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The Baha’i teachings offer humanity a prescription for achieving the oneness and peace of the entire global community.
Are you skeptical? Some people scoff at even the possibility of peace, believing that human nature is inevitably inclined toward violence. That’s understandable, since recorded human history goes back approximately six thousand years, and we’ve been at war for the majority of that time. During the past 3,400 years—which covers the period of the existence of reliable historical records—we humans have had peace for 268 years, or just 8 percent of all recorded history.
Sadly, if you only look into our rearview mirror, humanity does have a bloody history. We have slaughtered millions upon millions of people in our wars. Estimates of total deaths from all wars range from 150 million to more than one billion people. During the 20th Century alone, more than a hundred million people died in man-made wars.
We have to stop killing one another—the Baha’i teachings say that this obscene carnage, this utter waste of human life, must now cease:
For thousands of years we have had bloodshed and strife. It is enough; it is sufficient. Now is the time to associate together in love and harmony. For thousands of years we have tried the sword and warfare; let mankind for a time at least live in peace. Review history and consider how much savagery, how much bloodshed and battle the world has witnessed. It has been either religious warfare, political warfare or some other clash of human interests. The world of humanity has never enjoyed the blessing of Universal Peace … God has created us all human and all countries of the world are parts of the same globe. We are all his servants. He is kind and just to all. Why should we be unkind and unjust to each other? He provides for all. Why should we deprive one another? He protects and preserves all. Why should we kill our fellow-creatures? – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 50.
So to stop war, Baha’is believe, we first need a realistic vision of peace. We need an achievable set of peacebuilding goals to work towards, a way to concretely conceive what world peace could possibly look and act like.
From a Baha’i perspective, peace is much more than the cessation or temporary absence of war.
Instead, peace calls us to envision a new world order, a new way of relating to one another on a global level. Building peace, in other words, requires a blueprint. First, before we can realize peace, we need a map—a way to get there.
This 1938 summary of the Baha’i peace plan, from Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, outlines the main Baha’i peace principles:
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. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
National rivalries, hatreds, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cooperation. The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation—such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 202-204.
Some parts of this revolutionary blueprint for a new, peaceable world civilization have already happened. Other elements are beginning to emerge now. Several more will require additional time and effort to manifest themselves—but Baha’is believe that they must inevitably come about. In the next essay in this series, we’ll examine how the worldwide Baha’i community proposes to make this ambitious plan a reality.