Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Y2K: Lesser Peace, unity of nations

One of the friends wrote:

> … did anybody post here those letters from the House which
> presumably show they changed their position on the Lesser Peace? …As
> far as I am aware, it was not the House but individual Baha’is that made
> hard and fast statements on what exactly “unity of nations within this
> century” might mean.

[ I should point out perhaps that the context was not a discussion of the infallibility of the Universal House of Justice, but a claim made by one Bahai that while the UHJ could adapt its rulings to conditions, its understanding of Bahai teaching could not alter, being infallible ]

I replied:

I did post the letters here, but here’s a more complete version:
(from my blog, http://tinyurl.com/bahai20thcent )

On 29 July 1974 the Universal House of Justice wrote a letter about …

..the preoccupation of some American believers with the date of the Lesser Peace, and with their feeling that ‘the calamity,’ as a prelude to that peace, is imminent. It is true that Abdul-Baha made statements linking the establishment of the unity of nations to the twentieth century. For example [in the “7 candles”]: “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.” And, in The Promised Day is Come, following a similar statement quoted from Some Answered Questions, Shoghi Effendi makes this comment: “This is the stage which the world is now approaching, the stage of world unity, which, as Abdul-Baha assures us, will, in this century, be securely established.”

In a similar letter to an individual believer dated April 15, 1976, the Universal House of Justice writes: “Abdul-Baha anticipated that the Lesser Peace could be established before the end of the twentieth century.” (available here on page 6)

A BIC position paper approved for distribution by the UHJ states: “The Bahá’í writings indicate that peace among the nations will be established in the twentieth century;…”

After the event, the Research Department (not the UHJ, but approved for release by them) wrote (2001):

“there is nothing in the authoritative Bahai Writings to indicate that the Lesser Peace would be established before the end of the twentieth century.” (Available here )

However the Research Department achieved this, by distinguishing
between Lesser Peace and Unity of Nations – apparently not realising that
there is no authentic Bahai text that refers to either Lesser Peace, or
Unity of Nations, or “peace among the nations” occuring in the TWENTIETH
century – the relevant authentic texts all refer to “this century,” the
“twentieth” is found only in pilgrim’s notes, newspaper reports, and the
like

Unity of Nations is defined by Abdu’l-Baha, in the 7 candles tablet:

The fifth candle is the unity of nations [wahdat-e watan] – a unity which
in this century [qarn] will be securely established, causing all the
peoples of the world to regard themselves as citizens of one common
fatherland.

an earlier translation by Shoghi Effendi ( Bahai World vol 2 pp 50-
51) reads:

The fifth candle is national unity which in this century will be
securely established, causing all the peoples and nations of the
world to regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland.

Neither “unity of nations” nor “national unity” conveys the
connotation of watan, homeland, so the English reader is left groping to
see the connection between “unity of nations” (which sounds like an
international treaty or confederation) and people regarding themselves as
citizens of one fatherland. In fact, wahdat-e watan means “the unity
created when people regard themselves as having one homeland.” It’s an
attitude, not a treaty or organisation.

In an earlier translation, the translator has tried to convey this by inserting the
word “brotherhood”

The fifth light is the union of nations. In this century the union of brotherhood will appear in absolute might — at last all the people of the world will consider themselves natives of one country. (Baha’i Scriptures, 444)

The Lesser Peace on the other hand is something to be established by the
nations of the earth (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, 123),
involving a Supreme Tribunal (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the
Guardian
, p. 69). Shoghi Effendi identifies it with Baha’u’llah’s call for
inter-national reconciliation and armament reduction (Be reconciled among
yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments
… see The World Order of
Baha’u’llah
, p. 162)

Because of these two different meanings for Lesser Peace and Unity of
Nations, the Research Department’s solution is not satisfactory. As
experience in Europe has shown, political deals to preserve peace and
lower borders run at least a couple of generations ahead of people
coming to regard themselves as having one homeland. Probably more like a hundred
years, and that’s for a single continent with wealth and mobility. So if
the Lesser Peace was not promised in the 20th century, the Research
Department should have realised (and confirmed by looking at the writings)
that the “unity of nations” is also not going to happen in the 20th
century.

~~ Sen

Related content:
Y2K and all that
Century of light
Century’s end – my two cents
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