and the New Era:
Chapter Ten: The Way to Peace
During the past century scientists have devoted and immense amount of study to the struggle for existence in the plant and animal world, and, amid the perplexities of social life, many have turned for guidance to the principles which have been found to hold good in the lower world of nature. In this way they have come to regard rivalry and conflict as necessities of life, and the ruthless killing out of the weaker members of society as a legitimate or even necessary means of improving the race. Baha'u'llah tells us, on the other hand, that, if we wish to ascend the scale of progress, instead of looking backward to the animal world, we must direct our gaze forward and upward, and must take not the beasts, but the Prophets as our guides. The principles of unity, concord and compassion taught by the Prophets are the very antithesis of those dominating the animal struggle for self-preservation, and we must choose between them, for they cannot be reconciled. Abdu'l-Baha says: --
In the world of nature the dominant note is the struggle for existence -- the result of which is the survival of the fittest. The law of the survival of the fittest is the origin of all difficulties. It is the cause of war and strife, hatred and animosity, between human beings. In the world of nature there is tyranny, egoism, aggression, overbearance, usurpation of the rights of others and other blameworthy attributes which are defects of the animal world. Therefore, so long as the requirements of the natural world play paramount part among the children of men, success and prosperity are impossible. Nature is warlike, nature is bloodthirsty, nature is tyrannical, for nature is unaware of God the Almighty. That is why these cruel qualities are natural to the animal world.
The Most Great Peace
In all ages the Prophets of God have foretold the coming of an era of "peace on earth, goodwill among men." As we have already seen Baha'u'llah, in the most glowing and confident terms, confirms these prophecies and declares that their fulfillment is at hand. Abdu'l-Baha says: --
In order to see clearly how the Most Great Peace may be established, let us first examine the principle causes that have led to war in the past and see how Baha'u'llah proposes to deal with each.
One of the most fertile causes of war has been religious prejudice. With regard to this the Bahá'í teachings show clearly that animosity and conflict between people of different religions and sects have always been due, not to true religion, but to the want of it, and to its replacement by false prejudices, imitations and misrepresentations.
In one of His talks in Paris, Abdu'l-Baha said:
Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth; it should give birth to spirituality, and bring light and life to every soul. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division it would be better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure, but if the remedy only aggravates the complaint, it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion.
Again He says: --
From the beginning of human history down to the present time various religions of the world have anathematized one another and accused one another of falsity.
and Patriotic Prejudices
The Bahá'í doctrine of the unity of mankind strikes at the root of another cause of war, namely, racial prejudice. Certain races have assumed themselves to be superior to others and have taken for granted, on the principle of "survival of the fittest," that this superiority gives them the right to exploit for their own advantage, or even to exterminate, weaker races. Many of the blackest pages in the world's history are examples of the pitiless application of this principle. According to the Bahá'í view people of every race are of equal value in the sight of God. All have wonderful innate capacities which only require suitable education for their development, and each can play a part, which, instead of impoverishing, will enrich and complete the life of all the other members of the body of humanity. Abdu'l-Baha says: --
Concerning the prejudice of race; it is an illusion, a superstition pure and simple, for God created us all of one race. ... In the beginning also there were no limits and boundaries between the different lands; no part of the earth belonged more to one people than to another. In the sight of God there is no different between the various races. Why should man invent such a prejudice? How can we uphold war caused by such an illusion? God has not created men that they should destroy one another. All races, tribes, sects and classes share equally in the bounty of their Heavenly Father.
Equally mischievous with racial prejudice is political or patriotic prejudice. The time has now come when narrow national patriotisms should be merged in the wider patriotism whose country is the world. Baha'u'llah says: --
Many are the wars which have been fought over pieces of territory whose possession has been coveted by two or more rival nations. The greed of possession has been as fertile a cause of strife among nations as among individuals. According to the Bahá'í view, land rightly belongs not to individual men or individual nations but to humanity as a whole; nay, rather, it belongs to God alone, and all men are but tenants.
On the occasion of the Battle of Benghazi1 , Abdu'l-Baha said: --
The news of the Battle of Benghazi grieves my heart. I wonder at the human savagery that still exists in the world: How is it possible for men to fight from morning till night, killing each other, shedding the blood of their fellowmen? And for what object? To gain possession of a part of the earth! Even the animals when they fight have an immediate and more reasonable cause for their attacks. How terrible is it that men who are of the higher kingdom can descend to slaying and bringing misery to their fellow beings for the possession of a tract of land -- the highest of created beings fighting to obtain the lowest form of matter, earth.
Having glanced at the principal causes of war and how they may be avoided, we may now proceed to examine certain constructive proposals made by Baha'u'llah with a view to achieving the Most Great Peace.
