Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God.
(Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 176)
October 15, 2020
October 15, 2020 (Quita Crump til noon / then Ladjamaya Green
October 8, 2020 (Gene Marie Kennedy)
October 1, 2020 (Ladjamaya Green)
September 24, 2020 (Charlie Smith)
September 17, 2020 (Gene Marie)
September 10, 2020 (Facilitator: Martine Hubbard)
To Study The UHJ Compilation on Achieving Race Unity-
Facilitator- September 3, 2020 (Charlie Smith) - Bottom of page 17
Facilitator - August 28, 2020 (Cynthia Phillips) - Page 14
Facilitator- August 20 (Ladjamaya Green)
Beginning May 21, 2020, each Thursday, we Will Study Extracts from Letters Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to Individual Believers in the United States on the Topic of Achieving Race Unity (Updated Compilation 1996–2020)
Beginning May 21, 2020, We Will Study Extracts from Letters Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to Individual Believers in the United States on the Topic of Achieving Race Unity (Updated Compilation 1996–2020)
FACILITATOR FOR JULY 23, 2020 IS GENE MARIE KENNEDY
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
22 July 2020
To the Baha'is of the United States
Dear Baha'i Friends,
(1) A moment of historic portent has arrived for your nation as the conscience of its citizenry has stirred, creating possibilities for marked social change. It holds significance not only for the destiny of America anticipated in the Sacred Writings, but also for the mission entrusted to your community by the hand of 'Abdu'l-Baha, who cherished you dearly and called you to a path of sacrifice and high endeavor. We are pleased to see that, led by your National and Local Spiritual Assemblies, you are seizing opportunities-whether those thrust upon you by current circumstances or those derived from your systematic labors in the wider society-to play your part, however humble, in the effort to remedy the ills of your nation. We ardently pray that the American people will grasp the possibilities of this moment to create a consequential reform of the social order that will free it from the pernicious effects of racial prejudice and will hasten the attainment of a just, diverse, and united society that can increasingly manifest the oneness of the human family.
(2) Sadly, however, your nation's history reveals that any significant progress toward racial equality has invariably been met by countervailing processes, overt or covert, that served to undermine the advances achieved and to reconstitute the forces of oppression by other means. Thus, whatever the immediate outcome of contemporary events, you need not be deterred, for you are cognizant of the "long and thorny road, beset with pitfalls" described by the Guardian that still lies ahead. Your commitment to tread this road with determination and insight, drawing upon what you have learned in recent years about translating Baha'u'llah's teachings into reality, will have to be sustained until the time, anticipated by Shoghi Effendi, when you will have contributed your decisive share to the eradication of racial prejudice from the fabric of your nation.
(3) The principles and exhortations that guide your steps are well known to you from the writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. The concepts and approaches for social transformation developed in the current series of Plans that can be utilized to promote race unity in the context of community building, social action, and involvement in the discourses of society have been set out in our messages. Every believer, as the promulgator of Baha'u'llah 's central principle of the oneness of humanity, should deeply meditate upon it and weigh its demanding implications for the profound alteration of thought and action required at this time. "The American Baha'i Community, the leaven destined to leaven the whole," the Guardian admonished, cannot hope "to either escape the trials with which this nation is confronted, nor claim to be wholly immune from the evils that stain its character." "A tremendous effort is required by both races if their outlook, their manners, and conduct are to reflect, in this darkened age, the spirit and teachings of the Faith of Baha'u'llah," he also stated. "Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other. Let neither think that such a problem can either easily or immediately be resolved." "Each one should endeavor to develop and assist the other toward mutual advancement," 'Abdu'l-Baha
explained. "Love and unity will be fostered between you, thereby bringing about the oneness of mankind."
(4) Racism is a profound deviation from the standard of true morality. It deprives a portion of humanity of the opportunity to cultivate and express the full range of their capability and to live a meaningful and flourishing life, while blighting the progress of the rest of humankind. It cannot be rooted out by contest and conflict. It must be supplanted by the establishment of just relationships among individuals, communities, and institutions of society that will uplift all and will not designate anyone as "other''. The change required is not merely social and economic, but above all moral and spiritual. Within the context of the framework governing your activities, it is necessary to carefully examine the forces unfolding around you to determine where your energies might reinforce the most promising initiatives, what you should avoid, and how you might lend a distinctive contribution. It is not possible for you to effect the transformation envisioned by Baha'u'llah merely by adopting the perspectives, practices, concepts, criticisms, and language of contemporary society. Your approach, instead, will be distinguished by maintaining a humble posture of learning, weighing alternatives in the light of His teachings, consulting to harmonize differing views and shape collective action, and marching forward with unbreakable unity in serried lines.
