Wednesday, November 1, 2017

31 October 2017 - The Universal House of Justice, Community-building process after Bicentenary celebrations / Response to celebrations



 THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


31 October 2017

To the Baha'is of the World


Dearly loved Friends,

Reports continue to stream in from all continents, but we will wait no longer to communicate to you our unbounded joy. The outpouring of love and esteem for Baha'u'llah witnessed around the world at His bicentenary has moved us greatly. In settings of all kinds, from homes to stadiums, His life was celebrated with the utmost devotion and remarkable creativity. At many a gathering, guests outnumbered the Baha'is several times over; in some island nations, participation may be measured as a proportion of all the inhabitants.  Truly, we confess our astonishment at the flood of grace Baha'u'llah has poured forth. And in every precious effort made to honour Him, we recognize the wholehearted striving of each believer to attain a full share. With all that transpired, we know that every one of you will wish to reflect on the implications for the progress of the Cause in your own locality. We urge you to see in each person who responded to your invitation a potential protagonist in the community-building process. Consider how conditions may be created that would enable many to walk this path together. Connected to the transformative power of the Revelation, every soul can draw closer to Baha'u'llah, grow in capacity, find joy in service, and learn to assist others. The results of the magnificent effort you have made offer tremendous promise--but fulfilling that promise will require fortitude. Let the forces released in this period lend impetus to your personal and collective endeavours during the remainder of this bicentennial year and, indeed, through all eight cycles leading up to the two hundredth anniversary of the Birth of the Bab. With our expectations heightened and our hearts imploring divine favours on your behalf, we give praise to the Ancient Beauty, a fresh glimpse of Whose soul-entrancing glory He has in these days chosen to disclose.

[Signed:  The Universal House of Justice]





Monday, October 2, 2017

October 2017 - The Universal House of Justice, Bicentenary of the Birth of Baha'u'llah

