17. THE POWER OF UNITY
The mid-19th century was a time when many people of various beliefs were awaiting a divine messenger.
In 1844 there appeared in Persia a dignified young man, twenty-four years of age, claiming to be a messenger of God.
Known as The Bab (an Arabic term meaning The Gate), this descendant of the Prophets Abraham and Mohamed taught of the imminent appearance of another Messenger to follow, described as 'Him Whom God Shall Make Manifest'.
The influence of The Bab spread so rapidly that the Muslim authorities became alarmed. More than 20,000 Babi followers were killed, many by gruesome methods, and His immediate imprisonment was decreed. The banishments that followed served to extend His influence amongst even wider populations.
By the time of His subsequent execution on July 9, 1850 the event was considered of such significance that it attracted representatives of the crowned heads of Europe.
Rather than silencing His teachings, it had promoted their global spread.
The subsequent appearance of His successor, Baha’u’llah (The Glory of God) brought much needed teachings focussed on unity; in the political realm, unity of thought, freedom, religion, nations, races and language.
In 1848 His followers convened in Badasht (Persia) to consult on freeing Baha'u'llah from what would become only the first of successive places of imprisonments.
During this conference Tahireh----one of the first followers of The Bab and a poet much admired by the Shah---announced before the assemblage of men that the time had come for the emancipation of women. She accompanied her proclamation with the dramatic gesture of removing her veil, an act so profoundly shocking to many of those present that one man cut his own throat.
Within days, and on the other side of the planet, at Seneca Falls in the United States, the first ever women’s rights conference took place “to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of women”.
Barely half a century later, as a result of landmark legislation, my own nation of New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
From this point the power of unity spread exponentially. The growing influence of Women's suffrage energised the labour movement. Change was afoot throughout the world.
The process of unity was beginning to exert an ever greater effect upon the nations of the world.
'Abdu'l-Baha observed; “Behold how its light is now dawning upon the world’s darkened horizon. The first candle is unity in the political realm, the early glimmerings of which can now be discerned. The second candle is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will ere long be witnessed. The third candle is unity in freedom which will surely come to pass. The fourth candle is unity in religion which is the corner-stone of the foundation itself, and which, by the power of God, will be revealed in all its splendor. The fifth candle is the unity of nations—a unity which in this century will be securely established, causing all the peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland. The sixth candle is unity of races, making of all that dwell on earth peoples and kindreds of one race. The seventh candle is unity of language, i.e., the choice of a universal tongue in which all peoples will be instructed and converse. Each and every one of these will inevitably come to pass, inasmuch as the power of the Kingdom of God will aid and assist in their realization.” ---‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 14....