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Today so much of our political wrangling, discord and division come from a single controversial topic: borders. We arbitrarily draw them on maps, and then fight, kill and die over them.

In ancient history, civilizations did not have the definite boundaries states have today—their borders could be more accurately described as frontiers. 

The Roman Empire (27 BCE – 476 CE) became the first western civilization known to accurately define their borders. The basis of many succeeding governmental systems then emerged from authority or ideas borrowed from Roman or Greek city-states. Later, the European states of the Dark Ages and Middle Ages gained their authority from the Roman Catholic church. During that period loose, relatively undefined national boundaries were first established, mainly through conquests, wars, or colonization. Only recently in human history—during the last few centuries—have we demarcated firm national borders and boundaries.

Beyond those artificial borders, the primary principle of the Baha’i Faith—the unity of humanity and the oneness of the world—envisions a future state of society in which all people live and thrive as global citizens: 

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. … It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167.

Does that basic principle mean the Baha’i teachings advocate, as some might suggest, a completely borderless world? Does it mean that Baha’is are globalists, who call for the elimination of all nations in favor of one world government? 

Reading this speech, given by Abdu’l-Baha in the United States in 1912, you might initially be tempted to reach that conclusion:

This is one globe, one land, one country. God did not divide it into national boundaries. He created all the continents without national divisions. Why should we make such division ourselves? These are but imaginary lines and boundaries. Europe is a continent; it is not naturally divided; man has drawn the lines and established the limits of kingdoms and empires. Man declares a river to be a boundary line between two countries, calling this side French and the other side German, whereas the river was created for both and is a natural artery for all. Is it not imagination and ignorance which impels man to violate the divine intention and make the very bounties of God the cause of war, bloodshed and destruction? Therefore, all prejudices between man and man are falsehoods and violations of the will of God. God desires unity and love; He commands harmony and fellowship. Enmity is human disobedience; God Himself is love. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 299-300.

Abdu’l-Baha, however, offered a more detailed view of a potential future world commonwealth in his 1875 book The Secret of Divine Civilization. In it, he envisioned a globally-federated union of nations, much like the individual states of the United States or today’s individual nations of the European Union, sovereign and independently governed but also a unified part of a larger whole:

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. … In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 64.

The Baha’i teachings can’t be understood in isolation. These passages, from Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, further explain the Baha’i vision of how a united world—one that does not do away with nations, but brings them together in a global federation of countries—could work:

Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.

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. – Ibid., p. 203.

17 Comments

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  • Don Boykin
    Aug 11, 2019
    Borders will be relevant primarily for social adjustments in caring for our world citizens; in the Baha'i community it would be no different than a street address; if, for whatever reason, an emergency or otherwise, a household needs assistance, the date, time, location of an event becomes a necessity either of the moment for preparing an appropriate short time, in seconds or a long drawn out, quarterly or annual response to address the issue/opportunity at any location on our planet. We are not the same in our collective spiritual, material, economic maturity, however, when an event, is known and requires ...resolution, contact is made with the agency in possession of the remedy and its expeditiously forwarded. Peace, unity, justice, love.
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    • Blue McSmurf
      Sep 25, 2019
      This answers a long-standing question I've had about national secession in relation to the teachings. Thanks.
  • Terence McBride
    Aug 02, 2019
    Between the US and Canada there is no hard border... Yet between the US and Mexico there is the "hard Border between the only reason I can see that this is the legacy of Manifest Destiny one would need to research history of the USA between the 1820s until the 1890s to get the grasp of such reasoning
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 05, 2019
      Terence, The annexation of Texas by the U.S. caused a riff between the two countries that wasn't resolved until the "hard" border of the Rio Grande River was established after the Mexican-American War ended in 1848. Now a river is not "hard," it can be crossed, but it is definite. Canada presents as the 49th parallel north (soft), whereas the Great Lakes and some Rivers like the St. Lawrence form other borders (hard). But it is what governments agree on that decides borders, regardless if people or things cross them, legally or illegally. I'm sure you know this, but the ...point is that now, in modern times, we are arriving at a time when borders will all be definite, I hope.
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    • Terence McBride
      Aug 02, 2019
      I wish I could edit my post it should read [hard border between them and the only reason for it...]
  • Mark David Vinzens
    Aug 01, 2019
    When the mind is without borders, the world will be without borders.
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Thanks Mark. As we've come to know, there are "hard" borders, even those with walls and fences, and "soft" borders. My hope is that we will one day be able to remove hard borders, and as one global community with national roots, cross anywhere freely.
  • Wade Fransson
    Aug 01, 2019
    This is not only timely, it is overdue. As a relatively new Baha'i (11 years) who has been devouring the writings, I've been perplexed, to put it mildly, that the clear, simple recipe for the advancement of the civilization destined to be built on the teachings of Baha'u'llah, that the Master outlined in "The Secret of Divine Civilization" is SO secret that it seems hidden, even from Baha'is. I've struggled with helping the Friends see the CRITICAL relevance of what you shared here, and how if we are to be aligned with what God and Baha'u'llah are doing we MUST ...understand the plan. And yet many seem to be diametrically opposed to those provisions which the Master clearly intended to be as foundational as the Spiritual Principles.
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    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Thanks Wade. The writings are so extensive, sometimes it takes a while to put two and two together. That's why Baha'u'llah instituted Houses of Justice to adjudicate.
  • Vivian
    Aug 01, 2019
    Thank you so much for your elucidation of this subject which seems to have been a source of confusion for many Baha'is who have skimmed the surface of the Baha'i Writings.
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Thanks Vivian!
  • Frank Welsh
    Aug 01, 2019
    Great to remind us of what the Master and Guardiian pronounced, how boring a borderless globe would be!
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Frank, It would be awkward, wouldn't it, if every place was named the same?
  • Eric Mondschein
    Aug 01, 2019
    Thank you, a timely and a necessary reminder during these turbulent and divisive times.
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Thanks Eric. We all wait for the day when all the nations will agree on permanent borders, sacrosanct, and an end to land incursions and takeovers.
  • Charles Boyle
    Aug 01, 2019
    On the occasions folks, in conversation, suggest the idea of an integrated world as envisioned through the writings is an impossible impracticality allowing for the complete integration of all peoples, races and more in a single global community, it is helpful to ask them why they don't put up tariff and other barriers between city suburbs, or state lines.
    • rodney Richards
      Aug 02, 2019
      Thanks for commenting Charles. You may want to keep this idea away from the taxing authorities. It's already enough paying sales tax instate, we pay use tax now on out of state goods in many places.