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

October 2017





To all who celebrate the Glory of God
Dearly loved Friends,
This salutary truth we maintain: that the peoples of the earth have always been remembered by their God. In every era of history, that unknowable Reality has opened the gates of grace to the world by sending an Emissary charged with providing the moral and spiritual stimulus that human beings need to cooperate and advance. Many of the names of these great Lights to humankind are lost. But some shine out from the annals of the past as having revolutionized thought, unlocked stores of knowledge, and inspired the rise of civilizations, and Their names continue to be honoured and praised. Each of these spiritual and social visionaries, stainless mirrors of virtue, set out teachings and truths that answered the urgent needs of the age. As the world now faces its most pressing challenges yet, we acclaim Bahá’u’lláh, born two hundred years ago, as such a Figure—indeed, as the One Whose teachings will usher in that long-promised time when all humanity will live side by side in peace and unity.
From His early youth, Bahá’u’lláh was regarded by those who knew Him as bearing the imprint of destiny. Blessed with saintly character and uncommon wisdom, He seemed to be touched by heaven’s kindly light. Yet He was made to endure forty years of suffering, including successive exiles and incarcerations at the decree of two despotic monarchs, campaigns to vilify His name and condemn His followers, violence upon His Person, shameful attempts on His life—all of which, out of a boundless love for humanity, He bore willingly, with radiance and forbearance, and with compassion for His tormentors. Even the expropriation of all His worldly possessions left Him unperturbed. An observer might wonder why One Whose love for others was so complete should have been made the target of such hostility, given that He had otherwise been the object of universal praise and admiration, famed for His benevolence and high-mindedness, and had disavowed any claim to political power. To anyone who is familiar with the pattern of history, the reason for His ordeals is, of course, unmistakable. The appearance of a prophetic Figure in the world has invariably given rise to ferocious opposition from wielders of power. But the light of truth will not be put out. And so, in the lives of these transcendent Beings one finds sacrifice, heroism and, come what may, deeds that exemplify Their words. The same is evident in each phase of the life of Bahá’u’lláh. In spite of every hardship, He was never silenced, and His words retained their compelling potency—words spoken with the voice of insight, diagnosing the world’s ills and prescribing the remedy; words carrying the weight of justice, warning kings and rulers about forces that would ultimately sweep them from their thrones; words that leave one’s soul uplifted, awed and transformed, determined to free itself from the thorns and brambles of self-interest; and words that are clear, arresting, and emphatic: “This thing is not from Me, but from God.” Might one not ask, in considering such a life: if this be not from God, what can be pointed to that is?
The perfect Educators Who, throughout history, brought light to the world, left behind a legacy of sacred words. Within the words that flowed like a river from the pen of Bahá’u’lláh are gifts of enormous range and sublime character. Not infrequently, one who encounters His Revelation responds first to prayers of surpassing beauty that satisfy the soul’s longing to befittingly worship its Maker. Deeper in the ocean of His words are discovered the laws and moral imperatives to liberate the human spirit from the tyranny of worldly instincts unworthy of its true calling. Here, too, are found enduring ideals in whose light parents may raise children not simply in their own likeness, but with aspirations more exalted. There are also explanations that reveal the hand of God at work in the history of humankind’s winding journey through the stages of tribe and nation towards higher forms of unity. The diverse religions of the world are shown to be expressions of a single underlying truth, related to one another by a common origin, and also by a common purpose: to transform humanity’s inner life and outer conditions. Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings testify to the nobility of the human spirit. The society He envisions is one worthy of that nobility and founded on principles that guard and reinforce it. The oneness of the human family He places at the core of collective life; the equality of women and men He unequivocally asserts. He reconciles the seemingly counteracting forces of our own age—science and religion, unity and diversity, freedom and order, individual rights and social responsibilities. And among His greatest gifts is justice, manifested in institutions whose concern is for the progress and development of all peoples. In His own words, He has “blotted out from the pages of God’s holy Book whatsoever hath been the cause of strife, of malice and mischief amongst the children of men” and, concurrently, “laid down the essential prerequisites of concord, of understanding, of complete and enduring unity”. Might one not ask, what would be a befitting response to such gifts?
“It is the duty of every seeker to bestir himself and strive to attain the shores of this ocean,” Bahá’u’lláh states. The spiritual teachings brought by successive Messengers through the ages found expression in religious systems that, over time, have become fused with aspects of culture and weighed down with man-made dogmas. But look past these and it becomes clear that the original teachings are the source of the universal values through which diverse peoples have found common cause and which have moulded humanity’s moral consciousness. In contemporary society, the reputation of religion has suffered a great deal, and understandably so. If, in the name of religion, hatred and strife are promoted, it is better to do without it. However, true religion can be known by its fruits—its capacity to inspire, to transform, to unite, to foster peace and prosperity. It is in harmony with rational thought. And it is essential to social progress. The Faith of Bahá’u’lláh cultivates within the individual and the community the discipline of acting in the light of reflection, and by this means, insights gradually accumulate about effective ways to work for the betterment of society. Attempts at social change through political intrigue, sedition, vilification of particular groups, or outright conflict are condemned by Bahá’u’lláh, for they merely perpetuate cycles of struggle while lasting solutions continue to elude. He champions instruments of a very different sort. He calls for good deeds, kind words, and upright conduct; He enjoins service to others and collaborative action. And to the task of constructing a world civilization founded on the divine teachings, He summons every member of the human race. Might one not ask, in contemplating the breadth of His vision, upon what foundation shall humanity realistically build hope for the future, if not this?
In every land, those who have been attracted to the message of Bahá’u’lláh and are committed to His vision are systematically learning how to give effect to His teachings. Cohorts of youth are becoming ever more conscious of their spiritual identity and are directing their energies towards the advancement of their societies. People with divergent perspectives are discovering how to replace contention and the imposition of authority with consultation and the collective search for solutions. From every race, religion, nationality, and class, souls are uniting around a vision of humanity as one people and the earth as one country. Many who have long suffered are finding their voice and becoming protagonists of their own development, resourceful and resilient. From villages, neighbourhoods, towns and cities are arising institutions, communities, and individuals dedicated to labouring together for the emergence of a united and prospering world that might truly deserve to be called the kingdom of God on earth. On this two hundredth anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s appearance, the many who are part of this enterprise are reaching out to those around them with a simple invitation: seize this opportunity to find out who He was and what He represents. Put to the test the remedy He has prescribed. His coming offers sure proof that the human race, threatened by numerous perils, has not been forgotten. When so many people of goodwill throughout the world have for so long beseeched God for an answer to the problems that beset them in their common homeland, is it so surprising that He should have answered their prayer?
[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ridván 2017 - The Universal House of Justice


THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

Ridvan 2017


To the Baha'is of the World


Dearly loved Friends,

     See how the community of the Greatest Name arises!  With but one year elapsed since the inception of the new Plan, reports testify to the scale of what is being attempted and beginning to be accomplished.  Bringing greater intensity to 5,000 programmes of growth is demanding a level of effort quite without precedent.  With a firm grasp of the fundamentals of the Plan, large numbers of the friends are acting on its requirements, demonstrating rigour and sacrifice in the quality of their response.  As envisaged, some intensive programmes of growth that have been long sustained are becoming reservoirs of knowledge and resources, lending support to surrounding areas and facilitating the rapid dissemination of experience and insight.  Centres of intense activity--those neighbourhoods and villages where the community-building work is most concentrated--are proving to be fertile ground for collective transformation.  An expanded and invigorated legion of Auxiliary Board members and their assistants are stimulating the endeavours of the believers, helping them acquire a vision of how to advance the growth process in various circumstances and identifying approaches that suit the conditions in each cluster.  Supported by their respective National Spiritual Assemblies, Regional Baha'i Councils are learning how the momentum of the Plan can be built across a range of clusters simultaneously, while in some smaller countries without Councils, new entities at the national level are starting to do the same. Although, as would be expected of any organic process, the swift progress being witnessed in some places is yet to appear in others, the total number of intensive programmes of growth in the world is already beginning to mount. Further, we rejoice to see that participation in the activities of the Plan surged markedly during its first four cycles.

     The signs could hardly be more promising, then, for what the coming year might bring.  And what could be more fitting to offer the Blessed Beauty on the two hundredth anniversary of His Birth than the earnest striving of His loved ones to extend the reach of His Faith?  The first of the two bicentenaries to be celebrated by the Baha'i world is thus an occasion with prospects most thrilling.  Viewed aright, this year presents the single greatest worldwide opportunity there has ever been for connecting hearts to Baha'u'llah.  In the months ahead, let all be mindful of this precious chance and alert to the possibilities that exist in every space for acquainting others with His life and sublime mission.  For the teaching opportunity that is now before the Baha'i world to be seized to its fullest extent, creative thought needs to be given to the conversations that could unfold with every kind of person.  In the course of such meaningful conversations, perception is heightened and hearts are opened--sometimes immediately.  In this worthy occupation all find a calling, and of the joy that comes from being engaged in this work none should deprive themselves.  We entreat the one Beloved that the whole of this bicentennial year may be filled with this joy that is purest and sweetest: telling another soul of the dawning of the Day of God.

     The obligations that must be met by the company of the faithful are made the more pressing by the confusion, distrust, and cloudiness in the world. Indeed, the friends should use every opportunity to shine a light that can illuminate the way and offer assurance to the anxious, hope to the despairing. We are reminded of the counsel given by the Guardian to one Baha'i community in words that seem intended for our own time:  "As the fabric of present-day society heaves and cracks under the strain and stress of portentous events and calamities, as the fissures, accentuating the cleavage separating nation from nation, class from class, race from race, and creed from creed, multiply, the prosecutors of the Plan must evince a still greater cohesion in their spiritual lives and administrative activities, and demonstrate a higher standard of concerted effort, of mutual assistance, and of harmonious development in their collective enterprises."  Always emphasizing the spiritual significance of the work of the Faith and the single-minded resolve with which the believers are to discharge their sacred duties, Shoghi Effendi warned too against having any share in political controversies, entanglements, and bickerings.  "Let them rise above all particularism and partisanship," he urged on another occasion, "above the vain disputes, the petty calculations, the transient passions that agitate the face, and engage the attention, of a changing world."  These are the inevitable foam and spray cast up as wave after wave convulses a turbulent and divided society.  Too much is at stake to be occupied with distractions of this kind.  As every follower of Baha'u'llah knows well, humanity's ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established.  Every contribution Baha'is make to the life of their society is aimed at fostering unity; every community-building endeavour is directed towards the same end.  For those tired of contention, the communities growing under the shadow of the Greatest Name offer a potent example of what unity can achieve.

