September 21st has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace, and in the spirt of this day, I wanted to share a few brief thoughts with you about a very powerful document called The Promise of World Peace.
The Promise of World Peace was written in October 1985 by the Universal House of Justice to the peoples of the world – not just to the Baha’is – but to everyone on the planet. It continues to be a relevant and compelling document as we witness the disintegration of society around us. It opens with these moving words:
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. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet—in the words of one great thinker, ‘the planetization of mankind’.1
To some, the idea of world peace is a utopia, a naive fantasy, or the stuff of fiction. The vision of world peace in this document, however, is grounded in everyday life; The Promise of World Peace expands on how world peace, rather than being an abstract or unattainable idea, is a pragmatic and imperative goal.
Here are three powerful ideas from this document that I can personally do or strive to improve in my own life:
1. “It is Primarily a Matter of Attitude”
When describing the crippling and corrupting effects of materialism, the Universal House of Justice writes:
The intolerable conditions pervading society bespeak a common failure of all, a circumstance which tends to incite rather than relieve the entrenchment on every side. Clearly, a common remedial effort is urgently required. It is primarily a matter of attitude. Will humanity continue in its waywardness, holding to outworn concepts and unworkable assumptions? Or will its leaders, regardless of ideology, step forth and, with a resolute will, consult together in a united search for appropriate solutions?2
It also writes that world peace is more than signed treaties and agreements between nations:
[…] the primary challenge in dealing with issues of peace is to raise the context to the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism. For, in essence, peace stems from an inner state supported by a spiritual or moral attitude, and it is chiefly in evoking this attitude that the possibility of enduring solutions can be found. […] The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles involved and then be guided by them.3
These paragraphs signal to me the importance of creating within myself a positive attitude of peace conquering all thoughts of hate, of steeling my resolve in the path of service, and of raising my children to have a spiritual and moral attitude and the will to solve the world’s problems. As they grow, I would like them to ask themselves what needs of humanity they would like to address as opposed to what they’d like to be when they grow up.
2. The Oneness of Mankind is Paramount
The Universal House of Justice poses the question of where we begin in our quest for world peace, and then it provides the answer. It writes:
Acceptance of the oneness of mankind is the first fundamental prerequisite for reorganization and administration of the world as one country, the home of humankind. Universal acceptance of this spiritual principle is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace. 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.4
The oneness of mankind seems like an easy thing to embrace and promote — particularly when you live, as I have, a privileged life that has barely been personally impacted negatively by racism. But acceptance of the oneness of mankind is a much greater challenge than would appear at first glance. The House of Justice goes on to say:
In the Baha’i view, 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.’5
It is not enough for me to believe in the oneness of humanity; I have to actively work to implement it in the way I talk, in how I raise my children, in whom I befriend, and in whom I reach out to — to name but a few aspects of my life.
3. Working to Refine my Consultation Skills
We are blessed with numerous opportunities to refine our consultation skills. Whether it’s in a meeting or discussing dinner plans, learning and mastering the skill of frank and loving consultation is a building block for World Peace. The House writes:
The courage, the resolution, the pure motive, the selfless love of one people for another—all the spiritual and moral qualities required for effecting this momentous step towards peace are focused on the will to act. And it is towards arousing the necessary volition that earnest consideration must be given to the reality of man, namely, his thought. To understand the relevance of this potent reality is also to appreciate the social necessity of actualizing its unique value through candid, dispassionate and cordial consultation, and of acting upon the results of this process. Baha’u’llah insistently drew attention to the virtues and indispensability of consultation for ordering human affairs. He said: ‘Consultation bestows greater awareness and transmutes conjecture into certitude. It is a shining light which, in a dark world, leads the way and guides. For everything there is and will continue to be a station of perfection and maturity. The maturity of the gift of understanding is made manifest through consultation.’ The very attempt to achieve peace through the consultative action he proposed can release such a salutary spirit among the peoples of the earth that no power could resist the final, triumphal outcome.6
If I can learn to consult, and if I can model consultation to my children, then I will have contributed towards world peace. Isn’t that wonderful to think about? In every consultation you participate in, you are working towards peace!
These are a few things I am keeping in mind following the International Day of Peace. I hope this document continues to inspire me to examine my role in the promotion of world unity.