Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ridván 1993 - The Universal House of Justice


Ridván 1993, Bahá'í Era 150

To the Bahá'ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

1 We have come to the King of Festivals in the undiminished glow of the marvellous benedictions of the Holy Year through which we have just passed, confirmed, renewed and energized in our sacred pursuits. For it was a time when the Abhá Beauty shed upon His worldwide community the radiance of His grace in such effulgence as to invest with astonishing success the efforts of His followers to observe so significant a double anniversary as the centenary of His Ascension and of the inauguration of His Covenant. It was the memorial pause that yielded a proclamation of the Most Great Name that resounded throughout the earth as never before; but what was so clearly an external phenomenon was quite markedly a reflection of an inner attainment to a deeper understanding of our relation to Bahá'u'lláh than hitherto obtained. The greater appreciation in ourselves of the universality of the community, of its embodiment of the first and over-arching principle of His Faith, has left a new and compelling impression upon our hearts; the effects of that awareness were strikingly demonstrated at the commemoration in the Holy Land last May and more broadly at the World Congress last November, as if to confirm our assurance in these desperately troubled times that the world of humanity is moving inexorably towards its as-yet elusive destiny of unity and peace. Indeed, during the Holy Year, we were transported on the wings of the spirit to a summit from which we have seen the fast-approaching glory of the Lord's immemorial promise that all humankind will one day be united.
2 The thrilling details of the happenings throughout the year are too numerous to describe here, for the workings of the Holy Spirit were universally felt, imbuing the activities of the friends with a mysterious force. Let it suffice, then, to recall such highlights as the gathering last May of the largest number of Bahá'ís to participate in an event in the Holy Land; the circumambulation of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh by the representatives of virtually every nation; the presence of the majority of the living Knights of Bahá'u'lláh at the time of the depositing of the Roll of Honour at the entry door of the Most Holy Shrine; the unprecedented size of the World Congress and the vast variety of its participants, including a huge body of youth who engaged in their own auxiliary programme; the procession of the representatives of the races and nations of the world on that spectacular occasion; the satellite broadcast which linked the Congress and the World Centre with all the continents. These were of a rare category of experience, and they have immortalized the fame of the centennial commemorations. The innumerable, imaginative efforts undertaken by the friends around the world, from remote villages to great cities, in observance of these important anniversaries illustrated afresh the profound degree to which the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh has been consolidated, and they generated the teaching work in many areas, with unusual and surprising results. The unprecedented publicity accorded the purpose and activities of the Holy Year through the mass media in large and small countries, the notice given by legislative bodies and public officials to the centennial, the gestures of recognition and appreciation of the Faith by governmental agencies, the involvement of representatives of the Bahá'í International Community in major global events, including the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro last June, in connection with which a public monument bearing an inscription from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and a large imprint of the Greatest Name was dedicated---such developments gave clear indications that the profile of the community has been raised in the public eye.
3 Apart from all these outstanding events and developments, but of even greater magnitude because of its far-reaching implications for the whole human race, was the release at Naw-Rúz of the annotated English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book. We draw a stage closer, then, to a time envisaged by `Abdu'l-Bahá: "When the laws of the Most Holy Book are enforced," the Master said, "... universal peace will raise its tent in the centre of the earth, and the blessed Tree of Life will grow and spread to such an extent that it will overshadow the East and West."
4 The centennial year was also a period in which the situation in the world at large became more confused and paradoxical: there were simultaneous signs of order and chaos, promise and frustration. Amid the convolutions of the current global state of affairs, but with such feelings of wonder and joy, courage and faith as the Holy Year has induced in our hearts, we, at this Ridván, in the one hundred and fiftieth year of our Faith, are embarked upon a Three Year Plan. Its brevity is compelled by the swiftly changing tides of the times. But the Plan's primary purpose is indispensable to the future of the Cause and of humankind. It is the next stage in the unfoldment of the divine charter of teaching penned by the Centre of the Covenant. The Plan will be a measure of our determination to respond to the immense opportunities at this critical moment in the social evolution of the planet. Through resolute pursuit of its stated objectives and full realization of its goals, as suited to the circumstances of each national community, the way will be made clear for a fit projection of the role of the Faith in relation to the inevitable challenges facing all humanity towards the end of the fast-fleeting, fate-laden twentieth century.
5 A massive expansion of the Bahá'í community must be achieved far beyond all past records. The task of spreading the Message to the generality of mankind in villages, towns and cities must be rapidly extended. The need for this is critical, for without it the laboriously erected agencies of the Administrative Order will not be provided the scope to be able to develop and adequately demonstrate their inherent capacity to minister to the crying needs of humanity in its hour of deepening despair. In this regard the mutuality of teaching and administration must be fully understood and widely emphasized, for each reinforces the other. The problems of society which affect our community and those problems which naturally arise from within the community itself, whether social, spiritual, economic or administrative, will be solved as our numbers and resources multiply, and as at all levels of the community the friends develop the ability, willingness, courage and determination to obey the laws, apply the principles and administer the affairs of the Faith in accordance with divine precepts.
6 The new Plan revolves around a triple-theme: enhancing the vitality of the faith of individual believers, greatly developing the human resources of the Cause, and fostering the proper functioning of local and national Bahá'í institutions. This is to lend focus to requisites of success as the Plan's manifold goals are pursued in these turbulent times.
7 Against the conspicuous signs of moral decadence which daily is corroding the foundations of civilized life, these graphic words of Bahá'u'lláh assume acute urgency: "The vitality of men's belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it?" Such words have particular implications for the actions of anyone who has recognized the Lord of the Age. A crucial consequence of this recognition is a belief that impels acceptance of His commandments. Depth of belief is assured by the inner transformation, that salutary acquisition of spiritual and moral character, which is the outcome of obedience to the divine laws and principles. Towards this end the release of the annotated Kitáb-i-Aqdas in English, and its anticipated early publication in other major languages, provide a mighty infusion of divine guidance for realizing the vitality of faith which is essential to the spiritual well- being and happiness of individuals and the strengthening of the fabric of the community. No less essential to nourishing this vitality is the cultivation of a sense of spirituality, that mystic feeling which unites the individual with God and is achieved through meditation and prayer. Training of the friends and their striving, through serious individual study, to acquire knowledge of the Faith, to apply its principles and administer its affairs, are indispensable to developing the human resources necessary to the progress of the Cause. But knowledge alone is not adequate; it is vital that training be given in a manner that inspires love and devotion, fosters firmness in the Covenant, prompts the individual to active participation in the work of the Cause and to taking sound initiatives in the promotion of its interests. Special efforts to attract people of capacity to the Faith will also go far towards providing the human resources so greatly needed at this time. Moreover, these endeavours will stimulate and strengthen the ability of Spiritual Assemblies to meet their weighty responsibilities.
8 The proper functioning of these institutions depends largely on the efforts of their members to familiarize themselves with their duties and to adhere scrupulously to principle in their personal behaviour and in the conduct of their official responsibilities. Of relevant importance, too, are their resolve to remove all traces of estrangement and sectarian tendencies from their midst, their ability to win the affection and support of the friends under their care and to involve as many individuals as possible in the work of the Cause. By their constantly aiming at improving their performance, the communities they guide will reflect a pattern of life that will be a credit to the Faith and will, as a welcome consequence, rekindle hope among the increasingly disillusioned members of society.
9 As National Spiritual Assemblies, with the ready support of the Continental Counsellors, chart the course to be followed in this brief span, the World Centre will attend to coordinating widely diverse activities through- out the planet, giving further direction to the external affairs of the Faith as the Bahá'í International Community is drawn more deeply into dealing with world issues. It will do this while at the same time pursuing with deliberate speed the gigantic building projects on God's Holy Mountain, which constitute part of a process clearly perceived by Shoghi Effendi as synchronizing with two no less significant developments: the establishment of the Lesser Peace and the evolution of Bahá'í national and local institutions. By the end of the Plan all remaining construction phases of the Mount Carmel projects will have been set in motion; the structural framework of the International Teaching Centre, the Centre for the Study of the Texts and the Extension to the International Archives Building will have been raised up; and seven terraces below the Shrine of the Báb will have been completed.
10 The dramatic expansion of the work of the Cause in recent years and the developments expected during this new Plan demand material resources which have not been adequate for some time, even though substantial increases have been made in the contributions to Bahá'í Funds. The economic crises so widely reported seem destined to grow even worse, but neither the economic nor other pressing problems confronting humanity will ultimately be resolved unless the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is given due regard by nations and peoples and unless i receives the adequate material support of its avowed adherents. May the friends everywhere consider, together with their Bahá'í institutions and individually, undaunted by the uncertainties, the perils and the financial stringency afflicting nations, what must now be done by each and all to meet this inescapable, sacred responsibility resting upon them.
11 Our appeal for immediate, redoubled and sustained action on all aspects of the Plan is addressed primarily to the individual believer of every locality, who possesses within himself or herself the measures of initiative that ensure the success of any global Bahá'í enterprise, and "on whom, in the last resort," as our beloved Guardian plainly stated, "depends the fate of the entire community". The goals of the Three Year Plan will not be easily won, but they must be magnificently achieved, whatever the sacrifice. There should therefore be no hesitation or delay on the part of individuals or Spiritual Assemblies in attending to them, lest the problems of mankind pile up unchecked, or the rise of internal crises slows us down. Let it ever be borne in mind that we earn our victories through test and trial; we turn crisis to the advantage of progress by seizing the opportunity it provides to demonstrate the viability and winning power of our principles. In the onward surge of the Cause of God, crisis and victory have always alternated and have ever proven to be the staple of progress. As we savour the triumphs of the Holy Year, let us not forget the reality of this recurrent experience. Let us also remember that our blessings are equal to our challenges, as repeatedly shown by our glorious history.
12 Beloved friends: Do not be dismayed or deterred. Take courage in the security of God's law and ordinances. These are the darkest hours before the break of day. Peace, as promised, will come at night's end. Press on to meet the dawn.