(5) Ultimately, the power to transform the world is effected by love, love originating from the relationship with the divine, love ablaze among members of a community, love extended without restriction to every human being. This divine love, ignited by the Word of God, is disseminated by enkindled souls through intimate conversations that create new susceptibilities in human hearts, open minds to moral persuasion, and loosen the hold of biased norms and social systems so that they can gradually take on a new form in keeping with the requirements of humanity's age of maturity. You are channels for this divine love; let it flow through you to all who cross your path. Infuse it into every neighborhood and social space in which you move to build capacity to canalize the society-building power of Baha'u'llah's Revelation. There can be no rest until the destined outcome is achieved.
(6) Ahead of you lie times of trial and promise, of hardship and progress, of anguish and joy. Under all conditions, the Master is your solace and support. For those who aspire to lasting change, His example guides the way-tactful and wise in His approach, penetrating in utterance, indiscriminating in fellowship, unfailing in sympathy for the downtrodden, courageous in conduct, persevering in action, imperturbable in the face of tests, unwavering in His keen sense of justice. And to all who arise to emulate Him, He offers this unfailing assurance: "that which is confirmed is the oneness of the world of humanity. Every soul who serveth this oneness will undoubtedly be assisted and confirmed."
cc: International Teaching Centre
Board of Counsellors in the Americas
Counsellors in the United States (5)
The Universal House of Justice has received and read with interest your letter dated 10 December 1995 seeking its guidance in regard to the work of achieving race unity in the United States. We have been instructed to send the following reply.
Since the Writings contain so much material on this subject, already brilliantly summarized and expounded by the beloved Guardian, the House of Justice does not feel it would be feasible or useful to rehearse that with which you are already very well familiar. The friends, generally, need to digest this material, to study and internalize it, until they have a profound grasp of the Bahá’í perspective on the matters which you have identified as ones on which there is no true unity of thought. For this—mastery of the Teachings—there is no effective substitute.
In essence, the House of Justice feels that methods should be subordinated to purposes and goals, and are to be selected, adapted or discarded, as they show themselves to be effective or not. In this regard, it has often been observed that attempts which set out, self-consciously, to arrive at unity often lose momentum, unless they lead beyond discussion to some form of action. With respect to principles, it will assist the friends greatly if the issue of addressing race unity can be formulated within the broad context of the social development of the community.
The distinctiveness of the Bahá’í approach to many issues needs to be sharpened. In our public outreach, we need to correlate the Teachings with current thought, and be very clear about the bases and assumptions upon which various conceptions rest, and not swallow uncritically whatever ideas happen to be in vogue. Likewise, as a community we need to be future oriented, to have a clear vision and to think through the steps necessary to bring it to fruition. This is where consultation with the Bahá’í institutions will provide a critical impulse to your own efforts. (From a letter dated 25 February 1996)
With regard to the question of what public role might be played by the Bahá’í Faith in America to ameliorate in the immediately foreseeable future the plight of African-American males, the size and influence of the Bahá’í community are, alas, too limited for it to have a determining impact on conditions which have, after all, been hundreds of years in the making. As is well known, since at least the middle of the last century significant numbers of Americans, both black and white, have long labored, often with immense resourcefulness, to counteract the baleful legacy of racism in their country, in all its complex dimensions, structural and otherwise. Indeed, when one meditates on the sweep of United States history, one can see how unlikely it is that the bitter predicament of black males will be quickly or easily resolved. The obstacles are not of such character that, for example, legal reforms could dissolve them. This is not a counsel
of despair. Nor is it an equivocation or a suggestion that the requirements of divine justice ought to be deferred. Nor is it to say that Bahá’ís have no critical role to play. On the contrary, the concern is with Bahá’í fundamentals, with looking deeply into underlying causes and identifying strategic lines of action which make the wisest use of our limited resources at this point in the development of the Bahá’í community.
If we are to avoid becoming entrammeled in the enervating coils of cynicism which are a characteristic of this age of transition, we must, as the “custodians of... the forces of love”, ground our efforts in indomitable faith. In the future the Cause of God will spread throughout America; millions will be enlisted under its banner and race prejudice will finally be exorcised from the body politic. Of this have no doubt. It is inexorable, because it is the Will of Almighty God. However, as the House of Justice has been trying to get the friends to understand for some time, the necessary precondition to translation of our community’s social vision into reality is a massive expansion in the number of committed, deepened believers who are well-grounded in the essentials of the Cause. Those who fail to comprehend the urgency assigned to the objective of achieving a large expansion have obviously failed to appreciate the moral imperative behind this aim.
Parallel to the process of large-scale enrollment, the institutions of the Faith, including those at the grassroots of the community, will gradually come to function with greater efficiency and increasing harmony, thereby enhancing their potential in stimulating the processes of social development.
The Universal House of Justice has received your email message of 24 March 1998 in which you raise a number of questions concerning race unity in the United States, and we have been instructed to reply as follows.
The continuing problem of racism remains, as the President of your country has himself indicated in recent months, an issue of fundamental importance for the American people. Given that the problem has been created and reinforced over a period of several hundred years, it is reasonable to suppose that its remediation will occupy the Bahá’í community and the nation of which it is a part for some generations to come.
