Preparation for Life in Peace
The title of today's section of the Seminar on "Preparation for Life in Peace" could well have two different meanings: 1) the steps which the individual and society must take to achieve conditions on the planet for life in full peace; or 2) the transformation that the human race must evidence to be worthy of participating in the life of a planet where peace prevails, war has been once and for all eradicated, and a rich world civilization is gradually unfolding.
The Baha'i International Community would like to suggest that the same changes of attitudes, values, behavior patterns, mind-sets on the part of the individual and society will need to occur 1) first in the process of achieving unity on the planet, unity taking into account the whole diversity of human backgrounds and aspirations; and then 2) in carrying this unity even further, under conditions of world peace, so that the full potentials of the rich human endowment can be expressed as a contribution to life on Earth.
We approach the International Year of Peace with a clear understanding -- certainly in this room -- that this planet Earth is one world and that the human race is one people. Already, in the first quarter of this century, `Abdu'l-Bahá, son of Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, saw clearly this truth when He discussed the seven kinds of unity that needed to be achieved before we as human beings could achieve happiness. He saw as the key difference the fact that, in His words,
"In cycles gone by, though harmony was established, yet, owing to the absence of means, the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided, nay even among the peoples of one and the same continent association and interchange of thought were well nigh impossible. Consequently intercourse, understanding and unity amongst all the peoples and kindreds of the earth were unattainable."
In contrast, He perceived that, already early in this century, through the revolution in communication the continents were now one, and "the members of the human family, whether peoples of governments, cities or villages" had become increasingly interdependent. He saw further what we today take for granted, that
"For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved."
If we do not obey a physical law, we must suffer the consequences. Likewise if we ignore or reject a spiritual law, the same must happen. Therefore today, it is the Baha'i view, that we cannot go counter to the spiritual law of unity as the key and hallmark for this age.
Speaking about this century, `Abdu'l-Bahá remarked that "minds have developed, perceptions have become acute, sciences and arts are widespread and capacity exists for the proclamation and promulgation of the real and ultimate unity of mankind which will bring forth marvelous results. It will reconcile all religions, make warring nations loving, cause hostile kings to become friendly and bring peace and happiness to the human world."
It should be encouraging to see to what degree the United Nations has in its almost forty years of existence consistently worked for the seven kinds of unity referred to by `Abdu'l-Bahá early in this century: unity in the political realm, unity of thought in world undertakings, unity in freedom, unity in religion, unity of nations, unity of races, and unity of language.
We who work closely with the United Nations can see, for instance, that in the work of the UN unity in the political realm is gradually -- very tentatively -- evolving. Through the ideals embodied in the Charter, the United Nations is concerned with the well-being of humanity. It is, as we know, a forum for political agreements between nations -- no matter how superficial these may be; and this allows the United Nations to take gradual steps -- of a global nature -- to solve major world problems of the environment, food, health, population, drug abuse, human rights, etc. It is often said that the UN is a place where major wars may well be prevented, and small conflagrations kept localized and at times resolved quickly. It is quite evident that the degree of success of the United Nations in this area of peace-keeping is, of course, entirely dependent on the political will of the nations that make up this vast association of almost all independent nations on the planet.
As to "unity of thought in world undertakings," this certainly can be witnessed quite widely at the United Nations, where, for some forty years, many of the best minds of the world have pooled their knowledge to serve humanity, allowing the UN to be an effective avenue for drawing on the resources of its member nations to improve the world's social and economic conditions. And, as we know, no problem of concern to humanity is too minute to escape the attention of the United Nations, and for the UN to begin action in an attempt to resolve it.
As for the third kind of unity, "unity in freedom," again the action taken by the United Nations in fostering the process of decolonization has given us a world made up of almost all independent nations. More than a hundred nations have joined the UN since 1945, most of them from the developing world, having achieved independence since the UN began. This development is, in the Baha'i view, vital, because without this "unity in freedom," it is impossible to imagine an eventual world society, a world government or world federation: for all members must share the same status of freedom and dignity, so that they can have an equal voice in the parliament of nations.
`Abdu'l-Bahá tells us that the fourth candle -- "unity in religion" is the "cornerstone of the foundation itself." In the Baha'i perspective an examination of Baha'i communities around the world, in more than 160 independent countries, shows the impact on human beings of an expansion and unfoldment of religious truth and teachings, containing guidance for humanity in this stage of the unification of the human race. In the Baha'i world community -- uniting peoples of the most varied backgrounds -- we see the gradual implementation of those spiritual and moral values, principles, and laws necessary for each human being to change himself, and working with his fellow beings, to create a world society which has been described in the Baha'i Writings as a "system in which Force is made the servant of Justice."
As for the fifth candle of unity, "the unity of nations," which `Abdu'l-Bahá assures us will be securely established in this century, and will cause "all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland," the United Nations is very much a part of the evolutionary process which has led humanity from its earliest form -- the family -- to progressively wider and wider stages of unity -- in the clan, in the tribe, the city-state, the nation, and beyond that, the stage for our times, that of world unity. Eventually there will be other, fuller stages of peace, as humanity matures spiritually and learns the art of cooperation and unity.
The sixth candle -- "unity of races" -- can already be observed, again in the United Nations, where from the very beginning, race unity has played an important role in fostering UN action to abolish discrimination on the basis of race, stressing on the common humanity in all of us. It can also be seen in the Baha'i world community, where men and women from over 2,000 ethnic backgrounds have become united in the common cause of bringing about world peace and a world civilization.
