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Is war inevitable, since it’s been around forever? Is it human nature? The Baha’i writings say that it isn’t — and that gender equality will abolish war forever.
The Baha’i writings offer a perspective that acknowledges war as being part of our human nature — but it’s part of our lower human nature. The book “The Promulgation of Universal Peace,” written by Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the founder and prophet of the Baha’i Faith, described how giving free rein to our lower nature has harmed the world: “For thousands of years men and nations have gone forth to the battlefield to settle their differences. The cause of this has been ignorance and degeneracy.”
Abdu’l-Baha explained that our higher nature has the power to conquer our lower nature, and to end war forever. He wrote that “In this radiant century minds have developed, perceptions have become keener, eyes are illumined and ears attentive. Therefore, it will be impossible for war to continue.”
The tragedy that war brings is tied to many other existing issues, such as corruption, prejudice, economic inequality, and sexism. The solution is naturally tied up in resolving those issues. The Baha’i writings propose that as we eradicate sexism and women take on prominent roles in the structures of society, war will diminish. Abdu’l-Baha wrote:
“Equality between men and women is conducive to the abolition of warfare for the reason that women will never be willing to sanction it. Mothers will not give their sons as sacrifices upon the battlefield after twenty years of anxiety and loving devotion in rearing them from infancy, no matter what cause they are called upon to defend. There is no doubt that when women obtain equality of rights, war will entirely cease among mankind.”
One could read this passage and think, if women and men are equal, then why does this passage state that women would govern differently? One could perceive that this insinuates that women are emotionally weaker than men.
But when I read this passage, I see it as a tribute to the strength, wisdom, and level-headedness that femininity can bring to the table. Of course, all women have their own different, unique qualities, but women have historically been kept out of important social institutions because they were valued solely for their ability to bear and raise children. Successful businesswomen, politicians, and scientists constantly have to fight for their right to balance work and family life. They are often questioned about their ability to achieve in their career and be a mother — something that successful men who are also fathers rarely experience.
The Baha’i writings incentivize making more space for women in positions of power. We need people in our institutions to value human life because they make decisions that affect us all. Having political decisions be affected by love may be perceived as emotional weakness today, but this balance is actually an asset.
What happens when this balance is ignored? We can look to the current state of affairs and centuries of war to see the suffering that creates.
Aside from the structural changes that need to happen, empowerment and proper education needs to be extended to everyone regardless of gender. The Baha’i writings say that we can build this balance by encouraging girls, believing in their capacity, and making up for the discouragement they have suffered. Abdu’l-Baha wrote that “We must declare that her capacity is equal, even greater than man’s. This will inspire her with hope and ambition, and her susceptibilities for advancement will continually increase. She must not be told and taught that she is weaker and inferior in capacity and qualification. If a pupil is told that his intelligence is less than his fellow pupils, it is a very great drawback and handicap to his progress.”
An education that allows for the proper socialization of all people regardless of their gender has to address the root of inequality and demonstrate the value of all skillsets — including emotional and spiritual qualities. By drawing on each other’s strengths we can pass the torch to a new generation of people who are aware of the crimes of past generations and avoid repeating a history of war.