Many of your questions relate to the relative seriousness of the race issue as compared to other issues. You ask, for example, whether the building of harmony between the races is still “‘the most vital and challenging issue’ facing the American Bahá’í community”. What is more important to understand is that the achievement of race unity is far from complete. There is little to be gained by trying to invent a precise way of ranking various complex problems such as racism or by attempting to resolve these problems on a piecemeal basis. The piecemeal efforts of those outside of the Bahá’í community who are concerned with the many grievous ills facing humanity have had little lasting success. Their well-meaning endeavors have suffered from a lack of appreciation of the spiritual origin of these illnesses and a lack of understanding that the only lasting solution lies in acceptance of the remedies of the Divine Physician.
Your letter touches upon a subject of critical importance to the ultimate success of the Faith and the future of civilization, since it has a direct relevance to the fundamental principle of our Faith: the oneness of humankind. As you know, our beloved Guardian wrote extensively about the need to overcome racial prejudice, which he described as “the most vital and challenging issue” in The Advent of Divine Justice. The answers to the questions you have raised can be found in this very book. However, the frustration that you feel over the painfully slow progress of efforts in this regard can be allayed only if you are convinced that adherence to the teachings of our Faith, though only gradually taking effect at first, will ultimately bring about the change you wish for, and if from that conviction you will exercise patience as you continue in your own efforts to assist in remedying the situation. Patience is as important as persistence in the pursuit of these efforts.
This is not a matter in which any amount of institutional action, however appropriate, can alone produce the desired outcome. Success depends primarily and ultimately on the private and public attitude of individuals, and change in attitude, unfortunately, is often painfully slow. As you are no doubt aware, the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has, for a number of years, been promoting activities to eliminate racial prejudice both within and without the Bahá’í community, but it will require the genuine response of individuals over time to guarantee the attainment of this goal.
Although Monday through Thursdays are joint days with specific discussions, Thursday is dedicated to studying jointly the letters from the Universal House of Justice, specifically those on the topic of the "Most Vital and Challenging Issue", letters to African Americans, and those addressing the elimination of prejudice. (CLICK HERE TO RESEARCH SELECTED MESSAGES ON RACE)
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
"Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace. Its practice perpetrates too outrageous a violation of the dignity of human beings to be countenanced under any pretext. Racism retards the unfoldment of the boundless potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Recognition of the oneness of mankind, implemented by appropriate legal measures,
must be universally upheld if this problem is to be overcome.
The inordinate disparity between rich and poor, a source of acute suffering, keeps the world in a state of instability, virtually on the brink of war. Few societies have dealt effectively with this situation. The solution calls for the combined application of spiritual, moral and practical approaches. A fresh look at the problem is required, entailing consultation with experts from a wide spectrum of disciplines, devoid of economic and ideological polemics, and involving the people directly affected in the decisions that must urgently be made. It is an issue that is bound up not only with the necessity for eliminating extremes of wealth and poverty but also with those spiritual verities the understanding of which can produce a new universal attitude. Fostering such an attitude is itself a major part of the solution."
"Adorn thyself with My virtues, in such wise that should anyone stretch forth the hand of oppression against thee, thou wouldst neither take notice nor contend with him. Leave him to the judgment of thy Lord, the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the Self-Subsisting, and be thou long-suffering under all conditions. By God! This is one of Mine attributes, though none but the sincere are apprised of it. Know thou then that the patient sighs of the oppressed are dearer to God than all deeds, could ye but comprehend it. Be patient in whatsoever may befall thee, and put thy trust in God, thy Lord, in all thine affairs. He, verily, doth suffice thee against the harm inflicted by all that have been and shall be, and doth protect thee within the shelter of His Cause and the stronghold of His custody.
(From a letter dated 27 March 2014 from the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer in the U.S.)
"A system of governance befitting a mature human race will, in time, abandon such ways of dividing people to obtain and consolidate power, of promoting agendas benefiting only certain groups or segments within society at the expense of others, and of directing the masses “toward that prejudice and fanaticism which subvert the very base of civilization”. It will instead unite people and channel capacities and resources to promote “the peace and well-being and happiness, the knowledge, culture and industry, the dignity, value and station, of the entire human race”. (The Universal House of Justice: 27 December 2017)
"May your minds be ever bent upon the needs of the communities to which you belong, the condition of the societies in which you live, and the welfare of the entire family of humanity, to whom you are all brothers and sisters. And in your quiet moments, when no course of action other than prayer seems possible, then we invite you to add your supplications to our own and ardently pray for the relief of suffering." (Ridvan 2019)
"The Universal House of Justice is unique in religious history. Never before has a Manifestation of God explicitly ordained the establishment of an institution with the mandate to maintain the integrity and flexibility of His religion, safeguard the unity and guide the activities of His followers, and exert a beneficial influence on the life of society.
