Blood Shed Over “Imaginary Lines” 1

THE CENTURY THAT STRETCHES between 1912 and today is the bloodiest in human history. Millions have been killed in wars, massacres and other acts of persecution, terror, violence and genocide. Brutality on an inconceivable scale has been variously justified in the name of nationalism, ideology, race, religion and class. One hundred years ago today, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained that all such excuses for bloodshed have no basis in reality.

“Man has set up imaginary lines,” he said, “only to have them become causes of strife. A river is made a boundary; one side is called France and the other Germany. What a superstition! An imaginary line to become a cause of bloodshed!”

On September 1, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was speaking at the Unitarian “Church of the Messiah” in Montreal. The Rev. F. J. Griffin introduced him to the packed church. A journalist from the Montreal Star considered ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s address on the causes of war to be “a powerful plea for peace and unity among the nations.” Despite the unusual sound and sight of a Persian speaker “in flowing robes,” the newspaper accounts did not dwell on the exoticism of the speaker’s appearance, but focused on the challenging content of his talk.

The true “reality” was the unity of all humans, said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Everyone “came from the same elements, all were descended from the same race and all had to live on the same globe.” Because “God created all mankind, maintained all and protected all,” there was “no difference in His bestowal of mercy among His children.”

Montreal 2

On Sunday, September 1, as He prepared to leave for the Unitarian Church where He was to speak, ’Abdu’l-Bahá called one of the Persian friends to sit by Him in the carriage The friend replied that there was plenty of room on another seat; but ’Abdu’l-Bahá insisted, “‘Come and sit here. When I see some one selfish and hankering after rank, I observe these formalities for his correction merely. Everyone may sit wherever he wishes. These things are entirely unimportant.’”

We are honored today with the presence of the Prophet of Peace whose message is the Message of God 3

This was a momentous day. From the pulpit of the Unitarian Church, the voice of the Center of the Covenant was broadcast afar. As He prepared to leave for the church, He asked me to sit by Him in the carriage. I said that there was room on the other seat. He replied, ‘Come and sit here. When I see someone who is ambitious and selfish, I observe these formalities merely for his correction. Otherwise, everyone may sit wherever he wishes. These things are entirely unimportant.’ When the carriage arrived, the pastor, who had been waiting at the entrance, came forward, took the Master’s arm with the utmost reverence and courtesy, led him to the pulpit and offered Him his own chair. After the music, the pastor stood and read verses from the Book of Isaiah which allude to the appearance of a promised one from the East. Everyone listened with rapt attention to these verses and felt that they had been specifically written for this day.

In introducing the Master, the pastor said:

We are honored today with the presence of the Prophet of Peace whose message is the Message of God. God has raised Him to exterminate war and bloodshed. His presence in this church is the cause of eternal honor and the fulfillment of our long-cherished hopes and desires. He is the sign of love among the people and the promoter of oneness and brotherhood among the sons of men. His object is to free people from the shackles of imitation and to unfurl the banner of the oneness of humanity. He is the temple of kindness, the possessor of the greatest news, the inspirer of the new thoughts and the expounder of the happiness of this great cycle. Although He has suffered violence and affliction for many years and has seen persecutions, His spiritual power is still flowing like the water of life. Although His body has felt the cross, yet His spirit, which is life-giving, has not been crucified. He has journeyed by land and sea to come to these western countries. We extend Him a sincere welcome and offer the incense of gratitude for His teachings which are the cause of the recovery of hearts and are the source of eternal blessings and happiness. Now His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá will speak to you.

Talk at Church of the Messiah, Montreal, Canada 4

God, the Almighty, has created all mankind from the dust of earth. He has fashioned them all from the same elements; they are descended from the same race and live upon the same globe. He has created them to dwell beneath the one heaven. As members of the human family and His children He has endowed them with equal susceptibilities. He maintains, protects and is kind to all. He has made no distinction in mercies and graces among His children. With impartial love and wisdom He has sent forth His Prophets and divine teachings. His teachings are the means of establishing union and fellowship among mankind and awakening love and kindness in human hearts. He proclaims the oneness of the kingdom of humanity. He rebukes those things which create differences and destroy harmony; He commends and praises every means that will conduce to the solidarity of the human race. He encourages man in every step of advancement which leads to ultimate union. The Prophets of God have been inspired with the message of love and unity. The Books of God have been revealed for the upbuilding of fellowship and union. The Prophets of God have been the servants of reality; Their teachings constitute the science of reality. Reality is one; it does not admit plurality. We conclude, therefore, that the foundation of the religions of God is one foundation. Notwithstanding this, certain forms and imitations have been persistently adhered to which have nothing to do with the foundation of the teachings of the Prophets of God. As these imitations are various and different, contention and strife prevail among the people of religious beliefs, and the foundation of the religion of God has become obscured. Like beasts of prey, men are warring and killing each other, destroying cities and homes, devastating countries and kingdoms.

  1. Michel, Tony. “Blood Shed Over ‘Imaginary Lines.’” 239 Days in America, 1 Sept. 2012, [return]
  2. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 133. [return]
  3. ’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. [return]
  4. 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, 297. [return]