Whatever Happened to World Unity?

“For the first time since World War II the international community is united. . . . The world can therefore seize this opportunity to fulfill the long-held promise of a new world order.”

SO SAID a president of the United States in the last decade of the 20th century. At that time, international events seemed to suggest that world unity was on the horizon. Totalitarian governments fell one after another. The Berlin Wall came down, signaling a new era for Europe. The Soviet Union, viewed by many in the West as an instigator of global conflicts, disappeared before the eyes of an astonished world. The Cold War came to an end, and there was optimistic talk about disarmament, including nuclear disarmament. Granted, war broke out in the Persian Gulf, but that seemed to be just a momentary blip that left much of the world more determined to pursue a peaceful order.

Positive signs could be seen not only on the political front but also in other areas of life. The standard of living was improving in many parts of the world. Advancements in the medical field made it possible for doctors to do things that would have been called miracles just a few decades earlier. Economic growth in many countries moved ahead at a pace that appeared to be leading to global prosperity. It looked as though things were heading in the right direction.

Today, not many years later, we cannot help but ask: ‘What happened? Where is the promised world unity?’ If anything, the world seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Suicide bombings, terrorist attacks, the reported proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other disturbing developments have become regular features of  published news. Such events appear to be pushing the world further and further away from unity. One prominent financier recently said: “We are becoming enmeshed in a vicious circle of escalating violence.”

World Unity or Global Fragmentation?

When the United Nations was formed, one of the stated purposes was “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.” After nearly 60 years, has that noble objective been reached? Far from it! Rather than “friendly relations,” the expression “self-determination” appears to be more on the mind of the nations. Peoples and ethnic groups struggling to establish their own identity and sovereignty have increasingly divided the world. When the United Nations was formed, it had 51 member nations. Today, there are 191.

As we have seen, toward the end of the 20th century, hope for a united world was in the air. Since then, that hope has turned to dismay as mankind has witnessed the progressive fragmentation of the world community. The violent disintegration of Yugoslavia, the clashes between Chechnya and Russia, the war in Iraq, and the continued carnage in the Middle East​—all of this has been evidence of ever greater disunity.

There is no doubt that many of the efforts for peace have been sincere and well-meant. In spite of this, world unity seems unattainable. Many are left wondering: ‘Why does world unity remain so elusive? Where is the world heading?’

[Picture Credit Lines on page 3]

AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

Arlo K. Abrahamson/AFP/Getty Images