By virtue of the authority invested in it by Bahá’u’lláh, the Universal House of Justice sits as the head of an administrative order whose features, authority and mode of functioning are clearly enunciated in the Sacred Writings. The work of the institutions of this administrative order is characterized by an ethos of loving service, focused as it is on the development of human potential and the advancement of civilization."
Universal House of Justice Letter
'Final Year of FYP in Light of the Pandemic
May 9, 2020
Dearly loved Friends,
As will by now be all too apparent, the Five Year Plan’s final year has brought challenges different to those of the preceding four. The world is caught in the grip of a fast-spreading virus that has claimed many thousands of lives and severely disrupted a large share of humanity’s social and economic activity. Yet the Bahá’í community has remained composed and has acted swiftly to meet the immediate demands that confronted it.
It has found ways to ensure the continuity of community life, while also striving to play its part in meeting spiritual and material needs in society more widely—a fitting response to an emergency situation. We commend all the action that has been taken so far. Now, however, we wish to explore more fully what the coming year might entail.
Your efforts to stimulate the advancement of the Plan in its final months will inevitably be shaped by your pressing responsibility to guide the friends in their response to an evolving global crisis. These unique circumstances require that we address you directly; you may share this letter with your communities, in whole or in part, as you deem appropriate.
When we expressed our desire to see five thousand intensive programmes of growth established by the end of this Five Year Plan, we were keenly aware of the magnitude of the undertaking this implied, but the condition of the world demanded it. We called for the work of strengthening programmes of growth to accelerate everywhere. We were gratified to see how the supporters of the Cause were galvanized into action, exerting unprecedented levels of effort. In the space of four years the Bahá’í community doubled both the number of core activities occurring worldwide and the number of their participants. To have brought hundreds of thousands of individuals into the embrace of the community’s activities in such a short period is an advance in capacity that has no parallel in any of the previous Plans in the present series.
Much, then, has been accomplished, and this is a clear indicator of the strength and confidence of the Bahá’í community. But, as you already appreciate, the current crisis has altered the context in which the Plan is being pursued. We have been impressed by how many communities have taken great strides in adapting to this new reality.
Far from viewing the present period as simply a hiatus to be endured with patience, they have recognized that the state of the world has made the need to render meaningful service to humanity more urgent. Naturally, the activities undertaken must suit the prevailing conditions, but there should be no doubt that this is a time for noble aims, high resolve, and intense endeavour. As is well known, the activities of the Plan are intended to cultivate a thriving community spirit, through which resilience to mighty challenges is also strengthened.
Educational efforts aim to raise up a growing number of souls who can contribute to the spiritual and material well-being of a community; devotional meetings nurture the spirit of service as it blossoms, rooting it in a culture of collective worship. In short, the promotion of the Plan implies building capacity to walk the path of service in every time and season—which must surely include moments of acute peril in the life of humanity, such as now.
It is essential, then, that the steps being taken to learn how to apply the Plan’s framework for action to the current circumstances of the world continue in earnest; in all likelihood, the global health crisis will have a direct impact on Bahá’í activities, to a greater or lesser degree, for months or even years, and the task of adapting to the situation cannot be postponed. In this regard, the Continental Counsellors and their auxiliaries, ably guided by the International Teaching Centre, have shown impressive determination in their efforts to spur on the friends and orient them in their approach to the work at hand; they will doubtless do the same over the coming four cycles and beyond.
We appreciate, of course, that some activities have had to be suspended, and particular strategies or methods that are unsuited to current conditions have had to be set aside for a time. However, while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue.
In some cases, present conditions have created unexpected opportunities for widening community participation in devotional meetings and study circles, conducted with safety in mind. Many parents whose families have been confined to home surroundings have welcomed support that has helped them to move from the position of observer to protagonist in the spiritual education of their children. Junior youth and groups of youth have discovered the power of simple acts of compassionate service carried out with wisdom. Nevertheless, it would be understandable if you determine, in some instances, that plans that require the movement of pioneers, mobile tutors, or visiting teachers will have to be postponed, and this should not give you cause for concern; you can re-evaluate the situation in the months ahead.
The coming One Year Plan could afford an opportunity to fulfil any goals or objectives that may in the end remain out of reach during the present Plan. We recognize that continuing to function in the course of this crisis will, in many cases, put you under financial strain, and the economic hardship being experienced by many in the community may limit the resources upon which you can draw. Be assured that we stand ready to support you. Let there be no doubt or equivocation in this regard: it is essential that the institutions of the Faith maintain their operations throughout this period and not be obstructed by lack of resources in the discharge of their core duties. Unquestionably, the whole company of the faithful in each country will rally around you, and in particular, we are confident that believers with means will come forward to aid you.
As you are aware, there is considerable unevenness in the ways that different societies are coping with the difficulties arising from this crisis; consequently, the challenges that confront different National Assemblies are not the same. And these challenges will change over time. This will call for tremendous agility as local, regional, and national institutions seek to read their reality and stay alert to new developments. We wish to impress upon you that your collaboration with the Counsellors will be of paramount importance: it should be committed and sustained, an almost constant exchange of information and insight, to ensure that you are responding swiftly to the needs of your community, anticipating problems before they emerge, seizing opportunities that open up, and supporting promising initiatives.
