The Four Riders of the Apocalypse by Albrecht Durer
In 1912 in Boston, Massachusetts ‘Abdu’l-Bahá highlighted the immorality of war and international politics.
“A man who kills another man is punished by execution, but a military genius who kills one hundred thousand of his fellow creatures is immortalized as a hero. One man steals a small sum of money and is imprisoned as a thief. Another pillages a whole country and is honored as a patriot and conqueror. A single falsehood brings reproach and censure, but the wiles of politicians and diplomats excite the admiration and praise of a nation. Consider the ignorance and inconsistency of mankind. How darkened and savage are the instincts of humanity!”
The Promulgation of Universal Peace
It seems to me that humanity’s development is out of kilter. We have made many impressive advances in science and technology in the last one hundred and fifty years yet our spiritual development lags far behind. Sometimes our use of technology brings to mind the image of a loaded gun in the hands of a toddler. `Abdu’l-Bahá writes eloquently about the need for spiritual and material progress to be harmonised.
Now this luminous age has come, bringing with it wonderful civilization and material progress. Men’s intellects have widened, their perceptions grown, but alas, in spite of all this, fresh blood is being spilt day by day. Look at the present Turco-Italian war; consider for a moment the fate of these unhappy people! How many have been killed during this sad time? How many homes are ruined, wives desolate, and children orphans! And what is to be gained in exchange for all this anguish and heartache? Only a corner of the earth! This all shows that material progress alone does not tend to uplift man. On the contrary, the more he becomes immersed in material progress, the more does his spirituality become obscured. In times gone by progress on the material plane was not so rapid, neither was there bloodshed in such profusion. In ancient warfare there were no cannons, no guns, no dynamite, no shells, no torpedo boats, no battleships, no submarines. Now, owing to material civilization, we have all these inventions, and war goes from bad to worse! Europe itself has become like one immense arsenal, full of explosives, and may God prevent its ignition—for, should this happen, the whole world would be involved. I want to make you understand that material progress and spiritual progress are two very different things, and that only if material progress goes hand in hand with spirituality can any real progress come about
This passage seems especially relevant today. Despite our scientific prowess we appear to be engaged in a growing number of futile military interventions- serving only to increase the sum of human suffering. Why not put that energy to more positive use?
Given the current bloodshed in Libya I find ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s reference to the 1911-12 Italo-Turkish War between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ottoman Empire to be most poignant.
Consider what is happening in Tripoli; how the poor are being killed and the blood of the helpless is being shed upon both sides; children made fatherless, fathers lamenting the death of their sons, mothers bewailing the loss of dear ones. And what is the benefit after all? Nothing conceivable. Is it therefore justifiable? The domestic animals do not manifest hatred and cruelty toward each other; that is the attribute of the wild and ferocious beasts. In a flock of one thousand sheep you will witness no bloodshed. Numberless species of birds are peaceful in flocks. Wolves, lions, tigers are ferocious because it is their natural and necessary means for obtaining food. Man has no need of such ferocity; his food is provided in other ways. Therefore it is evident that warfare, cruelty and bloodshed in the kingdom of man are caused by human greed, hatred and selfishness. The kings and rulers of nations enjoy luxury and ease in their palaces and send the common people to the battlefield; offer them as the food and targets of cannon. Each day they invent new instruments for the more complete destruction of the foundations of the human race. They are callous and merciless toward their fellow-creatures.
Souce: Foundations of World Unity, Pages 22-27: fr1
Maev Kennedy reported yesterday in ‘The Guardian’ that the final resting place of soldiers killed in the battle of Fromelles has been excavated by archaeologists. More than two thousand soldiers lost their lives within a few hours in 1916, as part of what was by all accounts a futile assault. Abdu’l-Bahá said of the First World War that-
‘This recent war has proved to the world and the people that war is destruction while Universal Peace is construction; war is death while peace is life; war is rapacity and bloodthirstiness while peace is beneficence and humaneness; war is an appurtenance of the world of nature while peace is of the foundation of the religion of God; war is darkness upon darkness while peace is heavenly light; war is the destroyer of the edifice of mankind while peace is the everlasting life of the world of humanity; war is like a devouring wolf while peace is like the angels of heaven; war is the struggle for existence while peace is mutual aid and cooperation among the peoples of the world and the cause of the good-pleasure of the True One in the heavenly realm’.
Bahá’í World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahá’u'lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Section Only) US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1976 edition
How much more ‘proof’ does the world need of the futility of war? When will the voice of the peacemakers finally be heard above of the sound of gunfire?