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Try this: just for a minute, let your mind, your heart and your soul imagine a peaceful, unified world, the Earth as one country.
I know—it’s pretty hard to do, given the deep divisions, fractious politics and constant conflict in our contemporary world.
But if you think hard enough, and allow your mind to imagine such a bright, promising future, you’ll probably envision a world without war; without heavily-militarized borders; without hatred or prejudice. Try to conceptualize it: our weapons slowly rusting away from disuse. The tremendous progress we could make without the massive expense of constantly manufacturing new weapons and fighting new wars. The building of schools, the progress in medicine, the new discoveries and technological developments we could achieve, the love we could spread around the globe, the growing unity between the races and religions.
Imagine children growing up in a world without fear and trauma and displacement.
The Baha'i teachings began to imagine and actually build that peaceful world almost two centuries ago:
The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. … It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens. - Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 167.
But let’s think a little further: How would we run this newly peaceful, unified world? Could we utilize the governmental system we have now—a planet with a few hundred sovereign, competing nations? Or can we possibly conceive of another, more advanced and less inherently conflicted system—a united federation of independent countries organized as a commonwealth of nations?
If you see that as a possibility you’re seeing, in your mind’s eye, the Baha'i model of the future:
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. - Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 202.
Three elements make up the Baha'i model for the future of human governance: a world legislature; a world executive and a world tribunal.
Sound somehow familiar? It should, because this kind of tripartite governance, often referred to as the separation of powers, comes originally from ancient Greece, and now represents the basic structure of most of the world’s democratic and parliamentary republics.
Initially called a “mixed government” by Aristotle, it separates the powers of government so they cannot be consolidated into authoritarian or dictatorial rule. Composed of a legislative body or bodies; an executive function held by a prime minister, a monarch or president; and a judiciary system with local, regional and national courts; this three-way separation of powers avoids excessive centralization, protects against tyranny and despotism, and maintains a system of checks and balances designed to limit the consolidation of too much power in any one sector:
It is very evident that in the future there shall be no centralization in the countries of the world, be they constitutional in government, republican or democratic in form. The United States may be held up as the example of future government—that is to say, each province will be independent in itself, but there will be federal union protecting the interests of the various independent states. - Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 167.
With this democratic, decentralized model, Baha’is believe that a new, peaceful era in human affairs is now evolving, when humanity will finally apply the age-old wisdom of a universally-elected, tripartite system of governance to the whole world:
… there must needs be established the parliament of man or court of last appeals for international questions. The members of this arbitral court of justice will be representatives of all the nations. In each nation the members must be ratified by the government and the king or ruler, and this international parliament will be under the protection of the world of humanity. In it all international difficulties will be settled. - Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 6.
Can you envision it? What can we do to reach this promising, progressive goal? According to the Baha'i teachings, we each need to increase our intelligence, our unity and our love of peace:
Now, praise be to God, the signs of intelligence are becoming manifest among the people in some parts of the world. This is the dawning of the dayspring of the Most Great Peace. This is our hope: to spread the oneness of the realm of man, to destroy the foundation of hatred and animosity from among the people, to make manifest the Greatest Peace, so that the nations of the world may affiliate with each other and all the governments may strengthen between themselves the bonds of love and unity, the International Court of Arbitration may be established and all the world-wide problems and difficulties which arise between the nations may be adjudicated in that Universal Court.
The solving of these international problems depend upon the increase of the number of the lovers of Peace, and those who are devoted to the greater friendship of nations may add their power to the public opinion which revolves around the Peace of the World. Then, through the powerful demonstration of the people of peace and reconciliation, all the nations will be forced to accept the doctrine of Peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 2, pp. 4-5.