     We render praise to the Lord of Lords at seeing so many of His loved ones, in so many ways, giving their all that the banner of the oneness of humankind may be raised aloft.  Most cherished friends:  As a highly auspicious year now commences, might not each one of us contemplate what heavenly deeds His grace may aid us to perform?

The Universal House of Justice


Source: http://universalhouseofjustice.bahai.org/ridvan-messages/20170420_001




Monday, March 27, 2017

1 March 2017 - The Universal House of Justice, Regarding economic life


THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

1 March 2017

To the Bahá’ís of the World
Dearly loved Friends,
In an increasingly interconnected world, more light is being cast on the social conditions of every people, giving greater visibility to their circumstances. While there are developments that give hope, there is much that should weigh heavy on the conscience of the human race. Inequity, discrimination, and exploitation blight the life of humanity, seemingly immune to the treatments applied by political schemes of every hue. The economic impact of these afflictions has resulted in the prolonged suffering of so many, as well as in deep-seated, structural defects in society. No one whose heart has been attracted to the teachings of the Blessed Beauty can remain unmoved by these consequences. “The world is in great turmoil,” Bahá’u’lláh observes in the Lawḥ-i-Dunyá, “and the minds of its people are in a state of utter confusion. We entreat the Almighty that He may graciously illuminate them with the glory of His Justice, and enable them to discover that which will be profitable unto them at all times and under all conditions.” As the Bahá’í community strives to contribute at the level of thought and action to the betterment of the world, the adverse conditions experienced by many populations will more and more demand its attention.
The welfare of any segment of humanity is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole. Humanity’s collective life suffers when any one group thinks of its own well-being in isolation from that of its neighbours or pursues economic gain without regard for how the natural environment, which provides sustenance for all, is affected. A stubborn obstruction, then, stands in the way of meaningful social progress: time and again, avarice and self-interest prevail at the expense of the common good. Unconscionable quantities of wealth are being amassed, and the instability this creates is made worse by how income and opportunity are spread so unevenly both between nations and within nations. But it need not be so. However much such conditions are the outcome of history, they do not have to define the future, and even if current approaches to economic life satisfied humanity’s stage of adolescence, they are certainly inadequate for its dawning age of maturity. There is no justification for continuing to perpetuate structures, rules, and systems that manifestly fail to serve the interests of all peoples. The teachings of the Faith leave no room for doubt: there is an inherent moral dimension to the generation, distribution, and utilization of wealth and resources.
The stresses emerging out of the long-term process of transition from a divided world to a united one are being felt within international relations as much as in the deepening fractures that affect societies large and small. With prevailing modes of thought found to be badly wanting, the world is in desperate need of a shared ethic, a sure framework for addressing the crises that gather like storm clouds. The vision of Bahá’u’lláh challenges many of the assumptions that are allowed to shape contemporary discourse—for instance, that self-interest, far from needing to be restrained, drives prosperity, and that progress depends upon its expression through relentless competition. To view the worth of an individual chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others is wholly alien to Bahá’í thought. But neither are the teachings in sympathy with sweeping dismissals of wealth as inherently distasteful or immoral, and asceticism is prohibited. Wealth must serve humanity. Its use must accord with spiritual principles; systems must be created in their light. And, in Bahá’u’lláh’s memorable words, “No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it.”
Although Bahá’u’lláh does not set out in His Revelation a detailed economic system, a constant theme throughout the entire corpus of His teachings is the reorganization of human society. Consideration of this theme inevitably gives rise to questions of economics. Of course, the future order conceived by Bahá’u’lláh is far beyond anything that can be imagined by the present generation. Nevertheless, its eventual emergence will depend on strenuous effort by His followers to put His teachings into effect today. With this in mind, we hope that the comments below will stimulate thoughtful, ongoing reflection by the friends. The aim is to learn about how to participate in the material affairs of society in a way that is consistent with the divine precepts and how, in practical terms, collective prosperity can be advanced through justice and generosity, collaboration and mutual assistance.
Our call to examine the implications of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh for economic life is intended to reach Bahá’í institutions and communities but is directed more especially to the individual believer. If a new model of community life, patterned on the teachings, is to emerge, must not the company of the faithful demonstrate in their own lives the rectitude of conduct that is one of its most distinguishing features? Every choice a Bahá’í makes—as employee or employer, producer or consumer, borrower or lender, benefactor or beneficiary—leaves a trace, and the moral duty to lead a coherent life demands that one’s economic decisions be in accordance with lofty ideals, that the purity of one’s aims be matched by the purity of one’s actions to fulfil those aims. Naturally, the friends habitually look to the teachings to set the standard to which to aspire. But the community’s deepening engagement with society means that the economic dimension of social existence must receive ever more concentrated attention. Particularly in clusters where the community-building process is beginning to embrace large numbers, the exhortations contained in the Bahá’í Writings should increasingly inform economic relationships within families, neighbourhoods, and peoples. Not content with whatever values prevail in the existing order that surrounds them, the friends everywhere should consider the application of the teachings to their lives and, using the opportunities their circumstances offer them, make their own individual and collective contributions to economic justice and social progress wherever they reside. Such efforts will add to a growing storehouse of knowledge in this regard.
