The world we live in
Whether we call it “modernity”, or by some other name, there is a universal recognition that there is something very different about the world we live in today – something that sets it apart from previous ages. The Bahá’i writings refer to this as the “stage of maturity” of mankind. Just as individual human beings have a stage of maturity – reached some time in our mid to late teens or early twenties – and trees have a maturity signaled by their fruiting, similarly signs become evident when humanity in general starts to “come of age”.
“All created things have their degree, or stage, of maturity. The period of maturity in the life of a tree is the time of its fruit bearing. The maturity of a plant is the time of its blossoming and flower. …The animal attains a stage of full growth and completeness, and in the human kingdom man reaches his maturity when the light of his intelligence attains its greatest power and development. …Similarly there are periods and stages in the collective life of humanity. At one time it was passing through its stage of childhood, at another its period of youth, but now it has entered its long-predicted phase of maturity, the evidences of which are everywhere apparent…”
The distinguishing feature of this age is that nation-building has come to an end and it is now time for world unity. Over a century ago while a prisoner, Bahá’u’lláh made it clear that a world ordered as independent sovereign nation-states cannot continue:
“…the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective…”
…and later Shoghi Effendi elaborated on the urgency of the situation:
“Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life.”
— Shoghi Effendi
What would it look like?
This world unity that Bahá’is see as eminently practical and urgently needed; what would it look like? We live in a world with vastly different cultures and extremely diverse religions. But even as modern means of communication have made these differences very evident, simultaneously the interdependence of all humans on the planet has become increasingly evident. Over a century ago ‘Abdu’l-Bahá pointed this out and we are living in a world when it can no longer be ignored:
“…all the members of the human family, whether peoples or governments, cities or villages, have become increasingly interdependent. For none is self-sufficiency any longer possible, inasmuch as political ties unite all peoples and nations, and the bonds of trade and industry, of agriculture and education, are being strengthened every day. Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved.
This rather obvious fact of the intense interdependence of the various countries of the world on each other was emphatically pinpointed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a 2018 speech to that country’s parliament:
“There are people who say they can solve everything themselves and don’t have to think about anyone else, that is nationalism in its purest form…”
–Angela Merkel (11/21/18 Speech to Parliament)
Whether it is from the perspective of the urgent need to solve the increasingly thorny migration and refugee problems faced by an ever-growing list of countries, or from the perspective of the futility of war as a solution to international problems, or so many other urgent international problems, it is becoming increasingly evident that a world organized as independent sovereign nation-states cannot and will not continue.
“The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Such a peace demandeth that the Great Powers should resolve, for the sake of the tranquillity of the peoples of the earth, to be fully reconciled among themselves. Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him…”
The door to this long prophesied era of world peace will open when the nations of the world take the same step that was taken more than two centuries ago when the thirteen colonies went through the difficult but urgently needed process of forming a government that was above the level of their individual state governments and started to cede some of their state prerogatives to this newly formed federal government. It was a hotly debated decision, there were dire warnings against it, but it proved in the end to be the right way and the only way for forward progress. It is an undeniable fact. So it is with the world today; world unity is the only way forward for a human race that has come of age and struggles painfully toward the the magnificent future that lies ahead.