The first deals with the establishment of a universal auxiliary language. Baha'u'llah refers to this matter in the Book of Aqdas and in many of His Tablets. Thus in the Tablet of Ishraqat He says:
The Sixth Ishraq (Effulgence) is Concord and Union amongst men. Through the radiance of Union have the regions of the world at all times been illumined, and the greatest of all means thereunto is the understanding of one another's writing and speech. Ere this, in Our Epistles, have We commanded the Trustees of the House of Justice, either to choose one of the existing tongues, or to originate a new one, and in like manner to adopt a common script, teaching these to the children in all the schools of the world, that the world may become even as one land and one home.
About the time when this proposal of Baha'u'llah was first given to the world, there was born in Poland a boy named Ludovic Zamenhof, who was destined to play a leading part in carrying it into effect. Almost from his infancy, the ideal of a universal language became a dominant motive in Zamenhof's life, and the result of his devoted labors was the invention and widespread adoption of the language known as Esperanto, which has now stood the test of many years and has proved to be a very satisfactory medium of international intercourse. It has the great advantage that it can be mastered in about a twentieth part of the time required to master such languages as English, French or German. At an Esperanto banquet given in Paris in February 1913, Abdu'l-Baha said: --
Today one of the chief causes of the differences in Europe is the diversity of languages. We say this man is a German, the other is an Italian, then we meet an Englishman and then again a Frenchman. Although they belong to the same race, yet language is the greatest barrier between them. Were a universal auxiliary language in operation they would all be considered as one.
While these allusions to Esperanto are specific and encouraging, it remains true that until the House of Justice has acted on the matter in accordance with Baha'u'llah's instruction the Bahá'í Faith is not committed to Esperanto nor to any other living or artificial tongue. Abdu'l-Baha Himself said: "The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost, but no one person can construct a Universal Language." -- Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 95.
Which language to adopt, and whether it is to be a new or constructed one, is a decision which the nations of the world will have to make.
League of Nations
Another proposal frequently and powerfully advocated by Baha'u'llah was that a Universal League of Nations should be formed for the maintenance of international peace. In a letter to Queen Victoria, written while He was still a prisoner in the barracks of Akka,1 He said: --
O Rulers of the earth! Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions. ...
In 1875, Abdu'l-Baha gave a forecast of the establishment of a Universal League of Nations, which is especially interesting at the present time2 in view of the strenuous attempts now being made to establish such a league. He wrote: --
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. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner, the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. Should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure. -- The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 64-65.
Bahá'ís see grave deficiencies in the structure of the League of Nations1 which falls short of the type of institution which Baha'u'llah described as essential to the establishment of world peace. On December 17, 1919, Abdu'l-Baha declared: --
In a letter to the Secretary of the Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration, in August 1911, Abdu'l-Baha said: --
About fifty years ago in the Book of Aqdas, Baha'u'llah commanded people to establish universal peace and summoned all the nations to the divine banquet of international arbitration, so that the questions of boundaries, of national honor and property, and of vital interests between nations might be settled by an arbitral court of justice, and that no nation would dare to refuse to abide by the decisions thus arrived at. If any quarrel between two nations it must be adjudicated by this international court and be arbitrated and decided upon like the judgment rendered by the Judge between two individuals. If at any time any nation dares to break such a decision, all the other nations must arise to put down this rebellion.
Again, in one of His Paris talks in 1911, He said: --
A supreme tribunal shall be established by the peoples and governments of every nation, composed of members elected from each country and government. The members of this great council shall assemble in unity. All disputes of an international character shall be submitted to this court, its work being to arrange by arbitration everything which otherwise would be a cause of war. This mission of this tribunal would be to prevent war.
the quarter of a century preceding the establishment of the League of Nations
a permanent Court of Arbitration was
established at The Hague (1900), and many arbitration treaties were signed, but
most of these fell far short of the comprehensive proposals of Baha'u'llah. No
arbitration treaty was made between two great Powers in which all matters of dispute
were included. Differences affecting "vital interests," "honor" and "independence"
were specifically excepted. Not only so, but effective guarantees that nations
would abide by the terms of the treaties into which they had entered were lacking.
In the Bahá'í proposals, on the other hand, questions of boundaries, of national
honor and of vital interest are expressly included, and agreements will have the
supreme guarantee of the World League of Nations behind them. Only when these
proposals are completely carried out will international arbitration attain the
full scope of its beneficent possibilities and the curse of war be finally banished
from the world.
