I am a big supporter of Ukraine. As a follower of Baha’u’llah, I consider it my religious duty to support Ukraine. But having said that, my support isn’t out of duty; on the contrary, I am passionate about it. In this blog post, I explain why.
The fundamental reason I support Ukraine is because, as I understand it, this position is in keeping with Baha’u’llah’s principles. Writing in the mid-19th century – in other words, years prior to the situation we face today – Baha’u’llah said that if one country takes up arms against another, then everyone must rise up to prevent the aggressor country from attacking the victim country. He describes this response as “manifest justice”.
“Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him. … We fain would hope that the kings and rulers of the earth, the mirrors of the gracious and almighty name of God, may attain unto this station, and shield mankind from the onslaught of tyranny.” Tablet of Maqsud, in Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh
“Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest, if ye be of them that comprehend. Should anyone among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.” Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXIX
Baha’u’llah wants the countries of the world to unite and act together to oppose tyranny. These instructions strike me as clear as can be on this issue. Although Baha’u’llah is, in these passages, primarily addressing nation-states, I interpret the word “all” – ‘all should rise up against him’ – to include me personally. For this reason, I donate to the Ukraine government’s response effort through its United 24 website, which has been created for the purpose of receiving donations.
As I see it, the passages above make it clear that Ukraine is not morally obliged to give up its territory for the sake of an immediate end to hostilities. Such an outcome would not meet Baha’u’llah’s standard of “manifest justice”, because it would reward Russia for its illegal actions and not put Ukraine back in the position it was in before the invasion. Added to that, there is this thing called international law, and under that law, Ukraine’s boundaries are set and recognised by the international community. According to Baha’u’llah’s principles, the world is obliged to defend those boundaries.
I know that it is easy to lose sight of these justice principles when soldiers on both sides of the conflict are dying on the battlefield each day. It is natural to just want it all to go away. A quote from Abdu’l-Baha comes to mind:
“I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.” Paris Talks, p 29
Despite the apparent meaning here, I do not think Abdu’l-Baha intended for people to ignore the justice principles that Baha’u’llah requires the world to uphold, and shut themselves off to what is happening in Ukraine, in the comforting thought that: I am going to do what Abdu’l-Baha says and shut myself off to it, and just think about unity and peace. In Tablet to the Hague, Abdu’l-Baha argued that, for world peace to happen, it must be established on firm foundations. Those foundations are Baha’u’llah’s principles of justice, rule of law, democracy, human rights and so forth. Abdu’l-Baha did not agree with the position that humanity can bring about peace simply through wishful thinking.
“In fine, such teachings are numerous. These manifold principles, which constitute the greatest basis for the felicity of mankind and are of the bounties of the Merciful, must be added to the matter of universal peace and combined with it, so that results may accrue. Otherwise the realization of universal peace by itself in the world of mankind is difficult.” Tablets to The Hague
Since the outbreak of the war, I have listened to many YouTube commentaries about the war and what it means for the future world order. These voices woke me up to the fact that people are worried about the future and whether democracy will hold out against fascism. I know from what Baha’u’llah says that, in the long term, humanity will unite and create permanent peace, but without his assurance, I would be deeply concerned about what is happening to the world. A cosmic struggle between democracy and fascism is going on worldwide at the moment. If history is anything to go by – like with WWII, when the likely outcome wasn’t clear until late in the piece – God likes a good drama, with a knife-edge ending. People have to suffer through a very, very challenging period before they see the light. Today, the situation looks similar – especially as no one knows what will happen at the 2024 US election. To keep my spirits up, I say this prayer for Ukraine:
“Say: God sufficeth unto me; He is the One Who holdeth in His grasp the kingdom of all things. Through the power of His hosts of heaven and earth and whatever lieth between them, He protecteth whomsoever among His servants He willeth. God, in truth, keepeth watch over all things. Immeasurably exalted art Thou, O Lord! Protect us from what lieth in front of us and behind us, above our heads, on our right, on our left, below our feet and every other side to which we are exposed. Verily Thy protection over all things is unfailing.” Selections from the Writings of the Báb