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Earth is our only country. Can we make it peaceful?

Earth is our only country. Can we make it peaceful?

By Pete Haug

It’s barely a month since Russia invaded Ukraine, a month in which millions have fled and tens of thousands have died. One, ironically, was a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor. Why?

“What has been missed among Vladimir Putin’s ranting,” wrote The Guardian, “is the religious dimension in his thinking.” The Wall Street Journal posited, “The Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see Ukraine as part of a cultural dominion to be protected from the values of an encroaching west.” Fox news concurred, suggesting Putin’s war “may have spiritual, religious foundations: ‘Good vs. evil.’”

Vladimir Putin himself “invoked a Russian Orthodox warrior-saint” who called his own battles “thunderstorms” that would “glorify Russia,” the Washington Post reported. The saint was Fedor Ushakov, a 19th-century admiral reputed never to have lost a battle. “This is how it was in his time,” Putin said, “this is how it is today and will always be.”

Putin is more than “an ex-KGB officer who wants to revive the Soviet Union,” the Post wrote. He is a “Russian Orthodox Christian believer rather than an atheist.” His ideology is “closer to Benito Mussolini’s fascism than Vladimir Lenin’s communism.” Religion News Service reported Putin seeks “full capitulation from Ukraine—both physical and spiritual.” Another writer warned, “faith and force go hand in hand” in the Kremlin. That includes the possibility of “nuclear holy war.”

Images of jihads, crusades, inquisitions, witch-burnings, and unmentionable abuses of religious authority come to mind. Within the shards of a splintered Christianity, some still exile “heretics,” yet such actions aren’t restricted to Christians. Warring factions of Sunni and Shia Islam joined forces to persecute and martyr tens of thousands of Babis and Baha’is in Iran and other Islamic countries. And let’s not forget persecutions of Jews throughout millennia.

Humanity as hostage

Today a nuclear Damoclean sword dangles over a world held hostage by a religious fanatic. It hangs by the hairthread of one man’s fraying mind. I was a child when the first two —the only two — atomic bombs were dropped in war. From a safe distance, television portrayed the aftermath of this unprecedented horror. Not even survivors of atom bombs fully understand what they survived. Thermonuclear warheads are far more destructive.

Treaties were signed, the world changed, but war continues. People die, victims of “conventional” weapons, some of which are “illegal” under the Geneva Conventions. These humanitarian rules for warfare, the ultimate zero-sum game, prescribe how to “humanely” displace, maim, and kill innocent noncombatants–men, women, and children. Rules even specify how not to torture prisoners of war. Play nice, children!

We contemplate the uncertainty of our changing future. At some point nations must shake off fetters forged over centuries by circumstances long outmoded. These fetters perpetuate shibboleths glorifying nationhood, like “thunderstorms” that “glorify Russia.”

Reality confronts us: “Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens” is more than an observation. It’s a warning about environmental, economic, and social issues that threaten humankind on a global scale.

Positive Signs

Autonomous 19th-century fiefdoms, sheikdoms, and nation-states coalesced into today’s United Nations. Yet this international body is politically toothless, “ineffective” according to besieged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The UN has tremendous potential. Its intergovernmental agencies work toward environmentally sustainable development, improved global health and agriculture, children’s welfare and education, gender equality, and much more around the globe. But it lacks true peacekeeping authority because of its flawed structure.

This structure must evolve into an international order both just and equitable, overseeing Earth’s natural resources, regulating global financial institutions, and rendering absolute power of any individual impossible. In a stark 19th century warning, Baha’u’llah wrote: “Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him.”

When representatives of 50 countries gathered in 1945 to create a new international organization, the UN, they hoped to “prevent another world war like the one they had just lived through.” Nations “were in ruins, and the world wanted peace.”

It still wants peace. What will it take?

Seventy-five years ago Baha’i leadership issued to the UN a statement, “The Faith of Baha’u’llah: A World Religion.” This summary of the origin, teachings and institutions of the Baha’i Faith reflects its status in 1947.

Since then, the Baha’i Faith has evolved quickly. It is now  “the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity.” Baha’is are found from the tiniest island nations to the world’s largest countries throughout the southern and northern hemispheres.

Across the world, Baha’is focus on collective efforts to establish lasting world peace. They restate and implement eternal verities, spiritual principles like the oneness of the human race, to reconcile conflicting creeds, upraise humanity, and create a world civilization from grass roots. Despite immediate appearances, the future is bright, fulfilling a vision sought by “seers and poets for countless generations”: The Promise of World Peace.

Join SpokaneFāVS for a hybrid Coffee Talk on “Standing for Democracy: In Ukraine and at Home” at 10 a.m., April 2. Details here.

About Pete Haug

Armed with an AB in English literature, Pete Haug plunged into journalism fresh out of college. That career lasted five years while he reported for a metropolitan daily, edited a rural weekly, and worked in industrial and academic public relations. He abandoned all for graduate school, finishing with an MS in wildlife biology and a PhD in systems ecology. Pete taught college briefly, then for a couple of decades he analyzed environmental impacts for federal, state, Native American, and private agencies. His last hurrah was an 11-year gig teaching English in China. After he retired in 2007, curiosity led Pete to explore climate change and fake news and to give talks about both. About five years ago he returned to journalism to write columns under the watchful eye of his draconian live-in editor and wife Jolie. They’ve both been Baha’is since the 1960s. Pete’s columns on the Baha’i Faith represent his own understanding and not any official position.

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