In the Baha’i revelation, Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder, proclaims: “My object is none other than the betterment of the world and the tranquility of its peoples. The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”
Looking around at the conflicts in the world, you may wonder how Baha’is can feel confident that world peace is not only possible, but also inevitable. That’s reflected in this statement offered to the world by the Baha’i international governing body, the Universal House of Justice:
“The Great Peace towards which people of good will throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history, it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible, but inevitable.”
In “The Promise of World Peace,” the House of Justice elaborates on both the favorable signs and the barriers to living in a united world. Weaving a powerful narrative that affirms human dignity and humanity’s great potential for transformation, they urge both leaders and individuals to make the choice to act at this critical juncture when the world is facing so much chaos and disorder.
They warn, “Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behavior, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth.”
Old patterns of behavior are tied to old patterns of thought. What if one of the biggest barriers to peace is a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature? The belief that humans are selfish and aggressive is at the root of a paralyzing contradiction—longing for peace, on one hand, yet thinking humanity is incapable of it, on the other.
Baha’is see this view as a distortion of the human spirit, which was created as noble—a view that hinders the realization of peace.
Baha’is are not naive about humanity’s past history nor unaware of the current confusions, conflicts and calamities. Rather, they regard these conditions as a natural phase in an organic process leading to the unification of the human race.
Humanity is passing through stages analogous to infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Understanding that we are moving through our turbulent adolescence and into maturity, is not a reason for despair, but seen as a “prerequisite to undertaking the stupendous enterprise of building a peaceful world,” as outlined in the peace statement, which urges us to examine that “such an enterprise is possible, that the necessary constructive forces do exist, and that unifying social structures can be erected.”
While universal lasting peace may be in our distant future, the urgency of laying the foundation is before us now. Whatever suffering and turmoil the years immediately ahead may hold, however dark the immediate circumstances, the Bahá’í community is confident in the ultimate outcome.
“Far from signalizing the end of civilization, the convulsive changes towards which humanity is being ever more rapidly impelled will serve to release the ‘potentialities inherent in the station of humanity’ and reveal ‘the full measure of his/her destiny on earth, the innate excellence of our reality.’”
With commitment to our spiritual values, all co-religionists can live our way into Baha’u’llah’s exhortation: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Whatever holiday you celebrate this season, may it be peaceful.