A foundational concept to explore in this context is the spiritual reality of man. In the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the nobility inherent to every human being is unequivocally asserted; it is a fundamental tenet of Bahá’í belief, upon which hope for the future of humankind is built. The soul’s capacity to manifest all the names and attributes of God—He Who is the Compassionate, the Bestower, the Bountiful—is repeatedly affirmed in the Writings. Economic life is an arena for the expression of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, generosity, and other qualities of the spirit. The individual is not merely a self-interested economic unit, striving to claim an ever-greater share of the world’s material resources. “Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue”, Bahá’u’lláh avers, “and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.” And further: “Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.” By consecrating oneself to the service of others, one finds meaning and purpose in life and contributes to the upliftment of society itself. At the outset of His celebrated treatise The Secret of Divine Civilization, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states:
And the honour and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.
Viewed in this light, many seemingly ordinary economic activities gain new significance because of their potential to add to human welfare and prosperity. “Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft,” explains the Master, “so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.” The poor are urged by Bahá’u’lláh to “exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood”, while they who are possessed of riches “must have the utmost regard for the poor”. “Wealth”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has affirmed, “is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes.” At the same time, the Hidden Words is replete with warnings of its perilous allure, that wealth is a “mighty barrier” between the believer and the proper Object of his adoration. No wonder, then, that Bahá’u’lláh extols the station of the wealthy one who is not hindered by riches from attaining the eternal kingdom; the splendour of such a soul “shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declares that “if a judicious and resourceful individual should initiate measures which would universally enrich the masses of the people, there could be no undertaking greater than this, and it would rank in the sight of God as the supreme achievement”. For wealth is most commendable “provided the entire population is wealthy.” Examining one’s life to determine what is a necessity and then discharging with joy one’s obligation in relation to the law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh is an indispensable discipline to bring one’s priorities into balance, purify whatever wealth one possesses, and ensure that the share which is the Right of God provides for the greater good. At all times, contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the Almighty are qualities that befit the God-fearing soul.
The forces of materialism promote a quite contrary line of thinking: that happiness comes from constant acquisition, that the more one has the better, that worry for the environment is for another day. These seductive messages fuel an increasingly entrenched sense of personal entitlement, which uses the language of justice and rights to disguise self-interest. Indifference to the hardship experienced by others becomes commonplace while entertainment and distracting amusements are voraciously consumed. The enervating influence of materialism seeps into every culture, and all Bahá’ís recognize that, unless they strive to remain conscious of its effects, they may to one degree or another unwittingly adopt its ways of seeing the world. Parents must be acutely aware that, even when very young, children absorb the norms of their surroundings. The junior youth spiritual empowerment programme encourages thoughtful discernment at an age when the call of materialism grows more insistent. With the approach of adulthood comes a responsibility, shared by one’s generation, not to allow worldly pursuits to blind one’s eyes to injustice and privation. Over time, the qualities and attitudes nurtured by the courses of the training institute, through exposure to the Word of God, help individuals to see past the illusions that, at every stage of life, the world uses to pull attention away from service and towards the self. And ultimately, the systematic study of the Word of God and the exploration of its implications raises consciousness of the need to manage one’s material affairs in keeping with the divine teachings.
Beloved Friends: The extremes of wealth and poverty in the world are becoming ever more untenable. As inequity persists, so the established order is seen to be unsure of itself, and its values are being questioned. Whatever the tribulations that a conflicted world must confront in the future, we pray that the Almighty will help His loved ones to overcome every obstacle in their path and assist them to serve humanity. The larger the presence of a Bahá’í community in a population, the greater its responsibility to find ways of addressing the root causes of the poverty in its surroundings. Although the friends are at the early stages of learning about such work and of contributing to the related discourses, the community-building process of the Five Year Plan is creating everywhere the ideal environment in which to accrue knowledge and experience, gradually but consistently, about the higher purpose of economic activity. Against the background of the age-long work of erecting a divine civilization, may this exploration become a more pronounced feature of community life, institutional thought, and individual action in the years ahead.
[signed: The Universal House of Justice]
Source: http://universalhouseofjustice.bahai.org/activities-bahai-community/20170301_001

