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History clearly shows us that the most militaristic, warlike groups and countries tend to be the ones where women have little or no power.
Terrorist groups are always predominantly male.
Men, clearly, are traditionally more inclined toward war and conflict than women. So how can we eliminate war and construct a lasting global peace?
We can create peace by building gender balance into our leadership bodies. The Baha’i teachings say that establishing perfect equality between women and men can help lead the world to peace:
Therefore, strive to show in the human world that women are most capable and efficient, that their hearts are more tender and susceptible than the hearts of men, that they are more philanthropic and responsive toward the needy and suffering, that they are inflexibly opposed to war and are lovers of peace. Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman’s superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283.
This powerful message, delivered by Abdu’l-Baha a hundred years ago when most women did not have an education, the right to vote or any real voice in the policies of their countries, resonated with the famous American suffragette, social worker and peace activist Jane Addams.
Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago in 1889, one of the first “settlement houses” intended to unite the rich and the homeless poor in disadvantaged urban ghettos. Inspired by the literary works of Dickens and Tolstoy and their advocacy for society’s poor, Addams made Hull House into a refuge for literally thousands of people during its 122 years of service, and founded the discipline of social work. On April 30th, 1912, Jane Addams invited Abdu’l-Baha to speak at Hull House, and he addressed an overflow crowd there that afternoon.
Three years after his speech, Jane Addams founded the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), which still exists today and continues to organize and unite women around the world who work for peace, non-violence, and promoting social and economic justice for all. WILPF, true to Abdu’l-Baha’s encouragement to women everywhere, challenges militarism and advocates universal peace. For her efforts in pursuing those goals, in 1931 Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
A century later, we’ve made progress. Most of the world’s women now have the right to vote—all but three of the world’s nations (Saudi Arabia, Brunei and the United Arab Emirates) have universal suffrage. But the simple presence of the right to vote doesn’t mean we’ve achieved actual equality at the ballot box; and as a result most of the world still lacks parity in female representation in its governing bodies. The dearth of educational opportunities for women and the paternalistic systems of male dominance in many places around the world still prevent huge numbers of women from exercising their rights. Actually, dozens of countries where women have the legal right to vote have a very low percentage of women who actually do vote. The Baha’i teachings say this is one of the root causes of humanity’s continuing propensity for conflict and combat:
Another fact of equal importance in bringing about international peace is woman’s suffrage. That is to say, when perfect equality shall be established between men and women, peace may be realized for the simple reason that womankind in general will never favor warfare. Women will not be willing to allow those whom they have so tenderly cared for to go to the battlefield. When they shall have a vote, they will oppose any cause of warfare. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 167.
This spiritual principle, which the world has yet to put fully into practice, has the potential to change the way humanity resolves its problems.
So if you’d like to have a personal impact on the attainment of world peace, Abdu’l-Baha repeatedly counseled, work on securing the equality of women and men. When you do, you’ll make an enormous contribution to peace:
The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings or parts become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary. Therefore, woman must receive the same education as man and all inequality be adjusted….
The evident reasons underlying this are as follows: Woman by nature is opposed to war; she is an advocate of peace. Children are reared and brought up by the mothers who give them the first principles of education and labor assiduously in their behalf. Consider, for instance, a mother who has tenderly reared a son for twenty years to the age of maturity. Surely she will not consent to having that son torn asunder and killed in the field of battle. Therefore, as woman advances toward the degree of man in power and privilege, with the right of vote and control in human government, most assuredly war will cease; for woman is naturally the most devoted and staunch advocate of international peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 374.