2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

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Keyvan
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2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby Keyvan » Mon Feb 02, 2009 9:13 pm

Here is something I am having issue with.

It is clear in the Baha'i Writings that we as Baha'i's should not and do not attempt to enforce our laws over those who are non-believers. This, let alone, when the Baha'i Faith is not even governing a nation, and a man-made government holds the reigns of power. This letter outlines this. http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file=uhj_theocracy

I wonder why then and it is upsetting the NSA of Guyana in 2003 (http://www.gy.bahai.org/amendment.html) wrote to their government to influence legislation on the issue of homosexuality. I find this action very unorthodox, and I'm not speaking on the content of the letter so much as I am speaking of the principle of a Baha'i NSA taking such direct involvement in such a matter. Baha'i NSA's around the world are embedded in nations in which the laws of the nation are far removed from those which would be guided by the morality of the faith and never does an NSA seek to influence the government to alter their laws to be compatible with the faith. In fact it is expected that the faith will grow and prosper in the aftermath of when mankind ultimately falls into chaos of its own social decadence.

As to the content of the letter itself I am bothered by the fact that this NSA would think it is appropriate to make any suggestions on gay marriage. Even in a Baha'i run state I would think that gay marriage for non-believers would be tolerable considering that this letter from the Universal House of Justice outlines that in such a scenario the rights of minorities would be protected, unlike under the historical governance of other religious institutions.

Thoughts?

coatofmanycolours
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby coatofmanycolours » Mon Feb 02, 2009 10:49 pm

Keyvan; I've been looking around the conversations on this site and discovering many insights.
I would like to see even more participation. I hope people are not shy about expressing their views.

Anyway, back to the subject of the relationship between the Faiths and the governments of the world.
To me it makes sense that they should have an advisory role. After all, ethics and morality are central
subjects in the religions.

I don't think empirical science is meant to answer ethical and moral questions, nor can such principles
be arrived at democratically, can they.

Ultimately, our governments decide on laws and standards for each nation. For example, if a
government, upon consultation, says that it is necessary to defend its borders against attack,
it can then ask people to become soldiers and man the front lines. At that point, I don't think
a citizen should place his own authority above that of the duly-elected government.

Of course there will be a stronger consensus if the people feel that they have had a voice in the
process of electing their governing institutions and airing their views and values in the process,
which brings us back to the point of this thread.

-Peter

Keyvan
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby Keyvan » Tue Feb 03, 2009 6:19 am

I mean it just doesn't make any sense is all.

1) We as Baha'i's believe that old-world/man-made governments will eventually fall apart or lose relevance by way of their societies embracing social decadence and corruption anyway. This is why we don't seek to influence or hold jurisdiction outside of those within the Baha'i fold. This is much different from the activities of many churches in the United States which seek to directly influence public policy and thereby mold social culture into a shape reflective of their own morals, regardless of what the interests of the people are.

That is, whereas other religious institutions recognize and embrace the man made governments, and seek to impose its spiritual governance agenda through them, Baha'i institutions look more long term, governing under their jurisdiction, only Baha'i's, waiting for the moment these old governments fall apart and the Baha'i institutions gain at-large relevance.

So what is the NSA of Guyana doing acting like a church with a political agenda, trying to influence the social policy of a man-made government?

2) Even if an NSA were to try to influence the policy of a government, it is understandable and historically so for an issue that affects the life and liberty of those in the nation. That is, for something that would otherwise hurt others. For example, if an NSA wrote to the government on the issue of how Baha'i's are being persecuted in the land, this is imperative to the effect that it transcends the aforementioned ideology - but addresses a fundamental human right.

But, when it comes to something like social policy that does not affect the lives of those outside of those directly involved, NSA interjection is unheard of to my knowledge. For example, if homosexuals were to be married that does not affect the lives of anyone else but the homosexuals who are getting married, so why did the NSA of Guyana feel the need to interject?

I mean, NSA's don't write to the governments of their lands about gun control, or the death penalty, or anything else. Why this?

