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We live in a troubled world in which the Bahá'í Faith is a living example of an endeavour to establish an expanding unity on a global scale, operating as a single social organism; it provides in embryo form a model for a new world order.
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Towards the New World Order:
A Bahá'í perspective

by Graham Nicholson

published in Bahá'í Studies in Australasia vol. 3
Roseberry: Association for Bahá'í Studies Australia, 1996
The term "new world order" has become very much a term in vogue usage in recent years, particularly since it was used by former USSR General Secretary Gorbachev in the 1988 United Nations General Assembly address, and since it was adopted by advisers to USA President Bush during the course of the Gulf War, a usage that was subsequently adopted by the President himself.

Since these recent usages occurred, the term has come to represent some form of general description of the new post - Cold War global arrangements following the collapse of the Communist Bloc and the increase in the level of cooperation between Great Powers.

It is a term that has been the subject of considerable attention, discussion and some cynicism. To some, recent events, including the Gulf War, have set a new direction in international affairs sufficient to warrant the appellation "new world order". More commonly, there is acceptance that there have been changes in the nature of world politics, but accompanied by a reservation as to whether these changes have been sufficiently dramatic and far-reaching to justify such an appellation. Thus the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Evans, has described the experience of the Gulf War as a resounding affirmation and demonstration of the effectiveness of the principles of collective security, but with a reservation that the time for the "new world order" had not yet come (see "The New World Order and the United Nations", in "Whose New World Order?" [1991] Federation Press). Reference could also be made to various essays in "Whatever happened to the New World Order?" (24 Hours Special Supplement, February 1992).

It is of course evident from any reasonable assessment of contemporary international events that, despite these recent changes, contention and conflict still continue to exercise a pervasive influence in world affairs. In a very recent report by Justice Marcus Einfeld entitled "The New World Order: Redefining Refugees", he said:

"The 1990 Gulf War ended, as it started, with a ringing declaration from leaders everywhere that the world had entered what they were pleased to call a "new international order". Whatever this expression or concept means to its authors, human conflict continues throughout the world, as it has always. The causes are many, including racism, religious and cultural discrimination, nationalism, economic deprivation and selfishness. Whatever the cause or the situation, millions of the world's people are dispossessed and have become, through no fault of their own, in search of refuge from their home or rulers".

The collapse of the Cold War has itself precipitated a great expansion in ethnic rivalry and bloodshed, largely undeterred by any threat of collective action. Religious, racial and ethnic intolerance are rampart. These factors have been added to the many other global ills previously existing. Labour continues to be exploited in 3rd World countries under the pressure of the expanding international market economy to meet the demands of multi-nationals and the needs of the wealthy consumer countries. Trade wars between emerging power blocks threaten free trade. The poverty gap continues to widen and many people still go to bed hungry or are starving. Breaches of human rights continue to occur unchecked. The dispersion of weapons of war, including weapons of mass destruction, continues to smaller or less powerful nations. Natural and man-made disasters continue, largely unabated, to the distress of millions. The various environmental problems continue to unfold with few comprehensive solutions. One is entitled to ask, and should ask, in such a scenario, is this the form of "new world order" that can effectively guarantee humanity's long term future? Is this a form of world organisation with which our consciences can live?

A few moments of reflection on these vital questions will suggest to most the answers. Many leading world thinkers are already vocal in their answers. One has only to think of the members of the Club of Rome, of David Suzuki, of the compilers of the Brandt report and other recent reports, warning of the dangers of continuing with our present global system and attitudes.

The existing world order is of course a product of our history and the application of pragmatic political approaches at an international level. It has been constructed largely in a piece-meal fashion upon the existing framework of sovereign nation-states, a framework that has since the last World War been expanded to encompass virtually the entire land mass of the planet. The system is directed predominantly at the satisfaction of national self-interests, although increasingly this is in tension with the evolving links between nations. In my submission, it is a system that is a most unlikely candidate upon which to successfully construct a radically new world order, one that reflects the realities of the growing level of global interdependence. It should come as no surprise that it is a system that is proving to be incapable of adequately meeting the needs of the time, even if it may have done so in the past. This inadequacy is reflected in the many stresses appearing from many directions, indicating some deep-seated and acute disease, a fundamental malaise in the global body politic.

