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A century and a half ago, Baha’u’llah foretold and foresaw humanity’s future dilemma—world war or world unity.
The Baha’i teachings ask the entire human race to commit to establishing our collective responsibility for peace. In world affairs, Baha’is believe that no nation can dominate or dictate to all nations—that every country on Earth must ultimately recognize its interdependence with all other countries, and unite to preserve the peace and stability of the entire planet.
After World War I—called “the war to end all wars”—Abdu’l-Baha once again warned that another war, more destructive than the last, would break out:
Ye who are servants of the human race, strive ye with all your heart to deliver mankind out of this darkness and these prejudices that belong to the human condition and the world of nature, so that humanity may find its way into the light of the world of God.
Praise be to Him, ye are acquainted with the various laws, institutions and principles of the world; today nothing short of these divine teachings can assure peace and tranquillity to mankind. But for these teachings, this darkness shall never vanish, these chronic diseases shall never be healed; nay, they shall grow fiercer from day to day. The Balkans will remain discontented. Its restlessness will increase. The vanquished Powers will continue to agitate. They will resort to every measure that may rekindle the flame of war. Movements, newly-born and world-wide in their range, will exert their utmost effort for the advancement of their designs. The Movement of the Left will acquire great importance. Its influence will spread.
Strive ye, therefore, with the help of God, with illumined minds and hearts and a strength born of heaven, to become a bestowal from God to man, and to call into being for all humankind, comfort and peace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 249-250.
The Baha’i teachings are clear on this subject: the framers of the peace treaties that ended World War I could not see beyond the prescribed borders of “a narrow and brutal nationalism;” and that lack of vision caused World War II. The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, writing in 1938, diagnosed the myopia this way:
That the unrest and suffering afflicting the mass of mankind are in no small measure the direct consequences of the World War and are attributable to the unwisdom and shortsightedness of the framers of the Peace Treaties only a biased mind can refuse to admit. That the financial obligations contracted in the course of the war, as well as the imposition of a staggering burden of reparations upon the vanquished, have, to a very great extent, been responsible for the maldistribution and consequent shortage of the world’s monetary gold supply, which in turn has, to a very great measure, accentuated the phenomenal fall in prices and thereby relentlessly increased the burdens of impoverished countries, no impartial mind would question. That inter-governmental debts have imposed a severe strain on the masses of the people in Europe, have upset the equilibrium of national budgets, have crippled national industries, and led to an increase in the number of the unemployed, is no less apparent to an unprejudiced observer. That the spirit of vindictiveness, of suspicion, of fear and rivalry, engendered by the war, and which the provisions of the Peace Treaties have served to perpetuate and foster, has led to an enormous increase of national competitive armaments, involving during the last year the aggregate expenditure of no less than a thousand million pounds, which in turn has accentuated the effects of the world-wide depression, is a truth that even the most superficial observer will readily admit. That a narrow and brutal nationalism, which the post-war theory of self-determination has served to reinforce, has been chiefly responsible for the policy of high and prohibitive tariffs, so injurious to the healthy flow of international trade and to the mechanism of international finance, is a fact which few would venture to dispute. – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 35.
Do you see any of these symptoms re-emerging today? Certainly, the world’s nations have not yet solved that fundamental modern dilemma of world unity or world war, even with the mechanism of the United Nations in place. Certainly, military expenditures have increased, with the arms storehouses of the world full to overflowing. Certainly, the impact of those expenditures has contributed greatly to the number of the unemployed today, just as it did during the Great Depression. Certainly, the spirit of vindictiveness, suspicion, fear and rivalry persist. Certainly, the world is an armed camp, ready for a spark to ignite it—just as it was in the 1930s.
The Baha’i teachings point out that despite all these warning signs, humanity still has a choice. The human race faces the most critical and momentous decision we have ever faced. We can now fully understand and comprehend what worldwide warfare does, since we’ve seen the impact of two such universal wars during the last century. We know the horrific ramifications of a narrow and brutal nationalism. We should sufficiently comprehend, at this point, the consequences of allowing dictators, tyrants and despots free reign to do what they wish. We now have all the evidence necessary to determine that the body politic of the world urgently requires unity:
The disease which afflicts the body politic is lack of love and absence of altruism. In the hearts of men no real love is found, and the condition is such that, unless their susceptibilities are quickened by some power so that unity, love and accord may develop within them, there can be no healing, no agreement among mankind. Love and unity are the needs of the body politic today. Without these there can be no progress or prosperity attained. Therefore, the friends of God must adhere to the power which will create this love and unity in the hearts of the sons of men. Science cannot cure the illness of the body politic. Science cannot create amity and fellowship in human hearts. Neither can patriotism nor racial allegiance effect a remedy. It must be accomplished solely through the divine bounties and spiritual bestowals which have descended from God in this day for that purpose. This is an exigency of the times, and the divine remedy has been provided. The spiritual teachings of the religion of God can alone create this love, unity and accord in human hearts. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 171.