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Title: The Promise of World Peace
Author: Universal House of Justice
Language: English
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The Promise of World Peace


by Universal House of Justice



Edition 1, (September 2006)



                           BAHA’I TERMS OF USE


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                                 CONTENTS


Baha’i Terms of Use
I
II
III
IV



THE PROMISE OF WORLD PEACE


October 1985

To the Peoples of the World:

The Great Peace towards which people of good will throughout the centuries
have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless
generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the
sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at
long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history
it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad
diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible
but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet—in
the words of one great thinker, “the planetization of mankind”.

Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors
precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour,
or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice
before all who inhabit the earth. At this critical juncture when the
intractable problems confronting nations have been fused into one common
concern for the whole world, failure to stem the tide of conflict and
disorder would be unconscionably irresponsible.

Among the favourable signs are the steadily growing strength of the steps
towards world order taken initially near the beginning of this century in
the creation of the League of Nations, succeeded by the more broadly based
United Nations Organization; the achievement since the Second World War of
independence by the majority of all the nations on earth, indicating the
completion of the process of nation building, and the involvement of these
fledgling nations with older ones in matters of mutual concern; the
consequent vast increase in co-operation among hitherto isolated and
antagonistic peoples and groups in international undertakings in the
scientific, educational, legal, economic and cultural fields; the rise in
recent decades of an unprecedented number of international humanitarian
organizations; the spread of women’s and youth movements calling for an
end to war; and the spontaneous spawning of widening networks of ordinary
people seeking understanding through personal communication.

The scientific and technological advances occurring in this unusually
blessed century portend a great surge forward in the social evolution of
the planet, and indicate the means by which the practical problems of
humanity may be solved. They provide, indeed, the very means for the
administration of the complex life of a united world. Yet barriers
persist. Doubts, misconceptions, prejudices, suspicions and narrow
self-interest beset nations and peoples in their relations one to another.

It is out of a deep sense of spiritual and moral duty that we are impelled
at this opportune moment to invite your attention to the penetrating
insights first communicated to the rulers of mankind more than a century
ago by Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, of which we are the
Trustees.

“The winds of despair”, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “are, alas, blowing from every
direction, and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is
daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be
discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably
defective.” This prophetic judgement has been amply confirmed by the
common experience of humanity. Flaws in the prevailing order are
conspicuous in the inability of sovereign states organized as United
Nations to exorcize the spectre of war, the threatened collapse of the
international economic order, the spread of anarchy and terrorism, and the
intense suffering which these and other afflictions are causing to
increasing millions. Indeed, so much have aggression and conflict come to
characterize our social, economic and religious systems, that many have
succumbed to the view that such behaviour is intrinsic to human nature and
therefore ineradicable.

With the entrenchment of this view, a paralyzing contradiction has
developed in human affairs. On the one hand, people of all nations
proclaim not only their readiness but their longing for peace and harmony,
for an end to the harrowing apprehensions tormenting their daily lives. On
the other, uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings
are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a
social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a
system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based
on co-operation and reciprocity.

As the need for peace becomes more urgent, this fundamental contradiction,
which hinders its realization, demands a reassessment of the assumptions
upon which the commonly held view of mankind’s historical predicament is
based. Dispassionately examined, the evidence reveals that such conduct,
far from expressing man’s true self, represents a distortion of the human
spirit. Satisfaction on this point will enable all people to set in motion
constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human
nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and
conflict.

To choose such a course is not to deny humanity’s past but to understand
it. The Bahá’í Faith regards the current world confusion and calamitous
condition in human affairs as a natural phase in an organic process
leading ultimately and irresistibly to the unification of the human race
in a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet. The
human race, as a distinct, organic unit, has passed through evolutionary
stages analogous to the stages of infancy and childhood in the lives of
its individual members, and is now in the culminating period of its
turbulent adolescence approaching its long-awaited coming of age.

A candid acknowledgement that prejudice, war and exploitation have been
the expression of immature stages in a vast historical process and that
the human race is today experiencing the unavoidable tumult which marks
its collective coming of age is not a reason for despair but a
prerequisite to undertaking the stupendous enterprise of building a
peaceful world. That such an enterprise is possible, that the necessary
constructive forces do exist, that unifying social structures can be
erected, is the theme we urge you to examine.

Whatever suffering and turmoil the years immediately ahead may hold,
however dark the immediate circumstances, the Bahá’í community believes
that humanity can confront this supreme trial with confidence in its
ultimate outcome. Far from signalizing the end of civilization, the
convulsive changes towards which humanity is being ever more rapidly
impelled will serve to release the “potentialities inherent in the station
of man” and reveal “the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate
excellence of his reality”.