As a religious body, Bahá'ís have, at the express command of Baha'u'llah, entirely abandoned the use of armed force in their own interests, even for strictly defensive purposes. In Persia many, many thousands of the Babis and Bahá'ís have suffered cruel deaths because of their faith. In the early days of the Cause the Babis on various occasions defended themselves and their families by the sword, with great courage and bravery. Baha'u'llah, however, forbade this. Abdu'l-Baha writes: --
Baha'u'llah wrote to one of the persecutors of His cause: --
Gracious God! This people need no weapons of destruction, inasmuch as they have girded themselves to reconstruct the world. Their hosts are the hosts of goodly deeds, and their arms the arms of upright conduct, and their commander the fear of God. Blessed that one that judgeth with fairness. By the righteousness of God! Such hath been the patience, the calm, the resignation of contentment of this people that they have become the exponents of justice, and so great hath been their forbearance, that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, and this notwithstanding that these whom the world hath wronged have endured tribulations the like of which the history of the world hath never recorded, nor the eyes of any nation witnessed. What is it that could have induced them to reconcile themselves to these grievous trials, and to refuse to put forth a hand to repel them? What could have caused such resignation and serenity? The true cause is to be found in the band which the Pen of Glory hath, day and night, chosen to impose, and in Our assumption of the reins of authority, through the power and might of Him Who is the Lord of all mankind. -- Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 74-75.
soundness of Baha'u'llah's nonresistance policy has already been proved by results.
For every believer martyred in Persia, the Bahá'í faith has received a hundred
new believers into its fold, and the glad and dauntless way in which these martyrs
cast the crowns of their lives at the feet of their Lord has furnished to the
world the clearest proof that they had found a new life for which death has no
terrors, a life of ineffable fullness and joy, compared with which the pleasures
of earth are but as dust in the balance, and the most fiendish physical tortures
but trifles light as air.
Although Baha'u'llah, like Christ, counsels His follows as individuals and as a religious body to adopt an attitude of nonresistance and forgiveness toward their enemies, He teaches that it is the duty of the community to prevent injustice and oppression. If individuals are persecuted and injured it is wrong for a community to allow pillage and murder to continue unchecked within its borders. It is the duty of a good government to prevent wrongdoing and to punish offenders.1 So also with the community of nations. If one nation oppresses or injures another, it is the duty of all other nations to unite to prevent such oppression. Abdu'l-Baha writes: -- "It may happen that at a given time warlike and savage tribes may furiously attack the body politic with the intention of carrying on a wholesale slaughter of its members; under such a circumstance defense is necessary."
Hitherto the usual practice of mankind has been that if one nation attacked another, the rest of the nations of the world remained neutral, and accepted no responsibility in the matter unless their own interests were directly affected or threatened. The whole burden of defense was left to the nation attacked, however weak and helpless it might be. The teaching of Baha'u'llah reverses this position and throws the responsibility of defense not specially on the nation attacked, but on all the others, individually and collectively. As the whole of mankind is one community, an attack on any one nation is an attack on the community, and ought to be dealt with by the community. Were this doctrine generally recognized and acted on, any nation contemplating an aggression on another would know in advance that it would have to reckon with the opposition not of that other nation only, but of the whole of the rest of the world. This knowledge alone would be sufficient to deter even the boldest and most bellicose of nations. When a sufficiently strong league of peace-loving nations is established war will, there, become a thing of the past. During the period of transition from the old state of international anarchy to the new state of international solidarity aggressive wars will still be possible, and in these circumstances, military or other coercive action in the cause of international justice, unity and peace may be a positive duty. Abdu'l-Baha writes that in such case: --
A conquest can be a praiseworthy thing, and there are times when war becomes the powerful basis of peace, and ruin the very means of reconstruction. If, for example, a high-minded sovereign marshals his troops to block the onset of the insurgent and the aggressor, or again, if he takes the field and distinguishes himself in a struggle to unify a divided state and people, if, in brief, he is waging war for a righteous purpose, then this seeming wrath is mercy itself, and this apparent tyranny the very substance of justice and this warfare the cornerstone of peace. Today, the task befitting great rulers is to establish universal peace, for in this lies the freedom of all peoples. -- The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 70-71.Unity of East and West
Another factor which will help in bringing about universal peace is the linking together of the East and the West. The Most Great Peace is no mere cessation of hostilities, but a fertilizing union and cordial cooperation of the hitherto sundered peoples of the earth which will bear much precious fruit. In one of His talks in Paris, Abdu'l-Baha said: --
In the past, as in the present, the Spiritual Sun of Truth has always shone from the horizon of the East. In the East Moses arose to lead and teach the people. On the Eastern horizon rose the Lord Christ. Muhammad was sent to an Eastern nation. The Bab arose in the Eastern land of Persia. Baha'u'llah lived and taught in the East. All the great spiritual teachers arose in the Eastern world.
1. A battle of the Italo-Turkish War which broke out on September 29, 1911. back
1. It is of interest that Zamenhof's daughter, Lydia, became an active Bahá'í. back
1. 1868 to 1870. back 2. The author wrote this passage in 1919-1920. back
1. The same considerations apply to the United Nations Organization. back
1. See also section on Treatment of Criminals, pp. 153-155. back
Go on to Various Ordinances and Teachings, Chapter Ten, or to the table of contents.