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Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era

  • Author:
  • J. E. Esslemont

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980 edition
  • Pages:
  • 286
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Pages 171-173

Righteous Warfare

Although Bahá’u’lláh, like Christ, counsels His follows as individuals and as a religious body to adopt an attitude of nonresistance and forgiveness toward their enemies, He teaches that it is the duty of the community to prevent injustice and oppression. If individuals are persecuted and injured it is wrong for a community to allow pillage and murder to continue unchecked within its borders. It is the duty of a good government to prevent wrongdoing and to punish offenders. 1 So also with the community of nations. If one nation oppresses or injures another, it is the duty of all other nations to unite to prevent such oppression. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes:—“It may happen that at a given time warlike and savage tribes may furiously 172 attack the body politic with the intention of carrying on a wholesale slaughter of its members; under such a circumstance defense is necessary.”
Hitherto the usual practice of mankind has been that if one nation attacked another, the rest of the nations of the world remained neutral, and accepted no responsibility in the matter unless their own interests were directly affected or threatened. The whole burden of defense was left to the nation attacked, however weak and helpless it might be. The teaching of Bahá’u’lláh reverses this position and throws the responsibility of defense not specially on the nation attacked, but on all the others, individually and collectively. As the whole of mankind is one community, an attack on any one nation is an attack on the community, and ought to be dealt with by the community. Were this doctrine generally recognized and acted on, any nation contemplating an aggression on another would know in advance that it would have to reckon with the opposition not of that other nation only, but of the whole of the rest of the world. This knowledge alone would be sufficient to deter even the boldest and most bellicose of nations. When a sufficiently strong league of peace-loving nations is established war will, there, become a thing of the past. During the period of transition from the old state of international anarchy to the new state of international solidarity aggressive wars will still be possible, and in these circumstances, military or other coercive action in the cause of international justice, unity and peace may be a positive duty. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá writes that in such case:—
A conquest can be a praiseworthy thing, and there are times when war becomes the powerful basis of peace, and ruin the very means of reconstruction. If, for example, a high-minded sovereign marshals his troops to block the onset of the insurgent and the aggressor, or again, if he takes the field and distinguishes himself in a struggle to unify a divided state and people, if, in brief, he is waging war for a righteous purpose, then this seeming wrath is mercy itself, and this apparent tyranny the very substance 173 of justice and this warfare the cornerstone of peace. Today, the task befitting great rulers is to establish universal peace, for in this lies the freedom of all peoples.—The Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 70–71.
1. See also section on Treatment of Criminals, pp. 153–155.   [ Back To Reference]