I


The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of
life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its
essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build
civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone
have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it
towards transcendence, a reaching towards an invisible realm, towards the
ultimate reality, that unknowable essence of essences called God. The
religions brought to mankind by a succession of spiritual luminaries have
been the primary link between humanity and that ultimate reality, and have
galvanized and refined mankind’s capacity to achieve spiritual success
together with social progress.

No serious attempt to set human affairs aright, to achieve world peace,
can ignore religion. Man’s perception and practice of it are largely the
stuff of history. An eminent historian described religion as a “faculty of
human nature”. That the perversion of this faculty has contributed to much
of the confusion in society and the conflicts in and between individuals
can hardly be denied. But neither can any fair-minded observer discount
the preponderating influence exerted by religion on the vital expressions
of civilization. Furthermore, its indispensability to social order has
repeatedly been demonstrated by its direct effect on laws and morality.

Writing of religion as a social force, Bahá’u’lláh said: “Religion is the
greatest of all means for the establishment of order in the world and for
the peaceful contentment of all that dwell therein.” Referring to the
eclipse or corruption of religion, he wrote: “Should the lamp of religion
be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness,
of justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine.” In an enumeration
of such consequences the Bahá’í writings point out that the “perversion of
human nature, the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and
dissolution of human institutions, reveal themselves, under such
circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character
is debased, confidence is shaken, the nerves of discipline are relaxed,
the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame
is obscured, conceptions of duty, of solidarity, of reciprocity and
loyalty are distorted, and the very feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of
hope is gradually extinguished.”

If, therefore, humanity has come to a point of paralyzing conflict it must
look to itself, to its own negligence, to the siren voices to which it has
listened, for the source of the misunderstandings and confusion
perpetrated in the name of religion. Those who have held blindly and
selfishly to their particular orthodoxies, who have imposed on their
votaries erroneous and conflicting interpretations of the pronouncements
of the Prophets of God, bear heavy responsibility for this confusion—a
confusion compounded by the artificial barriers erected between faith and
reason, science and religion. For from a fair-minded examination of the
actual utterances of the Founders of the great religions, and of the
social milieus in which they were obliged to carry out their missions,
there is nothing to support the contentions and prejudices deranging the
religious communities of mankind and therefore all human affairs.

The teaching that we should treat others as we ourselves would wish to be
treated, an ethic variously repeated in all the great religions, lends
force to this latter observation in two particular respects: it sums up
the moral attitude, the peace-inducing aspect, extending through these
religions irrespective of their place or time of origin; it also signifies
an aspect of unity which is their essential virtue, a virtue mankind in
its disjointed view of history has failed to appreciate.

Had humanity seen the Educators of its collective childhood in their true
character, as agents of one civilizing process, it would no doubt have
reaped incalculably greater benefits from the cumulative effects of their
successive missions. This, alas, it failed to do.

The resurgence of fanatical religious fervour occurring in many lands
cannot be regarded as more than a dying convulsion. The very nature of the
violent and disruptive phenomena associated with it testifies to the
spiritual bankruptcy it represents. Indeed, one of the strangest and
saddest features of the current outbreak of religious fanaticism is the
extent to which, in each case, it is undermining not only the spiritual
values which are conducive to the unity of mankind but also those unique
moral victories won by the particular religion it purports to serve.

However vital a force religion has been in the history of mankind, and
however dramatic the current resurgence of militant religious fanaticism,
religion and religious institutions have, for many decades, been viewed by
increasing numbers of people as irrelevant to the major concerns of the
modern world. In its place they have turned either to the hedonistic
pursuit of material satisfactions or to the following of man-made
ideologies designed to rescue society from the evident evils under which
it groans. All too many of these ideologies, alas, instead of embracing
the concept of the oneness of mankind and promoting the increase of
concord among different peoples, have tended to deify the state, to
subordinate the rest of mankind to one nation, race or class, to attempt
to suppress all discussion and interchange of ideas, or to callously
abandon starving millions to the operations of a market system that all
too clearly is aggravating the plight of the majority of mankind, while
enabling small sections to live in a condition of affluence scarcely
dreamed of by our forebears.

