June 18, 2023 will mark 40 years since 10 Baha’i women were hanged in Shiraz. Their only ‘crime’ was their refusal to renounce their beliefs in a faith that promotes the principles of gender equality, unity, justice, and truthfulness. This collection highlights Baha’i Blog content relating to the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing writes and lectures in the area of global governance, peace, and international security, and she is the founding director of the Center for Peace and Global Governance, an organization aimed at raising awareness and activating political will and action to tackle global challenges. Her experience and expertise on these subjects have led her to write her fourth book, The Alchemy of Peace, and she graciously agreed to tell us about her book. Here’s what she shared with us:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about the book?
Think of a garden that has become a wasteland overrun by weeds. Although we are excited about reviving the garden and creating a luxurious paradise of varied flowers, our efforts are being thwarted at every turn. No matter how many creative plans we make and how many seeds we plant, our efforts come to naught, because the weeds strangle all new growth. So, too, it is with our world today. Despite our best endeavors to come up with programs and action plans to create a just and peaceful world, the results always fall short or fail entirely. What’s going on is that even our most inspiring programs and plans struggle against certain unconscious filters through which we view and understand the world. These filters, or mindsets, are like the operating system of a computer: they drive us and constrain us and yet are in the background hidden from view. These mindsets in turn spawn certain dysfunctional habits. If we are to successfully build the sort of world we want, marked by peace and justice, we need to identify these mindsets and habits — the weeds overrunning our global garden — and replace them with constructive and empowering ones that will propel us in the direction of our vision. The core idea of this book is showing how to do this at the global level to propel us towards peace. I call this the “Alchemy of Peace Method.” After laying out the method in general, the book uses the method to identify six prevalent and insidious mindsets and habits that need to be rooted out and replaced by new mindsets and habits to meet the needs of humanity, as we approach maturity in our collective development.
Baha’i Blog: Why was this an important book for you to write personally?
For the last 20 years I have tried hard to develop new ways to solve global problems like climate change, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, genocide and other egregious human rights atrocities, global financial crises, and pandemics. I started by advocating for a principled approach to solving global challenges in my first book Collective Security Within Reach. I argued that the only effective way to solve humanity’s global problems was to start by identifying a set of shared global ethics that all nations could agree upon, and then to apply them methodically and uncompromisingly to any given global problem, as opposed to lurching from crisis to crisis, reactively addressing the crisis of the day without any regard to first principles. After that first book, I focused a lot of energy on advocating for the creation of a world federation of nation states founded on the basis of these core principles and with a global federal government empowered to manage common problems of humanity in a collective fashion — problems like climate change and pandemics. This led to my book Building a World Federation: The Key to Resolving Our Global Crises which demonstrated the efficacy of such a system of global governance. Talking to ordinary people, young and old, as well as academics and specialists, in the U.S. and in other countries, I have found that many around the world are open or even eagerly desire this vision, but doubt that humanity can leap to a world federation in one bound. So I wrote a third book, Bridge to Global Governance, outlining an incremental approach towards creating a world federal system using a successful historical model. But one can offer people the most perfect plan to address any given challenge and yet they may not be motivated to act on it. For example, a person may desperately need to lose weight for health reasons and receive the perfect regimen of diet and exercise from a trusted expert and yet still not take the advice, however brilliant. Before humanity is willing to agree on a set of shared global ethics or to create a global world federation, we need to first change our outdated understanding and false assumptions about ourselves and how the world works, and shift the behaviors that flow from these mindsets, replacing both with a new way of thinking and behaving. This insight is what prompted me to write this book.
Baha’i Blog: What’s something interesting you learned or discovered while working on the book?
Ideas we glean from different sources are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. On its own, each piece may not seem that interesting or even terribly relevant, but when you put them side by side and organize them a certain way, they suddenly yield a really inspiring picture. In my case, I found that if I combined the knowledge, experience, and insights I had gleaned as an international lawyer with insights from my work as a life mastery coach, added to them wisdom I had absorbed over my formative years growing up in Haifa around incredible role models such as Hands of the Cause and members of the Universal House of Justice, and then forged and melded them together within the framework of the teachings of Baha’u’llah, I could propose a compelling roadmap to peace in this troubled world of ours.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope readers will walk away with once they’ve read the book?
More than anything, I hope that readers, especially those who are feeling depressed, anxious, or confused about the chaotic and turbulent state of affairs in the world, will find the flame of hope rekindled within them because they come to believe that peace is definitely possible, and indeed inevitable. Moreover, I hope they will recognize that it is within their power as individuals and within the power of humanity as a collective whole to hasten the arrival of peace by harnessing the incredible God-given gift of free will to make the choices necessary to bring it about. Those choices include mindfully weeding out the six mindsets and habits identified in the book and replacing them with the alternative proposed mindsets and habits.
Baha’i Blog: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
My goal in writing the book was to contribute to public discourse on the subject of peace. The teachings of the Baha’i Faith contain the remedy to all of humanity’s ills. I feel it is my task as a Baha’i to correlate these teachings to the current needs of the world in ways that make sense to the average person. In other words, to find ways of creatively applying the teachings and of packaging ideas in terms that meet our friends, families, and colleagues where they are, using language that resonates with them. Abdu’l-Baha set a perfect example of how to do this in His talks and His Writings, especially His book Secret of Divine Civilization. As I wrote this book, He was my guiding light: I kept His work front and center in my mind at all times.
My final hope is that people will read this book, recommend it to their colleagues, friends, and family and be inspired by it.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Sovaida, and congratulations on your wonderful and timely new book!
Naysan is passionate about using the arts and media to explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. Back in 2011, Naysan started up the Baha’i Blog project, channeling his experiences in both media and technology companies to help create a hub for Baha’i-inspired content online.
What a wonderful vision!
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nahzy Abadi Buck (October 10, 2021 at 8:44 PM)