The United States of America and its federal form of government celebrate Independence Day today, 237 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Most Americans celebrate with food, fun and fireworks — but perhaps a more fitting way to observe freedom’s birthday could involve applying the lessons of independence to all the planet’s people.
Baha’is believe the time has come to apply the democratic principles of freedom and federalism to the entire world – in other words, to bring about a World Independence Day.
Baha’u’llah taught that the peace, prosperity and unity of the human race requires the establishment of a federated world commonwealth, a democratically-elected parliament of humanity. Baha’u’llah envisioned all the planet’s nations, races, creeds and classes as closely and permanently united in this future federation of all the world’s countries. His framework for this global federation protects and safeguards the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of every individual.
Baha’is have promoted this exciting, evolutionary idea for quite some time. A little more than a hundred years ago, when Abdu’l-Baha met with a highly-placed American government official in 1912, the official asked how he could best serve his country in light of the Baha’i principles. Abdu’l-Baha told him:
You can best serve your country if you strive, in your capacity as a citizen of the world, to assist in the eventual application of the principle of federalism, underlying the government of your own country, to the relationships now existing between the peoples and nations of the world. – quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 87.
In the century since Abdu’l-Baha gave that advice, many organizations in favor of world federalism have formed. First the League of Nations and then The United Nations tried to exemplify the Baha’i principles by creating cooperative systems of participating countries, with varying degrees of success. Today organizations like the World Federalist Movement, the Democratic World Federalists and The Coalition for a Democratic World Government all advocate for a worldwide civil society born from a democratic federal system of global governance, with the goal of ending war, bringing about just and equitable conditions for all people, stopping crimes against humanity and a creating a healthy global environment. Baha’is all around the world have worked quietly and diligently to bring about those Baha’i principles and goals for 150 years.
However — many who first hear the idea of a federalized global government might fear it could accrue an excessive, centralized concentration of power. The Baha’i teachings guard against such aggregation of power, and Abdu’l-Baha warned about the despots it tends to create:
…it is very evident that in the future there shall be no centralization in the countries of the world, be they constitutional in government, republican or democratic in form. The United States may be held up as the example of future government — that is to say, each province will be independent in itself, but there will be federal union protecting the interests of the various independent states…. To cast aside centralization which promotes despotism is the exigency of the time. This will be productive of international peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 167.
The Baha’i teachings say that humanity has passed through multiple stages of maturation in the ways we govern ourselves – from local to tribal to city-states to regional kingdoms and finally to nations. Now, Baha’is strongly believe the needs of the world’s people and the exigencies of the time have evolved beyond our current organizational and political structure, and the time for a world federal system has arrived.
Abdu’l-Baha promised us that this moving visionary concept, the hope and dream of poets and prophets throughout history, can happen if humanity focuses on democracy and freedom:
The darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away. Again the Sun of Reality will dawn from the horizon of the hearts. Have patience, wait but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile when you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice. Do not yield to the overwhelming power of tyranny and despotism. Serve the cause of democracy and freedom. Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming. The nucleus of the new race is forming. The harbinger of the new ideals of international justice is appearing. The trees of hope will become verdant; the copper of scorn and derision will be transmuted into the gold of honor and praise; the arid desert of ignorance will be transformed into the luxuriant garden of knowledge; the threatening clouds shall be dispelled and the stars of faith and charity will again twinkle in the clear heaven of consciousness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 548.