Lately we’ve all heard the drumbeat of war. Those who’ve listened before know how it goes: hostilities mount, aggression starts, and then the spark of one incident ignites the fire of pain, suffering and death.
The Baha’i teachings say the masters of war beat that drum because they see their own self-interest in it:
… war is made for the satisfaction of men’s ambition; for the sake of worldly gain to the few, terrible misery is brought to numberless homes, breaking the hearts of hundreds of men and women!
How many widows mourn their husbands, how many stories of savage cruelty do we hear! How many little orphaned children are crying for their dead fathers, how many women are weeping for their slain sons!
There are people who find pleasure in breeding discord, who constantly endeavour to goad their country into making war upon other nations — and why? They think to advantage their own country to the detriment of all others. They send armies to harass and destroy the land, in order to become famous in the world, for the joy of conquest. – Ibid.
Despite the fact that the general population usually opposes war, nations still wage them. In most of the wars ever fought, a democratic vote of the people beforehand would have rejected any armed hostilities, opting instead for negotiation and diplomacy. Historically, a majority of citizens rarely decides to go to war unless an army invades their country — which means that wars usually get declared by politicians who avoid the actual battles, and then fought by those with little or no power to refuse.
The Baha’i teachings describe a comprehensive plan of universal peace for the world, so we can finally end this terrible pattern.
Asked “How can universal peace be realized?”, Abdu’l-Baha described that Baha’i plan in four steps. He said, “The ideals of Peace must be nurtured and spread among the inhabitants of the world; they must be instructed in the school of Peace and the evils of war.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West).
Then he initially listed three of the four ways we could bring peace about:
First: The financiers and bankers must desist from lending money to any government contemplating to wage an unjust war upon an innocent nation.
Second: The presidents and managers of the railroads and steamship companies must refrain from transporting war ammunition, infernal engines, guns, cannons and powder from one country into another.
Third: The soldiers must petition, through their representatives, the Ministers of War, the politicians, the Congressmen and the generals to put forth in a clear, intelligible language the reasons and the causes which have brought them to the brink of such a national calamity. The soldiers must demand this as one of the prerogatives. “Demonstrate to us,” they must say, “that this is a just war, and we will then enter into the battlefield otherwise we will not take one step.” – Ibid.
Then, Abdu’l-Baha continued — in stark, uncompromising terms — by suggesting how those soldiers might frame their petition and address those politicians and generals:
O ye kings and rulers, politicians and war-mongers; ye who spend your lives in most exquisite palaces of Italian architecture; ye who sleep in airy, well-ventilated apartments; ye who decorate your reception and dining halls with lovely pictures, sculptures, hangings and frescoes; ye who walk in perfect Elysiums, wreathed in orange and myrtle groves, the air redolent with delicious perfumes and vocal with the sweet songs of a thousand birds, the earth like a luxuriant carpet of emerald grass, bright flowers dotting the meadows and trees clothed in verdure; ye who are dressed in costly silk and finely-woven textures; ye who lie down on soft, feathery couches; ye who partake of the most delicious and savoury dishes; ye who enjoy the utmost ease and comfort in your wondrous mansions; ye who attend rare musical concerts whenever you feel a little disconcerted and sad; ye who adorn your large halls with green festoons and cut flowers, fresh garlands and verdant wreaths, illumining them with thousands of electric lights, while the exquisite fragrance of the flowers, the soft, ravishing music, the fairy-like illumination, lends enchantment; ye who are in such environment: Come forth from your hiding-places, enter into the battlefield if you like to attack each other and tear each other to pieces if you desire to air your so-called contentions. The discord and feud are between you; why do you make us, innocent people, a party to it? If fighting and bloodshed are good things, then lead us into the fray by your presence! – Ibid., p. 117.
This stunning recommendation, so beautifully expressed and yet so ironic and potent, introduces Abdu’l-Baha’s fourth and final step in the Baha’i peace plan — a system of global governance with the ability to adjudicate all international disputes and disagreements:
In short, every means that produces war must be checked and the causes that prevent the occurrence of war be advanced; so that physical conflict may become an impossibility. On the other hand, every country must be properly delimited, its exact frontiers marked, its national integrity secured, its permanent independence protected, and its vital interests honoured by the family of nations. These services ought to be rendered by an impartial, international Commission. In this manner all causes of friction and differences will be removed. And in case there should arise some disputes between them, they could arbitrate before the Parliament of Man, the representatives of which should be chosen from among the wisest and most judicious men of all the nations of the world. – Ibid.
Baha’is believe that a unified humanity working toward this ultimate solution — a worldwide, democratically-elected global parliament — will finally bring peace to our planet.