The Universal House of Justice

Source: http://en.bahaitext.org/Ri%E1%B8%8Dv%C3%A1n_messages/1993

Ridván 1988 - The Universal House of Justice

Ridvan Message 1988

Ridvan 1988

To the Bahá'ís of the World

Dearly-loved Friends,

At this resplendent, festive season, we greet you all in a spirit of
renewed hope.

A silver lining to the dark picture which has overshadowed most of this
century now brightens the horizon.  It is discernible in the new tendencies
impelling the social processes at work throughout the world, in the evidences
of an accelerated trend towards peace.  In the Faith of God, it is the growing
strength of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh as its banner rises to more stately
heights.  It is strength that attracts.  The  media are giving increasing
attention to the Bahá'í world community; authors are acknowledging its
existence in a growing number of articles, books and reference works, one
of the most highly respected of which recently listed the Faith as the most
widely spread religion after Christianity. A remarkable display of interest
in this community by governments, civil authorities, prominent personalities
and humanitarian organizations is increasingly apparent.  Not only are the
community's laws and principles, organization and way of life being
investigated, but its advice and active help are also being sought for the
alleviation of social problems and the carrying out of humanitarian

A thrilling consequence of these favourably conjoined developments is the
emergence of a new paradigm of opportunity for further growth and consolidation
of our world-vide community.  New prospects for teaching the Cause  at all
levels of society have unfolded.  These are confirmed in the early results
flowing from the new teaching initiatives being fostered in a number of
places as more and more national communities witness the beginnings of that
entry by troops promised by the beloved Master and which Shoghi Effendi said
would lead on to mass conversion.  The immediate possibilities presented
by this providential situation compel us to expect that an expansion of the
Community of the Most Great Name, such as has not yet been experienced, is,
indeed, at hand.

The spark which ignited the mounting interest in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh
was the heroic fortitude and patience of the beloved friends in Iran, which
moved the Bahá'í world community to conduct a persistent, carefully
orchestrated programme of appeal to the conscience of the world. 
This vast undertaking, involving the entire community acting unitedly
through its  Administrative Order, was accompanied by equally vigorous
and visible activities of that community in other spheres which
have been detailed separately.  Nonetheless, we are impelled to
mention that an important outcome of this extensive exertion is
our recognition of a nev stage in the external affairs of the Cause,
characterized by a marked maturation of National Spiritual Assemblies
in their growing relations with governmental and non-governmental
organizations and with the public in general.

This recognition prompted a meeting in Germany last November of national
Bahá'í external affairs representatives from Europe and North America, together
with senior representatives of the Offices of the Bahá'í International
Community, intent on effecting greater coordination of their work.  This was a
preliminary step towards the gathering of more and more National Spiritual
Assemblies into a harmoniously  functioning, international network capable of
executing global undertakings in this rapidly expanding field.  Related to
these developments vas the significant achievement of international recognition
accorded the Faith through its formal acceptance last October into membership
of the Network on Conservation and Religion of the renowned World Wide Fund for

At one of the darkest periods in the prolonged oppression of the dearly-
loved, resolutely steadfast friends in Iran, Shoghi Effendi vas
moved to comfort them in a letter of astounding insight.  'It is
the shedding of the sacred blood of the martyrs in Persia he wrote,
which, in this shining era, this resplendent, this gem-studded
Bahá'í age, shall change the face of the earth into high heaven
and, as revealed in the Tablets, raise up the tabernacle of the
oneness of mankind in the very heart of the world, reveal to men's
eyes the reality of  the unity of the human race, establish the Most
Great Peace, make of this lower realm a mirror for the Abha Paradise,
and establish beyond any doubt before all the peoples of the world
the truth of the verse:  '...the day when the Earth shall be changed
into another Earth.'"  Reflections like these, in adducing such
wondrous future consequences from the horrific suffering to which
our Iranian friends are subjected, illuminate the opportunity and
the challenge facing us all at this crucial moment in the fortunes
of the Cause. 

The great projects already launched must be pursued to their completion.
The terraces below and above the Shrine of the Bab and the Arc on Mount Carmel
must be completed, fulfilling the glorious vision of the efflorescence of God's
holy mountain; the second World Congress must be held in the City of the
Covenant to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the inauguration of  that
Covenant; the steadily advancing work on the translation and annotation of the
Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, must be brought to publication; the interest
shown by the friends in the Law of Huququ'llah must be cultivated; the pioneers
and travelling teachers must go forth; the expenses of the Cause must be met;
all objectives of the Six Year Plan must be achieved.

But the paramount purpose of all Bahá'í activity is teaching.  All that
has been done or will be done revolve around this central activity, the "head
corner-stone of the foundation itself", to which all progress in the Cause is
due.  The present challenge calls for teaching on a scale and of a quality, a
variety, and intensity outstripping all current efforts.  The time is now, lest
opportunity be lost in the swiftly changing moods of a frenetic world.  Led it
not be imagined that expedience is the essential motive arousing this sense  of
urgency.  There is an overarching reason:  it is the pitiful plight of masses
of humanity, suffering and in turmoil, hungering after righteousness, but
bereft of discernment to see God with their own eyes, or hear His Melody with
their own ears".  They must be fed.  Vision must be restored where hope is
lost, confidence built where doubt and confusion are rife.  In these and other
respects, "The Promise of World Peace" is designed to open the way.  Its
delivery to national governmental leaders having been virtually completed, its
contents must now be conveyed, by all possible means, to peoples
everywhere from all walks of life.  This is a necessary part of
the teaching work in our time and must be pursued with unabated vigour.
  Teaching is the food of the spirit; it brings life to unawakened souls and
raises the new heaven and the new earth; it uplifts the banner of a unified
world; it  ensures the victory of the Covenant and brings those who give their
lives to it the supernal happiness of attainment to the good pleasure of their

Every individual believer--man, woman, youth and child--is summoned to
this field of action; for it is on the initiative, the resolute will of the
individual to teach and to serve, that the success of the entire community
depends.  Well-grounded in the mighty Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, sustained by
daily prayers and reading of the Holy Word, strengthened by a continual striving
to obtain a deeper understanding of the divine Teachings, illumined by a
constant endeavour to relate these Teachings to current issues, nourished by
observance of the laws and principles of His wondrous World Order, every
individual can attain increasing measures of success in teaching. In sum, the
ultimate triumph of the Cause is assured by that "one thing and only one thing"
so poignantly emphasized by Shoghi Effendi, namely, "the extent to which our
own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects
the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh".

