Updated: May 20, 2022
There is seldom just one cause of international disputes.
However, many scientists anticipate that as the world's population increases and our basic resources become scarce, wars are more likely to be over material essentials, such as water and food.
My grandparents lived through that conflict that would come to be known as the first “World War”. Today, greater knowledge makes us feel appalled by its horrific severity, its unprecedented scale and ferocity. Yet despite this horror it gave birth to new possibilities for stability—notably at the Paris Peace Conference, which opened exactly one century ago, in this very year.
Reassuringly, Shoghi Effendi described these tumultuous events as fitful forces "working in harmony with the spirit of the age”, moving humanity towards an age of peace—a peace not merely a condition without armed conflict, but "a collective state of being", manifesting unity.
Over the last century, three historical moments seemed to foretell real, lasting peace. First was the establishment of the League of Nations, picturing for the first time in history, that system of collective security first enjoined upon the world’s rulers by Bahá’u’lláh. Yet these premature hopes led only to a second World War, judged by historians as the deadliest conflict in human history.
However out of the ashes of the League a second hope emerged, as a system of international economic institutions came into being, forming a United Nations Organization. From here historic advances would be made in human rights and international law.
But as these encouraging plans for regional cooperation developed, so too did distrust between the world’s two major power blocs, producing the Cold War and bringing the use of nuclear weapons ever closer.
The close of the twentieth century--within our lifetime--produced explicit calls for the establishment of a new global order, creating a third moment when universal peace seemed to be within grasp.
Consequently a series of world conferences on humanity’s future was convened by the United Nations. Titled 'The Millennium Forum', it was a meeting of representatives of over a thousand civil society organizations, from more than a hundred countries, and was followed by the 'Millennium Summit', an unparalleled gathering of world leaders which led to agreement on a set of objectives representing a shared ambition of humanity.
These 'Millennium Development Goals' signalled a widespread, gradual but unstoppable rise in global consciousness on the part of the earth’s peoples and expressed our attraction to universal justice, to solidarity, collaboration, compassion, and to equality.
But times change quickly. Today, many of the dominant currents in society are pushing people apart, not drawing them together. Cliques with grossly exorbitant wealth continue to grow. Rising religious fundamentalism has warped communities, and even whole nations.
The failings of so many organizations and institutions within society have led to a decline in public trust. That earlier promise of shared ethical principles is eroding, and the will to engage in international collective action is sapped through a revival of racism, nationalism, and factionalism.
The Universal House of Justice warned in its latest message to the world that the course humanity takes to achieve its future destiny may very well be tortuous.
The tumult raised by the contending peoples of the earth threatens to drown out the voices of those noble-minded souls in every society who call for an end to conflict and struggle.
As long as that call goes unheeded, there is no reason to doubt that the world’s current state of disorder and confusion will worsen—possibly with catastrophic consequences—until a chastened humanity sees fit to take another significant step, perhaps this time decisive, towards enduring peace. ---The Universal House of Justice 18 January 2019 To the Bahá’ís of the World.
We can't predict the future solely by the present. Yet despite the direness of the time, we take comfort in this assurance of Abdu'l-Baha; Do not think the peace of the world an ideal impossible to attain! Nothing is impossible to the Divine Benevolence of God. If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men. Do not despair! Work steadily. Sincerity and love will conquer hate.---Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, – 6 – The Pitiful Causes of War, and the Duty of Everyone to Strive for Peace, October 21st.