August 24, 2002
Last modified August 24, 2002 - 12:20 am
Faith and Values: Is peace possible in today's changing world?
For The Gazette
"What are those scars on your arm?" I ask Nuku, a native of Kenya in his early 20s.
"Oh, this is from my previous life, before I knew God and didn't believe the people of the world were the same as me. I used to have war with the tribe that did this to me, now I am married to one of its members," he says proudly.
Nuku's story is one heard many times, the spiritual transformation of a human being.
Having recently lived in Israel for three years and having visited dozens of countries around the world, I am continually being asked the question, "Will there ever be peace in the world?"
Nuku's story is only one reason I not only believe peace is possible but in-evitable. My be-lief is based on the teachings of the Baha'i Faith and on my ob-servations of the human spirit.
I have ob-served many signs of human-kind's movement toward peace, but the most obvious is the physical unification of the planet.
In the short 158 years since May 11,1844, when Samuel Morse sent the first inter-city telegraph message asking, "What has God wrought?" announcing the dawn of the electronic age, we have unified the world physically with air travel and instant global communications. For the first time in history we have the ability to view the entire planet, with all its diversified peoples, in one perspective.
Even when I travel to remote places in the world, my hosts often ask, "Would you like to check your e-mail?"
A second observation is the general desire of people everywhere wanting to live in peace with safety and education
for their children. Even in countries that cry for war, the majority of people on the street cry for peace, although
sometimes being out-shouted by a fanatical fundamental minority.
A third observation is the independence of a majority of nations, indicating the completion of the process of nation building. And, while patriotism is flourishing in many countries, bridled nationalism is the encouraged norm.
A fourth observation is the consequent vast increase in cooperation among hitherto isolated and antagonistic peoples and groups in international undertakings in the scientific, educational, legal, economic and cultural fields.
Also significant is the advent of hundreds of international organizations focused on peace, human rights, racial understanding and equality of women and men and calling for an end to war. The most notable of these organizations is the United Nations.
While still in its infancy and struggling to respond to the myriad problems confronting the countries of the world, the U.N. is an international venue where the nations of the world can consult for the first time in history.
The fifth and most significant observation is the guiding principle behind this shift in the world. The Great Peace, which people of all ages have visualized, poets dreamed of and sacred scriptures of all religions have promised, is now possible.
Guided by the global vision of Baha'u'llah, prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith, I, along with nearly 6 million Baha'is worldwide, believe that world peace is inevitable but that our actions toward building a united global neighborhood will determine how long the process will take.
For the past 6,000 to 10,000 years humanity has gone through a painful process of maturation much like the stages of its individual members and has moved through the stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence and now culminating in early adulthood. Today, as we follow world events in the news media, we see a mixture of mature and immature behavior much like the behavior of young people entering into adulthood.
The critical question today is: How many times will humankind put its finger on the hot stove before it can learn the painful lessons necessary for its maturation?
Today, as the human race enters adulthood, it is ready to consider and capable of understanding new principles. Because we can now view the planet for the first time in history, we are ready to understand the Oneness of Mankind.
As Baha'u'llah teaches, "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."
In addition to teaching this vision of the oneness of mankind, Baha'u'llah also taught the oneness of religion.
Historically, immature peoples, focused on racism and religious intolerance, have generated most of the strife the world has endured. The founders of the world's great religions taught love, harmony and unity using the "Golden Rule" as the common thread.
Unfortunately, there are still those few religious leaders who use religion to create hatred, confusion and division.
Baha'u'llah teaches that religion is one and that it is based on progressive revelation. The role of the world's religions is unity. The Prophets of God are like teachers who all renew the same spiritual message from our Supreme Creator about the immortality of our soul but each one bringing new social laws for different times, places and peoples of the world.
These messages are consistent with the understanding of the student at that time. Just as a third-grade teacher teaches basic math, he or she is cognizant of algebra but does not teach these advanced principles to 9-year-olds. The same is true with the Prophets of God as They are sent to educate humanity over the ages.
As we look deeper into the core teachings of the world's religions we see many more commonalties between them than differences. The fanaticism we witness in religion today is addressed in the Promise of World Peace, a 1985 statement on Peace by the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Bah·'i Faith.
It states, "The resurgence of fanatical religious fervor occurring in the many lands cannot be regarded as more than a dying convulsion."
And, as we watch corrupt institutions in business, medicine, education, law, government and politics crumble, we can be encouraged again by the Universal House of Justice when it reminds us of Baha'u'llah's message for today.
It states, "We hold firmly the conviction that all human beings have been created "to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization"; that "to act like the beasts of the fields is unworthy of man"; that the virtues that befit human dignity are trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and living kindness toward all peoples.
We reaffirm the belief that the "potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on Earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God."
We enter this promised day, at a time when the capacity for humankind, through the grace of God, can finally bring
about justice in the world. We as individuals have control over what we think and possess the ability to create a vision
based on these important spiritual principles:
I encourage each of you to participate in the "Spiritual Transformation of the World" by creating a vision that embraces the fact that world peace is not only possible but inevitable.
Nine ways we can work for peace are:
In my desire to impart hope for you, your children and all future generations, I cite the emphatic promise of Baha'u'llah: "These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come."
Dan Geiger is a native of Billings. He has worked in counseling for the past 30 years. He and Diana, his wife, just returned from living in Israel for the past three years where they served at the Baha'i World Centre.
©Copyright 2002, Billings Gazette