How tragic is the record of the substitute faiths that the worldly-wise of
our age have created. In the massive disillusionment of entire populations
who have been taught to worship at their altars can be read history’s
irreversible verdict on their value. The fruits these doctrines have
produced, after decades of an increasingly unrestrained exercise of power
by those who owe their ascendancy in human affairs to them, are the social
and economic ills that blight every region of our world in the closing
years of the twentieth century. Underlying all these outward afflictions
is the spiritual damage reflected in the apathy that has gripped the mass
of the peoples of all nations and by the extinction of hope in the hearts
of deprived and anguished millions.

The time has come when those who preach the dogmas of materialism, whether
of the east or the west, whether of capitalism or socialism, must give
account of the moral stewardship they have presumed to exercise. Where is
the “new world” promised by these ideologies? Where is the international
peace to whose ideals they proclaim their devotion? Where are the
breakthroughs into new realms of cultural achievement produced by the
aggrandizement of this race, of that nation or of a particular class? Why
is the vast majority of the world’s peoples sinking ever deeper into
hunger and wretchedness when wealth on a scale undreamed of by the
Pharaohs, the Caesars, or even the imperialist powers of the nineteenth
century is at the disposal of the present arbiters of human affairs?

Most particularly, it is in the glorification of material pursuits, at
once the progenitor and common feature of all such ideologies, that we
find the roots which nourish the falsehood that human beings are
incorrigibly selfish and aggressive. It is here that the ground must be
cleared for the building of a new world fit for our descendants.

That materialistic ideals have, in the light of experience, failed to
satisfy the needs of mankind calls for an honest acknowledgement that a
fresh effort must now be made to find the solutions to the agonizing
problems of the planet. The intolerable conditions pervading society
bespeak a common failure of all, a circumstance which tends to incite
rather than relieve the entrenchment on every side. Clearly, a common
remedial effort is urgently required. It is primarily a matter of
attitude. Will humanity continue in its waywardness, holding to outworn
concepts and unworkable assumptions? Or will its leaders, regardless of
ideology, step forth and, with a resolute will, consult together in a
united search for appropriate solutions?

Those who care for the future of the human race may well ponder this
advice. “If long-cherished ideals and time-honoured institutions, if
certain social assumptions and religious formulae have ceased to promote
the welfare of the generality of mankind, if they no longer minister to
the needs of a continually evolving humanity, let them be swept away and
relegated to the limbo of obsolescent and forgotten doctrines. Why should
these, in a world subject to the immutable law of change and decay, be
exempt from the deterioration that must needs overtake every human
institution? For legal standards, political and economic theories are
solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole, and not
humanity to be crucified for the preservation of the integrity of any
particular law or doctrine.”



II


Banning nuclear weapons, prohibiting the use of poison gases, or outlawing
germ warfare will not remove the root causes of war. However important
such practical measures obviously are as elements of the peace process,
they are in themselves too superficial to exert enduring influence.
Peoples are ingenious enough to invent yet other forms of warfare, and to
use food, raw materials, finance, industrial power, ideology, and
terrorism to subvert one another in an endless quest for supremacy and
dominion. Nor can the present massive dislocation in the affairs of
humanity be resolved through the settlement of specific conflicts or
disagreements among nations. A genuine universal framework must be
adopted.

Certainly, there is no lack of recognition by national leaders of the
world-wide character of the problem, which is self-evident in the mounting
issues that confront them daily. And there are the accumulating studies
and solutions proposed by many concerned and enlightened groups as well as
by agencies of the United Nations, to remove any possibility of ignorance
as to the challenging requirements to be met. There is, however, a
paralysis of will; and it is this that must be carefully examined and
resolutely dealt with. This paralysis is rooted, as we have stated, in a
deep-seated conviction of the inevitable quarrelsomeness of mankind, which
has led to the reluctance to entertain the possibility of subordinating
national self-interest to the requirements of world order, and in an
unwillingness to face courageously the far-reaching implications of
establishing a united world authority. It is also traceable to the
incapacity of largely ignorant and subjugated masses to articulate their
desire for a new order in which they can live in peace, harmony and
prosperity with all humanity.

The tentative steps towards world order, especially since World War II,
give hopeful signs. The increasing tendency of groups of nations to
formalize relationships which enable them to co-operate in matters of
mutual interest suggests that eventually all nations could overcome this
paralysis. The Association of South East Asian Nations, the Caribbean
Community and Common Market, the Central American Common Market, the
Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the European Communities, the
League of Arab States, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization
of American States, the South Pacific Forum—all the joint endeavours
represented by such organizations prepare the path to world order.

