United States Baha'i community issues major statement on "The Destiny of America and The Promise of World Peace"
Published 23 December 2001 as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times, the statement says that Baha'is believe the American nation "will evolve, through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace."
Drawing on earlier Baha'i statements and passages from the Baha'i writings, the 645-word document identifies six prerequisites for world peace: "universal acceptance" of the oneness of humanity; the eradication of racism; the full emancipation of women; the elimination of "inordinate disparity" between the rich and the poor; an end to "unbridled nationalism"; and harmony between religious leaders.
Although the statement does not specifically mention the terrorist attacks on 11 September or the American Government's current war against terrorism, the statement was designed to offer a new perspective on these and related events, said Robert Henderson, Secretary General of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States of America, the community's governing body.
"The National Spiritual Assembly felt that the nation would benefit from having a new understanding of its destiny as a nation in terms of the Baha'i vision of the mission of America as being ordained by God," said Dr. Henderson. "Our writings are replete with insights about the role of America as an agent of peace in a world that is becoming a single neighborhood."
After an introduction that highlights Baha'u'llah's call for the unification of humanity, the statement draws on a passage from the Baha'i writings penned in 1938 by Shoghi Effendi, who led the Baha'i Faith from 1921 to 1957.
"The world is moving on,'" says the passage. "'Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex....
"The world is contracting into a neighborhood," the passage continues. "America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving."
Said Dr. Henderson: "These are the things that Shoghi Effendi talked about some 60 years ago -- and we felt we are now seeing them come true before our very eyes.
"Our writings also make clear that peace isn't just a question of signing treaties or diplomatic protocols," said Dr. Henderson. "It involves a whole system of spiritual principles -- an architecture of peace -- that includes the oneness of human race, the abolition of racism, the equality of women, the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty and so on.
"So our purpose is to indicate to people the main elements of peace and to show that America has a special role in its establishment," said Dr. Henderson.
The statement closes with lines from a prayer by 'Abdu'l- Baha, the son of Baha'u'llah, who led the Baha'i Faith from 1892 to 1921."We felt that prayer made a wonderful statement about the nation assuming its God-ordained role of international leadership," said Dr. Henderson.
Dr. Henderson said the statement had already received a number of positive responses. "We're getting many letters and phone calls," he said. "They are in some cases effusive in their praise, calling it a 'grand vision,' or 'so comprehensive.'"
The statement will be published in other major newspapers in the coming weeks, said Dr. Henderson. The US Baha'i community also plans to deliver it to members of Congress, state governors, selected leaders of thought, and, at a point in the near future, the President of the United States, he said.
The entire statement, as published in The New York Times, follows below:
The Destiny of America and The Promise of World Peace
At this time of world turmoil, the United States Baha'i community offers a perspective on the destiny of America as the promoter of world peace.
More than a hundred years ago, Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, addressing heads of state, proclaimed that the age of maturity for the entire human race had come. The unity of humankind was now to be established as the foundation of the great peace that would mark the highest stage in humanity's spiritual and social evolution. Revolutionary and world-shaking changes were therefore inevitable.
The Baha'i writings state:
The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex.... Dangers, undreamt of and unpredictable, threaten it both from within and from without. Its governments and peoples are being gradually enmeshed in the coils of the world's recurrent crises and fierce controversies.... The world is contracting into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving.
The American nation, Baha'is believe, will evolve, through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace. This is the peace promised by God in the sacred texts of the world's religions.
Establishing peace is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not customarily associated with the pursuit of peace.
Universal acceptance of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humankind is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace.
Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace.
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality of the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace.
The inordinate disparity between rich and poor keeps the world in a state of instability, preventing the achievement of peace.
Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole.
Religious strife, the cause of innumerable wars and conflicts throughout history, is a major obstacle to progress. The challenge facing the world's religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with compassion and the desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their God, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace.
Baha'is pray, "May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace."
During this hour of crisis, we affirm our abiding faith in the destiny of America. We know that the road to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous, but we are confident that America will emerge from her trials undivided and undefeatable.
- National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States
For more information and for a free copy of the booklet The Promise of World Peace, please visit our Web site at www.us.bahai.org or call us toll free at 1-800-22-UNITE.
©Copyright 2002, Baha'i World News Service