Beloved Friends -- you who are addressed by the Best Beloved, the Blessed
Beauty, as "the solace of the eye of creation , as "the soft-flowing
waters upon which must depend the very life of all men" -- we urge
you, with all earnestness from the utter depths of our conviction
as to the ripeness of the time, to lay aside your every minor concern
and direct your energies to teaching His Cause -- to proclaiming,
expanding and consolidating it.  You can approach your task in full
confidence that this clear field of progress outstretched before
you derives from the operation of that  God-born Force" which "vibrates
within the innermost being of all created things" and which, "acting
even as a  two-edged sword, is, under our very eyes, sundering, on
the one hand, the age-old ties which for centuries have held together
the fabric of civilized society, and is unloosing, on the other,
the bonds that still fetter the infant and as yet unemancipated Faith
of Bahá'u'lláh"

Have no fear or doubts  The power of the Covenant will assist you and
invigorate you and remove every obstacle from your path  "He, verily,
will aid everyone that aideth Him, and will remember everyone that
remembereth Him". 

You have our abiding assurance of ardent and constant prayers for you all.

[signed -- The Universal House of Justice]

Source: http://www.bahai-library.org/file.php?file=uhj_six-year_plan_1986

Saturday, March 21, 2009

21 March 2009 - Universal House of Justice, Anniversary of interment of the sacred remains of the Bab on Mount Carmel

The Universal House of Justice

21 March 2009

To the Baha'is of the World

This Naw-Ruz marks the centenary of one of the outstanding events in the Apostolic Age of the Baha'i Dispensation, the interment by 'Abdu'l-Baha of the sacred remains of the Bab in their permanent resting place on God's holy mountain. In the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha: "The most joyful tidings is this, that the holy, the luminous body of the Bab ... after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel."

In commemoration of that triumph of the Cause, the members of the Universal House of Justice, accompanied by the members of the International Teaching Centre, have today offered prayers of thanksgiving in the Shrine of the Bab on behalf of the worldwide Baha'i community, expressing gratitude for the unfailing divine protection vouchsafed to the Cause of God. In their solemn contemplation, their hearts were stirred as they recalled the indelible image of the Master left to posterity when, on this day a hundred years ago, having with His own hands laid that peerless Trust in its final place of repose, He rested His head upon the edge of the blessed casket of the Bab, and "sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him". They remembered, too, the manifold obstacles with which He had been confronted in constructing this sacred edifice and His unbounded relief at having accomplished one of the principal objectives of His Ministry.

A century ago, the Faith was emerging from a period of severe crisis during which the incarceration of 'Abdu'l-Baha by His inveterate antagonists in the Ottoman Empire had been renewed, a grievous assault on the unity of the Cause had been launched by the Covenant-breakers, and an upsurge in the persecution of the heroic Persian believers had produced a fresh wave of sacrifice. In the immediate future there lay dazzling victories. The strenuous and fate-laden journeys of 'Abdu'l-Baha to the western world would release incalculable spiritual powers destined to give rise to unprecedented progress of the Faith in the American and European continents He visited. The Tablets of the Divine Plan would set in motion processes designed to bring about, in due course, the spiritual transformation of the planet. The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha would establish the basis for a future world order.

Today the Cause of God is again confronted by cruel and relentless opponents seeking in vain to eradicate it in the land of its birth. However, this is occurring in a world far different from that of a hundred years ago, when the Faith was largely unknown and its defenders were few. From all parts of the world the followers of Baha'u'llah appeal for justice, while providing, in the example of their lives, compelling evidence of the absurdity of the accusations levelled against their Iranian brethren. In this appeal they are joined by fair-minded people of all backgrounds, including thousands of Iranians who express their concern at the denial of the human rights of their Baha'i compatriots.

The sacrifices of the Bab and the dawn-breakers of the Cause are yielding abundant fruit. Energized and confident, the followers of the Greatest Name throughout the world have mobilized their resources in a vast and concerted endeavour to offer the healing balm of Baha'u'llah's Teachings to the multitudes of humanity. The magnificent progress achieved over the past century demonstrates the invincible power with which the Cause is endowed. It is but a portent of the ultimate realization of the oneness of humankind.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

Also available in PDF format here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

6 March 2009 - The Universal House of Justice, recent developments in the Cradle of the Faith

The Universal House of Justice
6 March 2009

To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá'í Friends,

The Universal House of Justice has directed us to apprise you of the following recent developments in the Cradle of the Faith...

...What must be borne in mind...is that these actions by the authorities are but the most recent manifestations of a systematic campaign of persecution that aims at the eradication of the Bahá'í community as a viable entity in the land of its birth. In recent years, the harassment and ill-treatment of our fellow believers in Irán have reached new levels of intensity as certain elements historically hostile towards the Cause have assumed growing influence in the affairs of the country.

We call on you to invite the believers in your community to join you, during these spiritually charged days of the Fast, in offering prayers for the protection of their brothers and sisters in Iran...

The heroic steadfastness of the Bahá'ís in the Cradle of the Faith has released mighty spiritual forces into the world. It has, too, evoked the highest admiration of the believers across the globe, whose yearning to alleviate the tribulations of their Bahá'í sisters and brothers in Irán is deeply felt and lovingly acknowledged by the House of Justice. What all must realize is that this longing may best be expressed through single-minded dedication to the prosecution of the Five Year Plan.

May every follower of the Blessed Beauty seize the opportunities that present themselves for the advancement of the Cause, confident that the victories won will bring abiding joy to the members of the long-suffering, renowned community in His native land.
With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ridván 2005 - The Universal House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice

Ridván 2005

To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

1.1 The breakthroughs that have occurred in the Bahá’í world since the beginning of the fifth epoch of the Formative Age have brought us immeasurable joy. The past twelve months have been no exception. The Bahá’í community has continued its systematic advance and now, as it enters the final year of the Five Year Plan, finds itself in a position of remarkable strength—a strength acquired through strenuous, deliberate exertion by the friends everywhere to promote the process of entry by troops.

1.2 While inadequate to express the full significance of the developments taking place, the statistics suggest something of the scope of what is being achieved. The human resources of the Faith have steadily multiplied. Altogether, more than 200,000 worldwide have completed Book 1 of the Ruhi Institute, and many thousands have reached the level where they can effectively act as tutors of the study circles that, with increasing frequency, are held in every part of the globe, over 10,000 at the last count. The number of seekers engaged in the core activities has continued to climb, crossing the 100,000 mark several months ago. Meanwhile, some 150 clusters have developed to the point that intensive programmes of growth either have been launched or stand ready to be initiated. There is every indication that this number will be substantially surpassed by the end of the Plan.

1.3 In celebrating these achievements, one should acknowledge, equally, the advances in learning that have given rise to them. Intensive institute campaigns, which pay due attention to the practice required, have remained the vehicle for stimulating growth at the cluster level. As the necessary conditions have thus been created, systematic programmes for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith have been launched accordingly. A valuable body of knowledge about the nature of intensive programmes of growth is accumulating, and certain features of these endeavours are now well understood. Such programmes tend to consist of a series of cycles, each of several months’ duration, devoted to planning, expansion, and consolidation. Human resource development proceeds uninterrupted from one cycle to the next, ensuring that the process of expansion not only is sustained but progressively gathers momentum. While undoubtedly many more lessons are still to be garnered, the experience already gained makes it possible to replicate the approach in an ever increasing number of clusters around the world.