Accompanying these stresses are many calls for reform at the international level. These are increasingly attracting more attention and are being taken more seriously. No longer automatically branded as mere idealistic thinking, the solutions offered are many and varied. They include radical suggestions to reform of the United Nations Organisation and some of its organs. They commonly have an international emphasis.

The Universal House of Justice, the ruling body of the Bahá'í Faith, in a recent message from its seat in Haifa, Israel, has said:

"the call for unity, for a new world order, is audible from many directions. The change in world society is characterized by phenomenal speed. A feature of this change is a suddenness, a precipitateness, which appears to be the consequence of some mysterious, rampart force. The positive aspects of this change reveal an unaccustomed openness to global concepts, movement toward international and regional collaboration, an inclination to warring parties to opt for peaceful solutions, a search for spiritual values" (1992 Ridvan Message).

The interest that the term "new world order" has generated may perhaps reflect an inner psychological need on the part of many people for a more peaceful world, one where there is a much greater degree of security, tranquillity and certainty than has so far been evident this century.

At a deeper level, it evokes a powerful emotive response in those who have the vision of a united, just and peaceful world, the oft spoken "brotherhood of man". Such a vision has been described down through the ages of recorded history. It is a matter that has engaged the thoughts, and provoked an outpouring of the feelings of countless seers, poets and people of goodwill. It has had in the past and continues in the present to have a profound influence on the thoughts and actions of many people. It travels beyond the mere expression of the survival instinct, beyond any humanistic theories of enlightened self interest or ethics. At its deepest level it constitutes a recognition of our common humanity and the spiritual inter-connectedness of all peoples. It has been fed in the past on the chaos and inhumanity that has characterized so much of human contact. It demands a more peaceful, fairer future for all.

The Universal House of Justice has pointed out that the practical implementation of this vision is at long last within the reach of the nations ("The Promise of World Peace" [1986]). The Universal House of Justice has proclaimed that world peace is not only possible, but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet. All the nations now not only proclaim their readiness, but also their longing for peace and harmony, and for constructive solutions to the enormous problems they face. The paralyzing anomaly, as the Universal House of Justice points out, is that while there is a ready assent given to the need for global peace, there is also uncritical assent given to the notion that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive, that the differences that divide humanity are regarded as being more pervasive than those that unite, and that therefore a lasting peace remains out of reach and need not be seriously pursued.

The typical patterns of conduct of human beings in the past are taken to hold the key to their likely conduct on a global scale in the future, thus eliminating any realistic prospect of meaningful and significant change in those patterns and thus the framework of world society. The possibility of constructing a new world order based on peace, harmony, cooperation and reciprocity is simply assumed to be an elusive dream. The common response to any expressions of the global vision, even today, is that while it might seem a good idea in principle, in the recipient's view it is not likely to be a viable option for a long time to come, and certainly not in the recipient's lifetime.

The refusal of the generality of human kind to realistically and voluntarily embrace the concept of world peace as a necessary and practical option for implementation within the near future, the failure of the greater mass of individuals to actively seek out its realisation and the stubborn adherence to old patterns of behaviour means, in the view of the Universal House of Justice, that such a peace will have to be reached through a continuance of the present suffering and turmoil that is sweeping the face of the earth. This will continue until the overwhelming majority give at least grudging assent to the assertion that a new global order is imperative and indispensable. In so saying, the Universal House of Justice is merely echoing the prophetic words of the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, when He wrote over 100 years ago:

"The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective." (Gleanings, page 216)

The fundamental defect, in the view of Bahá'u'lláh, is the lack of unity in the affairs of the people of the world. All the other problems besetting humanity are but symptoms of this basic deficiency. It is this that must, first and foremost, be addressed. He says:

"The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." (Gleanings, page 286)

The necessary solution prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh is the union of the peoples of the world in one common order. The call is not one for the reform of the present order, or for attention to be given to any of the particular ills afflicting it. Rather it is a call for the replacement of that present order. It has outlived its usefulness to humanity and carries within the seeds of its own destruction. Human society, Bahá'u'lláh says, must be either reborn or perish. His emphatic promise is that such a rebirth will occur, to be incorporated in a new global system which will deservedly warrant the title of a "new world order". To use His words:

"Soon will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead ... The day is approaching when We will have rolled up the world and all that is therein, and spread out a new order in its stead" (Gleanings, pages 7, 313).

