America Will Lead the World to Peace 1
On May 3, 1912, ‘Abdul-Bahá met with visitors in the hotel’s ballroom throughout the day. If he was impressed, he failed to comment. There were more urgent things at hand.
‘Abdul-Bahá turned his attention once again to the war taking place in Libya. He painted an apocalyptic scene: “Observe what is taking place in Tripoli: men cutting each other into pieces, bombardment from the sea, attacks from the land and the hail of dynamite from the very heaven itself.”
The subject of war and peace has occupied much of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s time. He has become a well-known voice in the international peace movement. In fact one of the reasons for his trip to America is to speak at the Lake Mohonk Conference on International Arbitration on May 14.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá believes that the American nation is singly positioned to lead the world to peace:
Because I find the American nation so capable of achievement, and the American government the fairest of Western governments, its systems superior to others, my wish and hope is that the banner of peace may be raised first on this continent, that the standard of the Most Great Peace may here be unfurled. 2
‘Abdu’l-Bahá often walked in the morning and evening through Lincoln Park and through the zoo, taking the friends with Him and talking on the way, sometimes calling the friends to take photographs of Him. At times He picked up a stick as He walked, using it like a cane. The friends recalled how, as He stood seemingly absorbed in watching the polar bear, they tiptoed back out of camera rage as the photographer positioned himself for a profile view, without asking ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. But just as he was about to click the shutter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughed and playfully hit him across the back of the neck with a light touch of the cane.
From the zoo He led the friends toward the lake, sat on a bench, motioned to the friends to do likewise, and discussed unity with them. He said,
Some of you may have observed that I have not called attention to any of your individual shortcomings, I would suggest to you , that if you shall be similarly considerate in your treatment of each other, it will be greatly conducive to the harmony of your association with each other… 3 4
Talk at Plaza Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
The Prophets of God are the first Educators. They bestow universal education upon man and cause him to rise from the lowest levels of savagery to the highest pinnacles of spiritual development. The philosophers, too, are educators along lines of intellectual training. At most, they have only been able to educate themselves and a limited number about them, to improve their own morals and, so to speak, civilize themselves; but they have been incapable of universal education. They have failed to cause an advancement for any given nation from savagery to civilization. 5
Friday, May 3, 1912
From early morning friends and inquirers visited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in twos and threes, all profusely offering their thanks and praise for the favors they had received from Him.
Today the members of an association of Indians residing in Chicago, who had previously attended ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s receptions, arrived as one body and after obtaining His permission, read Him an address of welcome:
“From the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago to His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás. In the Name of God!
We, the members of the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago welcome you to this country. The Cause that has brought your Excellency to this country is most surely a source of honor and grace to us. Asia has always been the dawning-place of religions: Muhammad, Christ, Buddha and Confucius were born in that enlightened continent; and we confidently believe that at this time, too, Asia will again usher in the universal principles of accord. The Bahá’í Cause, like the Cause of the Buddha, will be a source of uniting nations and will be a fulfillment of the teachings of our forefathers. Although Asia presently is in a state of backwardness, we console ourselves with the thought that although we are lacking in material progress, yet, concerning spirituality, we are the pride of the world.
We feel happy when we realize that through your Excellency, the means for the acquisition of Western arts and sciences will become available for those in the East and that the youth of Persia will come to these parts to acquire material knowledge and broaden their thinking and will return to their homes to benefit their brothers and sisters in the East on the road to progress.
Further, we believe that our country, India, will greatly benefit from a visit from your Excellency. The lack of unity between the Hindus and Muslims has kept them in the utmost contention and strife. As your Excellency’s teachings are very much like the teachings of our religious leaders, they will undoubtedly unite them and make these contending nations one. We are certain that you will receive the same warmth and honor in India as here in America.
We pray to God to give your Excellency long life so that you may be enabled to convey your message to all mankind.
We are, most beloved Master, your sincere friends, the members of the Society of Indians Residing in Chicago.”
More people gathered, forming a large group. The Master gave a public talk at the hotel on the gradual weakening of man’s physical and material powers and the effect on man of divine civilization and spiritual education. All were struck with the charm of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s expression and the power of His argument. They openly expressed their conviction that the true salvation of the world of humanity lay in following the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The address by the Society of Indians and the testimony of others are examples for the fair-minded of the degree of attachment and attraction of the people, just as ‘a drop expresses oceans’.
In the evening the Bahá’ís consulted. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent us there and later joined us. He spoke briefly to the meeting but on the subject of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the Master said, ‘I will not discuss this matter. It is the business of the consultative assembly.’ Later He added: ‘If I were to speak about the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, it would have to be built at once.’
In the early evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a very eloquent and impressive address for the Theosophical Society, which fascinated the audience, especially the members of the society.
Some of the friends had asked whether they could take photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Several photographs were therefore taken in the park across from the hotel by Mr and Mrs Killius, two of the devoted believers. In one of the photographs ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is standing with a flower in His hand. In another He is with His entourage and in the third He is standing among the believers. Although photographs of the Master had been taken in other cities, these are better and more lifelike. 6
- Sockett, Robert. “America Will Lead the World to Peace.” 239 Days in America, May 3, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/05/03/will-america-lead-world-to-peace/. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 83. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#683021952. ↩
- Jaxon, Honore J. “A Stroll with Abdul-Baha.” Star of the West, May 17, 1912, 29. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 54-55. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 84-85. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/4#219087740 ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=3#section40. ↩