1.4 That the victories won have both quantitative and qualitative dimensions is gratifying indeed. At the heart of these accomplishments lies the continual enhancement of the spiritual life of Bahá’í communities everywhere. This new spiritual vitality accounts for the growing participation of people of divers backgrounds in devotional meetings, children’s classes and study circles, which, in many cases, has resulted in their recognition of Bahá’u’lláh as God’s Manifestation for this Day and in their declaration of faith.

1.5 New developments have, likewise, taken place at the World Centre. We have decided that the time is propitious to bring into being an International Board of Trustees of Huqúqu’lláh to guide and supervise the work of Regional and National Boards of Trustees of Huqúqu’lláh throughout the world. It will operate in close collaboration with the Chief Trustee, the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. ‘Alí-Muhammad Varqá, and will be able to benefit from his knowledge and counsel in carrying out its duties. The three members now appointed to the International Board of Trustees are Sally Foo, Ramin Khadem, and Grant Kvalheim. Their term of office will be determined at a later date. The members of the Board will not transfer their residence to the Holy Land but will utilize the services of the Office of Huqúqu’lláh at the World Centre in performing their functions.

1.6 At all levels and in every direction the Cause is achieving marked progress—from gains in expansion and consolidation at the grassroots to institutional developments of an international scope. Such encouraging signs of the growing solidarity of the community come at a time when evidences of the decline in society are, alas, all too apparent. No need to review here the features of the breakdown in which a demoralized world is entrapped. Yet it should not be forgotten that it is precisely these circumstances which increase receptivity to the Teachings and create new opportunities for their diffusion.

1.7 In our message of 26 November 1999, we referred to a series of global enterprises designed to carry the Bahá’í community through the final years of the first century of the Faith’s Formative Age. Each Plan, we indicated, would focus on the central aim of advancing the process of entry by troops. The first in the series, the current Five Year Plan, will draw to a close in twelve short months, when we will call upon the followers of Bahá’u’lláh to embark on another Plan of five years’ duration. What we ask the friends to do in the intervening period is to bend all their energies to put into resolute action the systematic learning being so vigorously promoted by the International Teaching Centre. No Bahá’í should lose the priceless opportunity afforded by the remaining days of the Plan to reinforce in this way the foundation for the launching next Ridván of an even more ambitious undertaking.

Our most fervent prayers in the Holy Shrines will surround you.

The Universal House of Justice

9 January 2001 - Universal House of Justice

9 January 2001


To the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors

Dearly loved Friends,
  1. Five years ago, we called on the body of Counsellors assembled in the Holy Land to aid the Bahá'í world to understand and shoulder the challenges of systematic growth. The brilliant achievements of the Four Year Plan testify to the wholehearted response they made. Today, we ask for an equally great effort on your part, this time to ensure the successful launching of the Five Year Plan.
  2. In your deliberations on the nature of this next stage in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan, you need to take into account the magnitude of the changes occurring in the fortunes of the Faith. At the World Center , the raising of the great edifices now standing in the Arc represents a major step in the consolidation of a divinely appointed Administrative Order. The Four Year Plan witnessed a remarkable increase in the institutional capacity of Bahá'í communities in every continent. The evolution of National and Local Spiritual Assemblies has visibly accelerated, and Regional Councils, where they have been established, have brought a new energy and effectiveness to the work of the Cause. With the birth and efflorescence of more than 300 training institutes, the Faith now possesses a powerful instrument for developing the human resources needed to sustain large-scale expansion and consolidation. Further, the ability of the Bahá'í community to influence the course of human affairs, both through its dealings with governments and organizations of civil society and through its endeavors in social and economic development, has been greatly enhanced. The Cause of Bahá'u'lláh stands at the threshold of a new epoch, at a moment in history when, despite confusion and outbursts of fresh hostility, the world had made real strides toward peace. One clearly sees an increasing receptivity to His all-pervasive and resplendent Spirit.
  3. Advancing the process of entry by troops will continue as the aim of the Five Year Plan — indeed the aim of the series of Plans that will carry the community to the end of the first century of the Formative Age. The acceleration of this vital process will be achieved through systematic activity on the part of the three participants in the Plan: the individual believer, the institutions, and the community.

The Training Institute

  1. A searching analysis of the Four Year Plan recently prepared for us by the International Teaching Center demonstrates that the training institute is effective not only in enhancing the powers of the individual, but also in vitalizing communities and institutions. The continued development of the training institutes in the diverse countries and territories of the world, then, must be a central feature of the new Plan.
  2. Drawing on the wealth of the experience now accumulated in this area of endeavour, institutes will have to provide their communities with a constant stream of human resources to serve the process of entry by troops. Elements of a system that can meet the training needs of large numbers of believers have already been tested worldwide and have proven themselves. Study circles, reinforced by extension courses and special campaigns, have shown their ability to lend structure to the process of spiritual education at the grassroots. The value of a sequence of courses, each one following the other in a logical pattern and each one building on the achievements of the previous ones, has become abundantly clear. Various models are emerging that provide insight into how such sequences can be used to create training programs. In one example the main sequence, much like the trunk of a tree, supports courses branching out from it, each branch dedicated to some specific area of training. In another, several tracks of courses, each with its own focus, run parallel. Institutes will do well to examine these elements and approaches and employ them in a manner that responds to the opportunities before them.
  3. At the outset of the Twelve Month Plan we underscored the need for Bahá'í children to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause. There is every indication from the response of the friends thus far that a raised awareness of the importance of child education will, in fact, be a hallmark of this brief yet significant Plan. A new impetus has been given to Bahá'í children's classes. Increased awareness has also brought to light opportunities to offer moral and spiritual education to children in general, as exemplified by the success of the efforts to introduce courses on the Bahá'í Faith into programmes of official school systems.
  4. That institutes are placing more and more emphasis on the training of teachers for children's classes is a particularly encouraging sign. Other measures are equally essential if regular classes for every age are to be offered in Bahá'í communities throughout the world. In some countries, national and regional committees have been established to assist Local Spiritual Assemblies in the discharge of their responsibility to educate children. In these, the relationship between the committees and the training institute will steadily evolve as experience is gained, each agency enhancing the work of the other. But there are many countries in which the institute is the only structure developing the capacity to organize and maintain courses in locality after locality. As this approach is working well with youth and adults, and increasingly for junior youth, there is no reason why the training institute should not also shoulder similar responsibility with respect to children, where necessary. As a general rule, institutes do not take on the administration of plans and programs for expansion and consolidation. Conducting children's classes, however, is a unique enterprise, of special urgency. In those countries where the task is given to it, that institute becomes a center of learning intensely engaged in the spiritual education of the friends from the tenderest age though adulthood.

Individual Initiative in Teaching

  1. With the work of the institutes growing in strength, attention has now to be given everywhere to systematizing teaching efforts. In the document "The Institution of the Counsellors" just issued, we emphasize the role that the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants play in helping the friends to meet this challenge, both at the level of individual initiative and of collective volition. As individuals progress through institute courses, they deepen their knowledge of the Faith, gain insights, and acquire skills of service. Some of the courses devoted to teaching will no doubt treat the subject in general terms. Others will focus on various means of sharing Bahá'u'lláh's message with specific segments of society, incorporating the wisdom gleaned from the teaching endeavors of the friends. This combined process of action, learning and training will endow communities with an ever-increasing number of capable and eager teachers of the Cause.
  2. Training alone, of course, does not necessarily lead to an upsurge in teaching activity. In every avenue of service, the friends need sustained encouragement. Our expectation is that the Auxiliary Board members, together with their assistants, will give special thought to how individual initiative can be cultivated, particularly as it relates to teaching. When training and encouragement are effective, a culture of growth is nourished in which the believers see their duty to teach as a natural consequence of having accepted Bahá'u'lláh. They "raise high the sacred torch of faith," as was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wish, "labor ceaselessly, by day and by night," and "consecrate every fleeting moment of their lives to the diffusion of the divine fragrance and the exaltation of God's holy Word." So enkindled do their hearts become with the fire of the love of God that whosoever approaches them feels its warmth. They strive to be channels of the spirit, pure of heart, selfless and humble, possessing certitude and the courage that stems from reliance on God. In such a culture, teaching is the dominating passion of the lives of the believers. Fear of failure finds no place. Mutual support, commitment to learning, and appreciation of diversity of action are the prevailing norms.

