The events in the world these days baffle both the learned and the ignorant, confuse the young and the old, and perplex people of all ideologies and religions.
Because I’m a Baha’i, strangers and friends want to know what I think about the world’s seemingly unresolvable problems. Even if they don’t know much about the Baha’i Faith, they usually have some sense that my Faith gives me reasons to view world events differently. So I tell them that Baha’is believe the future of humanity is bright—but also that humanity cannot resolve these upheavals using ideologies of bygone days or even today’s digital database solutions.
They wonder about the source of these problems, and I am compelled to tell them that the Baha’i teachings cite the lack of morality and lack of spirituality in the world:
All conditions and requisites of the past unfitted and inadequate for the present time are undergoing radical reform. It is evident, therefore, that counterfeit and spurious religious teaching, antiquated forms of belief and ancestral imitations which are at variance with the foundations of divine reality must also pass away and be reformed. They must be abandoned and new conditions be recognized. The morals of humanity must undergo change. New remedies and solutions for human problems must be adopted. Human intellects themselves must change and be subject to the universal reformation. Just as the thoughts and hypotheses of past ages are fruitless today, likewise dogmas and codes of human invention are obsolete and barren of product in religion. Nay, it is true that they are the cause of enmity and conducive to strife in the world of humanity; war and bloodshed proceed from them, and the oneness of mankind finds no recognition in their observance. Therefore, it is our duty in this radiant century to investigate the essentials of divine religion, seek the realities underlying the oneness of the world of humanity and discover the source of fellowship and agreement which will unite mankind in the heavenly bond of love. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 143.
Humanity has lost its moral compass, and even human history cannot help us find our way out, because the rate of change has accelerated so fast that we have no historical reference point for it. But we do know how many times humanity has reached the point of no return and has found a way out of seemingly impossible situations. World War II is an excellent example of a time when everything seemed very dark and hopeless, and yet the forces of good managed to prevail.
Regardless of past history, though, it’s hard to deny the gravity of our present world situation: the plight of millions of refugees who are running from terror and economic misery; the extreme nationalism leading to election of governments throughout the world that enforce strict border controls, leaving migrant populations to endure in demeaning conditions; climate change that threatens the existence of the world to the point that the young generation wonders if it has a future; the religious fundamentalism and fanaticism spreading in every corner of the world, the glut of misinformation and propaganda that has replaced decency, respectful discourse and actual facts.
The Baha’i writings have helped me to be clear about what is happening and how the future will look. I believe in humanity’s resilience and also believe in the reality of Divine guidance, which has helped humanity to reach this point from our beginnings in the Stone Age. I see the present situation in the world as a process that humanity has to endure, because when Baha’u’llah proclaimed his message to the rulers and the people of the world, he warned them about the consequences of their denial:
The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned toward waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 118.
That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity, can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present-day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 46.
Humanity today stands at a crossroads, and every individual has the privilege to be part of the plan to lead it towards unity and harmony. So I tell my friends that though they have an accurate picture of the problems in the world, they are wrong to give up and accept defeat while the struggle between the forces of construction and destruction plays out all around us. These upheavals send us signals so we can play our part in preparing for a new spiritually-based system of global governance:
Through the power of Baha’u’llah all will be united. He upraised this standard of the oneness of humanity in prison. When subjected to banishment by two kings, while a refugee from enemies of all nations and during the days of His long imprisonment He wrote to the kings and rulers of the world in words of wonderful eloquence, arraigning them severely and summoning them to the divine standard of unity and justice. He exhorted them to peace and international agreement, making it incumbent upon them to establish a board of international arbitration—that from all nations and governments of the world there should be delegates selected for a congress of nations which should constitute a universal arbitral court of justice to settle international disputes. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 202-203.
As for the trends of the present time, it seems that in most cases, kindness and cooperation towards our fellow man have taken a back seat to nationalism and self-interest. I believe that these trends are the “last hurrahs” of the decaying old order, whose followers are making a desperate attempt to hold on to political control. Yes, the changes in the world are rapid and confusing, and most of the people in charge of making policies and laws cling to short-sighted goals instead of working for the betterment of the conditions of the world in all areas of life.
But all of this upheaval provides us with the opportunity to re-examine our values, to take hold of the vision of a united and peaceful world, and become a powerful part of its construction of a better future.