3) When it comes to this specific issue of homosexual marriage, even if the state were run by a Baha'i Federal Government, it is dubious to think that non-believers or believers of other faiths would be forced to follow the same provisions of marriage as Baha'i's. As outlined in the UHJ letter on theocracy (http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file=uhj_theocracy) the rights of minorities will be protected under a Baha'i state - specifically referring to those who are hesitant about non-believers or believers of other faiths living in a state run by Baha'i' institutions, and concerned about Baha'i law.

Now again, when it affects the well being of others, non-Baha'i's would of course need to follow the common law of everyone. That is, punishment for murder and such would be the same. No one can say murder is only a crime in Baha'i law and that they are not a Baha'i to get exemption from consequence.

That being said, I really doubt that non-Baha'i's would be asked to have permission of all living parents to get married, or that they would have a time frame after engagement to get married. Or even under basic social behaviors. I don't think non-Baha'i's would have to follow the laws on adultery. With that in mind, what logic is there to suggest that there would be a law against homosexual activity among non-Baha'i's, or even if they were to get married.

Lets remember there is a different definition of STATE MARRIAGE and BAHA'I MARRIAGE. These marriages are fundamentally different in purpose, provision, and definition.




All of this being said...I really do not understand what the NSA of Guyana was doing here. If I'm reading this way off please someone tell me.

brettz9
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby brettz9 » Tue Feb 03, 2009 10:45 am

Interesting find, Keyvan...

Although this might not be our National Spiritual Assembly, we know that we are to obey trusting that even a wrong decision will be made right (albeit allowing for making appeals, etc.). And as the Constitution of the House of Justice states, "The National Spiritual Assembly shall have exclusive jurisdiction and authority over all the activities and affairs of the Bahá'í Faith throughout its area.". Of course, this is circumscribed by the rights of the House itself, so perhaps we may see a reaction by the House of Justice. But in any case, while it is fair game for us to discuss what kind of advisory scope Baha'i institutions are or will be confined to, let's be careful not to undermine their authority, while we discuss the more general question of Baha'i non-involvement in politics and related topics.

I believe that Baha'i institutions do give advice on matters not strictly pertaining to the Faith--such as for social and economic development, etc. One might argue, as our Writings do, that marriage is a fundamental unit of society (see http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file=uhj_ridvan_2006 ) and that some involvement is warranted. However, it does seem, for example, that this issue is not to be assigned any particular emphasis over adultery, etc.:

The question of how to deal with homosexuals is a very difficult one. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Baha'i Faith by Baha'u'llah; so, for that matter, are immorality and adultery. If one is going to start imposing heavy sanctions on people who are the victims of this abnormality, however repulsive it may be to others, then it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Baha'is who step beyond the moral limits defined by Baha'u'llah. Obviously at the present time this would create an impossible and ridiculous situation.

...

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 20, 1955; cited in LG, #1230, p. 367-368, cited in http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... .comp.html )


And while "moral development" was to be a priority for external affairs work (a regrettably neglected area I would say), I didn't get any impression that it was to entail such involvement, but rather more of a moral education side of things--such as interfaith promotion of virtues education, etc.

"The concept of promoting specific morals or values may be controversial, especially in this age of humanistic relativism. Nevertheless, we firmly believe there exists a common set of values that have been obscured from recognition by those who exaggerate minor differences in religious or cultural practice for political purposes...

1. Promoting the development of curricula for moral education in schools

....We also believe the campaign will be successful only to the extent that the force of religion is relied upon in the effort. The doctrine of the separation of church and state should not be used as a shield to block this salutary influence."

(Baha'i International Community, at http://bahai-library.com/published.uhj/ ... t.html#IVD)


You also make some interesting and reasonable arguments, too, I think (though realize in many countries that adultery is indeed illegal, and immoral behavior--of whatever kind--does not only impact the involved individuals (by example, by attitudes, etc.). Admittedly, however, "morality" should be much broader than it tends to be interpreted (take the statement of Desmond Tutu encouraging Christians to get over their fetish of this topic and focus on other critical topics)).

