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65. One Common Faith; imagining a world without countries

Updated: Jan 24, 2023

If I was to ask you "Where are you from?" I'd receive a variety of answers. You might tell me the name of the last town you lived in. You might tell me where you were born or grew up. Or you might tell me your nationality.

If you are a N.Z. Maori you might name the waka (canoe) your ancestors travelled in many centuries ago when they left the Cook Islands to navigate the oceans between old land and new land, Aotearoa New Zealand. You may still recall and respect the names of those ancestors that guided you.

In a relatively short time humanity has experienced an unprecedented level of change. And consequently we represent an unprecedented degree of difference and of change. So we are now faced with the challenge of accommodating this change and diversity.

Change is an essential feature of life. If something remains changeless, it’s a pretty good indication that it’s dead.

This applies to people and also to countries. Around 1,500 years ago the Roman empire appeared invincible and yet it fell apart. This must have been as unthinkable at the time as for those living through the collapse of the Egyptian rule. Ditto for Greece, the Incas and Aztecs, the Soviet Union, the British Empire and so on.

Our previous model of living in ‘countries’ is being gradually overtaken by recognition that the whole world is made up of nation-states; people with common attributes and characteristics, with an organised political system exerting sovereignty over a defined space, with borders agreed by other nation-states. This would have been unthinkable prior to the coming of Baha’u’llah. But today, try to imagine a world without countries – tricky isn't it. Our whole sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, is bound up in them. But they’re not really that old.

Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was just a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports. As industrialisation made societies more complex, larger systems of governance were required in order to manage them. Those best able to unify and coordinate their activities – their physical regions, languages, records, economies and actions - grew more powerful than their neighbours.

Greater communications unified language, culture and identity. Gradually the nation-state model spread worldwide; there are now 193 nation-states ruling the world. But their seemingly invincible rule is rapidly diminishing. This nation-state with its borders, centralised governments, common people and sovereign authority has been becoming increasingly out of step with the world.

The case against the nation-state is hardly new. Twenty years ago, many were anticipating its imminent demise. The futurists anguished that globalisation would spell the end of a nation-states’ power to enforce change. Without that control, what dire effects could this have on businesses, finance and people? The exciting, new internet seemed to herald a borderless, free, identity-less future.

When the light of Baha’u’llah broke upon the world, humanity was completing an age-old journey that had travelled from family to community to city state, and most recently the experience of nation state. This process is to be followed by the unification of the entire planet, a process progressively gradually effected though application of the principle of Unity in Diversity.

The core Teachings of Baha’u’llah answer the issues that have been the cause of so much bloodshed and separation, establishing such essential themes as the oneness of God and of religion, and the oneness of humanity. He stated:

That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. - Baha’u’llah

A recent report of the Bahai International Community maintains that 'As the world grows more interconnected and as the imperative to unite humanity becomes ever more strongly felt, systems of global governance need to evolve." This idea is at the core of an award-winning proposal to reshape global governance, put forward by three Baha’is who specialize in aspects of governance in international affairs.

“Many of the problems we face are global in nature. They cannot be solved without some kind of stronger mechanism of international cooperation,” says Augusto Lopez-Claros, an international economist and co-author of the proposal.

The United Nations provides a foundation for global governance, but the proposal makes a case for a stronger international governing body. The proposal outlines a mechanism with two legislative bodies: one with national representatives and the second with delegates who represent particular global issues, such as the environment, human rights, and others. It would also include a strengthened executive branch with an international security force, as well as a well-trained international judiciary that regularly makes binding decisions.

This proposal was one of three winners of the New Shape Prize in May from the Global Challenges Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to stimulate discussions on systems for managing global risks.

The over-riding necessity of our age is to heal our conflicts and reconcile our differences. The greatest of these challenges, and the core focus of all Bahai teachings, is finally within the grasp of all humanity; the development of one universal religion, one common Faith.

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