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What will it take for the world’s people to stop our religious and political strife and peacefully fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy to “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks”?
The Baha’i teachings have something important to say about that, since Baha’u’llah’s new Faith aims “to reconcile rather than accentuate the divergences of the conflicting creeds which disrupt present-day society.” Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, wrote about Baha’u’llah’s purpose in a summary statement to the United Nations in 1947:
His purpose, far from belittling the station of the Prophets gone before Him or of whittling down their teachings, is to restate the basic truths which these teachings enshrine in a manner that would conform to the needs, and be in consonance with the capacity, and be applicable to the problems, the ills and perplexities, of the age in which we live.
His mission is to proclaim that the ages of the infancy and of the childhood of the human race are past, that the convulsions associated with the present stage of its adolescence are slowly and painfully preparing it to attain the stage of manhood, and are heralding the approach of that Age of Ages when swords will be beaten into plowshares, when the Kingdom promised by Jesus Christ will have been established, and the peace of the planet definitely and permanently ensured.
So, from a Biblical perspective, before “all nations glorify His name,” as prophesied by Psalms 86:9, we must find “the Mountain of the Lord’s House,” where God judges between nations and settles disputes. Where is that mountain?
The Tanach, also known as the Old Testament, tells us. The prophet Isaiah extolled Mount Carmel in Israel almost three thousand years ago, when he announced in Isaiah 2:1 that “it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”
For the world’s Baha’is, this ancient prophecy of Isaiah’s has clearly come true. The Baha’i World Center, headquartered on Mount Carmel, surrounds the seat of the Universal House of Justice, the democratically-elected leadership body of the global Baha’i community. That institution, the first universally-elected global governing body, serves as a model for a future world government. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Carmel, in the Book of God, hath been designated as the Hill of God, and His Vineyard. It is here that, by the grace of the Lord of Revelation, the Tabernacle of Glory hath been raised. Happy are they that attain thereunto; happy they that set their faces towards it.
This placement of the Baha’i World Center and the Universal House of Justice on Mount Carmel did not happen by choice. Instead, the Ottoman government exiled Baha’u’llah to the nearby prison city of Akka in Palestine in 1868, long before the nation of Israel came into existence in 1948.
So today, all four of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith — call Israel the Holy Land. This has a profound meaning beyond just the mere geographic adjacency of those great Faiths.
It means that all people of faith can now learn to understand the magnitude of the suffering that the West (and others) has heaped upon the Jews. Everyone knows the most infamous hardships meted out upon the Jewish people: Their exile to Babylon and then, after their return to their homeland, their scattering by the Romans across the globe. Many also know of the forced conversion and exile they suffered in Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella and subsequent Spanish monarchs. The whole world recoiled in horror at the more recent attempts by Hitler to exterminate all the Jews he possibly could. These few examples of a very long oppression show that Jews have experienced relentless persecution for millennia. Many volumes could not capture the number and depth of these persecutions.
It may be instructive to learn about two additional examples of the twisted logic Jews have long been forced to endure.
On the way to capture Jerusalem, the Western European Christian crusaders of the Middle Ages tramped through and trampled over many cities. Charged with religious zeal, they not only took it upon themselves to confiscate whatever provisions they needed along the way, they also decided that they would conduct religious purifications as they went along. In such an unholy manner, Crusaders gathered up, robbed, and killed countless Jews along the way.
Then, in the 13th century, the Mongolians advanced past the Russians, Bulgars, Poles, Hungarians, and many Germans, and paused on the doorstep of Vienna ready to take the whole of Europe. The threatened Europeans struggled to understand who these previously unknown people from the East were. Given that they advanced from the East and spoke an unintelligible language, Europeans reckoned, in a jaw-dropping inductive leap, that they must be the lost tribes of Judaea. Therefore, they continued to reason that a safe precaution would be to eliminate the Jews in their lands to prevent collusion — and this they proceeded to do across the European homeland. Jewish possessions were taken, houses were burned, and thousands were put to death. Those that escaped were forced to wear distinctive identifying clothing (this was not a Nazi invention) so that others could beware of their treachery. Jews have long been the West’s go-to scapegoat whenever anything has gone wrong — in large part, simply because the Biblical narrative made them vulnerable.
Humanity must come to terms with our role in the suffering of the Jews, not only because we wish to “come clean” but also because we were never meant to lord over or persecute them. Indeed, our collective victory over hatred and disunity is only possible through ultimately uniting with the Jewish people – and with the people of all religions. The victories the Christian and Islamic world await are Jewish victories, too.
“… all nations and kindreds will be gathered together … and will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations will be eliminated.
… All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself. Universal peace and concord will be established among all nations. … in [Baha’u’llah’s] Dispensation Israel will be gathered in the Holy Land, and the Jewish people who are now scattered in the East and the West, the North and the South, will be assembled together.”
We now know that the latter part of this prophecy came true only forty years later — but the peoples, nations, and religions of the world still have a great deal to do to fulfill the wonderful Baha’i vision of a unified world free of religious and sectarian antagonism.