Peace for Our Planet - A New ApproachOctober 26, 2018 — 3 mins
Roya Akhavan, Peace for Our Planet: A New Approach (Minneapolis, MN: Wisdom Editions, 2017), iv + 117 pages. Available on Amazon.
Reviewed for The Journal of Baháʼí Studies by Warren Waren
This short, readable book aims to demonstrate to a lay audience that even though there are prevailing destructive forces at work in the world, there are concurrent constructive forces at work that are not yet as visible but will soon emerge as even more powerful.
Akhavan’s understanding of the Bahá’í Faith and its writings on world peace are thorough and well considered. Her writing is accessible and organized, and her thinking is often quite direct.
I’m happy with how the author argues that the destructive and constructive forces at work in the world are independent of each other. This is one of the strengths of the book—illustrating how the world wars of the twentieth century occurred independently of the dramatic progress made toward world peace. One might imagine that these devastating wars would snuff out the dim light of the peace process. Instead, as the book reveals, each conflict of the century strengthened and increased the scope and intensity of the beacon for peace.
With similar topics, themes, and phrasing, Peace for Our Planet stays close to the text and perspectives of the 1985 message from the Universal House of Justice to the peoples of the world titled “The Promise of World Peace.” In fact, Akhavan’s book might be used as an updated companion guide with current examples of major themes from this message. I particularly enjoyed Akhavan’s interpretation of terrorism within the Bahá’í perspective on race, class, gender, and religious fanaticism.
Although the book is written by an academic, it is not a technical piece for policy makers or a theoretical text for philosophers. With no index or works cited section, the book is clearly not a reference guide or an anchor for further scholarship. Instead, Bahá’í positions are claimed and then supported with evidence from current events. This allows the work to flow and the author’s points to make their mark. However, a deeper reading will leave some seekers wanting more with which to contrast Bahá’í claims.
This book is more of a descriptive work that provides a modern application of current events, historical changes, international developments, and cultural shifts to Bahá’í thoughts on the realization of world peace. The author presents a slightly secularized but well-organized version of her understanding of the Bahá’í position on social topics such as race, class gender, and religious fanaticism. Then she connects these positions to a broader vision of the process of universal peace.
Although the book is strong in presenting the author’s understanding of the Bahá’í point of view on the emergence of world peace, there are some problems in execution that detract from the author’s goal. First, when other authors are included in the body of the text without citation, it reads like an endorsement (for example, see references to Max Roser, p. 9; Steven Pinker, p. 11; William Pollack, p. 56; Stephen Young, p. 66; Ömer Taşpinar, p.80; and Sebastian Junger, p. 105). I’m sure that this was not the author’s intention. Yet it may cause confusion when the referenced author’s claims differ significantly from the Bahá’í position. This could easily be remedied with footnotes or a works cited section.
Finally, ending the book with an expressive poem was unexpected. I’m not sure this hits the audience squarely. If there had been more artistic expression from the author earlier in the work, the concluding poem might not have been such a surprise. As it is, it’s not bad—just unexpected.
I think that for those who are new to the Bahá’í perspective on how the promises and prophecies of universal peace will be attained, this short book offers an enlightening and inspiring connection between world events and the Bahá’í Writings—a truly worthy objective for any Bahá’í scholar.
Warren Waren, PhD, is an Instructional Assistant Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, where his research and teaching focus on social demography, culture, and quantitative methods.