifest and hath shone upon them with the light of Thy care and Thy providence.@ (Bahá’í Prayers (UK), p. 32-4)
I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors. (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)
Forgive me, O my Lord, my sins which have hindered me from walking in the ways of Thy good-pleasure, and from attaining the shores of the ocean of Thy oneness. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 29)
O God, my God! My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me. Whenever I ponder my evil doings and Thy benevolence, my heart melteth within me, and my blood boileth in my veins. By Thy Beauty, O Thou the Desire of the world! I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty. Thou seest, O my God, how my tears prevent me from remembering Thee and from extolling Thy virtues, O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen! (Baha’u’llah, Long Obligatory Prayer, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 322)
O Thou forgiving Lord! Thou art the shelter of all these Thy servants. Thou knowest the secrets and art aware of all things. We are all helpless, and Thou art the Mighty, the Omnipotent. We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate. O Lord! Look not at our shortcomings. Deal with us according to Thy grace and bounty. Our shortcomings are many, but the ocean of Thy forgiveness is boundless. Our weakness is grievous, but the evidences of Thine aid and assistance are clear. Therefore, confirm and strengthen us. Enable us to do that which is worthy of Thy holy Threshold. Illumine our hearts, grant us discerning eyes and attentive ears. Resuscitate the dead and heal the sick. Bestow wealth upon the poor and give peace and security to the fearful. Accept us in Thy kingdom and illumine us with the light of guidance. Thou art the Powerful and the Omnipotent. Thou art the Generous. Thou art the Clement. Thou art the Kind. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)
However, it should be recognized that the ultimate solution to the problems of humanity lies not in penalties and punishments, but rather in spiritual education and illumination. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written: ”It is incumbent upon human society to expend all its forces on the education of the people, and to copiously enter men’s hearts with the sacred streams that pour down from the Realm of the All‑Merciful, and to teach them the manners of Heaven and spiritual ways of life, until every member of the community of man will be schooled, refined, and exalted to such a degree of perfection that the very committing of a shameful act will seem in itself the direst infliction and most agonizing of punishments, and man will fly in terror and seek refuge in his God from the very idea of crime, as something far harsher and more grievous than the punishment assigned to it. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January 1993)