Systematic Programs of Growth

  1. During the coming months, you will be helping national communities, whose circumstances differ widely, to formulate plans for systematic growth. There are many countries where increased institutional capacity, particularly at the level of the region, now makes it possible to focus attention on smaller geographical areas. Most of these will consist of a cluster of villages and towns, but sometimes, a large city and its suburbs may constitute an area of this kind. Among the factors that determine the boundaries of a cluster are culture, language, patterns of transport, infrastructure, and the social and economic life of the inhabitants. The areas into which a region divides will fall into various categories of development. Some will not yet be open to the Faith, while others will contain a few isolated localities and groups; in some, established communities will be gaining strength through a vigorous institute process; in a few, strong communities of deepened believers will be in a position to take on the challenges of systematic and accelerated expansion and consolidation.
  2. Once the appropriate categories have been identified, national plans in these countries will need to make provision for the progressive opening of virgin areas through the settlement of homefront pioneers. Such goals can be met with relative ease if pioneers are experienced in institute programs and are able to use their methods and materials in raising up a group of dedicated believers who can carry the work of the Faith forward in the area. Precious indeed will be the privilege of those who, in the remaining years of the first century of the Formative Age, place their trust in God and arise with fervor to take the lead in carrying the light of Divine guidance to every part of their countries. It is our hope that this call for homefront pioneers will generate great enthusiasm among the friends and open before their eyes a new vista of possibilities to serve the Faith.
  3. According to this scheme, national plans also need to include provision for the strengthening of other areas which, although open to the Faith, have yet to reach the level of development that prepares them for intensive activity. In those areas where strong communities with a corps of deepened believers exist, systematic programs for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith should be established forthwith. We have already indicated that the International Teaching Center has identified certain patterns of growth appropriate for relatively small geographical areas. Since then, it has analyzed several pilot projects in various parts of the world, and its findings are highly encouraging. The lessons learned now provide a body of experience for the launching of programs for systematic growth in area after area. As you consult on this matter with National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Councils, you will want to keep the Teaching Center informed.
  4. It is important that national communities not rush into establishing intensive programs in an area before conditions are propitious. These conditions include: a high level of enthusiasm among a sizable group of devoted and capable believers who understand the prerequisites for sustainable growth and can take the ownership of the program; some basic experience on the part of a few communities in the cluster in holding classes for spiritual education of children, devotional meetings, and the Nineteen Day Feast; the existence of a reasonable degree of administrative capacity in at least a few Local Spiritual Assemblies; the active involvement of several assistants to Auxiliary Board members in promoting community life; a pronounced spirit of collaboration among the various institutions working in the area; and above all, the strong presence of the training institutes with a scheme of coordination that supports the systematic multiplication of study circles.
  5. Programs initiated in such areas should aim at fostering sustainable growth by building the necessary capacity at the levels of the individual, the institution, and the community. Far from requiring grandiose and elaborate plans, these programs should focus on a few measures that have proven over the years to be indispensable to large-scale expansion and consolidation. Success will depend on the manner in which lines of action are integrated and on the attitude of learning that is adopted. The implementation of such a program will require the close collaboration of the institute, the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, and an Area Teaching Committee.
  6. At the core of the program must lie a sound and steady process of expansion, matched by an equally strong process of human resource development. A range of teaching efforts needs to be carried out, involving both activities undertaken by the individual and campaigns promoted by the institutions. As the number of believers in an area rises, a significant percentage should receive training from the institute, and their capabilities be directed towards the development of local communities.
  7. Our message of 26 December 1995 delineating the features of the Four Year Plan made reference to the stages through which a community passes as it develops. The experience that has been gained in the ensuing years in working with communities at various stages will prove valuable to programs of growth. One of the first steps in implementing the program may well be a survey to determine the condition of each locality in the area. Among the initial goals for every community should be the establishment of study circles, children's classes, and devotional meetings, open to all the inhabitants of the locality. The observance of the Nineteen Day Feast has to be given due weight, and consistent effort should be made to strengthen the Local Spiritual Assemblies. Once communities are able to sustain the basic activities of Bahá'í life, a natural way to further their consolidation is to introduce small projects of social and economic development — for example, a literacy project, a project for the advancement of women or environmental preservation, or even a village school. As strength builds, the responsibility for increasing numbers of lines of action is to be devolved onto the Local Spiritual Assemblies.
  8. Throughout the endeavor, periodic meetings of consultation in the area need to reflect on issues, consider adjustments, and maintain enthusiasm and unity of thought. The best approach is to formulate plans for a few months at a time, beginning with one or two lines of action and gradually growing in complexity. Those who are actively involved in the implementation of plans, whether members of the institutions or not, should be encouraged to participate fully in the consultations. Other area-wide gatherings will also be necessary. Some of these will provide opportunity for the sharing of experience and further training. Others will focus on the use of the arts and the enrichment of culture. Together, such gatherings will support an intense process of action, consultation and learning.
  9. The friends who participate in these intensive programs of growth should bear in mind that the purpose is to ensure that the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh reaches the masses of humanity and enables them to achieve spiritual and material progress through the application of the Teachings. Vast numbers among the peoples of the world are ready, indeed yearn, for the bounties that Bahá'u'lláh alone can bestow upon them once they have committed themselves to building the new society He has envisioned. In learning to systematize their large-scale teaching work, Bahá'í communities are becoming better equipped to respond to this longing. They cannot withhold whatever effort, whatever sacrifice, may be called for.

A Spiritual Enterprise

  1. Clearly, the scheme described here, while suitable to many national communities, cannot be applied in every situation. We count on the ability of the Bahá'í institutions to create plans which, if not reflecting the total scheme above, will incorporate elements of its vision, according to the circumstances of each national community. Bahá'í communities are, of course, engaged in a range of indispensable endeavors such as public information activity, proclamation efforts, external affairs work, production of literature, and complex social and economic development projects. Most certainly, as plans are devised, they will also address these challenges.
  2. The nature of the planning process with which you will be helping the friends is in many ways unique. At its core it is a spiritual process in which communities and institutions strive to align their pursuits with the Will of God. The Major Plan of God is at work and the forces it generates impel humanity towards its destiny. In their own plans of action, the institutions of the Faith must seek to gain insight into the operation of these great forces, explore the potentialities of the people they serve, measure the resources and strengths of their communities, and take practical steps to enlist the unreserved participation of the believers. The nurturing of this process is the sacred mission entrusted to you. We have every confidence in your ability to achieve it. May Bahá'u'lláh bless and sustain you through His unfailing grace and mighty confirmations.

[SIGNED: The Universal House of Justice]

17 January 2003 - The Universal House of Justice

Department of the Secretariat 

   17 January 2003  

To all National Spiritual Assemblies  

Dear Bahá'í friends, 

We have been directed by the Universal House of Justice to send you the enclosed copy of its message of today’s date to the Bahá'ís of the World regarding the progress of the Five Year Plan. The Bahá'í world community has made significant strides since the launching of the Plan, and the House of Justice is conscious of the role that the institutions of the Faith have played in keeping the friends focused on the vital work before them. It hopes that the attached message will offer them an exciting vision of the future unfoldment of the Plan and the tasks they are being called upon to accomplish. That through your wise leadership their efforts will reach the level of intensity required to bring about and sustain accelerated expansion and consolidation is the object of its most fervent prayers at the Sacred Threshold.  

