By Mark Hoerrner
It's all about universality, Bahá'u'lláh asserts. Baha'ism, an offshoot of Islam, is based on the teachings of an obscure figure in Asian history. A imprisoned 19th century Persian nobleman, Bahá'u'lláh, faced a vision for the future of humanity and in what the religion calls "a great moment of revelation," Bahá'u'lláh was made the messenger of God.
Today, Baha'ism has more than five million followers in 232 countries, surpassing all religions but Christianity in its spread on earth. Bahai's universality concept of a global citizen is reflected in its members, which come from all over the planet. The religion claims to have supporters in 116,000 different geographic localities, and more than 2,100 tribal and ethnic groups are represented.
Baha'i is unique in a way that, unlike most monotheistic religions, other religions are not cast out, but referred to as evolutionary stages of a universal faith. The religion teaches that there is a single god, that there is only one human race, and that all people will eventually unite into a single "new world order."
According to www.bahai.com, the religions precepts are "the elimination of all forms of prejudice; full equality between the sexes; recognition of the essential oneness of the world's great religions; the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth; universal education; the harmony of science and religion; a sustainable balance between nature and technology; and the establishment of a world federal system, based on collective security and the oneness of humanity."
The globalization of Baha'i cannot be disputed. The religion's texts have been translated into more than 800 languages and dialects. It operates more than 18,000 governing councils, called "spiritual councils," around the world. It operates seven radio stations, 26 publishing trusts, 741 schools, and even supports 203 literacy programs. But where does Baha'i lead? The new world order is not just a glimpse of paradise on earth, but a real desire to replace all current government systems with a single form of democracy.
The Baha'is, a publication of the international Baha'i organization, has distinct ideas on its governmental processes. "The system combines the best elements of grassroots democracy with a facility for planet-wide coordination," the text reads. "It promotes the selection of leaders with integrity and has built-in checks against corruption. Its underlying principles strike a singular balance between individual freedom and the collective good. Although many of its elements are similar to other practices for democratic election, administration and governance, when viewed as a whole the Bahá'í system stands in sharp contrast. The election process, for example, excludes any form of campaigning, electioneering, or nominations. Yet it offers every individual elector the widest possible choice of candidates. The decision-making process used by Bahá'í councils in their deliberations is also distinctive; its method is non-adversarial and seeks to build community consensus in a manner that unites various constituencies instead of dividing them."
Baha'i is unusual for a religion that claims universality and then speaks of a single government form. Certainly, under perfect conditions, a one-world government may be the panacea for all that ills the planet, but will the perfect conditions arise? The Baha'ists affirm that it will, noting that the earth is now in its adolescence and ready for societies to merge into one.