The Bahá'í view essentially envisages the world as concurrently undergoing a two fold process - disintegration and integration. On the one hand, the present world order is gradually being disrupted and deranged. On the other, that existing system is gradually being replaced by a new system based on the values to be found in the Bahá'í teachings. Each of these processes necessarily interacts with the other.

As assessment of contemporary international events lends considerable support to this analysis of the processes now at work. Various ideologies have been tried and tested this century and found wanting. We are moving from a post World War bi-polar world of nuclear confrontation into a world which some regard as uni-polar, others regard as multi-polar, but in any event is one marked by instability, violence, insecurity and confusion. And yet there are emerging signs of hope. In the words of Professor Robert Scalapino:

"... the term 'multipolar' is far too symmetrical to do justice to the present situation. In truth, we live in a semi-anarchic world with few power poles. Only the most primitive and uncertain means of resolving disputes among nations exist. We are still groping in the effort to move away from such concepts as the absolute sanctity of national sovereignty and the assumption that, despite the impact of economic interdependence and the communications - information revolution, domestic policies are only the concern of the national government directly involved."

He concludes his article by saying:

"We are on the threshold of the most promising age in human history. While it is perhaps premature to herald the birth of a new world order, the abundance of problems should not obscure the dramatic growth in peaceful international cooperation and the extraordinary opportunities to turn science and technology to the service, rather than the destruction, of individuals everywhere". ("The New World Order: Rhetoric or Reality," in 24 Hours Special Supplement, pages 11-12, 15).

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, has written of the turbulent age in which we live and its significance:

"The convulsions of this transitional and most turbulent period in the annals of humanity are the essential prerequisites, and herald the inevitable approach of the Age of Ages, 'the time of the end', in which the folly and tumult of strife that has, since the dawn of history, blackened the annals of mankind, will have been finally transmuted into the wisdom and tranquillity of an undisturbed, a universal, and lasting peace, in which the discord and separation of the children of men will have given way to the world-wide reconciliation, and the complete unification of the divers elements that constitute human society." (The Promised Day is Come, page 122).

He points out that:

"The fires lit by this great ordeal are the consequences of men's failure to recognise it ... adversity, prolonged, world-wide, afflictive, allied to chaos and universal destruction, must needs convulse the nations, stir the conscience of the world, disillusion the masses, precipitate a radical change in the very conception of society, and coalesce ultimately the disjointed, the bleeding limbs of mankind into one body, single, organically united, and indivisible". (The Promised Day is Come, page 127).

Such a teaching is surely revolutionary in nature rather than reformist. However, it should be immediately said that the Bahá'í teachings do not advocate any participation by the Bahá'ís in contributing to this process of degeneration and disintegration. Quite the contrary. The decline and eventual overthrow of the existing order is envisaged as occurring as a result of forces already in place and working within that order. The Bahá'í view is therefore diametrically opposed to Marxist and other revolutionary theories which may also advocate active participation in the radical transformation of society. The Bahá'í teachings, by way of contrast, outlaw the use of violence and confrontational methods and specifically prohibit Bahá'ís from engaging in politically divisive activities, no matter how meritorious or progressive they may seem at the time.

The justification for this Bahá'í view stems from a matter of basic principle and an understanding of the purpose of life. Bahá'u'lláh states that all men were created to carry forward an ever advancing civilisation. His mission is none other than the achievement of the organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations, a goal which should be regarded as signalizing through its advent the coming of age of the entire human race. This maturation is to be the climax of that process of integration previously referred to.

Thus, the achievement of unity is central to the life of a Bahá'í. All efforts should be directed at the achievement of unity and should not be sidetracked or hindered by any destructive or unnecessary diversions.

Essential to an understanding of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh is His dramatic proclamation that we are living in a unique period of history, one that is witnessing the most fundamental change that has ever occurred in the organic evolution of human society. It is the climax of a long process as human society has slowly progressed through ever increasing circles of unity - the tribe, the city-state, the nation, and now world unity. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son and successor to Bahá'u'lláh, explains:

"... there are periods and stages in the life of the aggregate world of humanity which at one time was passing through its degree of childhood, at another its time of youth but now has entered its long presaged period of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere visible and apparent ... That which was applicable to human needs during the early history of the race could neither meet nor satisfy the demands of this day and period of newness and consummation. Humanity has emerged from its former degree of limitation and preliminary training. Man must now become imbued with new virtues and powers, new moralities, new capacities. New bounties, bestowals and perfections are awaiting and already descending upon him. The gifts and graces of the period of youth, although timely and sufficient during the adolescence of the world of mankind, are now incapable of meeting the requirements of its maturity." (Foundations of World Unity, pages 9-10).

The Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, has written in similar terms:

"Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and full established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing in maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognise the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once and for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of life." (The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, page 202).

In the light of these comments it will come as no surprise that the term "new world order" is nothing new to Bahá'ís. Bahá'u'lláh himself used this term when writing over a century ago in a most prophetic manner to describe the new system which He said would inevitably come to pass. He spoke as though the system already existed in its full power and splendour, a system the like of which humanity had never before witnessed. It is the golden age, the full flowering of the planet to maturity, the new era of human brotherhood and spiritual discovery, the birth of world citizenship, the establishment of the oneness of the human race. He wrote:

"The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System - the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed." (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, page 85).

His compelling command to His followers is to exert their utmost endeavours to give practical effect to this system through spreading the message of Bahá'u'lláh around the globe. He said:

"Bend your minds and wills to the education of the peoples and kindreds of the earth, that haply ... all mankind (may) become the upholders of one Order, and the inhabitants of one City. ...Ye dwell in one world, and have been created through the operation of one Will." (Gleanings, pages 333-334).

Central to Bahá'u'lláh's model of the "new world order" and the pivot upon which it is to be constructed, is the concept of the oneness of mankind. Commenting on this, the Universal House of Justice has said:

"World Order can be found only on an unshakeable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm." (The Promise of World Peace).

Using an evocative metaphor, Bahá'u'lláh described the concept thus:

"The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. ... Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. ... It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens." (Gleanings, pages 218, 250).

It must, however, be a unity that is built upon a recognition of, and a respect for, the differences that exist between the various members of the human race, whether of colour, race, language, cultural and ethnic background or otherwise. It is a "unity in diversity". These differences are recognised, accepted and valued, but within the wider framework of the underlying and more fundamental oneness of that human race.

The direct enemies of the oneness of humanity and its practical implementation, on the other hand, are national, racial and other prejudices. The offensive aspects of these prejudices are now so well known and documented that it requires little supplementary comment. These prejudices are many and varied. Shoghi Effendi has described those in particular which he calls the three "chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind" being "the triple gods of Nationalism, Racialism and Communism" (The Promised Day is Come, page 117).

Of racialism, The Universal House of Justice has said:

"Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace. Its practice perpetuates too outrageous a violation of the dignity of human beings to be countenanced under any pretext. Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Recognition of the oneness of humanity, implemented by appropriate legal measures, must be universally upheld if this problem is to be overcome." (The Promise of World Peace, page 15).

Of nationalism, the Universal House of Justice said in the same message:

"Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole. Bahá'u'lláh's statement is: 'The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens'. The concept of world citizenship is a direct result of the contraction of the world into a single neighbourhood through scientific advances and of the indisputable interdependence of nations. Love of all the world's people does not exclude love of one's country. The advantage of the part in a world society is best served by promoting the advantage of the whole. Current international activities in various fields which nurture mutual affection and a sense of solidarity among peoples need greatly to be increased." (The Promise of World Peace, pages 15-16).

Thus essential to the establishment of the oneness of humanity, which in turn is essential to the establishment of the world order, is the elimination of national, racial and other prejudices. This of course can be greatly assisted by the adoption of international human rights conventions and declarations, by the enactment and enforcement of appropriate domestic legislation and other such legal and institutional measures. This century has seen outstanding advances in this regard. But these measures of themselves are not enough. More importantly, it requires the creation of a consciousness of the oneness of humanity within every individual. This must be a consciousness that is not just embedded in logic and reason, but one that is firmly implanted in every heart. It is this that gives the concept of oneness its spiritual force, thereby leaving no room for prejudice to take root. It is this that makes the concept a living reality and leads to its practical realization in word and deed. It is this that provides the surest foundation for the new world order. It is this that the Bahá'ís, with all their heart and soul, are committed to work for.

There is at least one further foundation, in the Bahá'í view, to the edifice of the new world order. Its nature has already been adverted to in the reference by Shoghi Effendi to the three chief idols in the desecrated temple of mankind, the triple gods of nationalism, racialism and communism. The first two of these have already been discussed.