And Shoghi Effendi recognized that laws depend on the receptivity of the population:

You had asked in connection with the subject of prohibition. Of course in every country one must take into consideration the exact conditions as to whether by force of legislation people can be stopped from drinking, but as a principle the Bahá'í Teachings are quite against drinking, intoxicating liquors and from the Bahá'í point of view every thing that helps to stop drinking is welcomed.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 30 December 1925, at http://bahai-library.com/?file=shoghief ... ber%201925 )


Moreover, a corrollary to Baha'u'llah's statement about opium being so bad as to warrant the use of force (in this Revelation of peace), might be that other lesser drugs might not warrant it (even though their use is strongly condemned).

or regarding immigration (the full letter is very interesting and discusses the other side of the immigration issue):

At the same time there is undoubtedly truth in the contention that if, in a country where a reasonably high standard of living, of culture, etc., has been attained, people accustomed to a lower standard of life and culture are freely admitted, and allowed unrestricted rights of commercial and industrial competition, the standard of living and culture in that country is bound to suffer.

(On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, at http://bahai-library.com/?file=shoghief ... ril%201925 )


So, an interesting topic for sure, but let's refrain from any kind of negative comments about any institutions or their decisions--we have the proper channels within the Faith to address any misgivings we may have, but I for one welcome our discussing the general issues that this raises, and thanks for bringing it to our attention.

coatofmanycolours
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby coatofmanycolours » Wed Feb 04, 2009 7:30 pm

Some interesting questions and comments.

One thing I have thought about occasionally is the term 'old world order'. Think about it.
When did the Bab first use this term? What was the prevailing 'order' at that time?

Certainly, the present day 'order' is different from what was dominant in the mid 1800s.
So it looks like 'old' and 'new' are relative terms. Look at the Bible of the Christians. The
'New' Testament is 2000 years old. Relatively speaking, that is a collection of ancient
sacred writing, isn't it.

I think we should not make a wholesale judgment of all human endeavors, at the present time,
as 'old world order'. The change to a greater wisdom will not be instantaneous. We will progress
in jumps and starts, through stages, until all of mankind adopts a superior philosophy and way of life.

That is how I see it.

-Peter

Keyvan
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby Keyvan » Thu Feb 05, 2009 3:04 am

To clarify, I didn't mean to come off as though to undermine the National Spiritual Assembly of Guyana. I am just confused and puzzled by this decision though to the point that I question the righteousness of it. (I rarely if ever find points to question to this extreme, of administrative bodies)

Unless I am completely reading this wrong, and/or there is a serious translation error, this letter contradicts many trains of logic pertaining to Baha'i theology and the unfolding of the Baha'i Commonwealth.

Consequently, I have decided to bring this letter to the attention of the Universal House of Justice, regarding the concerns I have outlined in previous posts. I have never written to the Universal House of Justice before but this is just such a troubling issue, both personally, and in my concern for how the faith is viewed. I would like to gather as much feedback as I can though before doing so. (side note: is there an email address I can send my letter to? anyone know it?)

I am surprised that this letter hasn't been caught on the radar of Baha'i forums in the past.

AdibM
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby AdibM » Thu Feb 05, 2009 8:56 am

Keyvan wrote:(side note: is there an email address I can send my letter to? anyone know it?)

secretariat(at)bwc(dot)org
"To be a Bahá'í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood." -- `Abdu'l-Bahá

brettz9
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby brettz9 » Sat Feb 07, 2009 4:11 am

As far as bringing up an issue to the House of Justice, you might be interested in the following:

You also inquire as to the circumstances under which an individual believer may submit questions to the National Assembly or the House of Justice, directly. As you know, Bahá'ís turn to Bahá'í literature, their fellow-believers (particularly those well-versed in the Writings) and the local and national institutions of the Faith for answers to any question they may have. If these avenues are explored to the utmost and further clarification is still needed, the friends are free to refer to the House of Justice for such guidance. It is hoped that this information will be of assistance to you in your endeavours.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/file.php?file= ... exemptions )


and these:

"Shoghi Effendi firmly believes that consultation must be maintained between the National Spiritual Assembly and the entire body of the believers, and that such a consultation, when the Convention is not in session, can best be maintained through the agency of the Local Assemblies, one of whose essential functions is to act as intermediaries between the local communities and their national representatives. The main purpose of the Nineteen Day Feasts is to enable individual believers to offer any suggestion to the Local Assembly, which in its turn will pass it to the National Spiritual Assembly. The Local Assembly is, therefore, the proper medium through which local Bahá'í communities can communicate with the body of the national representatives. The Convention should be regarded as a temporary gathering, having certain specific functions to perform during a limited period of time. Its status is thus limited in time to the Convention sessions, the function of consultation at all other times being vested in the entire body of the believers through the Local Spiritual Assemblies.

(18 November 1933 to a National Spiritual Assembly at http://bahai-library.com/?file=compilat ... on.html#16 )


and:

Moreover, because of the opportunity which it provides for conveying messages from the national and international levels of the administration and also for communicating the recommendations of the friends to those levels, the Feast becomes a link that connects the local community in a dynamic relationship with the entire structure of the Administrative Order. But considered in its local sphere alone there is much to thrill and amaze the heart. Here it links the individual to the collective processes by which a society is built or restored. Here, for instance, the Feast is an arena of democracy at the very root of society, where the Local Spiritual Assembly and the members of the community meet on common ground, where individuals are free to offer their gifts of thought, whether as new ideas or constructive criticism, to the building processes of an advancing civilization. Thus it can be seen that aside from its spiritual significance, this common institution of the people combines an array of elemental social disciplines which educate its participants in the essentials of responsible citizenship.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, at http://bahai-library.com/uhj/feast.html )


and per the Constitution of the House of Justice also:
The right of appeal exists in the circumstances, and shall be exercised according to the procedures, outlined in V.9 Appeals:

...

2. An appellant, whether institution or individual, shall in the first instance make appeal to the Assembly whose decision is questioned, either for reconsideration of the case by that Assembly or for submission to a higher body. In the latter case the Assembly is in duty bound to submit the appeal together with full particulars of the matter. If an Assembly refuses to submit the appeal, or fails to do so within a reasonable time, the appellant may take the case directly to the higher authority.

(at http://info.bahai.org/article-1-3-6-1.html )


Practically speaking, besides being the recommended means and beyond the rationale of having your concerns or articulation be refined through consultation and giving the Local Spiritual Assembly a chance to recognize its role as an intermediary (and the community members at Feast seeing their potential role in such a process of making recommendations as well), etc., I think you may also find that your case may be expedited much more rapidly when it goes through a local Spiritual Assembly...

best wishes,
Brett

p.s. We always love to have correspondence published, so feel free to share if it does go up to the House... :)

Keyvan
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby Keyvan » Sun Feb 08, 2009 3:20 am

Well explained Brett.

For this particular situation though, I'm sure you can agree, its basically questioning the decision of a National Spiritual Assembly, at which point there is no body in the world left to appeal to other than the Universal House of Justice.

Not to mention, the answers to these questions would be calling upon particulars of the future World Order, which only the Universal House of Justice can Reveal.

brettz9
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Re: 2003 Guyana NSA Letter to their National Government

Postby brettz9 » Sun Feb 08, 2009 4:41 am

Hi Keyvan,

It looks like it's still recommended to go through the National Spiritual Assembly:

An appellant, whether institution or individual, shall in the first instance make appeal to the Assembly whose decision is questioned, either for reconsideration of the case by that Assembly or for submission to a higher body. In the latter case the Assembly is in duty bound to submit the appeal together with full particulars of the matter. If an Assembly refuses to submit the appeal, or fails to do so within a reasonable time, the appellant may take the case directly to the higher authority.

(Constitution of the Universal House of Justice


Of course, it's your call, but that's what I read from the above.

best wishes,
Brett


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