Finally the seventh and last candle of unity, "unity in language," is, as we realize, extremely difficult to achieve at the present stage of our evolution. However a world language, it is a Baha'i belief, will be either invented or chosen from among the existing languages and it will be taught in the schools of all nations not as a replacement, but as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. This will provide further common ground for unifying the peoples of the world. Today however it is quite clear that given the close ties between national cultures -- or tribal or regional cultures -- and the language used, a world language will come into existence only when the unity of nations is achieved through a world federation or a world government.
At the end of the enumeration of these aspects of unity, we are assured by `Abdu'l-Bahá that "the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization."
In addressing the Second Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament, 24 June 1982, the Baha'i International Community made the observation that the peace and security of humanity could not be reached until unity had been fully established. We proceeded to say:
"These words speak to our times. They speak to the dual obligation which must be met by each person, whether governing or governed, if we are to achieve world disarmament and human happiness in a world at peace: first, the responsibility to establish unity within self, and among ourselves; then, to build a world society and bring about world order and a world civilization."
Further, in the Baha'i view, a world society in peace can only become a reality if we understand our true nature (spiritual), and the purpose for which we were created (to know and to worship God, and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization); and the concept of unity is at the center of this new stage in the life of this planet.
Again, when addressing the General Assembly, we expressed this idea in these words:
"The root principle of unity is, we believe, an understanding of the true identity of a human being. This seems to be the paramount need in the world -- the attainment of unity through an awareness of our true reality, our nobility as human beings. This means a reawakened realization of our connection with God. This link is 'the strong cord that none can sever,' and this identity of dependence, once fully integrated, can then be expressed successfully in a spirit of service to humanity. The inability of human power alone to solve the affairs of humanity -- to give an opportunity to each person for the full development of his nature, qualities, talents, and the full expression of these potentialities in a world of peace and security -- is amply demonstrated by the history of this century."
In 1981, a seminar on the "Relations that Exist Between Human Rights, Peace and Development," was held at the United Nations. In the thoughtful discussions that took place, the essential interconnection between peace and development -- as well as human rights -- became abundantly clear. On that occasion the Baha'i International Community offered the thought that "Perhaps as much effort needs to be expended in the education of all persons on this planet, from the earliest age -- and certainly with a strong focus on the most malleable and impressionable stages of human existence -- on long-range steps to achieve a lasting peace, and to provide for a society in which human happiness can flourish for everyone."
How we define the nature of the person, and the potentialities he must fulfill to be happy, will, of course, always determine the spiritual and physical environment which each human being needs for full development. On this point, we would simply like to quote a passage from the Baha'i Writings which appeared in a brochure published by the Baha'i International Community on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"The primary purpose, the basic objective, in laying down powerful laws and setting up great principles and institutions dealing with every aspect of civilization, is human happiness; and human happiness consists only in drawing closer to the Threshold of Almighty God, and in securing the peace and well-being of every individual member, high and low alike, of the human race; and the supreme agencies for accomplishing these two objectives are the excellent qualities with which humanity has been endowed."
It is the view of the Baha'i International Community that peace -- as well as human rights and development, since they are interconnected and even indivisible -- must spring, at its deepest and most meaningful level, from one source: the organic oneness of the human race. This conviction -- and commitment -- should, in our view, underline the framework of belief and action of individuals and society, if we are to seek realization of the goals of the Charter of the United Nations, and provide for the happiness of every single human being on this planet. The organic oneness or unity of humanity means, in our understanding:
"to regard humanity as a single individual, and one's own self as a member of that corporeal form, and to know of a certainty that if pain or injury afflicts any member of that body, it must inevitably result in suffering for all the rest."
It means further, "to consider the welfare of the community as one's own."
The Baha'i International Community shared this view with the United Nations in 1978 when it observed that general and complete disarmament would require
"that governments and peoples increase their awareness of the organic oneness of the human race; every person as a cell in the body of humanity, each nation an aggregate of cells in the body of the planet, all living in health and happiness only when the body itself is well."
At the same time, this oneness of the human race must be set side by side with an understanding that "the happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems."
Since the "honor and distinction" of a person is that he should be of benefit to society, the noblest deed is, then, service to the common good, and the greatest blessing for any human being is "that he should become the cause of the education, the development, the prosperity and honor of his fellow-creatures."
To conclude, the Baha'i International Community would like to reiterate a proposal made at the seminar earlier mentioned, and later at the 1982 Special Session on Disarmament,as well as at some human rights form on the eradication of racial discrimination. The proposal seems even more pertinent in a seminar seeking practical ways to bring about world peace. We quote from our statement to the General Assembly:
"The Baha'i International Community would, therefore, like to propose to the second special session of the General Assembly on disarmament an extensive and intensive program of education of all peoples in the vital principle -- and truth -- of the organic oneness of humanity. We recommend that such an educational program, with a universal curriculum adaptable to each culture, be fostered by governments, using schools, the media, businesses, industry, in fact all public and private means, in every country."
"This program of education -- drawing on all human knowledge bearing evidence to this oneness of humanity, whether from science or religion -- would begin by fostering in all peoples an understanding and acceptance of the oneness of the human race, leading to an eventual acceptance of all the rich diversity of cultures as integral and unified elements of a single entity, and the recognition of the earth as the one home of the one human family."
In our view, it is certainly worth expending considerable effort on such a long-range approach to get to the root of the world's social, economic, and political problems, problems which arise from a condition of pervasive disunity, and which will remain unsolved until -- we are convinced -- unity is established. For, as conditions of cooperation and unity are achieved, they will replace the divisive and destructive forces unleashed, consciously or unconsciously, by individuals and governments, obstacles impeding, in such a costly way, the fulfillment of the long-standing aspirations of all peoples to enjoy full economic and social development in a peaceful world society, one in which
"the enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race."