Saturday, November 26, 2016

25 November 2016 - The Universal House of Justice, new term of service for members of the Auxiliary Boards

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
25 November 2016 



To the Baha'is of the World 


Dearly loved Friends, 

     Today, the Day of the Covenant, marks the start of a new term of service for the members of the Auxiliary Boards for the Protection and Propagation of the Faith throughout the world, a term which will conclude in the final hours of the first century of the Formative Age.  These consecrated officers of the Cause constitute an institution originally conceived and created by Shoghi Effendi to assist the Hands of the Cause of God in their "dual and sacred task of safeguarding the Faith and of promoting its teaching activities."  Now serving as auxiliaries to the Continental Counsellors, they and their assistants play a decisive part in the unfoldment of the global Plans, bringing to the work breadth of vision and clarity of thought, flexibility and resourcefulness.  In cluster after cluster, from the first stirrings of activity, they labour alongside the friends, assisting individuals, communities, and institutions to focus their attention on the Plan, to maintain a conception of what needs to be done and the next steps to be taken, and to appreciate the complementarity of the efforts of all the friends and the need for mutual support.  And in every aspect of their service, they foster a spirit of love and unity.  So great will be the demands asked of them in the present Plan that we feel compelled to add to the ranks of Auxiliary Board members some 144, bringing the total number to 1,134, equally divided between the Boards for Protection and Propagation.  As the Auxiliary Board members take up their new appointments, they will be assisted in deepening their understanding of the spiritual nature of their work and the wide-ranging responsibilities they will shoulder through a series of conferences, called for by the International Teaching Centre, that will take place between now and Ridvan 2017.  It is our ardent hope that, as a result of these gatherings, an added surge of energy will be diffused throughout the community, reinforcing the valiant exertions of the friends everywhere, and we will offer our supplications at the Sacred Threshold that the sacrificial efforts of the Auxiliary Board members may draw forth unceasing confirmations from the hosts of the celestial Concourse. 
    [signed:  The Universal House of Justice]

