Bahai Killing Discussed
Question: Is killing to defend your country justified?
JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.
In times of military duty, Bahá’ís ask for a special category, that of “non-combatant.” In times of national emergency, this moral stance allows them to serve as stretcher-bearers, ambulance corps, office administrators, relief workers and so forth. In so doing, Bahá’ís do not seek a safe berth from combat in times of national crisis.
Driving an ambulance can be a very risky form of service. A Bahá’í may also enlist voluntarily in the armed forces to make a career, or to learn a trade or profession, provided that he or she can do so without being liable to undertake combatant service.
Bahá’ís are forbidden from engaging in combat, whose aim is the taking of another human life. All forms of violence are categorically forbidden in the Bahá’í teachings, and the shedding of blood is the worst form of violence.
This does not mean, however, that Bahá’ís are absolute pacifists or conscientious objectors since the Bahá’í faith recognizes “the right and duty of governments to use force for the maintenance of law and order to protect their people” (Shoghi Effendi, letter of Nov. 21, 1935).
Think of the scenes of riotous anarchy and chaos in Vancouver and more recently in the U.K. Shoghi Effendi’s statement does not apply to tyrannical regimes that oppress their own people.
Absolute pacifism can easily become a form of anti-social behaviour. I read recently about a report in Time (April 8, 1957) that in 1922, revolutionary Pancho Villa and his men attacked a 5,000-strong Canadian Mennonite colony in Chihuahua province, and raped the Mennonite women while the men stood by and prayed in helpless anguish! The community has the right of defence and self-protection.
If necessary, armed force should be used against those who commit naked aggression against other governments, or who murder their own populations or commit genocide. During World War II, absolute pacifism would have meant the victory of Nazism, and the consequent enslavement and genocide of other populations than the Jews.
As I understand it, Christ’s injunction to turn the other cheek is an admonition against taking personal revenge, not an endorsement of absolute pacifism.
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