Looking at conflict in the world today, one can be forgiven if peace has become a faded ideal — often replaced by a cynical view that humanity will always be at war.
But how realistic is such a view, given the increasing lethality of conflict?
As a young boy in church and Sunday school, I was taught to literally believe in the promise of Isaiah 2:4:
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
As an adult, even though I adopted the Bahá’í Faith, I still cling to Isaiah 2:4. I now turn mainly to my own faith with regard to world peace. The Bahá’í Faith actually has an outline for world governance in which demilitarization would take effect. It would literally mean that swords would be turned into plowshares.
Call me an idealist, but I prefer the moniker of realist because I believe the continuation of war, conflict and terrorism is unrealistic. The natural progression of such slaughter is annihilation of humanity or a large part of it. How realistic is that?
A new world order means humanity would need to see itself as one family.
“World order can be founded only on an unshakable consciousness of the oneness of mankind, a spiritual truth which all the human sciences confirm,” states The Universal House of Justice in “The Promise of World Peace,” which was published in 1985.
“… In the Bahá’í view,” it continued, “recognition of the oneness of mankind ‘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 its federated units’.”
I realize demilitarization and a world federation are anathema to many people, including shrill voices in my own country, but it is my understanding that nations would have enough armaments to maintain order within their own borders. No nation could make war against another. If one nation rose against another, then the other nations could combine their forces to restore order.
Even if the mechanism to achieve such a peace and demilitarization is not possible in the world today, that does not preclude humanity’s maturation at a later date.
In my own country, I often hear talk of the bogeyman of “one-world government” that would suffocate national sovereignty and culture. Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, addressed such concerns in 1931.
“Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society,” he wrote, “it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world.
“It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men’s hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided.
“It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world.”
In my next column, I will further explore world peace again.