The increasing attention being focused on some of the most deep-rooted
problems of the planet is yet another hopeful sign. Despite the obvious
shortcomings of the United Nations, the more than two score declarations
and conventions adopted by that organization, even where governments have
not been enthusiastic in their commitment, have given ordinary people a
sense of a new lease on life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide,
and the similar measures concerned with eliminating all forms of
discrimination based on race, sex or religious belief; upholding the
rights of the child; protecting all persons against being subjected to
torture; eradicating hunger and malnutrition; using scientific and
technological progress in the interest of peace and the benefit of
mankind—all such measures, if courageously enforced and expanded, will
advance the day when the spectre of war will have lost its power to
dominate international relations. There is no need to stress the
significance of the issues addressed by these declarations and
conventions. However, a few such issues, because of their immediate
relevance to establishing world peace, deserve additional comment.

Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier
to peace. Its practice perpetrates too outrageous a violation of the
dignity of human beings to be countenanced under any pretext. Racism
retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims,
corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Recognition of the
oneness of mankind, implemented by appropriate legal measures, must be
universally upheld if this problem is to be overcome.

The inordinate disparity between rich and poor, a source of acute
suffering, keeps the world in a state of instability, virtually on the
brink of war. Few societies have dealt effectively with this situation.
The solution calls for the combined application of spiritual, moral and
practical approaches. A fresh look at the problem is required, entailing
consultation with experts from a wide spectrum of disciplines, devoid of
economic and ideological polemics, and involving the people directly
affected in the decisions that must urgently be made. It is an issue that
is bound up not only with the necessity for eliminating extremes of wealth
and poverty but also with those spiritual verities the understanding of
which can produce a new universal attitude. Fostering such an attitude is
itself a major part of the solution.

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate
patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a
whole. Bahá’u’lláh’s statement is: “The earth is but one country, and
mankind its citizens.” The concept of world citizenship is a direct result
of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through
scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations.
Love of all the world’s peoples does not exclude love of one’s country.
The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting
the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various
fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among
peoples need greatly to be increased.

Religious strife, throughout history, has been the cause of innumerable
wars and conflicts, a major blight to progress, and is increasingly
abhorrent to the people of all faiths and no faith. Followers of all
religions must be willing to face the basic questions which this strife
raises, and to arrive at clear answers. How are the differences between
them to be resolved, both in theory and in practice? The challenge facing
the religious leaders of mankind is to contemplate, with hearts filled
with the spirit of compassion and a desire for truth, the plight of
humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before
their Almighty Creator, submerge their theological differences in a great
spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for
the advancement of human understanding and peace.

The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the
sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged
prerequisites of peace. The denial of such equality perpetrates an
injustice against one half of the world’s population and promotes in men
harmful attitudes and habits that are carried from the family to the
workplace, to political life, and ultimately to international relations.
There are no grounds, moral, practical, or biological, upon which such
denial can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership
in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate
be created in which international peace can emerge.

The cause of universal education, which has already enlisted in its
service an army of dedicated people from every faith and nation, deserves
the utmost support that the governments of the world can lend it. For
ignorance is indisputably the principal reason for the decline and fall of
peoples and the perpetuation of prejudice. No nation can achieve success
unless education is accorded all its citizens. Lack of resources limits
the ability of many nations to fulfil this necessity, imposing a certain
ordering of priorities. The decision-making agencies involved would do
well to consider giving first priority to the education of women and
girls, since it is through educated mothers that the benefits of knowledge
can be most effectively and rapidly diffused throughout society. In
keeping with the requirements of the times, consideration should also be
given to teaching the concept of world citizenship as part of the standard
education of every child.

A fundamental lack of communication between peoples seriously undermines
efforts towards world peace. Adopting an international auxiliary language
would go far to resolving this problem and necessitates the most urgent
attention.

Two points bear emphasizing in all these issues. One is that the abolition
of war is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a
complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not
customarily associated with the pursuit of peace. Based on political
agreements alone, the idea of collective security is a chimera. The other
point is that the primary challenge in dealing with issues of peace is to
raise the context to the level of principle, as distinct from pure
pragmatism. For, in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by
a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude
that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found.

There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which
solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned
group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems,
but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The
essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a
perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature,
it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which
facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders
of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts
to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles
involved and then be guided by them.



III


The primary question to be resolved is how the present world, with its
entrenched pattern of conflict, can change to a world in which harmony and
co-operation will prevail.

World order can be founded only on an unshakeable consciousness of the
oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences
confirm. Anthropology, physiology, psychology, recognize only one human
species, albeit infinitely varied in the secondary aspects of life.
Recognition of this truth requires abandonment of prejudice—prejudice of
every kind—race, class, colour, creed, nation, sex, degree of material
civilization, everything which enables people to consider themselves
superior to others.