With loving Bahá'í greetings, 
For Department of the Secretariat  

c.c. The Hands of the Cause of God 
International Teaching Centre 
Continental Boards of Counsellors 


17 January 2003

To the Baha'is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

We have followed, with immense gratitude to Baha'u'llah, the unfoldment of the Five Year Plan in the two years since our message of 9 January 2001 to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors. It is heartening, indeed, to see the culture of learning that is taking root everywhere, as the Baha'i world community focuses on advancing the process of entry by troops. At this juncture, when the collective experience of the community has taken so significant a step forward, we think it timely to review with you the insights thus far gained and to clarify issues that have arisen. 

During the initial months of the Plan, National Spiritual Assemblies proceeded with relative ease to divide the territories under their jurisdiction into areas consisting of adjacent localities, called clusters, using criteria that were purely geographic and social and did not relate to the strength of local Baha'i communities. Reports received at the World Centre indicate that there are now close to 17,000 clusters worldwide, excluding those countries where, for one reason or another, the operation of the Faith is restricted. The number of clusters per country varies widely--from India with its 1,580 to Singapore, which necessarily sees itself as one cluster. Some of the groupings are sparsely populated areas with only a few thousand inhabitants, while the boundaries of others encompass several million people. For the most part, large urban centres under the jurisdiction of one Local Spiritual Assembly have been designated single clusters, these in turn being divided into sectors, so as to facilitate planning and implementation. 

With the various countries and territories divided into manageable areas, national communities moved quickly ahead to categorize clusters according to the stages of the development of the Faith mentioned in our 9 January message. The exercise afforded a realistic means for viewing the prospects of the community, but the task of refining the criteria needed for valid assessments is proving to be an ongoing challenge to institutions. To assign a cluster to one or another category is not to make a statement about status. Rather, it is a way of evaluating its capacity for growth, in order that an approach compatible with its evolving development can be adopted. Rigid criteria are obviously counterproductive, but a well-defined scheme to carry out evaluation is essential. Two criteria seem especially important: the strength of the human resources raised up by the training institute for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith in the cluster, and the ability of the institutions to mobilize these resources in the field of service. 

Focus in almost every country has now turned to stimulating the movement of its priority clusters from their current stage of growth to the next. What has become strikingly clear is that progress in this respect depends largely on the efficacy of the parallel process aimed at helping an ever-increasing number of friends to move through the main sequence of courses offered by the institute serving the area. The rise in activity around the world testifies to the success of these courses in evoking the spirit of enterprise required to carry out the divers actions that growth in a cluster, at whatever stage, demands.

Particularly heartwarming to observe is a growing sense of initiative and resourcefulness throughout the Baha'i world, along with courage and audacity. Consecration, zeal, confidence and tenacity--these are among the qualities that are distinguishing the believers in every continent. They are exemplified by, but are certainly not limited to, those who are arising to pioneer on the home front. As we had hoped, goals for the opening of virgin clusters are being readily met by enthusiastic participants of institute programmes who, equipped with the knowledge and skills acquired through training courses, set out to establish the Faith in a new area and bring a fledgling community into being. 

In most clusters, movement from one stage of growth to the next is being defined in terms of the multiplication of study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes, and the expansion they engender. Devotional meetings begin to flourish as consciousness of the spiritual dimension of human existence is raised among the believers in an area through institute courses. Children's classes, too, are a natural outgrowth of the training received early in the study of the main sequence. As both activities are made open to the wider community through a variety of well-conceived and imaginative means, they attract a growing number of seekers, who, more often than not, are eager to attend firesides and join study circles. Many go on subsequently to declare their faith in Baha'u'llah and, from the outset, view their role in the community as that of active participants in a dynamic process of growth. Individual and collective exertions in the teaching field intensify correspondingly, further fuelling the process. Established communities are revitalized, and newly formed ones soon gain the privilege of electing their Local Spiritual Assemblies. 

The coherence thus achieved through the establishment of study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes provides the initial impulse for growth in a cluster, an impulse that gathers strength as these core activities multiply in number. Campaigns that help a sizeable group of believers advance far enough in the main sequence of courses to perform the necessary acts of service lend impetus to this multiplication of activity. 

It is evident, then, that a systematic approach to training has created a way for Baha'is to reach out to the surrounding society, share Baha'u'llah's message with friends, family, neighbours and co-workers, and expose them to the richness of His teachings. This outward-looking orientation is one of the finest fruits of the grassroots learning taking place. The pattern of activity that is being established in clusters around the globe constitutes a proven means of accelerating expansion and consolidation. Yet this is only a beginning. 

In many parts of the world, bringing large numbers into the ranks of Baha'u'llah's followers has traditionally not been a formidable task. It is therefore encouraging to see that, in some of the more developed clusters, carefully designed projects are being added to the existing pattern of growth to reach receptive populations and lift the rate of expansion to a higher level. Such projects accelerate the tempo of teaching, already on the rise through the efforts of individuals. And, where large-scale enrolment is beginning to result, provision is being made to ensure that a certain percentage of the new believers immediately enter the institute programme, for, as we have emphasized in several messages, these friends will be called upon to serve the needs of an ever-growing Baha'i population. They help deepen the generality of the Baha'is by visiting them regularly; they teach children, arrange devotional meetings and form study circles, making it possible to sustain expansion. 

All of this opens thrilling opportunities for Local Spiritual Assemblies. Theirs is the challenge, in collaboration with the Auxiliary Board members who counsel and assist them, to utilize the energies and talents of the swelling human resources available in their respective areas of jurisdiction both to create a vibrant community life and to begin influencing the society around them. In localities where Spiritual Assemblies do not exist or are not yet functioning at the necessary level, a step-by-step approach to the development of communities and Local Spiritual Assemblies is showing excellent promise.

It is especially gratifying to note the high degree of participation of believers in the various aspects of the growth process. In cluster after cluster, the number of those shouldering the responsibilities of expansion and consolidation is steadily increasing. Meetings of consultation held at the cluster level serve to raise awareness of possibilities and generate enthusiasm. Here, free from the demands of formal decision-making, participants reflect on experience gained, share insights, explore approaches and acquire a better understanding of how each can contribute to achieving the aim of the Plan. In many cases, such interaction leads to consensus on a set of short-term goals, both individual and collective. Learning in action is becoming the outstanding feature of the emerging mode of operation. 

Let there be no doubt that what we are witnessing is the gathering momentum of that process of the entry of humanity into the Cause by troops, foreshadowed in Baha'u'llah's Tablet to the King of Persia, eagerly anticipated by the Master, and described by the Guardian as the necessary prelude to mass conversion. In the vanguard of the process are those clusters which, although still relatively few in number, are now ready to launch intensive programmes of growth. The scale of expansion that is to mark the next stage of growth in these clusters calls for an intensity of effort yet to be achieved. May the prodigious output of energy devoted to this mighty undertaking be reinforced by the power of Divine assistance. 

Be assured of our heartfelt prayers in the Holy Shrines that Baha'u'llah may bless and confirm your endeavours to realize, to the fullest, the extraordinary opportunities of these precious days.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

28 November 2004 - The International Teaching Centre



28 November 2004

To all Continental Counsellors

Dearly loved Co-workers,

Since 1996 the Bahá'í world has concentrated on one major accomplishment: advancing the process of entry by troops. Our focus on this overriding aim, the Universal House of Justice stated, is "a necessity at this stage in the progress of the Cause and in the state of human society." We can now see the beginnings of systematic growth in an increasing number of clusters where intensive programs have been launched. The believers and institutions in these clusters have established a pattern of activity "in which the broad membership of [the] community is enthusiastically, systematically and personally engaged," and have demonstrated the capacity to balance the requirements of expansion and consolidation while enlisting an ever-larger number of believers.

Fully aware that the Five Year Plan "demands an acceleration of this vital process" of entry by troops and that "this upsurge is necessary in the face of world conditions," we call upon each of you, with an appeal at once fervent and optimistic, to focus on the measures that will enable more and more clusters to reach the stage of intensive growth during the remaining months of the Plan. Drawing from the guidance of the House of Justice and from the experience of our travels and the information in your reports, we have attempted to analyze the elements necessary to achieve "a great and continuous expansion of the Bahá'í community" and have distilled some insights and lessons that we wish to share with you.

