A Bahá’í Perspective
On September 21st the world will be marking the International Day of Peace. This is an opportune time to contemplate how global peace may be achieved.
There is a great yearning for peace everywhere and people are becoming increasingly convinced that there is a need for a new approach for the achievement of global peace. The need for a fundamental change in values and attitudes – necessary for a global vision to transcend group interests – is becoming more and more apparent.
Disunity is a danger that the people of the earth can no longer endure. Bahá’u’lláh wrote extensively about the importance of global unity and the imperative need for creating a peaceful world civilization. More than 100 years ago, He wrote the following, which stands as a cornerstone of Bahá’í belief:
“The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race … This is the straight path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of countless centuries undermine its structure”.
It is the Bahá’í view that unless unity is attained – a unity that embraces and honours the full diversity of humankind – true peace and security will remain out of reach. As Bahá’u’lláh says: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established”, and “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth”.
Peace is more than just an end to war
People often equate peace with an end to war. World peace is more than just an end to war. Banning nuclear weapons, prohibiting the use of poison gases and germ warfare will not remove the root causes of war. There is need for change in individual attitudes and creation of a universal framework to uphold peace.
We first need to accept that we are one human species. Although we differ from one another physically and emotionally, and have different talents and capacities, we all belong to the same human family.
We need to love humanity regardless of race, nationality, religion or tribe and not allow our differences to become a cause of division and dispute. The Bahá’í Writings prescribe: “Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds and not through the tongue; for the latter hath no importance, as the majority of men are, in speech, well-wishers, while action is the best” and “Do not allow difference of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellow-men, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts. Rather, search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends”.
We need to overcome barriers to lasting peace
There now exist, more than ever before, conditions for the establishment on earth of a lasting peace. The scientific and technological advances of our times offer the practical ways by which the problems of humanity may be solved. Despite such advances there are still persistent barriers to peace. The most common barriers are misconceptions, prejudices, suspicions and narrow self-interest.
It is the requirement of justice that everyone is treated equally and with dignity. Justice, unity and peace are reciprocal in their effect. “The purpose of justice”, Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “is the appearance of unity among men”, and He further states that: “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquility of the nations depend upon it”.
Justice must be applied internationally – not only locally or nationally – if global peace is to become a reality. Current justice systems in many parts of the world, however, not only overlook, but sanction injustices towards those who are not within their boundaries or are not from the same background.
We cannot achieve justice without embracing human diversity. Prejudices of every kind – race, class, colour, creed, nationality, gender – must be directly confronted.
Racial discrimination – prevalent in many parts of the world – is a grave injustice and it is a major barrier to peace. A great deal of effort is necessary in achieving race reconciliation and bringing about social justice.
Furthermore, it is the Bahá’í view that “the emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace” and “Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge”.
Religion is a powerful force for motivating individuals to develop spiritual qualities and to contribute to the betterment of our communities. A peaceful global society cannot be built without directly and substantively involving religion. However, for religion to help in meeting the diverse challenges confronting the humanity today, it must itself be free from fanaticism, prejudice and animosity.
Therefore, abolition of war is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols. There is need for change in individual attitudes, the acceptance of the oneness of humanity and creation of a universal framework to uphold peace.
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OPINION: Flora Teckie