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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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 296.
“No more important matter in the world,” Abdu’l-Baha wrote about universal peace. But how do we get there? How do we take peace from the personal to the universal?
First, the Baha’i teachings say, we begin the process of creating universal peace in our own hearts. Peace begins at home—and the heart is God’s home:
At a talk he gave at a Baptist church in New York, Abdu’l-Baha explained this passage:
Baha’u’llah proclaims in the Hidden Words that God inspires His servants and is revealed through them. He says, “Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for My manifestation.” Therefore, we learn that nearness to God is possible through devotion to Him, through entrance into the Kingdom and service to humanity; it is attained by unity with mankind and through loving-kindness to all; it is dependent upon investigation of truth, acquisition of praiseworthy virtues, service in the cause of universal peace and personal sanctification. In a word, nearness to God necessitates sacrifice of self, severance and the giving up of all to Him. Nearness is likeness. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 146.
The violence and war we see in the world comes directly from our differences of opinion, and from the hatred and anger that resides in many human hearts. The Baha’i teachings warn against allowing our hearts to harbor feelings of “dispute, hatred and strife” over our differences:
Consider that concept for a moment, and honestly reflect: do you have any hatred or anger in your heart? If you search your feelings carefully and openly, you’ll probably find some. Just about everyone experiences those feelings—the normal, natural reactions to the hurt and pain this world can deliver. Our human struggle involves letting those feelings go, rather than allowing them to dominate our thoughts. Baha’u’llah asks us to try to transcend that “homeland of the dust:”
O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of thy precious life in employment with this swiftly passing world. Thou comest from the world of holiness — bind not thine heart to the earth; thou art a dweller in the court of nearness — choose not the homeland of the dust. – Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 34.
People who walk a spiritual path make the choice to purge their hearts from feelings of hatred and anger, as the first steps toward making peace a reality:
The first remedy of all is to guide the people aright, so that they will turn themselves unto God, and listen to His counsellings, and go forth with hearing ears and seeing eyes… They must cleanse their hearts from even the slightest trace of hatred and spite, and they must set about being truthful and honest, conciliatory and loving to all humankind – so that East and West will, even as two lovers, hold each other close; that hatred and hostility will perish from the earth, and universal peace be firmly rooted in their place. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 244.
“…that hatred and hostility will perish from the earth,” Abdu’l-Baha wrote. Cleansing our own hearts from hatred isn’t simple or easy, though—it takes effort and exertion:
As to you: Your efforts must be lofty. Exert yourselves with heart and soul so that, perchance, through your efforts the light of universal peace may shine and this darkness of estrangement and enmity may be dispelled from amongst men, that all men may become as one family and consort together in love and kindness, that the East may assist the West and the West give help to the East, for all are the inhabitants of one planet, the people of one original native land and the flocks of one Shepherd. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 469.
Next: Hyperpower, Pax Americana and the Long Peace