The reference to communism, on the other hand, may at first seem to be rather puzzling. The Bahá'í Faith is avowedly non-politically partisan and is not concerned with the merits of otherwise of contemporary secular or materialistic schools of thought or political movements. However, the context in which Shoghi Effendi made this reference clarifies his meaning on this point. He was referring to the demise of religion as a vital force in the affairs of human beings, and its replacement with these three main secular gods. He describes at the time of writing, how the various governments and peoples of the world, whether democratic or totalitarian, whether at peace or at war, whether of the east or the west, Christian or Islamic, were, in various forms and in different degrees, worshipping at the alter of these three gods through their 'priests', the politicians and the worldly-wise. He quotes from the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I think written before the Russian Revolution of 1917:

"Movements, newly born and world-wide in their range, will exert their utmost efforts for the advancement of their designs. The Movement of the Left will acquire great importance. Its influence will spread." (The Promised Day is Come, page 118).

In the text in which this passage appears, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states, after referring to the devastating effects of a conflict and war:

"And the breeding ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root of prejudice is blind imitation of the past - imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril." (Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, page 247).

The reference by Shoghi Effendi to communism, therefore, is directly linked to the usurpation of religion as a force for world order. Communism, of all the latter day philosophies, has come to typify the anti-religious perspective in the identification of those factors that are said to be for the social good. It is a man-made, materialistic philosophy which denies the validity of the spiritual principle as a force in human affairs. Its net effect on the decline of religious sentiment in this century has yet to be adequately analysed and assessed, even after the recent reverses in its fortunes. It is of course not the only factor relevant to the decline of religion world-wide, but it certainly has been a major factor.

Bahá'u'lláh, by way of contrast, has directly and firmly proclaimed the vital necessity of religion as a pillar of the new world order. Its decline in recent times is directly linked to the declining fortunes of the peoples of the world. He said:

"The face of the world hath altered. They way of God and religion of God have ceased to be of any worth in the eyes of men. The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land; ... The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; ... Religion is, verily the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples. ... The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion. ... Religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world ..." (variously collected in The Promised Day is Come, page 117).

In another passage, Bahá'u'lláh states:

"Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, page 125).

The Universal House of Justice has taken up this theme. It said:

"No serious attempt to set human affairs aright, to achieve world peace, can ignore religion. Man's perception and practice of it are largely the stuff of history. An eminent historian described religion as a 'faculty of human nature'. That the perversion of this faculty has contributed to much of the confusion in society and the conflicts in and between individuals can hardly be denied. But neither can any fair minded observer discount the preponderating influence exerted by religion on the vital expressions of civilization. Furthermore, its indispensability to social order has repeatedly been demonstrated by its direct effect on laws and morality." (The Promise of World Peace, pages 7-8).

Thus underlying Bahá'u'lláh's concept of the new world order is a spiritual base, one founded on true religion. By such a religion Bahá'u'lláh is not referring to the outdated and divisive creeds and dogmas that frequently pass under the name of religion and that have caused so much strife and destruction. Rather He is referring to those vital inner forces existing within each individual, which when awakened are founded upon the recognition of the reality of the Divine Force, variously called 'God', 'Allah' or by a variety of other names. Such a religion will emanate from the Divine Essence, and will in turn show people the way to love and unity. It is identifiable by the degree to which it is successful in achieving this end among its adherents, this being the true "fruits" spoken of in the Gospel. It will have the capacity to lead individuals to exhibit the Divine qualities or attributes of perfection, without regard to considerations of race, nation, religion, politics and other prejudices. In this lies the true honour of each person through the exhibition of those spiritual qualities needed for the advancement of civilization and the establishment of the new world order.

'Abdu'l-Bahá speaks of this in clear terms:

"It is certain that the greatest of instrumentalities for achieving the advancement and the glory of man, the supreme agency for the enlightenment and the redemption of the world, is love and fellowship and unity among all the members of the human race. Nothing can be effected in the world, not even conceivably, without unity and agreement, and the perfect means for engendering fellowship and union is true religion." (The Secret of Divine Civilization, page 73).

It follows that Bahá'u'lláh's concept of unity is essentially one of spiritual unity. The establishment of order in the world, Bahá'u'lláh states, will achieve its ultimate consummation in the spiritual unification of the planet, an event which is destined in time to occur.

"That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith." (Gleanings, page 255).

