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If you could wave a magic wand and have one wish come true, what would it be? A billion dollars, fame, eternal health? Or would you wish for world peace?
Whenever my sweet wife blows out the candles on a cake or wishes on a shooting star, I ask her: “What did you wish for?” She always says “World peace, of course.” (For her next birthday, I’m planning to put peas in a blender so she can have whirled peas, just like the bumper sticker cliché recommends.)
Personally, I’d wish for an end to hatred.
Think of it—what would a world without hatred look like? Wars would stop; violence would diminish precipitously; hate speech and hate gestures and hate crimes and genocide would cease. The end of hatred would transform the entire planet.
I know it’s a dream, since we all have the seeds of hatred inside us, but I love thinking about it. Lately, I’ve been studying the subject, trying to see if my wish could ever come true—and if so, how.
The Baha’i teachings offer us a blueprint for diminishing and ultimately eradicating hatred from our hearts and from human civilization, too:
Note thou carefully that in this world of being, all things must ever be made new. Look at the material world about thee, see how it hath now been renewed. The thoughts have changed, the ways of life have been revised, the sciences and arts show a new vigour, discoveries and inventions are new, perceptions are new. How then could such a vital power as religion — the guarantor of mankind’s great advances, the very means of attaining everlasting life, the fosterer of infinite excellence, the light of both worlds — not be made new? This would be incompatible with the grace and loving-kindness of the Lord.
Religion, moreover, is not a series of beliefs, a set of customs; religion is the teachings of the Lord God, teachings which constitute the very life of humankind, which urge high thoughts upon the mind, refine the character, and lay the groundwork for man’s everlasting honour.
Note thou: could these fevers in the world of the mind, these fires of war and hate, of resentment and malice among the nations, this aggression of peoples against peoples, which have destroyed the tranquillity of the whole world ever be made to abate, except through the living waters of the teachings of God? No, never!
And this is clear: a power above and beyond the powers of nature must needs be brought to bear, to change this black darkness into light, and these hatreds and resentments, grudges and spites, these endless wrangles and wars, into fellowship and love amongst all the peoples of the earth. This power is none other than the breathings of the Holy Spirit and the mighty inflow of the Word of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 52-53.
A “power above and beyond the powers of nature,” the Baha’i teachings say, must “be brought to bear, to change this black darkness to light … This power is none other than the breathings of the Holy Spirit and the mighty inflow of the Word of God.”
We already know that faith, religion and spirituality can have a powerful, transformative effect on the human heart. Every time someone performs a selfless, generous act for someone else; every time love is stronger than hate; every time we end wars and begin a new peace, we see the impact of inner spiritual convictions. While those involved in such selfless, loving actions may not attribute them to their religion, ultimately the moral laws of the universe spring from those original teachings.
So clearly, humanity needs a source of unity above and beyond anything we can create or invent ourselves. We need divine intervention to stop war and hatred, which haven’t ended for all of our recorded human history. We need a greater, more unifying force than any limited loyalty we can manufacture. We’ve tried loyalty to racial groups, to ethnicities, to individual religions, to nations—and none of them have managed to eradicate hatred.
Instead, the Baha’i teachings say, we need the love of God:
It is clear that human realities differ one from another, that opinions and perceptions vary, and that this divergence of thoughts, opinions, understandings and sentiments among individuals is an essential requirement. For differences of degree in creation are among the essential requirements of existence, which is resolved into countless forms. We stand therefore in need of a universal power which can prevail over the thoughts, opinions, and sentiments of all, which can annul these divisions and bring all souls under the sway of the principle of the oneness of humanity. And it is clear and evident that the greatest power in the human world is the love of God. It gathers divers peoples under the shade of the tabernacle of oneness and fosters the greatest love and fellowship among hostile and contending peoples and nations. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 347-348.
Religion, in the early springtime of its cyclical progression, has the spiritual power to conquer the human heart and create love and unity in each individual soul. Baha’is believe that influential, powerful cycle has begun anew with the advent of Baha’u’llah.