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So -- given the rampant cynicism about the idealistic humanitarian goal of world peace, can one person possibly make any difference? Can each of us have any impact at all on the enormous global forces of war and peace? Baha’is believe that each individual can not only make a difference, but that each person’s participation moves humanity closer to peace.
But assuming you’re not a diplomat or a head of state, how do you actually foster and maybe even promote peace in the world? Here’s a list of humble suggestions:
- Meditate. Find some personal peacefulness and experience it. No, you don’t have to take a course, join a group or read a book. Just pick a quiet place, turn off all your electronics, sit there for a while and contemplate your existence. This universal activity, now made much more rare and difficult by our attention-deficit culture, will, I guarantee you, give you back much more than you put in. The great philosopher and writer Franz Kafka said: “You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
- If you’ve had a fight with someone, a disagreement, a long-simmering conflict: resolve to fix it. Set today aside to lose your anger and take responsibility for making it right. First, apologize for your part in the battle, and tell the other person/spouse/partner/sibling/child/parent/friend that you would like to bury the hatchet, get past your dispute and have a peaceful relationship once more. You’ll be amazed at what will happen.
- Volunteer. Go find a non-profit agency in your town, one that cares for and serves people – a school, a hospital, a food bank, a homelessness agency, a relief group. Then just call or show up and ask “How can I help?” If they can’t put you to work, try the next one – somebody is bound to have a task or two you can do. This activity, if engaged in on a regular basis, will demonstrate your love for others, powerfully activate your built-in human altruism, and pro-actively build a peaceful bridge to wonderful people.
- Join a group that works for peace. “God loves those who work in groups,” Abdu’l-Baha said, and everyone can find and work with a group of like-minded people toward the goal of peace. Even small groups can have tremendous influence on others, increasing and leveraging the work of individuals to achieve much larger objectives. Contact the Baha’i community where you live to get started – you’ll find a warm, welcoming and diverse group of people already focused on achieving world peace at the local and the global levels. And we’d love to meet you.
- And finally, go find someone who seems foreign to you and introduce yourself. Here’s Abdu’l-Baha’s advice on the subject:
Let not conventionality cause you to seem cold and unsympathetic when you meet strange people from other countries. Do not look at them as though you suspected them of being evil-doers, thieves and boors. You think it necessary to be very careful, not to expose yourselves to the risk of making acquaintance with such, possibly, undesirable people.
I ask you not to think only of yourselves. Be kind to the strangers, whether come they from Turkey, Japan, Persia, Russia, China or any other country in the world. Help to make them feel at home; find out where they are staying, ask if you may render them any service; try to make their lives a little happier….
Put into practice the Teaching of Baha'u'llah, that of kindness to all nations. Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path. …let your manner be sympathetic. Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. …speak to him as to a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succor him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him. In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.
What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless. The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world's misery would very soon be changed into comfort. - Paris Talks, p. 15.