A hundred years ago, the first of humanity’s two greatest failures—World War I and World War II—came to a close.
When the terrors of World War I finally stopped in 1918, they couldn’t even reliably count the dead. That first truly global conflict, which started in Europe and spread almost everywhere, killed somewhere between 15 million to 65 million people. No one knows how many we lost.
Following in the wake of that terrible, wasteful and ultimately futile bloodbath, many in the world had begun to agree with Baha’u’llah’s assertion that world unity formed the main prerequisite for world peace. Asked his advice by the world leaders who composed the Central Organisation for a Durable Peace in The Hague, Abdu’l-Baha addressed that body, explaining the overall thrust of the Baha’i Peace Plan. His letter, dated 17 December 1919, outlines how to implement the constructive approach Baha’is encourage world leaders could take to build a universal and lasting peace:
O ye esteemed ones who are pioneers among the well-wishers of the world of humanity!
The letters which ye sent during the war were not received, but a letter dated 11 February 1916, has just come to hand, and immediately an answer is being written. Your intention deserves a thousand praises, because you are serving the world of humanity, and this is conducive to the happiness and welfare of all. This recent war has proved to the world and the people that war is destruction while Universal Peace is construction; war is death while peace is life; war is rapacity and bloodthirstiness while peace is beneficence and humaneness; war is an appurtenance of the world of nature while peace is of the foundation of the religion of God; war is darkness upon darkness while peace is heavenly light; war is the destroyer of the edifice of mankind while peace is the everlasting life of the world of humanity; war is like a devouring wolf while peace is like the angels of heaven; war is the struggle for existence while peace is mutual aid and co-operation among the peoples of the world and the cause of the good-pleasure of the True One is the heavenly realm.
There is not one soul whose conscience does not testify that in this day there is no more important matter in the world than that of Universal Peace. Every just one bears witness to this and adores that esteemed Assembly because its aim is that this darkness may be changed into light, this bloodthirstiness into kindness, this torment into bliss, this hardship into ease and this enmity and hatred into fellowship and love. Therefore, the effort of those esteemed souls is worthy of praise and commendation.
But the wise souls who are aware of the essential relationships emanating from the realities of things consider that one single matter cannot, by itself, influence the human reality as it ought and should, for until the minds of men become united, no important matter can be accomplished. At present Universal Peace is a matter of great importance, but unity of conscience is essential, so that the foundation of this matter may become secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong.
Therefore His Holiness Baha’u’llah, fifty years ago, expounded this question of Universal Peace at a time when he was confined in the fortress of Akka and was wronged and imprisoned. He wrote about this important matter of Universal Peace to all the great sovereigns of the world, and established it among his friends in the Orient. The horizon of the East was in utter darkness, nations displayed the utmost hatred and enmity towards each other, religions thirsted for each other’s blood, and it was darkness upon darkness. At such a time His Holiness Baha’u’llah shone forth like the sun from the horizon of the East and illumined Persia with the lights of these teachings.
Among his teachings was the declaration of Universal Peace. People of different nations, religions and sects who followed him came together to such an extent that remarkable gatherings were instituted consisting of the various nations and religions of the East. Every soul who entered these gatherings saw but one nation, one teaching, one pathway, one order, for the teachings of His Holiness Baha’u’llah were not limited to the establishment of Universal Peace. They embraced many teachings which supplemented and supported that of Universal Peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablet to the Hague, pp. 3-4.
This historic letter to the political leaders at the Hague, which summarizes the Baha’i peace plan, went on to give detailed policy recommendations to world leaders. In the next installment in this series, we’ll look at those powerful points, and see how they’ve played out over the past century.