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How to Achieve Human Harmony and Unity

Gordon Harper | Mar 17, 2024

PART 1 IN SERIES The 7 Candles of Unity

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Gordon Harper | Mar 17, 2024

PART 1 IN SERIES The 7 Candles of Unity

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

The Baha’i teachings call on humanity to unite. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, said that he “hath come to quicken the world and unite all its peoples.” That’s why Baha’is everywhere work toward global unity.

This ultimate spiritual and social cause — the unity of humanity — is the primary principle of the Baha’i Faith. But how do we get there?

Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, wrote this passage about how to achieve human unity in the early 20th century:

In cycles gone by, though harmony was established, yet, owing to the absence of means, the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided, nay even among the peoples of one and the same continent association and interchange of thought were well-nigh impossible. Consequently dialogue, understanding and unity amongst all the peoples and kindreds of the earth were unattainable. In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one .… In like manner all the members of the human family, whether peoples or governments, cities or villages, have become increasingly interdependent. For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age, this glorious century. Of this past ages have been deprived, for this century — the century of light — has been endowed with unique and unprecedented glory, power and illumination. Hence the miraculous unfolding of a fresh marvel every day. Eventually it will be seen how bright its candles will burn in the assemblage of man.

Abdu’l-Baha then went on to enumerate the “seven candles” of unity, a symbolic sequence of steps that he predicted would lead to global unity. He said, “The first candle is unity in the political realm.”

This “candle” refers to the political conditions within each independent and sovereign state or country. Currently, most governments are run by legislative bodies — but partisan groups within those bodies try to further their own positions and policies regarding the issues confronting them, in preference to the views, policies, and concerns of those with a different agenda or point of view.  

Imagine how much better the world would be if these groups could learn to work together in a spirit of harmony and cooperation, each acknowledging that the others have a legitimate point of view, legitimate concerns, and legitimate ideas for resolution, rather than the current polarized attitude of “my way or no way.” In striving for this initial stage of unity, Baha’is believe that a more cooperative, consultative form of government will eventually emerge.

RELATED: Injustice and Tyranny: Why Is Unity So Hard to Achieve?

Then, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings.

We are faced today with a number of pressing global challenges, climate change among them. Scientists and researchers generally agree that the solution to this increasingly complex problem will have to be global in nature. Only when all the nations of the world consult together, formulate a plan, and then work together to carry out that plan, will we be able to remediate this situation and bring it to a satisfactory conclusion.

Of course, a number of other global problems exist, and we can be assured there will be more in the future. They will increasingly require the hard work and cooperation of all the nations of the world to find and implement solutions. This interdependent unity of purpose, Baha’is believe, will help draw the nations of the world together.

The third candle is unity in freedom,” Abdu’l-Baha wrote.

Each year on December 10th the world observes International Human Rights Day, which celebrates the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In December of 1966, the United Nations General Assembly adopted two additional international agreements, The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

“Those two Covenants,” the UN’s official statement says, “together with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, form the International Bill of Human Rights, setting out the civil, political, cultural, economic, and social rights that are the birthright of all human beings.”

This whole idea of universal human rights accorded to everyone is actually fairly new in the course of human history. One of its earliest appearances is the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, which guarantees Freedom of Speech and Religion. President Franklin Roosevelt expanded this concept in his 1940 State of the Union address, which has become known as “The Four Freedoms Speech.” In it, he added “Freedom from Want” and “Freedom from Fear.” These four freedoms became the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

To be truly free, the Baha’i teachings say, humanity must overcome its natural instinct of settling disputes through conflict, struggle, and warfare, and learn to resolve them through consultation, conciliation, and negotiation. True freedom requires a life oriented to love for all, communication, and universal peace.

RELATED: Ubuntu and Baha’i: the Individual and the Community

The fourth candle is unity in religion,” Abdu’l-Baha said.

There is a story about a man who moved into a new town. As part of his acclimation process, he asked one of the local citizens about the houses of worship in the town. The citizen was pleased to be asked the question, and even more proud of the answer he gave.

“There’s a Catholic church down the street,” he said, “and a little further down there’s a Jewish Synagogue. Then across the street there’s a Protestant church and a little further along there is a Buddhist Temple. A little past that we have a Mosque, and way down at the far end of the street we even have an Ashram!”

The new resident shook his head slowly and smiled. “I hope the Good Lord has a sense of humor,” he said.

Each of these houses of worship was created for the purpose of praising the same God and glorifying His name. Yet each religion seems to insist that their way of praising and glorifying God is the only right way, that the messenger who brought their faith into the world, whether it was Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, or Muhammad, was the one true messenger of God and brought the True Word of God to the world and that all the rest are, at best, lesser prophets or teachers of the Word of God.

Baha’is believe that each one of these holy messengers is a true representative of God — that they all brought the true Word of God to humanity.

Much of the confusion arises because they came at different times in the history of the world, they came to different areas of the planet, and they faced different circumstances during their lifetimes. But if you examine the messages they brought, you will find their message remains consistent from one messenger to the next — that we should love our fellow human beings and put their well-being ahead of our own.

Baha’is believe that no one of these messengers is any more or less important than any of the others. This includes the most recent divine messengers — the Bab, the herald of the Baha’i Faith, and Baha’u’llah, its prophet and founder. 

When we as a people realize the truth of this spiritual unity, when we accept that all religion comes from the same God, that all the messengers are true representatives of God, and that they brought the same message to the world, we will, in fact, achieve religious unity — and religion will no longer be a source of conflict between people. 

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