Monday, May 30, 2016

18 May 2016 - The Universal House of Justice, Bicentenaries of Twin Birthdays


THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT

18 May 2016 

Transmitted by email

To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

        In its message dated 29 December 2015 to the Counsellors’ Conference, the Universal House of Justice drew attention to the two bicentenaries that are approaching, marking the elapse of two hundred years respectively since the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and the Birth of the Báb. The House of Justice feels it would now be timely to explore further the manner in which these highly significant Festivals are to be celebrated so that preparations can begin to be made. As indicated in the 29 December message, these Holy Days should be viewed as special opportunities for the friends to reach out to the widest possible cross-section of society and to all those with whom they share a connection—whether through a family tie or common interest, an occupation or field of study, neighbourly relations or merely chance acquaintance—so that all may rejoice in the appearance, exactly two hundred years before, of One Who was to be the Bearer of a new Message for humankind.

        The locus of activity for the bicentenaries is to be at the local level. The House of Justice anticipates that in countless places across the world, both rural settings and urban centres, the friends will find creative ways to honour the Twin Manifestations Whose lives and sacred missions will be recalled on Their anniversaries. There might also be an opportunity for initiatives at the national level, which could include a gathering to which dignitaries and prominent individuals who have a relationship with the Faith could be invited. But the most distinguishing feature of these bicentenaries will be a tremendous flourishing of activity by Bahá’ís and their friends in local communities. It should be noted that, although each anniversary is associated primarily with just one of the Manifestations, in each case the celebrations ought to encompass both of the Twin Birthdays, and events may be spread out across the full length of the two days. Naturally, these Holy Days will also be marked at the Bahá’í World Centre by those pilgrims, visitors, and staff who are in the Holy Land at the time.

        At the heart of these festivities must be a concerted effort to convey a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries rose successively above the horizon of the world. Of course, this will take different forms in different contexts, extending to a myriad artistic and cultural expressions, including songs, audio-visual presentations, publications and books. Such initiatives, coupled with widespread celebrations that are both uplifting and reverent, are also sure to spark the curiosity and wonder of many who may as yet be unfamiliar with the names of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. However, the real transformative power of the Faith is likely to be perceived more readily still if people experience how worship and meaningful service are being woven into the fabric of the lives of Bahá’ís everywhere. Indeed, from the community-building activities of the Five Year Plan emerges a pattern of collective life within which anyone can discern the vivifying influence of the divine teachings brought by God’s Manifestations. Each bicentenary will doubtless kindle a spirit of faithful endeavour that will permeate all the noble undertakings of the friends.

        As suggested in this year’s Riḍván message, the six cycles leading up to the first of the special anniversaries can be viewed as an initial period over which progress toward the overall goal of the Five Year Plan can be measured. The steps taken during these months, and the achievements that come as a result, will constitute an offering of ardent love, yielded collectively to Him Who is the Unifier of the world on the bicentenary of His Birth. The spiritual forces that are sure to be released on that most auspicious occasion will do much to spur the friends into action as they commence the eight cycles that lie between the two bicentenaries, during which the greatest share of the effort needed to fulfil the goal of the Plan will be required. Similarly, events surrounding the two-hundredth anniversary of the Birth of the Báb will lend an infusion of energy to the global spiritual enterprise as it enters its final six cycles leading up to Riḍván 2021. There is, therefore, every reason to expect that the emphasis given to commemorating these Holy Days will have a considerable and cumulative impact on the work of raising vibrant communities—not least on the enrichment of devotional life.

        This letter is being sent now so that there is ample time for you to impress upon your respective communities the significance of the coming Festivals and encourage preparations to begin. An important aspect of what must occur is the sense of shared experience and global solidarity arising from so many gatherings being held in a concentrated span of time, and in an enormous variety of places, bringing together souls who have glimpsed the timeless splendour of those divine Figures Who set in motion an irresistible process of individual and social change. Arrangements will be put in place to enable communities to submit reports on their activities so that these can rapidly be made available to the widest possible audience. More information about these arrangements will be provided at a later date.

