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When Baha’u’llah, the founder and prophet of the Baha’i Faith, announced his revelation to the world in 1863, he said:
O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behavior…
O friends! It behoveth you to refresh and revive your souls through the gracious favors which in this Divine, this soul-stirring Springtime are being showered upon you… Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self…
It is incumbent upon every man, in this Day, to hold fast unto whatsoever will promote the interests, and exalt the station, of all nations and just governments. Through each and every one of the verses which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed, the doors of love and unity have been unlocked and flung open to the face of men. We have erewhile declared — and Our Word is the truth: “Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.” – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 93-95.
These altruistic instructions from Baha’u’llah guide Baha’is all over the world. We Baha’is try to treat them as any follower of a prophet of God would treat a commandment from Moses or Buddha or Christ: not as mere suggestions but as a guide for living our lives.
If we attempt to boil these five Baha’i principles down to their essence, they might look like this:
- Focus, not on yourselves, but on humanity as a whole, because
- Baha’u’llah said “The earth is but one country, and mankind are its citizens.”
- Let your vision be world-embracing
- Promote the interests of all nations and just governments;
- and act as if the religions are one religion—because they are.
Baha’is try our hardest to do those things—to act as world citizens, engaged in the real and sometimes messy business of making this planet a better place to live for a united humanity. Baha’is believe, firmly and strongly, that we’re making progress toward that goal; and that we’ll make more rapid progress if more people share that vision and pitch in to help.
But how do we get there? Baha’is don’t participate in the divisions and debates that rage in partisan politics, and don’t believe that the old systems of governance will save us. Instead, Baha’is believe in the enormous power of unity—religious unity, racial unity, the unity of science and religion, the ultimate unity of humanity and the global unity of nations.
With that belief in place, Baha’is engage, every day in every Baha’i community around the globe, in building unity. We participate in activities that bring about harmony, peace, love and interaction between the races, the faiths, the nations and the world’s peoples. We do that because Baha’u’llah said that unity actually precedes peace:
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 286.
Normally people think about it the other way around, right? The conventional wisdom says that first, we should try to stop wars and environmental destruction, and then we can maybe slowly find our way to a better sense of unity. The ideal of unity seems daunting and unreachable to many people, perhaps because it conveys an ultimate goal rather than an immediate one.
That’s not how Baha’is see it. Instead, the Baha’i teachings say that unity itself forms the prerequisite for peace and sustainability and harmony. Unity comes first.
Why? Because our world has contracted into a neighborhood. We are no longer a far-flung collection of random and disparate peoples and countries. We can travel to any point on the planet in under a day. We can Skype, we can Facebook, we can Snapchat anyone anywhere. Our economies inextricably connect—when one stock market crashes, others follow. Our ideas, our technology, our diplomacy, our goods and services, our flow of commerce, our global migrations, our interaction of cultures, our movies and our literature and our music and our art—they’ve all become one. Our interdependent world has united, whether we’re aware of it or not, and yet we still operate as if we’re a disparate 18th Century collection of sovereign countries. No longer. The reality has passed that old paradigm by, and of course, the future belongs to those who clearly recognize reality and have a vision of a fresh new paradigm.
So what’s the solution to war and environmental disaster, then? Is it more politics as usual, more divisive and harsh rhetoric, more conflict and armed killing? No. That hasn’t worked so far, and it won’t work moving forward. We will never come up with a localized, nation-based solution to our planetary problems. We need a unified global effort to make worldwide changes.
Next: Making a Unified, Global Effort on War and Climate
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