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Contemplate this question: why does God create religion? Even if you don’t believe in a Supreme Being, what primary purpose do you think religion serves?
God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 79-80.
Those two purposes—the spiritual education of humanity, and the “peace and tranquility of mankind”—are probably the biggest and most audacious goals anyone could imagine. Importantly, though, Baha’u’llah ends his definition of God’s purpose for religion by saying it provides “all the means by which they can be established.” In other words, Baha’is believe that God has already given humanity the tools to make our spiritual education and our global unity into a lived reality.
So, because the Baha’i teachings center around the establishment of world peace and world unity, establishing a permanent global peace represents the primary goal of the Baha’i Faith:
… it is Our purpose, through the loving providence of God—exalted be His glory—and His surpassing mercy, to abolish, through the force of Our utterance, all disputes, war, and bloodshed, from the face of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 33.
Because of the primacy of this emphasis on world unity and the peace it can bring to humanity, the Baha’i teachings cover the subject across multiple perspectives, ranging from lofty spiritual counsel to practical policy recommendations; from the establishment of the first true global system of governance within the Baha’i administrative order to hyper-local community outreach and activities; from advice and exhortations to kings and political leaders to suggestions about refining our individual character.
However—taking on the vast subject of all the Baha’i teachings on unity and peace would encompass enough material to fill multiple books, so this series of brief essays will limit itself to addressing the basic Baha’i teachings on the topic, and giving readers a general sense of how Baha’u’llah advises humanity to actually go about achieving world peace.
We can probably best begin approaching and understanding the Baha’i teachings on peace and unity by meditating on God’s “twofold purpose.” First, Baha’u’llah tells us, God sends us religion “to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding.” Secondly, God reveals His message “to ensure the peace and tranquility of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established.”
A portion of the Baha’i teachings deals directly with our individual qualities and characteristics, emphasizing, encouraging and praising the peaceful traits in every person; while another portion of the Baha’i peace plan focuses on achieving world peace from a more macro, holistic, planet-embracing perspective.
One covers the personal, and the other encompasses the public aspects of peace—so let’s start with the public and work our way toward the personal.
The Baha’i teachings offer a revolutionary global vision for peace:
True civilization will unfurl its banner in the midmost heart of the world whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns—the shining exemplars of devotion and determination—shall, for the good and happiness of all mankind, arise, with firm resolve and clear vision, to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking—the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world—should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 64.
Sometimes, when people first encounter this lofty and noble Baha’i vision of a world at peace, they scoff. Cynics dismiss the possibility of peace, pointing to six thousand years of war in human history. But Baha’is everywhere in the world work toward this grand and noble vision, confident that world peace can occur if enough of us have the “indomitable determination” it will definitely require:
A few, unaware of the power latent in human endeavor, consider this matter as highly impracticable, nay even beyond the scope of man’s utmost efforts. Such is not the case, however. On the contrary, thanks to the unfailing grace of God, the loving-kindness of His favored ones, the unrivaled endeavors of wise and capable souls, and the thoughts and ideas of the peerless leaders of this age, nothing whatsoever can be regarded as unattainable. Endeavor, ceaseless endeavor, is required. Nothing short of an indomitable determination can possibly achieve it. Many a cause which past ages have regarded as purely visionary, yet in this day has become most easy and practicable. Why should this most great and lofty Cause—the daystar of the firmament of true civilization and the cause of the glory, the advancement, the well-being and the success of all humanity—be regarded as impossible of achievement? Surely the day will come when its beauteous light shall shed illumination upon the assemblage of man. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 66-67.