By Farid Rohani
The principle of the Oneness of Mankind—the central theme around which the Bahai faith is established and around which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolve—is not seen by the millions that follow him as a mere expression of simple naivete or an expression of ambiguous hope.
The interest and the appeal it evokes is not to be seen, moreover, as a revival of movements that were inexperienced with aspiring ideals of kinship and altruism.
Bahá’ís are not aiming to simply forge feel-good harmonious cooperation among individual peoples and nations, either. The principles put forward by Bahaullah are global in scope with real-world applications.
The message of the Bahaullah is not only to be viewed as addressed to the individual, but focuses on a retooling of the way nations deal with matters that affect us as citizens of a global country and bind all the states and nations as members of one human family.
The Bahá’ís principles do not present old ideas in a new language, nor do they rearticulate failed approaches. Rather, Bahaullah plainly puts forward new paths that imply a fundamental change in our approach to find solutions to issues that keep reappearing.
As an example, it is accepted that conflict is a natural part of our existence. Individuals and groups get ahead when they are able to gain an advantage.
Interests, therefore, clash. People work against each other; the same thing occurs in different societies and at a higher level among nations. Our personal interests have conditioned us to work against each other.
The concepts of a gladiator competition and confrontation have become norms embedded in our sociopolitical world and by extension, and most importantly, in our economic principles. Hence, power and as much of it as possible are viewed as required to protect our advantages.
In a culture rooted in conflict, Bahaullah instructs his followers to endeavour for cooperative collaboration to achieve principled goals. To find new structures and functioning of social institutions that do not consider the ways of conflict the natural expression of human existence.
Bahá’ís live the values of unity, in which diversity is viewed as a source of strength and not as a cause of conflict. The power of unity is directed toward the common purpose of building functioning inclusive communities.
Bahaullah put forward principles that 170 years ago were revolutionary for their time and caused tremendous hardship, exile, and the deaths of tens of thousands of his followers. Yet more and more people saw the wisdom in his teachings and we are now seeing them implemented and adopted around the world.
Some of these that were deemed revolutionary for their time include: the equality of the sexes, the independent investigation of truth, universal compulsory education, the adoption of an auxiliary world language, and the harmony of science and religion, to just name a few.
He's put forward a template that is resolute, revolutionary, and presents a fundamental change in the structure of present-day thinking, a change the world has not yet experienced.
He calls for a change in our approach toward each other and the conflicts we face, and for humanity to throw away outworn principles nationalism, biases, tradition, and dogmas that have had their day and which must now be reworked within the framework of a more connected world, one where the actions or events in any single part can fundamentally alter life in other parts.
He writes that we have evolved as our thinking has expanded: from the earliest family units to tribal societies to the city-states, and further into independent and sovereign nations, empires, and now, he states clearly, it’s time for a global society and the principle of the Oneness of Mankind, the final stage in this astounding forward progress.
He tells his followers that “we live in a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life, our political machinery, our spiritual aspirations, our trade and finance, our script and languages, and yet infinite in the diversity of the national characteristics of its federated units”.
Such a spectacular forward-thinking conception put forward 170 years ago by Bahaullah, in what was one of the most backward countries at the time, finds its earliest application in the efforts purposefully applied. Since then, the humble successes accomplished by the millions who follow his teachings are spread all over the world, with no clergy to guide them and no churches or mosques to dictate their actions.
Bahaullah urges his followers to remember that human beings are noble by nature; many simply allow themselves to fall into negative patterns of behaviour unconsciously.
Bahaullah, the followers believe, set in motion “a dynamic process, divinely propelled, possessed of undreamed-of potentialities, world-embracing in scope, world-transforming in its ultimate consequences”.
In every corner of the world, Bahá’ís of every race, religion, nationality, and class are focusing their energies toward the progress of their societies. Individuals with different perspectives are replacing contention and self-served objectives with consultation and the collective search for solutions.
And on the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, the many who are part of this enterprise are reaching out to those around them with a simple invitation: seize this opportunity to find out who He was and what He represents. Put to the test the remedy He has prescribed.