This letter discusses three major themes: the recent experience with accelerated training, which remains a key strategy in raising up sufficient human resources for systematic growth; thea accumulated learning from intensive programs of growth currently in operation; and a discussion of the imperative of teaching in the present context. It concludes with a summons to you and your auxiliaries to rigorously advance the development of the most promising clusters and spearhead the efforts of the friends to deliver the Message of Bahá'u'lláh.

Training a Critical Mass--Striving for "a sizable group of devoted and capable believers who understand the prerequisites for sustainable growth"

Since receiving the guidance in the letter of 17 January 2003 from the House of Justice, every country has "aimed at helping an ever-increasing number of friends to move through the main sequence of courses." More recently, based on the experience in a number of strong clusters, we have encouraged the believers and institutions in such clusters to strive to take a critical mass of believers through the sequence of courses and to do so in an accelerated manner. For where this had happened, it was possible to observe a new dynamic and an enhanced readiness for intensive growth. Specifically, we have suggested that in many clusters at least 40 to 50 people need to be taken through the sequence. Raising up this sizable group of trained human resources has contributed directly to other prerequisites for intensive growth, such as promoting the systematic multiplication of study circles and enhancing the capacity of Local Spiritual Assemblies. At the same time, however, certain difficulties have occasionally arisen from a preoccupation with the goal of achieving a critical mass.

In some areas, the eagerness of the believers and institutions to achieve certain targets in the institute process has led them to eliminate portions of the courses, particularly the practice components, which are an essential aspect of training. If the friends are never able to apply the skills they are learning, they will not become effective in carrying out the tasks of expansion and consolidation. It has become clear that to move quickly through the training does not mean reducing the number of hours spent on a course; it means completing the same course and its practices in their entirety, but in a shorter period of time -- perhaps days instead of weeks or weeks instead of months. A balanced approach is needed that avoids the potential pitfalls of rapid training that fails to cultivate skills and multiply activities, or endless training to achieve capacities that would be developed more fully through practical experience.

We have noted that at times the focus on taking 50 or so believers through the sequence of courses has resulted in rigid or overly simplistic perspectives. In some clusters that contained all the needed resources and core activities for intensive growth, initiating a growth program was delayed because there were, for example, only 46 believers who had completed the full sequence. Meanwhile, in clusters where the target of 50 was achieved, there was sometimes the expectation that this would automatically result in growth. In such instances it is important to remember that having 40 to 50 believers complete the sequence is not a magic formula. It is an indicator that has to be viewed in the context of other propitious conditions as well as the success at outreach and teaching already achieved in the cluster.

In clusters with relatively small Bahá'í populations, efforts to achieve a critical mass will proceed somewhat differently. Initially, intensive training may result in only 15 or 20 believers completing the sequence of courses. This effort would need to be augmented by vigorous teaching so that the size of the community gradually increases and along with it, the number of trained human resources. While this may mean that it takes longer for a cluster with fewer Bahá'ís to meet the prerequisites for an intensive program of growth, the friends will already possess a substantial body of experience in effective teaching by the time their cluster reaches an advanced stage of development.

Intensive institute campaigns will continue to be a vital strategy in the months ahead for accelerating the movement of large numbers of clusters to the point of initiating intensive programs of growth.

Launching an Intensive Program of Growth--"A constant influx of new adherents"

Now that the conditions for intensive growth have been achieved in many advanced clusters, "systematic programs for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith should be established forthwith." Practically speaking, this suggests that, to start with, the believers and institutions in advanced clusters need to understand the steps for initiating an intensive program of growth and the role of teaching projects as the catalyst for growth.

When a cluster advances from one category to another, new strategies come into play appropriate to its level of development. A look at the planning process brings the progression sharply into focus. We can say that in "C" and "B" clusters, emphasis is generally placed on individual initiative. The role of the institutions is to encourage and facilitate the "spirit of enterprise" that results in an ever-growing number of core activities. As clusters develop, those individual initiatives often become systematized in collective endeavors like forming teaching teams or conducting invitation campaigns. In "A" clusters where intensive programs of growth are being launched, individual initiatives increase further while the role of institutional planning becomes more prominent in the overall design of the expansion and consolidation activities. Naturally the institute process, the multiplication of core activities, and the reflection meetings continue, but the character of the reflection meetings evolves and the collaboration among the institutions intensifies.

In addition to the heightened collaboration and more complex level of planning that characterize a cluster at the stage of intensive growth, the approach to teaching takes on greater scope and energy. Rather than relying on the steady but modest pattern of growth generated by the participation of non-Bahá'ís in core activities, an acceleration of the teaching work generally involves identifying receptive populations and vigorously pursuing large-scale expansion. In a letter encouraging a National Spiritual Assembly to have one of its advanced clusters take advantage of "a significant opening among a minority population," the House of Justice explained the contrast in the pace of teaching in this way: "Seizing such opportunities requires a major shift from the gradualist approach that meets the needs of clusters at earlier stages of progress."

The intensive programs of growth now under way in more than 50 clusters around the world are a result of the learning in this Plan that has enabled the believers and institutions to teach and consolidate "a constant influx of new adherents." Through the implementation of these growth programs, the friends are demonstrating the longstanding principle that "expansion and consolidation are twin processes that must go hand in hand," and that they must be "matched by an equally strong process of human resource development."

Recent experience suggests that an intensive program of growth consists of a series of cycles, each of which may extend for three to six months. A cycle can be divided into phases comprising planning, teaching, consolidation activities, and human resource development. It is instructive to consider in some detail how the existing intensive programs of growth have unfolded.

  • The first phase in preparation for an intensive program of growth is the consultation that takes place among the three institutions that serve at the cluster level: the Auxiliary Board member, the Area Teaching or Cluster Growth Committee, and the institute coordinators. An important capacity of the institutions in promoting the two essential movements is the ability to interpret the "pyramid" of human resources, that is, to look at the development of human resources and the consequent level of activity in the cluster and determine what needs to be done next.

  • The institutions in the cluster assess how many people the human resources in the area can effectively serve. How many new seekers and believers can be accommodated in existing study circles, children's classes, and devotional meetings? How many more core activities can be initiated? How many teaching teams can be formed? How many new believers and seekers can be visited in their homes for further teaching and deepening? Based on such considerations, a plan of action of a few months' duration is prepared.

  • The plan is presented to the believers at a reflection meeting. At this stage of development, though there is still a time for individual pledges, the institutions present a well-thought-out design for a teaching project in which all believers can play their part. Generally the project will target receptive populations, which can be identified in advance or decided upon through consultation at the reflection meeting.

  • After consultation and planning, the next phase, which may last approximately two to four weeks, focuses on expansion through vigorous personal teaching and a collective teaching project. In some clusters this teaching effort will result in a large number of enrollments; in others, the number of potential seekers will substantially increase.

  • The phase of intensified teaching is followed by systematic consolidation through integrating a percentage of the new believers and their families into the core activities. For those who do not immediately enter the institute process, home visits can be organized. This phase in itself gives rise to new believers.

  • Meanwhile, the training of human resources continues throughout, so that new believers move through the sequence of courses, in order to provide more human resources for the next cycle of the intensive program of growth, and thus "the system as a whole [is] in a constant state of expansion." Although intensive teaching, consolidation, and training are introduced sequentially in a growth program, at certain points they are concurrent activities.

  • A cycle ends with consultation among the institutions in the cluster to evaluate the results. Based on what was learned from this cycle, the elements of the program are revised accordingly, and the next cycle of activity is immediately launched at a cluster-wide reflection meeting.

Certain aspects of an intensive program of growth may differ according to the conditions in particular clusters. Moreover, the second cycle may not follow the exact approach of the first cycle, but experience thus far in various settings reflects the general pattern set out above.

