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The UN, the Baha'is, and the San Francisco Conference of 1945
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The UN, the Baha'is, and the San Francisco Conference of 1945

Interested to learn about the connection between the UN, the Baha'is, and the San Francisco Conference of 1945? This read has the answers.

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4 min read

June 25, 2021

When you think of the Golden State, you may think of sunny weather, coastal beaches, and celebrity sightings, but California’s connection with the Baha’i Faith and the United Nations might be even more noteworthy. In 1912, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith visited California and spoke of the importance of international peacekeepers before the United Nations historically began in San Francisco.

Before the UN, A Baha’i Leader Came to California With A Message of Peace

“It is because the friends of California, and particularly those of San Francisco, have so frequently called and pleaded, expressed despair and wept and sent incessant supplications, that I have determined to go to California.” - Abdu’l-Baha

These were the words of Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, and the authorized interpreter of the Baha’i writings. The Baha’i Faith is a world religion composed of members who love humanity and are actively working for world peace. Baha’is view Abdu’l-Baha as the perfect exemplar of the Baha’i teachings, so they were eager and excited for his arrival to the U.S. in 1912. 

Abdu’l-Baha comes to America to spread the message of oneness of humanity and the abolition of all forms of prejudice.

Abdu’l-Baha’s journey in 1912 to the United States lasted for 239 days, from April to December. During his trip, he visited people of diverse classes, colors, and cultures, sharing the revolutionary teachings of the Baha’i Faith, such as the oneness of humanity, the  , the truth of all religions, the agreement of science and religion, and the equality of women and men. While he was in California, he traveled to Berkeley, Inglewood, Los Angeles, Oakland, Palo Alto, Pasadena, Pleasanton, Sacramento, and San Francisco.

As Abdu’l-Baha spoke about the need for international peace and addressed the social and spiritual issues that needed to be remedied, throngs of people sought him out and reporters rushed to interview him for numerous publications, such as the Los Angeles Herald and the Sacramento Union newspaper. Headlines often celebrated and hailed him as the “Persian Peace Advocate” and the “Apostle of Universal Peace and Brotherhood.”

The Importance of the UN’s San Francisco Conference in 1945

“Inasmuch as the Californians seem peace loving and possessed of great worthiness and capacity, I hope that advocates of peace may daily increase among them until the whole population shall stand for that beneficent outcome. May the men of affairs in this democracy uphold the standard of international conciliation. Then may altruistic aims and thoughts radiate from this centre toward all other regions of the earth, and may the glory of this accomplishment forever halo the history of this country. May the first flag of international peace be upraised in this state.” - Abdu’l-Baha

Abdu’l-Baha shared his high hopes of Californians on October 26, 1912 to an audience in the Assembly Hall of the Hotel Sacramento on his last day in California. In his speech, he said that international peace is the “greatest need in the world today” and expressed how urgent it was for warfare to be abolished and nations and governments to unify. He explained that Europe is like “a storehouse of explosives” and “one spark will set the whole of Europe aflame.”

Less than two years later, his predictions of a global violent conflict became a reality when the First World War began after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28, 1914. Although Abdu’l-Baha did not live to see the “first flag of international peace” upraised in California, this prediction also came true with the San Francisco Conference in 1945.

After World War II ended on September 2, 1945, 850 delegates from fifty nations gathered in San Francisco between April 25 and June 26 to establish the United Nations. There, the Charter of the United Nations and the Statute of the International Court of Justice was adopted unanimously at the end of the San Francisco Conference on June 25 and was signed the following day.

In addition to the hundreds of delegates and thousands of news, press, and radio representatives, representatives of the Baha’i International Community were present at the signing of this charter and called for the recognition of the oneness of humanity at the founding of the UN. On October 24, 1945, which is now observed annually as United Nations Day, the United Nations was established. 

Through the UN, the Baha'i International Community is paving the way for positive change worldwide.

In 1948, the Baha'i­ International Community registered with the UN as an international non-governmental organization. They were later granted consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, the United Nations Children's Fund, and with the UN Development Fund for Women. The Baha’i Community has also worked closely with the UN Environment Program, the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and the UN Development Program. 

The Baha'i­ International Community was also fully involved in the World Summit for Children in 1990, the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993, the Global Conference on Small Island States in Barbados and the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen and the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the UN Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul and the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996. 

In their statement for the United Nations’ 50th Anniversary, the Baha'i International Community expressed their praise of the progress the UN has made in peace-keeping and paving a “path toward a future without war.”

Currently, the United Nations consists of 193 “member states”. Goals include improving economic growth, ending poverty and famine, ensuring everyone has access to clean water and sanitation, achieving gender equality, reducing pollution, making clean energy more accessible and affordable, funding projects that build infrastructure in developing countries, and promoting peaceful, just, and inclusive societies. 

Although the UN isn’t perfect and has its own shortcomings, it still remains to be one place where nations around the world can unite and collaborate on what solutions are needed for the world’s pressing problems. The San Francisco Conference in 1945 is seen as one of the most important and largest gatherings of international peacekeepers in history. After the biggest and deadliest war in history, an international organization was created to end war and promote peace and justice for humanity.

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