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What’s the best way to maximize the general welfare of humanity? Yes, it’s a huge question, with maybe seven billion potential answers.
Some would say alleviating poverty and hunger; some might say instituting economic systems like socialism or capitalism; some say curing disease; some say insuring environmental sustainability; some say banning nuclear weapons—and many say promoting democracy and self-determination.
Try to think about the question in a larger, more inclusive way, though. Expand the possibilities and see if you can conceptualize a more just, harmonious and peaceful planet—what overall quality would that future state of society need to possess?
This kind of thoughtful reflection and the knowledge that comes from it, the Baha’i teachings say, create the final consideration in Abdu’l-Baha’s seven requirements for being a real Baha’i:
If he is a Baha’i in reality, his deeds and actions will be decisive proofs of it. What are the requirements? Love for mankind, sincerity toward all, reflecting the oneness of the world of humanity, philanthropy, becoming enkindled with the fire of the love of God, attainment to the knowledge of God and that which is conducive to human welfare. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 336.
Baha’is, in other words, strive to know “that which is conducive to human welfare” and then implement it in the real world.
So, back to the question: what’s your answer? What would you recommend to best maximize the general welfare of humanity?
The Baha’i teachings say the answer is unity:
… consider how the cause of the welfare, happiness, joy and comfort of humankind are amity and union, whereas dissension and discord are most conducive to hardship, humiliation, agitation and failure. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 287.
The world’s divisions—between the powerful and the powerless, the wealthy and the poor, the armed and the unarmed—simply cannot be solved without building an increasing level of unity. Only unity, Baha’u’llah wrote, can maintain peace and order in the world:
They that are endued with sincerity and faithfulness should associate with all the peoples and kindreds of the earth with joy and radiance, inasmuch as consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord, which in turn are conducive to the maintenance of order in the world and to the regeneration of nations. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 35.
The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 286.
If you agree, then it becomes obvious that the absolute best thing we can all do to secure and advance the welfare of humanity is promoting unity and concord—to live a life devoted to that high ideal:
He is a true Baha’i who strives by day and by night to progress and advance along the path of human endeavor, whose most cherished desire is so to live and act as to enrich and illuminate the world, whose source of inspiration is the essence of Divine virtue, whose aim in life is so to conduct himself as to be the cause of infinite progress. Only when he attains unto such perfect gifts can it be said of him that he is a true Baha’i. For in this holy Dispensation, the crowning glory of bygone ages and cycles, true Faith is no mere acknowledgment of the Unity of God, but rather the living of a life that will manifest all the perfections and virtues implied in such belief. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Baha’i World, Volume 1, p. 12.
This unity-building, I’ll readily admit, isn’t an easy task. On the other hand, it’s fun, interesting and challenging. If you’d like to join the global Baha’i community in its quest to build unity worldwide, we would love to have your help.