Acceptance of the oneness of mankind is the first fundamental prerequisite
for reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the
home of humankind. Universal acceptance of this spiritual principle is
essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace. It should
therefore be universally proclaimed, taught in schools, and constantly
asserted in every nation as preparation for the organic change in the
structure of society which it implies.

In the Bahá’í view, recognition of the oneness of mankind “calls for no
less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole
civilized world—a world organically unified in all the essential aspects
of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade
and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of
the national characteristics of its federated units.”

Elaborating the implications of this pivotal principle, Shoghi Effendi,
the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, commented in 1931 that: “Far from aiming
at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to
broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with
the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate
allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is
neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s
hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the
evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore,
nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of
climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that
differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider
loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human
race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests
to the imperative claims of a unified world. It repudiates excessive
centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on
the other. Its watchword is unity in diversity”.

The achievement of such ends requires several stages in the adjustment of
national political attitudes, which now verge on anarchy in the absence of
clearly defined laws or universally accepted and enforceable principles
regulating the relationships between nations. The League of Nations, the
United Nations, and the many organizations and agreements produced by them
have unquestionably been helpful in attenuating some of the negative
effects of international conflicts, but they have shown themselves
incapable of preventing war. Indeed, there have been scores of wars since
the end of the Second World War; many are yet raging.

The predominant aspects of this problem had already emerged in the
nineteenth century when Bahá’u’lláh first advanced his proposals for the
establishment of world peace. The principle of collective security was
propounded by him in statements addressed to the rulers of the world.
Shoghi Effendi commented on his meaning: “What else could these weighty
words signify,” he wrote, “if they did not point to the inevitable
curtailment of unfettered national sovereignty as an indispensable
preliminary to the formation of the future Commonwealth of all the nations
of the world? Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, in
whose favour all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every
claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to
maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order
within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to include
within its orbit an International Executive adequate to enforce supreme
and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the
commonwealth; a World Parliament whose members shall be elected by the
people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed
by their respective governments; and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgement
will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned
did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration.

“A world community in which all economic barriers will have been
permanently demolished and the interdependence of capital and labour
definitely recognized; in which the clamour of religious fanaticism and
strife will have been forever stilled; in which the flame of racial
animosity will have been finally extinguished; in which a single code of
international law—the product of the considered judgement of the world’s
federated representatives—shall have as its sanction the instant and
coercive intervention of the combined forces of the federated units; and
finally a world community in which the fury of a capricious and militant
nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of
world citizenship—such indeed, appears, in its broadest outline, the Order
anticipated by Bahá’u’lláh, an Order that shall come to be regarded as the
fairest fruit of a slowly maturing age.”

The implementation of these far-reaching measures was indicated by
Bahá’u’lláh: “The time must come when the imperative necessity for the
holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally
realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and,
participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as
will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men.”

The courage, the resolution, the pure motive, the selfless love of one
people for another—all the spiritual and moral qualities required for
effecting this momentous step towards peace are focused on the will to
act. And it is towards arousing the necessary volition that earnest
consideration must be given to the reality of man, namely, his thought. To
understand the relevance of this potent reality is also to appreciate the
social necessity of actualizing its unique value through candid,
dispassionate and cordial consultation, and of acting upon the results of
this process. Bahá’u’lláh insistently drew attention to the virtues and
indispensability of consultation for ordering human affairs. He said:
“Consultation bestows greater awareness and transmutes conjecture into
certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leads the way and
guides. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of
perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made
manifest through consultation.” The very attempt to achieve peace through
the consultative action he proposed can release such a salutary spirit
among the peoples of the earth that no power could resist the final,
triumphal outcome.

Concerning the proceedings for this world gathering, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son
of Bahá’u’lláh and authorized interpreter of his teachings, offered these
insights: “They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general
consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union
of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and
establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable
and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the
sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking—the
real source of the peace and well-being of all the world—should be
regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity
must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most
Great Covenant. In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of
each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying
the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and
all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner,
the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited,
for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation
should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others.
The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed
that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the
governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay
the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its
disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies
be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from
its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure.”

The holding of this mighty convocation is long overdue.

With all the ardour of our hearts, we appeal to the leaders of all nations
to seize this opportune moment and take irreversible steps to convoke this
world meeting. All the forces of history impel the human race towards this
act which will mark for all time the dawn of its long-awaited maturity.

