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

Imagine this scenario: a novel pandemic breaks out somewhere in the world, one even more serious and deadly than Covid-19, and a newly-established global government quickly acts to solve the crisis.

Because the health departments and research agencies of the world’s various countries – finally connected, linked and properly funded for the investigation and reporting of new outbreaks – have the ability to rapidly discover and isolate emerging viral infections faster than ever before, we now can identify a novel disease quickly, even before it spreads beyond the country where it first emerges.

Once that scientific process happens, the world’s parliament goes into emergency session, deciding to seal the borders of the new disease’s country of origin and idle its factories and industries. In that now-quarantined country, no planes fly and no trains or cars or ships move outside the nation’s boundaries – but doctors and nurses from the world’s NGOs and relief agencies flood into the country to help save the spate of new patients sickened by the virus.

Then, in the spirit of unity, the rest of humanity rapidly and nimbly mobilizes to help their fellow human beings in the newly-afflicted nation. Scientists and the organizations they work for, now free of restrictive regulations and bureaucracy, fast-track new vaccines and treatments. Economic aid from all other countries flows in to help those whose jobs have temporarily halted or whose businesses have suffered. The entire planet and all of its massed resources turn every effort toward containing, isolating and alleviating the crisis in one place before it can spread to every other place.

Not surprisingly, this new, united global approach costs less and saves many more lives than the old way of allowing the disease to infect the whole world and then attempting to deal with its impact on a country-by-country basis.

This brief speculative sketch of a potentially unified future world directed and led by a sovereign international government is brought to you by the Baha’i Faith, the global religion that advances a single major principle – the unification of all humanity:

Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Baha’u’llah. Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race. It insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah

Today, unfortunately, we haven’t yet achieved that unified world. Instead, we still operate with an antiquated system of two hundred sovereign nations, with no single nation having sufficient resources or authority or wherewithal to counter the grave worldwide threats, viral and otherwise, that increasingly imperil the entire planet and its peoples. 

So if the chief purpose of a government is to protect its citizens, our governments are failing us badly.

Much of that failure happens because our uncoordinated and conflict-producing nationalist system, now a few hundred years old, has not caught up with the realities of international commerce, trade and technology, or with the emerging consciousness of world citizenship and the increasingly vital interdependence of every person on the planet. Instead, the nations of the world continue to operate with a wasteful, inefficient patchwork of disparate structures, systems, rules, laws and regulations, all of which hampers their ability to respond rapidly, properly and effectively to true global threats. 

Because of this messy, disordered non-system, we’re constantly forced to tackle new challenges with old tools. We cannot respond well to worldwide threats by utilizing a nation-specific mixture of differing and sometimes competing approaches and methods, especially since many nations focus more heavily on economic output than on the health of the populace. Rather than protecting and guarding the natural environment, countries and their legal systems privilege money and power to the detriment of people. We spend more on military might than on education and health combined. A welter of laws and regulations in conflict with each other stop progress and make us slow to respond to any real emergency like a pandemic.

“viruses aren’t foreign or domestic, they’re universal – which means defeating them requires a universal approach”

Yes, we do have international bodies like the World Health Organization and the various agencies of the United Nations, but they suffer from constant under-funding and restrictions that keep them from going beyond issuing non-binding advice to various nations. Consequently, nations continually squander their resources, needlessly compete with other countries in weaponry and war, and fail to reap the benefits of the strength, the protection, the security and the economies of scale that a federated system of world governance could deliver.

Scientifically, we now know that diseases quickly scatter beyond national borders because of that lack of unity and coordination. Pandemics like Covid-19 have free reign to spread around the world and infect us all, principally because our siloed and sadly outmoded 17th century governmental structures can’t properly deal with and contain them quickly, efficiently or effectively. 

After all, viruses aren’t foreign or domestic, they’re universal – which means defeating them requires a universal approach. 

We now know, scientifically, that we will experience many more of these global viral attacks in the future. Covid-19, although deadly for some, may ultimately prove much less virulent and potentially dangerous than Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease, Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Nipah and other henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley fever and many more as-yet-unidentified zoonotic viral illnesses. In fact, the recent emergence of SARS, MERS and Covid-19 only represents the beginning of an age of unknown pathogens with the potential to cause serious international pandemics.

Consider it: what would happen if a new novel coronavirus, different and even more deadly than Covid-19, broke out tomorrow? Would its country of origin have the ability or the foresight or the authority to immediately do everything possible to stem the spread of that disease? Likely, no. Instead – because we have a diffuse, unorganized and dis-unified confusion of a few hundred national governments with insufficient global coordination between them – that new disease would spread rapidly and rampantly around the planet, exactly like Covid-19 has done, and threaten the entire world’s physical and economic well-being.

“The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war…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”

Clearly, this current pandemic is sending us a warning, loud and clear – get rid of the old, ineffectual system of human governance before its outmoded jumble of conflicts and cross-purposes allows an even worse affliction to visit us all. Implement a universal system capable of dealing with universal problems. Viruses are no respecters of persons. They’re equal-opportunity infectors, caring nothing about our nationality, religion, class or race. We’re under attack as a species – which means we must urgently respond as a species, as one united human family.

So what alternatives do the Baha’i teachings recommend? Above all, Baha’is believe that we must weld the nations of this planet into a single commonwealth, a world federal system:

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. . .

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. . .

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. – Ibid.

Can you imagine it? Well, so can the millions of Baha’is in the world. In fact, those Baha’is do more than imagine it – they actively work toward the global goal of world unification every day. We would love to have your help.

9 Comments

characters remaining
  • Shirin Kazempour
    Mar 24, 2020
    Very appropriate and insightful. Will look for more such comments.
  • Thelma Batchelor
    Mar 24, 2020
    Excellent article David. Happily remembering you and Theresa from very nearly one year ago when from 1st April we shared a 9-day pilgrimage together.
  • Coriolano Guarani-Kaiowá Correa
    Mar 24, 2020
    Very good!
  • Hailu Nadew
    Mar 24, 2020
    Thanks for the compilations. Yes indeed, UNITY IN PEACE, ECONOMY & SPIRIT. What the world loss now. Unity in diversity is inevitable ; the world long long destiny. A view of Bahai scriptures. Investigation is open.
  • Cynthia Barnes Slater
    Mar 23, 2020
    Very compelling and well written essay! Thank you!
  • Chris Badostain
    Mar 23, 2020
    Thanks for a well thought through article, David. Id like to add that a lot of contamination could be avoided if we practiced vegetarianism or at least reducing the consumption of animals significantly and also think about and have much more public discourse about how important the type of fuel we ingest is to maintaining healthy robust immune function
  • Mar 23, 2020
    Perhaps the writer isn’t aware of the vast amount of co-operation going on amongst the various scientific institutions around the world and that fact that stage one trials of vaccines are already in progress. Although the international and some national political institutions have not acted well in this situation, many governments are doing their best to assist their populations, and that of other countries. Small steps.
  • Mark Bedford
    Mar 23, 2020
    A bold and practical argument in support of World Unity. Well done!
  • Mar 23, 2020
    This brilliant article demonstrates that, now more than ever, the world Needs to come together in unity. 🌎Thank you, David.