One hundred years ago, Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, proclaimed in clear and unmistakable language, to the kings and rulers of the world, to its religious leaders, and to mankind in general that the long-promised age of world peace and brotherhood had at last dawned and that He Himself was the Bearer of the new message and power from God which would transform the prevailing system of antagonism and enmity between men and create the spirit and form of the destined world order.
At that time the splendour and panoply of the monarchs reflected the vast power which they exercised, autocratically for the most part, over the greater portion of the earth. Bahá’u’lláh, an exile from His native Persia for His religious teaching, was the prisoner of the tyrannical, all-powerful Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. In such circumstances He addressed the rulers of the world. His Tablets to particular kings and to the Pope, although delivered, were either ignored or rejected, their wise counsels and dire warnings went unheeded, and in one instance the bearer was cruelly tortured and killed.
Bahá’u’lláh, viewing that old world and seeing it ‘at the mercy of rulers so drunk with pride that they cannot discern clearly their own best advantage’ declared that ‘…the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective.’ Although painting in sombre tones the ‘divine chastisement’ which would assail most of those rulers and engulf in ruin the peoples of the world, He nevertheless left no doubt about the outcome. ‘Soon’, He declared, ‘will the present day order be rolled up and a new one spread out in its stead.’ Since the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh in 1892, in the Holy Land, the rolling up of the old order has become the daily experience of mankind and no abatement of this process is discernible. The essence of Bahá’u’lláh’s World Order is the unity of the human race. ‘O ye children of men’, He writes, ‘the fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race…’ And He warns, ‘The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.’ The achievement of this unity is Bahá’u’lláh’s declared mission and the aim of all Bahá’í activity. Its outline and structure are indicated in the following passage from the writings of Shoghi Effendi, great-grandson of Bahá’u’lláh and Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith:
“The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world inter-communication will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hinderances and restrictions, and functioning with marvellous swiftness and perfect regularity. A world metropolis will act as the nerve centre of a world civilization, the focus towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature, a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind. In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human life, will be reconciled, will co-operate, and will harmoniously develop. The press will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized, its markets will be co-ordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products will be equitably regulated.
“National rivalries, hatreds and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and co-operation. The causes of religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war, whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation — such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.”
Bahá’u’lláh’s message is one of hope, of love, of practical reconstruction. Today we reap the appalling results of our forebears’ rejection of His divine call; but today there are new rulers, new people, who perchance may hear and avoid or mitigate the severity of impending catastrophe. It is with this hope and believing it to be its sacred duty, that the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith, proclaims again, through publication of these selected passages, the essence of that mighty call of a century ago. In the same hope and belief the Bahá’ís throughout the world will do their utmost during this centenary period to bring to the attention of their fellow-men the redeeming fact of this new outpouring of divine guidance and love. We believe they will not labour in vain.