An example of an intensive program of growth is the rural Murun cluster in Mongolia . By the end of the third year of the Plan, 46 individuals in the cluster had completed the entire sequence of courses. Steady teaching activities had resulted in 228 enrollments that year, which raised the Bahá'í population to some 500. An intensive program of growth to achieve a sizable increase in enrollments was initiated in June 2004. The first year of the program was envisioned as having four three-month cycles. An analysis of the human resources determined that more tutors might be required, so the first cycle began with a two-week intensive course on Ruhi Institute Books 6 and 7, which brought the number of believers completing the sequence to 71. This preparatory phase was followed by a two-week teaching project. Nineteen teaching teams of three to five members each were mobilized, which made contact with 780 individuals resulting in 200 new declarations, including 60 junior youth. A consolidation phase of two months immediately followed and reached the new believers and receptive individuals with home visits and core activities. Within a few weeks about 30 of these individuals had completed the first three books of the sequence and 137 children were participating in children's classes. In early November, once a majority of the new Bahá'ís were involved in the institute process and core activities, the friends in the Murun cluster felt ready to proceed with the second cycle of the growth program. Within a week the intensive teaching project had resulted in 73 new believers and an additional 10 regular devotional meetings, 32 deepening visits, 13 study circles, and one junior youth group.

Depending on the circumstances, the goal of an intensive program of growth might be a substantial increase in the community of interest, from which new believers over the following months would emerge. This was the objective of the first cycle of the intensive program of growth launched in August 2004 in Karachi , Pakistan , an urban cluster with one Local Spiritual Assembly. The institutions in the cluster assessed the human resources and core activities as preparation for designing a teaching project and follow-up activities. Subsequently, at the reflection meeting the believers formed 12 teaching teams, with the participation of 56 believers, who identified a list of 400 friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers to be contacted. A refresher course for Book 6 was held just prior to the commencement of the two-week teaching project. The Faith was presented to 154 persons, 53 of whom agreed to join study circles, nine wished to send their children to children's classes, eight others asked to attend devotional meetings, and 71 junior youth enrolled in the junior youth program. Follow-up activities are under way.

A Resurgence of Teaching--"Let us make it the dominating passion of our life."

Integral to the strategy of systematic human resource development we have pursued since 1996 is the training of believers to carry out the tasks of expansion and consolidation. Specifically, the House of Justice explained that realizing the aim of advancing the process of entry by troops "will depend on the rapid increase in the number of teachers of the Cause." Stories from divers communities across the globe have attested to the impact of the institute courses on enkindling the spirit of teaching among the believers and imparting skills to make them more effective teachers. In some quarters, however, it has been expressed that the believers are "waiting" for certain conditions before beginning to teach--until their cluster had advanced to "B" level, until 50 friends in the cluster had completed the sequence, until they were launching a growth program, and so forth. Yet, as we know, our obligation to teach the Cause is not dependent on what cluster we live in or how many courses we have studied. "God hath prescribed unto every one," Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "the duty of teaching His Cause."

We have observed in a variety of clusters, in different categories, that believers who have been trained are often not being mobilized into action. Long before a cluster attains the stage of development and collective consciousness for initiating and sustaining an intensive program of growth, the believers in the institute process should be assisted to step into the arena of action. For example, friends who are trained to serve as tutors may need help in finding a group of participants for a study circle. Believers who have completed the second course should be immediately deployed in home visits, and those who have studied the book on effective teaching need not wait until the cluster is an "A" to form a teaching team. What some friends often require, particularly in urban areas, is access to a receptive population that might yield contacts for the core activities and, furthermore, the confidence to approach non-Bahá'ís. Efforts to make lists and invite friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers have been fruitful, but for many Bahá'ís these lists may soon become exhausted and it becomes necessary to look beyond their limited circle. Sometimes there are believers especially suited to reaching out to receptive populations and they can attract individuals to the core activities conducted by their fellow Bahá'ís.

The opportunities and challenges in teaching the Faith may differ in various types of clusters, but no matter what the circumstances, the primacy of our individual responsibility remains: to share God's Message for this Day with a humanity yearning for "the redemptive power of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh." In those parts of the world where "bringing large numbers into the ranks of Bahá'u'lláh's followers has traditionally not been a formidable task" the diligent work of the past several years has been necessary "to build a Bahá'í community life that could meet the needs of its new members and be self-generating." A number of advanced clusters in Africa and Asia have now achieved this sustainable pattern. In other parts of the world, the believers moved quickly to complete courses and establish core activities, but the learning needed to reach souls and expand enrollments will take more time and effort. It is important that for these friends the process of human resource development does not become an end in itself, one that allows them to postpone the act of teaching until some future time.

The experience of communities with growth during the past few years has indicated that success in teaching necessitates a number of capacities on the part of the believers. A basic skill is learning to invite our friends and neighbors to the core activities and to do so with confidence and regularity. One can observe that some individuals spontaneously identify with the Faith through participation in Bahá'í activities, particularly study circles. In such cases the task, then, is to recognize that acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh has taken place in their hearts and to enable them to join the community in a seamless fashion. Others need more guidance along the seeker's path, as affirmed by the statement of the Báb that "most people are helpless, and wert thou to open their hearts and dispel their doubts, they would gain admittance into the Faith of God." In all cases, what is required is wholehearted commitment to learning how to become a more effective teacher so that we are prepared to fulfill this summons of the House of Justice:

We especially appeal to our fellow Bahá'ís everywhere to mount a mightier effort than ever before in offering the Message of Bahá'u'lláh to increasing numbers of their compatriots, and in inviting them to investigate and embrace His Cause.

Some Bahá'ís are natural, impassioned teachers whose talents need to be utilized within the framework of the Plan. In all areas they can contribute immensely by bringing seekers to the core activities. Moreover, in clusters where the institutions are embarking on intensive programs of growth and the projects are employing direct teaching methods, the teaching teams would benefit from having a few such enthusiastic souls who can inspire a team to "cast aside their fears and misgivings and their sense of inadequacy," boldly engage with interested people, and lead them to embrace the Cause.

* * * * *

In the remaining months of the Five Year Plan, your attention, of course, will continue to focus on the two essential movements and assisting the institutions and believers to achieve significant growth in as many advanced clusters as possible. In numerous areas, advancing the institute process will remain a high priority. Another priority is to strengthen the ongoing efforts to utilize the energies and skills of the believers in the tasks of expansion and consolidation. The deployment of human resources manifests itself in different ways: a certain percentage of the believers complete courses and enter the arena of action on their own; some are motivated and mobilized in reflection meetings; for others, one-to-one mentoring by the Auxiliary Board member or assistant may be necessary. The Board members and their assistants bear a special responsibility to support the friends at each stage of the institute process and accompany them in their efforts to act on the training they have received: to help them hold a devotional meeting, to accompany them on home visits, or to co-tutor a study circle.

Finally, just as you and your auxiliaries have been in the vanguard of the institute process, we now encourage you to mobilize the Auxiliary Board members and assistants to spearhead the implementation of teaching projects, so that an ever-growing number of intensive programs of growth are launched by the end of the Plan. To realize this objective, an understanding of the mechanics of the process--the steps in the cycle of expansion and consolidation--however essential, will not s suffice. What is also required is a resurgence of teaching, of "inviting people of every sort and every gift to the banquet table of the Lord of Hosts." More and more friends who have participated in institute courses have "come to realize that every one of them is able, in his own measure, to deliver the Message." Again, the ultimate challenge is the effective deployment of our human resources. As the House of Justice wrote when it laid before us the aim of advancing the process of entry by

troops, "thousands upon thousands of believers will need to be aided to express the vitality of their faith through constancy in teaching the Cause."

Beyond this, we call upon each of you and the Auxiliary Board members, over the next 16 months, in your interactions with the believers, who in every land are striving wholeheartedly to advance the processes of the Plan, to enkindle their hearts with a passion for teaching. We urge you, through your example and encouragement, to fan the flames of their devotion into a renewed ardor for teaching, so that "never must they let a day pass without teaching some soul."

May the Almighty guide and sustain your high endeavors.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

The International Teaching Centre

cc: The Hand of the Cause of God 'Ali-Muhammad Varqa

Continental Boards of Counsellors