Consider this for a moment: since the establishment of the United Nations, we have not had a global war. Before the UN came into being, we had two.
Hardly anyone ever says this, but you may owe your life to the United Nations, and to Baha’u’llah, who began urging world leaders to unite long before the formation of the U.N.:
The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Baha’u’llah, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 203.
If you were born after the U.N. first formed in 1945—which means if you’re younger than 73 at this point in 2018—then you’ve been deeply affected by the UN’s peacekeeping successes, whether you realize it or not. That international governing body has managed, despite its faults, issues and deficiencies, to stop global wars in the nuclear age. On a worldwide scale, the U.N.’s peacekeeping efforts have worked, for more than seven decades.
Yes, we’ve had many destructive civil, regional and proxy wars during the last three-quarters of a century. The world still has a long way to go before we master the art of peace. But we’re getting there, slowly. We have managed to figure out that a supra-national body must step in when nations start shooting. It took enormous tragedy to bring us to that realization.
After all, World War One was, at the time it took place a century ago, one of the deadliest conflicts in the history of the human race. Historians estimate that the total number of military and civilian casualties from that four-year war at approximately 37 million people.
World War Two exceeded even that horrific number, with estimates of total casualties ranging between 50-80 million—so high and so widespread that no one has ever been able to accurately count the dead.
So if you’re conservatively trying to estimate the combined toll of both World Wars, including the disease and famine they caused around the planet, you wind up somewhere around 100 million people. For a sense of perspective, that represents a significant percentage of the world’s population in the 20th Century.
One hundred million people—that mass slaughter, all within the span of a few decades, had an impact on virtually every human being alive at the time, and many whose lives hadn’t even begun yet. But rather than continue this history of continual conflict, the world decided to try unity instead.
The Baha’i teachings predicted both World Wars, and warned humanity and its leaders that it would need to unite to stop them:
Consider now, that the most advanced and civilized countries of the world have been turned into arsenals of explosives, that the continents of the globe have been transformed into huge camps and battlefields, that the peoples of the world have formed themselves into armed nations, and that the governments of the world are vying with each other as to who will first step into the field of carnage and bloodshed, thus subjecting mankind to the utmost degree of affliction. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 284.
So today, October 24th, we celebrate United Nations Day around the world. It marks the anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, but it also stands for a greater principle—the gradual, progressively-unfolding founding of a new world order dedicated to global peace. Baha’is in every country observe and celebrate this unique day, and work toward the realization of world unity, promoting the beautiful Baha’i principle of universal democracy and the Parliament of Man. The Baha’i teachings call for the unification of the world, and describe it this way, as:
… 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. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 66.
We’re not there yet. The United Nations is not perfect—its current structure does not match the egalitarian ideal of a truly just and democratic global government expressed in the Baha’i teachings. While some people still believe global governance cannot be achieved, the Baha’i writings urge everyone to work continuously and diligently toward the goal of a united world:
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. – Ibid., p. 65.