With loving Bahá’í greetings, 

Department of the Secretariat 

cc: International Teaching Centre
Boards of Counsellors
Counsellors

Monday, May 23, 2016

23 May 2016 - The Universal House of Justice, Two pioneering imperatives



THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE

23 May 2016
To the Bahá’ís of the World
Dearly loved Friends,
        In our letter dated 26 March 2016, we described the response of the Baha'i world to the Tablets of the Divine Plan, in which 'Abdu'l-Baha urged the friends to travel "toward the East and toward the West and enlighten the people with the light of the Most Great Guidance, so that they may take a portion and share of eternal life." In the decades following the issuance of those weighty Tablets, a stream of believers settled in far-flung corners of the world and planted the banner of the Cause of Baha'u'llah amidst divers peoples and nations. While devoted pioneers serving in the international arena initially came mainly from North America, Iran and Europe, as the Faith has advanced globally, they now hail from numerous spots across the planet. Indeed, over the course of the last Five Year Plan, some 1,500 friends from over 110 countries ventured into this field. At the same time, capacity has gradually grown in national communities to foster a systematic process of building vibrant communities, and the task of propagating the Faith has come to rest primarily on the shoulders of local inhabitants labouring on the home front, where they have the advantage of familiarity with the language and culture and can settle more readily in nearby clusters as well as remote areas. That nearly 5,000 believers arose to serve as homefront pioneers during the last Plan bears testimony to this greatly increased capacity and is a source of immense joy to us.

        Although in recent years an increasing proportion of pioneers are serving on the home front, it is our hope that the friends will continue to consider entering the international arena, whenever their circumstances allow. Opportunity is, of course, open to any believer to arise and settle where he or she can contribute to the progress of the Plan, yet in some countries the need for international pioneers is particularly pressing. In this regard, as anticipated in the last pioneer call, throughout the previous Five Year Plan we drew the attention of selected National Spiritual Assemblies to specific pioneering needs that arose in relation to ten special initiatives that were launched to support the growth and development of the Faith in certain regions with the help of friends from several countries. These devoted servants of Baha'u'llah, working alongside the local friends, have helped to strengthen the roots of the Cause in all the countries covered by these initiatives, bringing greater dynamism to the institute process and local community life and, in a number of instances, aiding in the emergence of institutions. Over the coming five years, the International Teaching Centre will continue to identify areas that would benefit from such endeavours with the expectation that, as a result, by the end of the Plan there will be at least one well-advanced intensive programme of growth in every country in the world where external conditions allow for such a development.


        The deployment of homefront pioneers over the next five years will be largely guided by the requirements set out in our message dated 29 December 2015 to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors. As stated in that message, the Five Year Plan just launched aims at raising the number of clusters with an intensive programme of growth to 5,000. A continuing flow of homefront pioneers will contribute significantly to this monumental goal. Whatever assistance they are able to provide to further the work of the Plan is, of course, most welcome; nevertheless, their efforts will have an even greater effect if, guided by the institutions, their capabilities are directed towards specific needs in clusters where the friends are labouring to intensify the growth process. While many friends who wish to serve as homefront pioneers can make commitments that span years, there are those who may only be able to offer shorter periods, sometimes as little as three months. Such friends can kindle a spirit of selfless service and transmit valuable experience from stronger clusters to emerging ones. In time, they return to their communities much inspired and enriched, able to contribute even more effectively to the advancement of their own clusters. We hope that the friends, especially the youth who may have the time and determination to do so during their extended holidays, will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the pioneering field in this way.


It is to the two pioneering imperatives set out above--one primarily in the international field, the other on the home front--that we now call the friends, confident that their response, which with each stage of the Divine Plan grows in both quantity and quality, will be equal to the demands before the community of the Greatest Name. The friends who arise to foster, with tact, love, unity and fortitude, a pattern of community life in clusters across the globe will undoubtedly draw inspiration from the Master's heartfelt cry expressed in the Tablets of the Divine Plan: "O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it."


[signed: The Universal House of Justice]