If the world’s leaders wrote to you and asked you to recommend a plan for a lasting global peace, what would you tell them?
Asked exactly that by the Central Organisation for a Durable Peace—to recommend a course of action for nations to avoid war—Abdu’l-Baha elucidated his father Baha’u’llah’s teachings on peace, which Baha’is believe will lead to a world free from national conflicts and world wars.
But surprisingly, Abdu’l-Baha didn’t just focus on the Baha’i principles of peace in his message to the Hague. Instead, he went on to cover the wide spectrum of peace-producing Baha’i social and spiritual teachings:
Among these teachings was the independent investigation of reality so that the world of humanity may be saved from the darkness of imitation and attain to the truth; may tear off and cast away this ragged and outgrown garment of 1,000 years ago and may put on the robe woven in the utmost purity and holiness in the loom of reality. As reality is one and cannot admit of multiplicity, therefore different opinions must ultimately become fused into one.
And among the teachings of His Holiness Baha’u’llah is the oneness of the world of humanity; that all human beings are the sheep of God and He is the kind Shepherd. This Shepherd is kind to all the sheep, because He created them all, trained them, provided for them and protected them. There is no doubt that the Shepherd is kind to all the sheep and should there be among these sheep ignorant ones, they must be educated; if there be children, they must be trained until they reach maturity; if there be sick ones, they must be cured. There must be no hatred and enmity, for as by a kind physician these ignorant, sick ones should be treated.
And among the teachings of His Holiness Baha’u’llah is, that religion must be the cause of fellowship and love. If it becomes the cause of estrangement then it is not needed, for religion is like a remedy; if it aggravates the disease then it become unnecessary.
And among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is, that religion must be in conformity with science and reason, so that it may influence the hearts of men. The foundation must be solid and must not consist of imitations.
And among the teachings of Baha’u’llah is, that religious, racial, political, economic and patriotic prejudices destroy the edifice of humanity. As long as these prejudices prevail, the world of humanity will not have rest. For a period of 6,000 years history informs us about the world of humanity. During these 6,000 years the world of humanity has not been free from, war, strife, murder and bloodthirstiness. In every period war has been waged in one country or another and that war was due to either religious prejudice, racial prejudice, political prejudice or patriotic prejudice. It has therefore been ascertained and proved that all prejudices are destructive of the human edifice. As long as these prejudices persist, the struggle for existence must remain dominant, and bloodthirstiness and rapacity continue. Therefore, even as was the case in the past, the world of humanity cannot be saved from the darkness of nature and cannot attain illumination except through the abandonment of prejudices and the acquisition of the morals of the Kingdom.
If this prejudice and enmity are on account of religion (consider that) religion should be the cause of fellowship, otherwise it is fruitless. And if this prejudice be the prejudice of nationality (consider that) all mankind are of one nation; all have sprung from the tree of Adam, and Adam is the root of the tree. That tree is one and all these nations are like branches, while the individuals of humanity are like leaves, blossoms and fruits thereof. Then the establishment of various nations and the consequent shedding of blood and destruction of the edifice of humanity result from human ignorance and selfish motives.
As to the patriotic prejudice, this is also due to absolute ignorance, for the surface of the earth is one native land. Everyone can live in any spot on the terrestrial globe. Therefore all the world is man’s birthplace. These boundaries and outlets have been devised by man. In the creation, such boundaries and outlets were not assigned. Europe is one continent, Asia is one continent, Africa is one continent, Australia is one continent, but some of the souls, from personal motives and selfish interests, have divided each one of these continents and considered a certain part as their own country. God has set up no frontier between France and Germany; they are continuous. Yea, in the first centuries, selfish souls, for the promotion of their own interests, have assigned boundaries and outlets and have, day by day, attached more importance to these, until this led to intense enmity, bloodshed and rapacity in subsequent centuries. In the same way this will continue indefinitely, and if this conception of patriotism remains limited within a certain circle, it will be the primary cause of the world’s destruction. No wise and just person will acknowledge these imaginary distinctions. Every limited area which we call our native country we regard as our mother-land, whereas the terrestrial globe is the mother-land of all, and not any restricted area. In short, for a few days we live on this earth and eventually we are buried in it, it is our eternal tomb. Is it worthwhile that we should engage in bloodshed and tear one another to pieces for this eternal tomb? Nay, far from it, neither is God pleased with such conduct nor would any sane man approve of it. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to The Hague, pp. 4-6.
Abdu’l-Baha’s wise counsel on establishing peace did make its way into the final recommendations of the Central Organisation for a Durable Peace—and consequently into some of the establishing principles of the League of Nations.
But his prescient prediction that the nascent League of Nations was “incapable of establishing universal peace” came true years later, when the League dissolved following Hitler’s aggressive incursions into other European nations’ territory on the eve of World War II. Sadly, and tragically, the League did not follow the primary Baha’i principle of a universal democratic body for all countries empowered to stop aggression and war. Instead, it limited membership, decision-making and influence in the League of Nations to those “Great Power” nations that “won” World War I—and that faulty, un-democratic and unrepresentative formation sowed the seeds of its eventual and inevitable dissolution.
Out of that massive conflagration, and after 50 million more deaths, the world once again realized the futility of war—and formed the United Nations.