Exactly what measures should be taken by Bahá’í institutions will naturally depend on the relevant circumstances. But in every place, the friends will need clear and timely guidance; special attention must be given to those who are most at risk from the virus itself, or from the economic impact of its spread; and creative approaches will be required to sustain the collective spirit of the community during difficult times. Networks of various kinds comprising families, neighbouring households, or other groupings are offering valuable support to many; you should be confident in the resourcefulness of your communities, and seek to draw on their talents and energies to the fullest.
As grave as conditions have already become in some places, National Assemblies in countries that have so far been spared the more severe consequences of the pandemic must keep in mind that there is the potential for worse to occur, and any preparations that can be made now for that eventuality, before the introduction of further restrictions hampers such efforts, should commence at once—without alarm, but without delay. Local Spiritual Assemblies in particular should consider what means might be within their power to prevent, relieve, or mitigate suffering in the wider society of which they are an integral part.
When society is in such difficulty and distress, the responsibility of the Bahá’ís to make a constructive contribution to human affairs becomes more pronounced. This is a moment when distinct but interrelated lines of action converge upon a single point, when the call to service rings aloud. The individual, the community, and the institutions of the Faith—inseparable protagonists in the advancement of civilization—are in a position to demonstrate the distinctive features of the Bahá’í way of life, characterized by increased maturity in the discharge of their responsibilities and in their relationships with each other.
They are summoned to a fuller expression of the Faith’s society-building powers. Agencies and projects dedicated to social action may have to adapt their approaches in order to meet expanded needs; efforts to do this are sure to infuse ongoing programmes with deeper meaning and purpose. Further, Bahá’í contributions to discourses newly prevalent in society are generating heightened interest, and there is a responsibility to be discharged here too. At a time when the urgency of attaining higher levels of unity, founded on the incontestable truth of humanity’s oneness, is becoming apparent to larger and larger numbers, society stands in need of clear voices that can articulate the spiritual principles that underlie such an aspiration.
You are of course ever conscious that your responsibilities reach beyond those of administering the affairs of the community and channelling its energies towards the fulfilment of noble goals: you seek to raise awareness of those spiritual forces that are available to every confirmed believer and which must be marshalled at the hour of need. It is these forces which endow the community with resilience, ensure its integrity, and keep it focused on its divine mission to serve humanity and elevate its vision of the future.
It is not possible to foresee the extent to which this pandemic will influence the movement towards unity among the nations. But there is no doubt whatsoever that, for the endeavours of the Bahá’í community, the months ahead will be consequential. Indeed, it could hardly be otherwise. This final year, of the final Plan, in a series spanning the final quarter of the opening century of the Formative Age, will seal the foundation upon which will rest the next series of global undertakings. It is the concluding act in a captivating drama whose end is yet unwritten.
Not a moment passes when you are not in our thoughts. All our trust and confidence in your capacity to face this challenge comes from our knowledge that your ultimate supporter and helper is the Abhá Beauty Himself. In our entreaties at the Sacred Threshold, we implore Him to make you pure channels for the flow of His grace to humankind.
cc: International Teaching Centre Boards of Counsellors Counsellors
Thursday, May 7th & 14th, 2020
We will study Letters from the Universal House of Justice.
There can be no question then that Bahá’ís are committed to efforts toward social transformation. “Much as the friends must guard against in any way ever seeming to identify themselves or the Cause with any political party,” Shoghi Effendi, through his secretary, cautioned, “they must also guard against the other extreme of never taking part, with other progressive groups, in conferences or committees designed to promote some activity in entire accord with our teachings—such as, for instance, better race relations.”
This involvement in activities for social reform and well-being can in certain circumstances even extend to taking part in demonstrations. A letter written on the Guardian’s behalf indicated that he did not see any objection to Bahá’í students taking part as Bahá’ís in a protest concerning racial prejudice on campus, since “there was nothing political about it” and “he does not see how they could remain indifferent when fellow-students were voicing our own Bahá’í attitude on such a vital issue and one we feel so strongly about.”
Thus, individual Bahá’ís are free to participate in those efforts and activities, such as peaceful rallies, that uphold constructive aims in consonance with the Bahá’í teachings, for example, the advancement of women, the promotion of social justice, the protection of the environment, the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and the safeguarding of human rights.
In deciding whether it would be appropriate for Bahá’ís to participate in particular public activities, a crucial distinction should be drawn between those events that have a partisan political character and those that do not. A further distinction can be drawn between those activities that are fully in keeping with the teachings and that can be supported explicitly by Bahá’í institutions and those where the situation is less clear, in which Bahá’í institutions should not participate but in which individuals can be given some latitude to make a personal decision to take part, without in any way implying that they are representing the Faith directly by their choice.