Will not the United Nations, with the full support of its membership, rise
to the high purposes of such a crowning event?

Let men and women, youth and children everywhere recognize the eternal
merit of this imperative action for all peoples and lift up their voices
in willing assent. Indeed, let it be this generation that inaugurates this
glorious stage in the evolution of social life on the planet.



IV


The source of the optimism we feel is a vision transcending the cessation
of war and the creation of agencies of international co-operation.
Permanent peace among nations is an essential stage, but not, Bahá’u’lláh
asserts, the ultimate goal of the social development of humanity. Beyond
the initial armistice forced upon the world by the fear of nuclear
holocaust, beyond the political peace reluctantly entered into by
suspicious rival nations, beyond pragmatic arrangements for security and
coexistence, beyond even the many experiments in co-operation which these
steps will make possible lies the crowning goal: the unification of all
the peoples of the world in one universal family.

Disunity is a danger that the nations and peoples of the earth can no
longer endure; the consequences are too terrible to contemplate, too
obvious to require any demonstration. “The well-being of mankind,”
Bahá’u’lláh wrote more than a century ago, “its peace and security, are
unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” In
observing that “mankind is groaning, is dying to be led to unity, and to
terminate its age-long martyrdom”, Shoghi Effendi further commented that:
“Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which
human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of
city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully
established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is
striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in
state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to
maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of
human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can
best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.”

All contemporary forces of change validate this view. The proofs can be
discerned in the many examples already cited of the favourable signs
towards world peace in current international movements and developments.
The army of men and women, drawn from virtually every culture, race and
nation on earth, who serve the multifarious agencies of the United
Nations, represent a planetary “civil service” whose impressive
accomplishments are indicative of the degree of co-operation that can be
attained even under discouraging conditions. An urge towards unity, like a
spiritual springtime, struggles to express itself through countless
international congresses that bring together people from a vast array of
disciplines. It motivates appeals for international projects involving
children and youth. Indeed, it is the real source of the remarkable
movement towards ecumenism by which members of historically antagonistic
religions and sects seem irresistibly drawn towards one another. Together
with the opposing tendency to warfare and self-aggrandizement against
which it ceaselessly struggles, the drive towards world unity is one of
the dominant, pervasive features of life on the planet during the closing
years of the twentieth century.

The experience of the Bahá’í community may be seen as an example of this
enlarging unity. It is a community of some three to four million people
drawn from many nations, cultures, classes and creeds, engaged in a wide
range of activities serving the spiritual, social and economic needs of
the peoples of many lands. It is a single social organism, representative
of the diversity of the human family, conducting its affairs through a
system of commonly accepted consultative principles, and cherishing
equally all the great outpourings of divine guidance in human history. Its
existence is yet another convincing proof of the practicality of its
Founder’s vision of a united world, another evidence that humanity can
live as one global society, equal to whatever challenges its coming of age
may entail. If the Bahá’í experience can contribute in whatever measure to
reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it
as a model for study.

In contemplating the supreme importance of the task now challenging the
entire world, we bow our heads in humility before the awesome majesty of
the divine Creator, Who out of His infinite love has created all humanity
from the same stock; exalted the gem-like reality of man; honoured it with
intellect and wisdom, nobility and immortality; and conferred upon man the
“unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him”, a capacity
that “must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary
purpose underlying the whole of creation.”

We hold firmly the conviction that all human beings have been created “to
carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”; that “to act like the
beasts of the field is unworthy of man”; that the virtues that befit human
dignity are trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and
loving-kindness towards all peoples. We reaffirm the belief that the
“potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his
destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be
manifested in this promised Day of God.” These are the motivations for our
unshakeable faith that unity and peace are the attainable goal towards
which humanity is striving.

At this writing, the expectant voices of Bahá’ís can be heard despite the
persecution they still endure in the land in which their Faith was born.
By their example of steadfast hope, they bear witness to the belief that
the imminent realization of this age-old dream of peace is now, by virtue
of the transforming effects of Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation, invested with the
force of divine authority. Thus we convey to you not only a vision in
words: we summon the power of deeds of faith and sacrifice; we convey the
anxious plea of our co-religionists everywhere for peace and unity. We
join with all who are the victims of aggression, all who yearn for an end
to conflict and contention, all whose devotion to principles of peace and
world order promotes the ennobling purposes for which humanity was called
into being by an all-loving Creator.

In the earnestness of our desire to impart to you the fervour of our hope
and the depth of our confidence, we cite the emphatic promise of
Bahá’u’lláh: “These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away,
and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come.”

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE





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