Praying – and Acting — for Peace

The Baha’i teachings encourage everyone to meditate and pray every day.

But Baha’is don’t simply pray and then hope that conditions in the world will somehow improve. Instead, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha always advised the Baha’is to combine prayer and action. When Abdu’l-Baha visited London in 1912, he was asked “Should prayer take the form of action?” He answered:

Yes: In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship… Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. Service is prayer. A physician ministering to the sick, gently, tenderly, free from prejudice and believing in the solidarity of the human race, he is giving praise. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 176-177.

So what do the Baha’i writings advise humanity to do about war? How can we, as mere individuals, possibly have any impact on the armed hostilities between nations?

First, we can pray:

O Thou Almighty Lord! Strengthen all mankind that they may do according to the instructions and teachings recorded in these writings, so that wars and strifes may be eliminated from the world of man; that the roots of enmity may be destroyed and the foundations of love and affection be established; that the hearts may be filled with love and the souls be attracted; that wisdom may advance and the faces become brightened and illumined; that there be no more wars and strifes and that reconciliation and peace appear; that the Unity of the world of man may pitch its tent on the “apex of the horizons,” so that peoples and parties become as one nation, that different continents become as one continent and the whole earth as one land; that the sects of antagonizing and dogmatic religions be unified; that the world of creation be adorned and all the people of the earth abide in unity and peace.

Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Beholder! –Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, v1, p. ix.

And then we can act. The Baha’i teachings advocate several concrete individual actions each person can do to help the world eliminate war:

  • First, Baha’u’llah said that it is better for you to be killed than to kill. The Baha’i teachings condemn, emphatically and unequivocally, any form of physical violence.
  • Baha’is take that law seriously, and believe that if we work toward the unity of humanity, discord and contention will eventually cease and the rule of war and butchery would fall away.
  • The Baha’i teachings say that each person can work to eliminate prejudice, racism and nationalism in our daily lives.
  • Baha’is believe that striving for the equality of women and men makes an enormous difference in the world’s progress toward peace: “…it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it.” – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 134.
  • And finally, Baha’is exert their efforts toward human and religious unity, believing that “The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 273.

This strong Baha’i emphasis on international peace asks us to develop a new, peaceful inner consciousness first, with the aid of prayer and meditation; and then to take that peace-oriented personal realization and spread it to everyone around us:

I hope that you will use your understanding to promote the unity and tranquility of mankind, to give enlightenment and civilization to the people, to produce love in all around you, and to bring about the universal peace.

Study the sciences, acquire more and more knowledge. Assuredly one may learn to the end of one’s life! Use your knowledge always for the benefit of others; so may war cease on the face of this beautiful earth, and a glorious edifice of peace and concord be raised. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 42.

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