If a believer harbors any doubt as to the appropriateness of involvement with a particular event or approach, guidance should be sought from the National Spiritual Assembly, which is in the best position to evaluate the specific circumstances and is responsible for making the final determination on such questions.
Beyond this clarification of basic principles, there are other important considerations. Too often political goals, even when pursued in the name of justice, are a chimera, for the fundamental partisanship in contemporary political life means policies are often implemented without building consensus and consequently seeds of discontent and continuing political struggle are sown. Conflict and contention ultimately yield more conflict and contention. Eliminating social problems, rather than merely ameliorating them to an extent, requires unity of thought as well as action, an open heart as well as an open hand—conditions which Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation is intended to bring about.
For many decades following the second great war of the twentieth century, humanity moved, with fits and starts, toward the promise of a united world. The failure to complete the project of the unification of nations, however, left gaps in relations in which supranational problems could fester and threaten the security and well-being of peoples and states, leading to a recrudescence of prejudice, of divers expressions of factionalism, and of virulent nationalism that are the very negation of Bahá’u’lláh’s message of peace and oneness.
One of the current features of the process of the disintegration of the old world order manifest in the United States is the increasing polarization and fragmentation that has come to characterize so much of political and social life. There has been a hardening of viewpoints, increased incivility, an unwillingness to compromise or even entertain differing perspectives, and a tendency to automatically take sides and fight. Science and religion, two great lights that should guide human progress, are often compromised or swept aside.
Matters of moral principle and questions of justice are reduced to intractable liberal or conservative viewpoints, and the country is increasingly divided along divergent lines. In this context, the friends have to hold steadfastly to the Bahá’í teachings and consultative methods and not allow their pursuit of noble aims and high aspirations to draw them into one side or the other of fruitless debates and contentious processes.
In their reflections on how to contribute to the betterment of the world, Bahá’ís will undoubtedly recognize that demonstrations are not the only, or even the most effective, means available to them. Rather, they can learn and grow in capacity over time to help their fellow citizens to frame concerns in a way that rises above fissures, to share views in a manner that transcends divisive approaches, and to create and participate in spaces to work together in the quest to enact solutions to the problems that bedevil their nation.
As Bahá’u’lláh stated: “Say: no man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation.” In this light, justice is indeed essential to resist the vain imaginings and idle fancies of social and political machinations, to see reality with one’s own eyes, and to identify the requirements for an equitable social order. But then unity is essential—forged through consultative processes, including action and reflection—to achieve the power required for positive social change.
Unfortunately, sometimes when approaching such important and deeply felt matters, the friends can create dichotomies where none exist. Thus, for example, it is contended that one must choose between either non-involvement in politics or social action; either teaching the Faith or involvement with society; either the institute process and the community-building activities it fosters or a program for race unity; and so on.
Such apparent conflicts can be greatly dissipated by keeping in mind Shoghi Effendi’s advice, conveyed in a letter written on his behalf, to conceive of the teachings as one great whole with many facets. “Truth may, in covering different subjects, appear to be contradictory,” the same letter indicated, “and yet it is all one if you carry the thought through to the end.”
A careful reading of the Bahá’í writings and the guidance of the House of Justice can clarify how two matters that appear to be in tension with one another are coherent once the concepts and principles that connect them are understood. Particular circumstances in a locality, timeliness, and the periodic need for focus also have a bearing on such issues. In a recent letter written on its behalf, the House of Justice explained to your National Assembly that the scope of the Five Year Plan offers ample opportunities for believers to address the social concerns of their communities and society as a whole. The Plan’s activities for sustained growth and community building lie at the heart of a broad scheme for social transformation. ...
Thursday, April 16,30, 2020
We will study Letters from The Universal House of Justice
2016 and 2018
Excerpts from the March 26, 2016
It is impossible here to recount the range of your illustrious achievements during the past century. You have already accomplished that which is worthy of the gratitude and admiration of the entire Bahá’í world, but your mission is far from complete.
After a century of resolute action, you should, more than ever before, be able to discern the straight path traced by heavenly inspiration across the many stages of the Divine Plan since its systematic execution began in 1937, and thus grasp the full implications of the latest stage about to open.
The tasks confronting you are not identical with those of an earlier age. With the international spread of the Faith largely concluded, demands on you are now most pressing on the homefront. The process of entry by troops that emerged so tenuously in the Ten Year Crusade, and was fostered in the decades that followed, is now being extended through a sound process of community building in center after center in all those countries and territories that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá marked out so long ago.
Your sister communities, so many of which you helped to establish, are now mature, and you stand with them ready to take on the sterner challenges that lie ahead. The movement of your clusters to the farthest frontiers of learning will usher in the time anticipated by Shoghi Effendi at the start of your collective exertions, when the communities you build will directly combat and eventually eradicate the forces of corruption, of moral laxity, and of ingrained prejudice eating away at the vitals of society.
