“Head of New Religion of Peace Is Picturesque Figure at Lake Mohonk Arbitration Conference” — The Superior News Tribune
“Peace Preacher is Picturesque Figure”– Aberdeen Washington World
These were some of the headlines which reflected the eager anticipation of the conference attendees to hear the spiritual teacher from the East, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, speak at the Lake Mohonk Peace Conference in New York in May 1912.
The Lake Mohonk conferences on International Arbitration began in 1895 as a way to seek world peace. It gave birth to many other movements such as The Hague Conference, The World Peace Foundation, and The League to Enforce Peace. Hundreds of well-known people attended the peace conferences between 1895 and 1916 including Andrew Carnegie who founded the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, with founder Albert K. Smiley as one of its original trustees.
A staunch advocate of peace, Smiley had been corresponding with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá since 1911 and invited Him to speak at the conference. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá scheduled His trip to America, He selected dates to include this important event. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá often cited this conference and invitations by the different peace societies as the main reason for His travels to America.
As early as April 5 on the Cedric, Mahmud wrote in his diary ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s response to a newspaper publisher about the purpose of His journey:
I am going to America at the invitation of peace congresses, as the fundamental principles of this Cause are universal peace, the oneness of the world of humanity and the equality of the rights of men. As this age is the age of lights and the century of mysteries, this lofty purpose is sure to be universally acknowledged and this Most Mighty Cause is certain to embrace the East and the West.
Lake Mohonk was four hours away by train from New York City in a beautiful part of the state. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá praised the beauty of the scenery and the mission of the conference when He attended the three-day forum. On May 14, 1912, the first day of the conference, President Smiley introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with much reverence and respect to an anxious audience. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave a 20-minute talk on the unity of all the people and the reformation of the world through the promise of world peace. There were many dignitaries in the audience and all were impressed with His speech. Many embraced and thanked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for His eloquent and spiritual talk, which can be read here.
A thrilled Ahmad Sohrab telegrammed Agnes Parsons almost immediately:
Abdul-Baha delivered address half an hour ago before large audience of Lake Mohawk conference on international arbitration on principles of Bahai movement created most profound impression actually fired hearts of listeners as soon as he finished there was most unforgettable satisfaction on faces such sensation has seldom seen few having heard of message his talk was like conflagration longest applause.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave two talks at the conference, both of which were later published in a New York newspaper, according to Mahmud’s diary.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in New York The City of the Covenant, p.33.
Ahmad Sohrab to Agnes Parsons, night letter [a kind of telegram] May 15, 1912, Agnes Parsons Papers
Illustration from www.master-in-america.blogspot.com