Toward the 21st Century and Peace
The United Nations proclaimed 1986 the International Year of Peace. By so doing, it invited governments and peoples to articulate both their fears and their hopes for the future of the planet. In response to this call, the Universal House of Justice, the governing council of the Baha'i International Community, issued a statement to the Peoples of the World. "The Promise of World Peace" expresses the Baha'i conviction that peace is not only possible but inevitable. The statement describes the spiritual and social ills that are barriers to world peace and indicates, from a Baha'i perspective, how they may be eliminated. Since its publication in October 1985, "The Promise of World Peace" has been presented to more than 200 heads of state. It has been translated into 76 languages, and at least two million individuals have received a copy. A wide range of peace activities, centered around this message of hope, led to the designation of the Baha'i International Community and four of its national Baha'i councils as Peace Messengers.
As our contribution to this important discussion of a shared Peace Agenda for the 1990's, the Baha'i International Community and two of its fellow Peace Messengers, the national Baha'i councils of Brazil and Belgium, offer for your consideration two themes elaborated in the "Promise of World Peace": first, the need for the people of the world to see themselves as members of one human family and, second, the obligation of governments to come together to hammer out the framework for a permanent peace.
Baha'is are optimistic. We see human beings as essentially good and civilization as evolving toward maturity. Selfishness and aggression are not human nature but distortions of the human spirit. Likewise, injustice, prejudice and warfare are seen as characteristics of humanity's adolescence which must precede its long-awaited coming of age. Thus, in the Baha'i view, any peace agenda for the '90's must address the destabilizing prejudices and injustices that keep society in chaos. The world can never be at peace with barriers between people such as racism, unequal status of women and men, unrestrained nationalism, lack of universal education, conflict among religions, the inordinate disparity between rich and poor, and lack of an international language. Enduring solutions to these problems will be found only on the basis of spiritual principle.
World order, Baha'is believe, can be founded only on an unshakable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm.... Recognition of this truth requires abandonment of prejudice-prejudice of every kind-race, class, color, creed, nation, sex, degree of material civilization, everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.... It should therefore be universally proclaimed, taught in schools, and constantly asserted in every nation as preparation for the organic change in the structure of society which it implies.
This brings us to our second theme from "The Promise of World Peace": the call to governments to face courageously the urgent need to subordinate national self-interest to the requirements of world order. In the Baha'i view, the recognition of the principle of the oneness of humanity "calls for no less than the reconstruction and the demilitarization of the whole civilized world-a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, its political machinery, its spiritual aspiration, its trade and finance, its script and language, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of it federated units."
In statements addressed to the rulers of the world over a century ago, Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith, first advanced his proposals for the establishment of world peace, founded on the principle of collective security. "The time must come," He asserted, "when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundation of the world's Great Peace amongst men."
Concerning the proceedings for this world gathering, `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Bahá'u'lláh and authorized interpreter of his teachings, offered these insights: "They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. This supreme and noble undertaking-the real source of the peace and well-being of all the world-should be regarded as sacred by all that dwell on earth. All the forces of humanity must be mobilized to ensure the stability and permanence of this Most Great Covenant. In this all-embracing pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. In like manner the size of the armaments of every government should be strictly limited, for if the preparations for war and the military forces of any nation should be allowed to increase, they will arouse the suspicion of others. The fundamental principle underlying this solemn Pact should be so fixed that if any government later violate any one of its provisions, all the governments on earth should arise to reduce it to utter submission, nay the human race as a whole should resolve, with every power at its disposal, to destroy that government. should this greatest of all remedies be applied to the sick body of the world, it will assuredly recover from its ills and will remain eternally safe and secure."
The holding of this mighty convocation is long overdue. What more fitting way for the United Nations to observe its Fiftieth Anniversary than for it to rise, with the full support of its membership, to the high purposes of such a crowning event?
The source of our optimism is a vision of unity encompassing all of humanity. The experience of the Baha'i community may be seen as an example of this enlarging unity. It is a community of some five million people drawn from many nations, cultures, classes and creeds, engaged in a wide range of activities serving the spiritual, social and economic needs of the peoples of many lands. It is a single social organism, representative of the diversity of the human family, conducting its affairs through a system of commonly accepted consultative principles, and cherishing equally all the great outpourings of divine guidance in human history. Its existence is yet another convincing proof of the practicality of its Founder's vision of a united world, another evidence that humanity can live as one global society, equal to whatever challenges its coming of age may entail. If the Baha'i experience can contribute in whatever measure to reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it as a model for study.
In closing, we commend "The Promise of World Peace" for your study and urge that you consider particularly these two themes in your deliberations. In the words of Ervin Laszlo, Member of the Club of Rome and Editor in chief of World Encyclopedia of Peace, "The Baha'i call for peace comes at a crucial moment in the history of humanity. Peace in the contemporary world is no longer an option but a necessity. All leaders and peoples of the world must come to realize this fact, and achieve the maturity which the Baha'i Faith foresees for the coming of age of humanity."