This is a time for jubilation. Take pride in the sacrifices and victories of so many devoted souls who arose in response to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s call. With the same spirit of renunciation shown by your predecessors, cast away the idle fancies and distractions of a world that has lost its way that you may consecrate yourselves in the next five years to the priceless opportunities and inescapable obligations of the latest stage of a spiritual enterprise on which the fate of humanity ultimately depends.
Excerpts from Uprooting Problems Of Racism In America, Universal House of Justice message, February 4 2018
The House of Justice appreciates your thoughtful comments and admires your unflagging efforts over many years to address the challenge of racism in your nation, particularly at a time of its overt resurgence in a manner that would justifiably give rise to despair even in the stoutest heart.
However discouraging the present events, however outrageous the injustices laid bare, however intractable the problem appears, such fresh evidences of this pernicious blight on American society can come as no surprise to those friends well informed of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s dire warnings as well as Shoghi Effendi’s trenchant analysis anticipating the ultimate eradication of this evil tendency from the lives and the hearts of their fellow citizens. How much more must people endure in the years ahead?
The current polarization in American society makes constructive dialogue and action ever more elusive. Even those fair-minded individuals who long to free themselves and their society from this problem—surely a vast portion of the nation—are paralyzed and divided by their divergent views, unable to create the unity necessary to advance along the path of constructive change.
Those believers in the United States who have labored so persistently to promote race unity, especially the African American friends, should appreciate in their own efforts over the years the same expression of constructive resilience, born of their great love for Bahá’u’lláh, and see in the recent turmoil opportunity rather than obstacle. They cannot, as you know, respond to the current reality in the manner consuming most of their fellow citizens; they must, by word and by deed, elevate the existing conversation and set in motion constructive approaches that will prove ever more effective over time.
Shoghi Effendi has explained that such problems as are now being witnessed are inevitable as the process of disintegration advances. “All humanity”, a letter written on his behalf observes, “is disturbed and suffering and confused; we cannot expect to not be disturbed and not to suffer—but we don’t have to be confused.”
May 7, 2020
The Guardian next addressed the subject of prejudice, stating patently that “any division or cleavage” in the ranks of the Faith “is alien to its very purpose, principles, and ideals.” He made clear that the friends should manifest “complete freedom from prejudice in their dealings with peoples of a different race, class, creed, or colour.”
He went on to discuss at length the specific question of racial prejudice, “the corrosion of which,” he indicated, had “bitten into the fibre, and attacked the whole social structure of American society” and which, he asserted at the time, “should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá’í community at the present stage of its evolution.”
Independent of the strengths and weaknesses of the measures taken by the American nation, and the Bahá’í community evolving within it, in addressing this particular challenge, the fact remains that prejudices of all kinds—of race, of class, of ethnicity, of gender, of religious belief—continue to hold a strong grip on humanity.
While it is true that, at the level of public discourse, great strides have been taken in refuting the falsehoods that give rise to prejudice in whatever form, it still permeates the structures of society and is systematically impressed on the individual consciousness.
It should be apparent to all that the process set in motion by the current series of global Plans seeks, in the approaches it takes and the methods it employs, to build capacity in every human group, with no regard for class or religious background, with no concern for ethnicity or race, irrespective of gender or social status, to arise and contribute to the advancement of civilization. We pray that, as it steadily unfolds, its potential to disable every instrument devised by humanity over the long period of its childhood for one group to oppress another may be realized.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
To the Bahá’ís of the World
Dearly loved Friends,
To the Bahá’ís of the World Dearly loved Friends, Two emerging realities have prompted us to address these words to you. The first reality is the growing consciousness around the world of the looming and appalling dangers carried by the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, despite valiant and determined collective efforts to avert disaster, the situation is already grave, creating tragedies for families and individuals and plunging whole societies into crisis. Waves of suffering and sorrow are breaking over one place after another, and will weaken different nations, at different moments, in different ways. The second reality, one that is daily more apparent, is the resilience and undiminished vitality of the Bahá’í world in the face of a challenge which has no likeness in living memory.
Your response has been outstanding. When we wrote to you a month ago at Naw-Rúz, we were keen to stress the impressive qualities being demonstrated by communities whose normal pattern of activity had been disrupted. All that has transpired in the intervening weeks, during which many friends have had to comply with increasingly stringent restrictions, has only deepened our feelings of admiration. Learning from the experience gained in other parts of the world, some communities have found safe and creative ways to raise awareness of public health requirements within populations. Special attention is being paid to those who are most at risk from the virus and the economic hardship arising from its spread; the initiatives featured on the Bahá’í World News Service in this regard are but a mere handful of the countless number under way. These are being complemented by efforts to examine, promote, and cultivate those spiritual qualities which are most needed at this time. Many such efforts are necessarily taking place in family units or in solitude, but where conditions allow or communication tools make it possible, a sense of extraordinary solidarity is being actively nurtured among souls sharing similar circumstances. The dynamics of community life, so important for collective progress, will not be subdued. Our spirits have been lifted by seeing how capably National Spiritual Assemblies, the unflagging generals of the Army of Light, have guided their communities and shaped their response to the crisis. They have been strongly supported by the Counsellors and their auxiliaries who, as always, have heroically raised aloft the standard of loving service. While staying well informed about the often rapidly changing conditions in their countries, Assemblies have made the necessary arrangements for administering the affairs of the Cause, and in particular for conducting elections, where these remain feasible. Through regular communications, institutions and agencies have offered wise counsel, comforting reassurance, and constant encouragement. In many instances, they have also started to identify constructive themes that are emerging from the discourses opening up in their societies. The expectation we expressed in our Naw-Rúz message that this test of humanity’s endurance would grant it greater
insight is already being realized. Leaders, prominent thinkers, and commentators have begun to explore fundamental concepts and bold aspirations that, in recent times, have been largely absent from public discourse.
