Religion, Baha’is believe, has a dual purpose: to liberate us from both ignorance and war.
God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 79-80.
Baha’u’llah’s teachings center around the establishment of world peace and world unity, making permanent worldwide peace the primary goal of the Baha’i Faith:
… it is Our purpose, through the loving providence of God—exalted be His glory—and His surpassing mercy, to abolish, through the force of Our utterance, all disputes, war, and bloodshed, from the face of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 33.
With this elemental emphasis on world peace, the Baha’i writings cover the subject across multiple perspectives, ranging from lofty spiritual counsel to practical policy recommendations—from advice and exhortations to kings and political leaders, to guidance about making our own individual characters as peaceful as possible.
As a consequence of that emphasis on peace in the Baha’i Faith, any attempt to collate, curate and summarize the extensive Baha’i teachings on world peace would be futile. Taking on that vast subject could encompass enough material to fill multiple books, so this series of articles on peace will try to address the basic Baha’i teachings on the topic, and give readers a general sense of how Baha’u’llah advises humanity to actually go about achieving world peace.
The initial quote above gives us a hint about how to approach the Baha’i teachings on peace, with its evocation of God’s “twofold purpose.” First, Baha’u’llah tells us, God sends us religion “to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding.” Secondly, God reveals His message “to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established.”
These two powerful, sweeping principles find their expression in many other ways throughout the Baha’i writings, especially in places where Baha’u’llah says that each individual human being has a twofold task in life—to know and love God; and to help create a progressive, evolving civilization:
All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214.
Those twin duties—freeing humanity from individual ignorance and societal warfare—frame a particularly apt new way of understanding the broader issue of world peace.
So one portion of the Baha’i teachings deals directly with our individual qualities and characteristics, emphasizing, encouraging and praising the peaceful traits in every human being; while the other portion of the Baha’i peace plan focuses on achieving world peace from a more public, holistic, planet-embracing perspective. In these essays, let’s concentrate on the public aspects of peace.
From a public perspective, Baha’is have a revolutionary global vision for peace:
True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns—the shining exemplars of devotion and determination—shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. 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. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 64.
Baha’is everywhere in the world work toward this grand and noble vision, confident that world peace can one day actually occur, despite the skeptics:
A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable. Why should this most great and lofty Cause—the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity—be regarded as impossible of achievement? Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man. – Ibid., pp. 66-67.