Bahai News -- The Dallas Morning News - Peace is inevitable; let's work for it Religion: Opinion

Peace is inevitable; let's work for it

Baha'i leader notes religion is imperative in any efforts to right world's wrongs


KAMBIZ RAFRAF / Special to The Dallas Morning News

From age to age the world's sacred scriptures have promised the day of peace on earth. The vision has been expressed across countless generations by prophets, poets and seers, and millions of other people have prayed for and dreamed about it.

But is it really possible?

Bahá'ís believe that it is not only possible but inevitable. World peace is the next stage in our planet's evolution.

Bahá'í Writings state that "Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity's stubborn clinging to old patterns of behavior, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth."

Disorder around the globe shows us a world begging to be led to peace and unity. We need leadership to stop conflict. Failure to do so is unconscionably irresponsible.

But even amid the chaos, there are signs that lead us to believe the promise of peace and inspire us to work harder for its fulfillment.

Among those signs are:

• The growing strength of the United Nations.

• The achievement, since the Second World War, of independence by a majority of nations.

• The involvement of fledgling nations with older ones in matters of common concern.

• The consequent vast increase in cooperation among isolated and antagonistic peoples and groups in international undertakings in the scientific, educational, legal, economic and cultural fields.

• The rise in recent decades of an unprecedented number of international humanitarian organizations and worldwide gatherings.

] • The spread of women's and youth movements calling for an end to war.

• The spontaneous widening networks of ordinary people seeking understanding through communication.

The world has changed since the Sept. 11 attacks, and today's discussions of peace are giving prominence to the role of religion.

We know that the endowments that distinguish the human race from other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit, and he mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper.

But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it toward transcendence, a reaching toward an invisible realm, toward the ultimate reality, that unknowable essence of essences called God.

Religions, brought to mankind by a succession of Spiritual Luminaries (Teachers), have been the primary link between humanity and that ultimate reality, and they have galvanized and refined mankind's capacity to couple spiritual success with social progress.

Bahá'ís believe that no attempt to set human affairs aright can ignore religion.

No doubt many others disagree, observing that religion has sometimes actually retarded progress. But we believe that such cases represent a distortion of religion. History amply illustrates religion's preponderantly positive influence in the vital expressions of civilization. Its indispensability to social order has repeatedly been demonstrated by its effect on laws and morality.

Bahá'í Scriptures teach us that "Nothing can be effected in the world, not even conceivably, without unity and agreement, and the perfect means for engendering fellowship and union is true religion." And that "True religion is the source of love and agreement amongst men, the cause of the development of praiseworthy qualities."

Writing of religion as a social force, Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, said, "Religion is the greatest of all means for the establishment of order in the world and for the peaceful contentment of all that dwell therein."

Not that he was unaware that religion could be eclipsed or corrupted, for he also wrote, "Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness, of justice, of tranquility and peace cease to shine."

Bahá'ís are convinced that all human beings have been created "to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization" and that the virtues that befit human dignity are trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness toward all. We believe that the "potentialities inherent in the station of man, the full measure of his destiny on earth, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God."

Religions must teach humanity the spirit of love and fellowship, and thus eradicate intolerance, fanaticism and divisive prejudices, and usher in the age of reconciliation.

The challenge facing religious leaders is to contemplate the plight of humanity with hearts full of compassion and a desire for truth, and to sk themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their Almighty Creator, submerge their theological differences in a spirit of forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of understanding and peace.

Kambiz Rafraf is chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Dallas.

©Copyright 2003, The Dallas Morning News

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