This whole theme is conveniently and powerfully summarised by 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

Chaos and confusion are daily increasing in the world. They will attain such intensity as to render the frame of mankind unable to bear it. Then will men be awakened and become aware that religion is the impregnable stronghold and the manifest light of the world, and its laws, exhortations and teachings the source of life on earth." ("Peace", page 22).

To a generation now largely unaccustomed to approaching their personal affairs, let alone national and international affairs, from a religious perspective, this Bahá'í view may at first be difficult to comprehend. It may even give rise to feelings of discomfort or disbelief. International relations, although historically having a firm grounding in religion, have increasingly become secular in orientation, maintained by the interplay between the perceived national needs of the players. Associated with the emergence of the sovereign nation-state has often been the abandonment of broader spiritual and ethical principles in the quest for maximisation of national self interest. Religious and natural law concepts, which once exercised considerable influence, now rarely do so at the level of power and influence. In its place there is usually separation of church and state, with matters of religion relegated to a sideline or discarded altogether. Denigration of religion and of the religious is not uncommon, often by way of identification with fundamentalist and other extreme religious views, with their associated characteristics of intolerance, rigidity, exclusivity and lack of vision. It is this form of expression that many now associate with the word "religion", whereas in truth it is a distortion of the word. Unfortunately, the purveyors of false religion have not only been the source of much conflict and prejudice, but have also turned many away from seeking religious solutions to the problems of humanity. In the Bahá'í view, this has compounded the problem by directing attention to secular, materialistic solutions. The result has been that humanity, or at least the privileged members of humanity, have had the benefit of great advances in science, technology and material means, but they no longer have the spiritual or ethical capacity to handle these fruits in a way that meets the needs of the time. It is frequently said that human beings have come material giants but remain spiritual and ethical midgets.

For the time being at least, it seems that the debate over the new world order will continue to be driven primarily by pragmatic, secular motives. In a world being forced to come to terms with the increasingly international nature of the major problems facing it, world leaders are likely to be slow in facing up to the full ramifications of the staggering nature of the solutions required. But it should be clear that such efforts, to be successful, cannot be solely pragmatic or political in orientation. If the goal is a just and lasting global peace, of necessity it must be built on correct principles. The Universal House of Justice has stated:

"... the primary challenge in dealing with issues of peace is to raise the context to the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism. For, in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found." (The Promise of World Peace, page 18).

The Bahá'í Faith can be seen as a living example of an endeavour to establish an expanding unity on a global scale. Established and functioning in accordance with the explicit commands of Bahá'u'lláh, it represents a growing community of some 5 million, located in every country on the planet. It operates as a single social organism, through an integrated system of elected local, national and international institutions which function on consultative principles. The members of the Faith attempt in their daily lives to apply the spiritual principles of the Faith, based on love, unity and justice, in all their affairs. They endeavour to eliminate, between themselves and in their contact with the wider society, all national, racial, religious, political and other prejudices, and to replace this with a consciousness of their oneness with all other members of the human family. This in turn is reflected in the functioning of the institutions of the Faith. This system, as it develops towards maturity, provides in embryo form the model for Bahá'u'lláh's new world order, a model which is open for examination to any fair-minded observer. As the Universal House of Justice has stated:

"If the Bahá'í experience can contribute in whatever measure to reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it as model for study." (The Promise of World Peace, pages 26-27).


"Whose New World Order?" Mara R Bustelo and Philip Alston (Eds) (1991), The Federation Press

Whatever Happened to the New World Order? - 24 Hours Special Supplement (February 1992), ABC Radio, Sydney

"The New World Order: Redefining Refugees" Hon Justice Marcus Einfeld, (1992), Austcare, Sydney

1992 Ridvan Message in The Bahá'í World 1992-93. Universal House of Justice, Bahá'í World Centre, Haifa, page 19 et seq

The Promise of World Peace, a Statement by the Universal House of Justice (1986). Universal House of Justice, CPN Publications, Canberra

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh (1983), Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Il

The Promised Day is Come, Shoghi Effendi, (1976) Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi

Foundations of World Unity, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (1972) Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Il

The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, Shoghi Effendi (1974) Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Il

The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh (1992), Bahá'í World Centre, Haifa

Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh (1978), Bahá'í World Centre, Haifa

The Secret of Divine Civilization, 'Abdu'l-Bahá (1979), Bahá'í Publishing Trust, Wilmette, Il

Peace, compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice (1985), Bahá'í Publications Australia

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