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Canada Should Prepare For Great War Coming, Says Apostle of Peace

Canada Should Prepare For Great War Coming, Says Apostle of Peace
The Montreal Daily Star
September 11, 1912
Montreal, QC

[picture caption: ‘ABDU’L-BAHA.]

Universal Peace Only Possible by Common Disarmament. But Europe is an Armed Camp; War Threatens England and Canada Must be Ready to Take a Hand Says ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

That ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is under no illusions about the ushering in of a reign of peace all over the world by merely talking about it, was made abundantly clear by him in a special interview accorded to a representative of The Montreal Star.

The venerable apostle of peace emphatically declared that in the temper of the world to-day, it was futile to hope for any slackening of the present race of the nations to increase their armaments. He reiterated his absolute conviction that a great war in Europe was a certainty before permanent peace would be established in the world.

Briefly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said the permanent peace of the world could only be established by international agreement, voluntarily entered into by all the nations; that for any single nation to disarm at present, or to fail to strengthen its armaments while the neighboring nations kept on adding to theirs, was simply out of the question, and, in fact, would be supreme folly; that Great Britain was justified at present, in view of menacing conditions in Europe, in increasing her armaments in order to safeguard her existence; and that the people of Canada, under such circumstances, could not well do otherwise than assist her Motherland in the task of defence.


The case was put to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá thus: —

Granting the truth of all you say in regard to war — that it is wicked and cruel and a barbarous anachronism which ought to be swept away and replaced by arbitration — the fact stares us in the face that all the nations of the world are arming, and you have stated yourself during your stay in Montreal that an appalling war in Europe is inevitable. Undoubtedly the principals will be Great Britain and Germany. The victor in such a war would be in command of the seas and so become, for a long time, the dominant power in the world. We Canadians prefer to live under British institutions. We are bound by ties of blood and affection to the British Empire. In view of the apparent certainty of this struggle, what are we Canadians to do?”

Simultaneous Action Necessary.

In reply to this, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

As to the question of disarmament, all nations must disarm at the same time. It will not do at all, and it is not proposed, that some nations shall lay down their arms while others, their neighbors, remain armed. The peace of the world must be brought about by international agreement. All nations must agree to disarm simultaneously.

Look Out for Yourselves.”

In the case of Great Britain, so long as other nations are adding to their naval armaments and increasing the strength of their military forces, surely you are entitled to look out for yourselves. Were you to do otherwise, that would be folly: you would simply find yourselves bereft of the means of defence.

No nation can follow a peace policy, while its neighbor remains warlike. For example, if France should cease to maintain her armaments while Germany should maintain hers, France would not be able to offer resistance to attack and would simply invite her own destruction. If France added to her armaments and Germany did not do the same, France would be the victor as soon as the armed nation fell upon the disarmed one.

There is no justice in that. Nobody would dream of suggesting that the peace of the world could be brought about by any such line of action. It is to be brought about by a general and comprehensive international agreement and in no other way.

Britain and Canada Justified.

So long as Germany is adding to its fleet of dreadnoughts, nobody can expect that the British people can or will do anything else but increase their own armaments. Disarmament, as I have said, must be by international agreement and it must be done at the same time. The nations must agree to abandon the ancient pursuit of war and lay down their arms simultaneously.

Then, in view of the warlike state of affairs in Europe, the people of Great Britain are under no blame for adding new warships to their already powerful fleet?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked.

No, not at all,” he replied, “They cannot well do anything else.”

And Canadians cannot do otherwise than stand by their Mother Country and render her every material assistance possible,” the interviewer pursued.

That is manifest,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Simultaneous action,” he went on, “is necessary in any scheme of disarmament. All the Governments of the world must transform their battleships and warcraft into merchant vessels. But no one nation can by itself start in upon such a policy and it would be folly should one power attempt to do so.

Would Simply Invite Destruction.

If England, for instance, should deem, that the time had arrived for her to disarm and set the world an example of a really peaceful nation, what would happen? Why, Germany would at once pounce upon her and her power would be destroyed. In the absence of any international agreement, and while Germany is adding dreadnought to dreadnought, the British people can do nothing else than they are now doing — that is they are perforce obliged to add to their armaments — for self-defence, of course.”

Abdu’l-Bahá then told a little story to illustrate his point of reciprocity of action:

The Turning of the Other Cheek.

One man slapped another on the face. When the man who had received the slap made a move to retaliate, the other reminded him of the precept concerning the turning of the left cheek after one has been smitten on the right. ‘So you must let me slap you again,’ said the aggressor. He allowed the surly one to do so. Next day, the same two men met, and the surly man struck the other on the right cheek once more. ‘Now let me have your left cheek,’ said the assailant. The blow was received, and the injured man quietly went his way. On the third day the two met again, but by this time the man who had been smitten, thinking he had pretty well carried out both the letter and the spirit of his Master, said to the aggressor: ‘Now, my friend, it’s your turn to carry out the holy precept.’ And so he went for him and gave him a good sound thrashing.

So you see,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá laughing heartily, “there must be reciprocity in carrying out a policy of peace and good-will. As with individuals, the nations must live up to the spirit of amity.

In the meantime, all people of good will must ever strive to make international peace the great issue. They must work unceasingly to turn public opinion in favor of this line of action. In the absence of a universal agreement, armament must continue to be piled up against armament and the nations cannot hope for release.

A Great War Coming.

And a titanic war would seem to be approaching?”

All Europe is an armed camp. These warlike preparations will necessarily culminate in a great war. The very armaments themselves are productive of war. This great arsenal must go ablaze. There is nothing of the nature of prophecy about such a view,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “it is based on reasoning solely.”

Are there any signs that the permanent peace of the world will be established in anything like a reasonable period?” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked.

It will be established in this century,” he answered, ‘It will be universal in the twentieth century. All nations will be forced into it.”

Getting Beyond Human Endurance.

Economic pressure will tell.”

Yes, the nations will be forced to come to peace and to agree to the abolition of war. The awful burdens of taxation for war purposes will get beyond human endurance. Practically the whole of the substance of the peoples, all the fruit of their labor, is now taken away from them to be devoted to the forging of armaments everywhere. Why, they are even carrying the war into the air. Think of it! Aeronautics for war!

No,” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in conclusion, “I repeat, no nation can disarm under these circumstances. Disarmament is surely coming, but it must come, and it will come, by the universal consent of the civilized nations of the earth. By international agreement they will lay down their arms and the great era of peace will be ushered in.

In this and no other way can peace be established upon the earth.”