At present these are but early glimmerings, yet they hold out the possibility that a moment of collective consciousness may be in view. The comfort we take at seeing the resilience of the Bahá’í world manifest itself in action is tempered by our sadness at the consequences of the pandemic for humanity. Alas, we are conscious that the believers and their associates also share in this suffering. The distance from friends and relations that, owing to the requirements of public safety, so many people in the world are now maintaining will, for some, give way to permanent separation. At each dawn it seems certain that more agonies will be endured before the set of sun. May the promise of reunion in the eternal realms offer solace to those who lose loved ones. We pray for the relief of their hearts, and for the grace of God to surround those whose education, livelihoods, homes, or even their very means of sustenance are being put at risk. For you, and for those you cherish, and for all your compatriots, we supplicate Bahá’u’lláh and beseech His blessings and favour.
However long and arduous the road that must be travelled, we are supremely confident in your fortitude and your determination to see the journey through. You draw from stores of hope, faith, and magnanimity, putting the needs of others before your own, enabling those who are deprived to be spiritually nourished, those who increasingly thirst for answers to be satisfied, and those who long to work for the betterment of the world to be offered the means. From the devoted followers of the Blessed Perfection, how could we expect less?
The Universal House of Justice
The Story of Stuff (Materialism)
Thursday, April 9, 2020
DISCUSSION FOR TODAY
Excerpts African Americans, Universal House of Justice, 3 June 2007
You may be familiar with the following excerpts from letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian, but it is fitting to recite them here.
The Negroes, though they themselves may not realize it, have a contribution to make to the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. His teachings and the society He has come to establish are for every race and every nation, and each one of them has his own part to play and the gift of his own qualities and talents to give to the whole. (10 December 1942)
The Guardian feels very strongly that the Negro Bahá’ís have great responsibilities, both towards their own race and towards their fellow-believers. They must not only arise to teach the Cause to the members of their own race, but must do all in their power to ensure that within their Bahá’í Community itself the Negro and white believers understand and love each other and are truly as one soul in different bodies. Our allegiance as believers is to Bahá’u’lláh; we must fix our attention and devotion on Him, and His Will, and, heedless of the shortcomings of our fellow-Bahá’ís, act as He would have us toward them.
(23 November 1941)
Yet, it is clear, too, from the Teachings that every people, through its inherent potentialities and particular range of experience, will make its own distinct contribution to the creation of a new civilization.
To the extent that African-Americans who EMBRACE the new Revelation ARISE to do their part by adhering to the Teachings will the gifts which are uniquely theirs be REALIZED in the splendors of the Golden Age.
The “pupil of the eye”, Bahá’u’lláh’s metaphoric reference to Black people, will no doubt ACQUIRE CLEAR MEANING as they conscientiously STRIVE over time to fulfill the divine purpose for which the Blessed Beauty came.
There can be no doubt that Americans of African descent can find in themselves the capacity, so well developed as a result of their long encounter with injustice, to recognize and respond to the vision of love and justice brought by the Promised One of all ages.
Imbued with that vision, past and present sufferings are transformed into measures of patience, wisdom and compassion—qualities so essential to the effort to moderate the discordant ways of a confused world and aid the healing of its spiritual ills.
What better than the transformed character of a bruised people to smooth the course, to offer perspectives for new beginnings toward world order!
As to the need for scholarly works that will interpret the meaning of the issues created by the cruelties of slavery, it is not an empty hope that souls illumined by the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and equipped with trained minds will arise to author the kinds of treatises and books you rightly feel will promote understanding.
But for those who have turned towards Him, the vision of human purpose given by the Divine Word illumines the way forward for all peoples. The legacy of pain passed down from the global history of man’s cruelty to man so burdens and confuses peoples of various climes that there can be no more immediate necessity than to spread knowledge of that Word far and wide.
Has it not conveyed the vital truth that “the Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty”? Surely, for any believer knowing this, the foremost act, the most important duty, is to present the Bahá’í message to all who will receive it now."
Stand Up Lyrics- Cynthia Erivo
That's when I'm gonna stand up
Take my people with me
Marianne Williamson -