In this most radiant century it has become necessary . . . to seek the new path of fellowship and unity, to unlearn the science of war and devote supreme human forces to the blessed arts of peace. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings
In 1959 the Bahá’ís of the United States initiated the commemoration of a World Peace Day to call attention to the urgent need for the establishment of a lasting peace among the nations of the world. This observance was held on the third Sunday in September.
In 1981 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed the third Tuesday in September as International Day of Peace.
In 2002 the UN General Assembly set 21 September as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.
In establishing the International Day of Peace, the United Nations General Assembly decided that it would be appropriate `to devote a specific time to concentrate the efforts of the United Nations and its Member States, as well as of the whole of mankind, to promoting the ideals of peace and to giving positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable way . . . (The International Day of Peace) should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.’
So tonight the Bahá’ís of Barnet, a community on the edge of London, commemorated International Day of Peace. This year they asked representatives of the different faith communities to share views on peace from their religious teachings. And what a remarkable gathering it was, of unity, at-one-ment, and peace.
The chair, Tahirih Danesh, eloquently introduced the evening, reminding those who might think peace impossible of Margaret Mead’s observation that `A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’ She asked us to pray, in the beautiful devotional that opened the meeting, for peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace in our communities and peace in our world.
Rev. Bernd Koschland represented the Jewish community and asked, considering all the problems in the world today, `Is peace a dream?’ He recalled Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: `To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven . . . A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace’ and wondered when the time of peace would come, as there are so many obstacles to peace. He offered hope from Micah 4:3-4:
. . . 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. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid . . . (Micah 4:3-4)
Rev Adrian Benjamin, representing the Christian view, spoke about `wrestling’ with some of the challenging statements in the Bible, such as Jesus’ statement in Matthew 10:34: `Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ He saw such wrestling as necessary to truly understanding the nature of peace, saying that before we can sit under our vine and fig-tree, we must act to forge peace.
Muslim Shakil Ahmed was so moved by the earlier presentations that he abandoned his prepared talk and spoke from the heart about the similarities of all religions, how they all strive for peace and that only a few people want `un-peace’.
And I was privileged to give the Bahá’í point of view. As it happened, my daily reading at the moment is `Abdu’l-Bahá in London and this morning I read `Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk to the Theosophical Society in London in 1911. As I was reading it, I felt I could do no better than to use it as the basis of my talk tonight. His talk, given almost 96 years ago to the day, was one of His first ever. And, amazingly, every point that was raised by the other speakers was touched upon by `Abdu’l-Bahá: that a small group of seekers after truth can make a difference; that there IS a time for everything and today is the time for peace – that peace is not only possible but inevitable; that the causes of `un-peace’ are prejudices and `coldness of heart’; that there are action steps individuals and governments can take now to establish peace; that recognition of the oneness of humanity is that key to peace and that religion is indeed one.
Here is `Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk, a gift for International Day of Peace.
. . . O friends of Truth! The inherent nature of fire is to burn, the inherent nature of electricity is to give light, the inherent nature of the sun is to shine, and the inherent nature of the organic earth is the power of growth.
There is no separation between a thing and its inherent qualities.
It is the inherent nature of things on this earth to change, thus we see around us the change of the seasons. Every spring is followed by a summer and every autumn brings a winter — every day a night and every evening a morning. There is a sequence in all things.
Thus when hatred and animosity, fighting, slaughtering, and great coldness of heart were governing this world, and darkness had overcome the nations, Bahá’u’lláh, like a bright star, rose from the horizon of Persia and shone with the great Light of Guidance, giving heavenly radiance and establishing the new Teaching.
He declared the most human virtues; He manifested the Spiritual powers, and put them into practice in the world around Him.
Firstly: He lays stress on the search for Truth. This is most important, because the people are too easily led by tradition. It is because of this that they are often antagonistic to each other, and dispute with one another.
But the manifesting of Truth discovers the darkness and becomes the cause of Oneness of faith and belief . . .
Secondly: Bahá’u’lláh taught the Oneness of humanity; that is to say, all the children of men are under the mercy of the Great God. They are the sons of one God; they are trained by God. He has placed the crown of humanity on the head of every one of the servants of God. Therefore all nations and peoples must consider themselves brethren. They are all descendants from Adam. They are the branches, leaves, flowers and fruits of One Tree. They are pearls from one shell. But the children of men are in need of education and civilization, and they require to be polished, till they become bright and shining.
Man and woman both should be educated equally and equally regarded.
It is racial, patriotic, religious and class prejudice, that has been the cause of the destruction of Humanity.
Thirdly: Bahá’u’lláh taught, that Religion is the chief foundation of Love and Unity and the cause of Oneness. If a religion become the cause of hatred and disharmony, it would be better that it should not exist. To be without such a religion is better than to be with it.
Fourthly: Religion and Science are inter-twined with each other and cannot be separated. These are the two wings with which humanity must fly. One wing is not enough. Every religion which does not concern itself with Science is mere tradition, and that is not the essential. Therefore science, education and civilization are most important necessities for the full religious life.
Fifthly: The Reality of the divine Religions is one, because the Reality is one and cannot be two. All the prophets are united in their message, and unshaken. They are like the sun; in different seasons they ascend from different rising points on the horizon. Therefore every ancient prophet gave the glad tidings of the future, and every future has accepted the past.
Sixthly: Equality and Brotherhood must be established among all members of mankind. This is according to Justice. The general rights of mankind must be guarded and preserved.
All men must be treated equally. This is inherent in the very nature of humanity.
Seventhly: The arrangements of the circumstances of the people must be such that poverty shall disappear, and that every one as far as possible, according to his position and rank, shall be comfortable. Whilst the nobles and others in high rank are in easy circumstances, the poor also should be able to get their daily food and not be brought to the extremities of hunger.
Eighthly: Bahá’u’lláh declared the coming of the Most Great Peace. All the nations and peoples will come under the shadow of the Tent of the Great Peace and Harmony — that is to say, by general election a Great Board of Arbitration shall be established, to settle all differences and quarrels between the Powers; so that disputes shall not end in war.
Ninthly: Bahá’u’lláh taught that hearts must receive the Bounty of the Holy Spirit, so that Spiritual civilization may be established. For material civilization is not adequate for the needs of mankind and cannot be the cause of its happiness. Material civilization is like the body and spiritual civilization is like the soul. Body without soul cannot live.
This is a short summary of the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. To establish this Bahá’u’lláh underwent great difficulties and hardships. He was in constant confinement and He suffered great persecution. But in the fortress (Akká) He reared a spiritual palace and from the darkness of His prison He sent out a great light to the world.
It is the ardent desire of the Bahá’ís to put these teachings into common practice: and they will strive with soul and heart to give up their lives for this purpose, until the heavenly light brightens the whole world of humanity.
Technorati Tags: Baha’i, Internattional Day of Peace