World Peace: A Bahá’í Perspective

World Peace: A Bahá’í Perspective

Bahram Nadimi

The hope for world peace and good will is a deep desire of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of the world. The Prophets of the past prophesied—and countless sages and poets have longed for—the time when peace and harmony will replace war and conflict. Many futuristic science fiction novels and TV shows have also endeavored to give a clear vision of what world peace might look like.

Bahá’ís believe that we are living in extraordinarily precious times—the promised age of fulfillment foretold by the prophets and avatars of past ages—and that world unity has already begun to dawn. The fact that war, conflict and partisanship are rife is the result the people and nations of the world clinging to obsolete concepts and, therefore, failing to recognize the oneness of the human race. It is no surprise that there are many passages in the Bahá’í Writings that articulate, in detail, the developing processes already in existence in this age of transition that will eventually lead to a glorious global civilization.

One might ask, what have science and religion (the main theme of this website) to do with world peace? In this blog, I will try to answer this question, and also articulate what I think are the processes already in play that will culminate in what the Bahá’ Writings refer to as the “Most Great Peace”.

 

Unity First

If one looks at the news or is aware of the prevailing discourses of our society, one sees that solutions to peace and harmony are issue-oriented; if we only could solve the problem of hunger, or poverty, or warfare, then we might all be united. One of the most revolutionary concepts found in the Bahá’í writings is the opposite point of view—that is, in order to solve those problems and to have lasting peace, we must have unity first.

Bahá’u’lláh (the prophet founder of the Baha’i faith) has said:

“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”

Abdu’l-Bahá (Bahá’u’lláh’s son) has said that it is better to be united and wrong, than divided and right:

“Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.[3]“

One aspect of unity is the unity of science and religion, which once achieved (as Abdu’l-Bahá said): “will be a … cleansing force in the world” paving the way for the unity of mankind.

The Twin Processes of Integration and Disintegration

At least for me, it is hard not to be affected by the overall disintegration of societies and cultures. The signs are indisputable: the acceleration of moral decay, fraud, deep economic and social disorders are just some symptoms. On the other hand, we see integrative tendencies, however weak at this stage, towards peace. The Universal House of Justice—the world governing body of the Bahá’í Faith have stated:

“Out of the ‘universal fermentation’ created by these processes, peace will emerge in stages, through which the unifying effects of a growing consciousness of world citizenship will become manifest.”

World Peace: The Merging of Science and Religion

It is rarely acknowledged that a monumental change in human conduct and the development of virtues and the resulting positive actions are important prerequisites for a lasting world peace—one that only religion, shorn of its superstitions, has the motive power to accomplish. The Universal House of Justice has stated in the now classic document called The Promise of World Peace :

“No serious attempt to set human affairs aright, to achieve world peace, can ignore religion.”

The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, stated that:

Not even, I venture to assert, would the very act of devising the machinery required for the political and economic unification of the world — a principle that has been increasingly advocated in recent times — provide in itself the antidote against the poison that is steadily undermining the vigor of organized peoples and nations.[1].

The integrative process of the “spiritualization of mankind” has already started, as evidenced by the sudden rise of interest in religion and spirituality during the last few decades. This has yet to translate into a global sea change in behavior. And though altruism is a growing trend in human life, it seems that we will probably see dramatic changes of human conduct only in the distant future.

In not-too-distant future, we will probably witness the very beginnings of what the Bahá’ís call “the Lesser Peace” and some sort of nascent world order coming into existence.  This scientific process of global organizational development started with the organization of the family, expanded to the tribe, city and nation; one may conclude that the next stage is the creation of the machinery for the unification of mankind. This process seems to have advanced through pain and heartache. We have seen tangible and concrete milestones in this regard already, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen points that eventually led to the creation of the League of Nations, and more recently the establishment of the United Nations. Each of these milestones were preceded by world wars. (Please refer to my blog on Woodrow Wilson and world peace for more detail.)

The Bahá’ís believe that lasting peace will be the result of the merging of the process of global organizational development and radical change in human behavior born out of the spiritualization of the masses.

Recent developments

While a stable and developing structure for world unity has been established with the United Nations in 1945, the progress towards actual peace has only accelerated fairly recently. In the 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, this process accelerated for the first time. In 1999, after the Asian financial crisis, the G20—an organization of twenty member nations to further international and economic development—was created. This crisis forced world leaders—probably for the first time—to acknowledge that all countries are economically very interdependent and, hence, global solutions are key to stabilizing the world economy.

The acceleration continued and at the very end of the twentieth century, there was a millennium summit held by the United Nations. This meeting was the largest gathering of world leaders in history as of the year 2000, with one aim of defining the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century [2].

It seems that, while there is a paralysis of will among global leadership, most of the powerful world leaders understand the necessity for more concrete cooperation between nations. One such leader was Gordon Brown, Prime Minster of the United Kingdom from 2007-2010—in my opinion, one of the great thinkers in recent times. Brown boldly advocated the need for world order in many of his speeches, including a speech to the joint congress of the United States.

He has even stated that we need world order in order to save the earth, and has also stated:

I do not envisage a new world founded on the narrow and conventional idea of isolated states pursuing their own selfish interests. Instead, I see a world that harnesses for the common good the growing interdependence of nations, cultures and peoples that makes a truly global society.

The call for world order has generated at times virulent opposition. Some fear any world order must be an authoritarian world government with the sole aim of ruling the world. The Bahá’í position is that peace is inevitable, and whether we like it or not, we will be forced to create some sort of new order out of necessity. The ideal situation would be to promote a just organizational structure similar to the US federal system, where there is a good balance between individual and state rights, as well as federal needs. The West—especially the US—has the opportunity to take the lead in this process.

I find it ironic that by rejecting the concept of world order, the fearful are playing into the very forces they fear.

Next time, I will talk about world peace and science fiction.

[1] Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 34
[2]  Millennium Summit Wikipedia.

[3]Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith – Abdu’l-Baha Section, p. 411

 

 

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