We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind

You just read the first line of the preamble of the United Nations Charter, one of the world’s great human rights documents. That document also signaled one of humanity’s most significant inflection points—that moment we began to move from the old world of competing sovereign nations to a new one based on the realization of mutuality, cooperation and the quest for unity.

We’ve certainly had wars in the world since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, at the close of World War II—but we haven’t had a world war, a global conflagration that caused the massive destruction of entire nations and millions of people. In that way, we can take some pride in our collective planetary accomplishment—for 72 years we have averted and prevented the scourge of total global warfare, because humanity looked into the future and decided that the only way to prevent world war was world unity.

Here’s the rest of that noble preamble to the UN Charter:

  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  •    to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  •    to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  •    to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  •    to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims. Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.

The name "United Nations", coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their Governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

Today, October 24th, marks the celebration of United Nations Day around the world—the anniversary of that extraordinary day in 1945 when the world’s most powerful nations and their allies came together to accomplish the goals outlined in these few weighty words of the UN Charter’s preamble. This morning at UN Headquarters in New York City—the metropolis Abdu’l-Baha called “The City of the Covenant”—speakers will read from the UN Charter to observe and commemorate this unique day, and continue the ongoing work toward the realization of world unity.

From their inception, the Baha’i teachings have called upon humanity to establish a democratic, representative international government:

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. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 64-65.

This essentially spiritual vision–the beautiful Baha’i principle of universal democracy and the Parliament of Man, what Abdu’l-Baha called “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”–defines the primary goal of the Baha’i Faith.

Of course, Baha’is recognize that the current structure of the United Nations does not yet reflect all the elements of the egalitarian ideal expressed by Baha’u’llah—but the Baha’i writings urge everyone to work continuously and diligently toward realizing the exalted goal of a united and peaceful 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. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 65.

If you want world peace, the Baha’i teachings advise, work for world unity:

… raise up from the heart of the world a voice that shall dispel war and strife, uproot dissension and disputation, usher in the era of universal peace and establish unity and concord amongst men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 292.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

1 Comment

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  • David Petrie
    Oct 24, 2017
    The concept of the United Nations is marvelous. Its implementation is tragic.