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Abstract:
Talk at the Baha'i Unity Center in Atlanta.
Notes:
Transcript prepared by Raymond Jeffords; topic headers added by Jeffords and Watson, as well as page references and extended quotes to which Mr. Mitchell referred.  Additionally, there are supplemental quotes, at the end, with respect to the role of the Universal House of Justice and the Bahá'í Community in the establishment of the Lessor Peace.

Talk recorded and posted with permission of Mitchell.


Time of Peril, Prospects for Peace

by Glenford Mitchell

2001-10-11
Loving greetings from the Universal House of Justice. You should feel embraced by the Universal House of Justice. That is the only "official" thing you will hear from me-take all the rest with "a block of salt."

Time of Peril -- Prospects for Peace

We are living in a time of peril, with prospects for peace. Today a memorial service was held in Washington, D.C., to mark one month of sorrow related to the events in New York. Shoghi Effendi alerted us to the perils and prospects for peace and related it to the simultaneous processes of integration and disintegration, of order and chaos, which characterize the plan of God. We are witnessing an acceleration of those processes. They can be alarmingly distressing or greatly encouraging.

Only last May the spiritual and administrative center of the Faith suddenly and dramatically emerged from obscurity. This was preceded by the U.N. Millennium Summit. But then came "the horror in New York." This catastrophe was a wake-up call that conveys both a warning and a promise. Bahá'u'lláh states in the Hidden Words:

"My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it."

The Beloved Guardian prepared us well for developments within and outside the Faith. His essays in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh give us tremendous perspective. The Advent of Divine Justice (issued only a year into the first Seven Year Plan) serves as a guide for the Most Great Peace.

Re-read The Unfoldment of World Civilization in the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.

Two conditions currently afflict the life of the planet: 1) the decline of religion, and 2) a lack of unity.

Shoghi Effendi's summary of the consequences of this are extraordinary:

"The recrudescence of religious intolerance, of racial animosity, and of patriotic arrogance; the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press; the extension of the influence and activities of those "prophets of decadence" who advocate companionate marriage, who preach the philosophy of nudism, who call modesty an intellectual fiction, who refuse to regard the procreation of children as the sacred and primary purpose of marriage, who denounce religion as an opiate of the people, who would, if given free rein, lead back the human race to barbarism, chaos, and ultimate extinction -- these appear as the outstanding characteristics of a decadent society, a society that must either be reborn or perish." (WOB 186-188)

The reference to "the spread of terrorism" is especially significant now. Shoghi Effendi wrote of terrorism in 1936 before anyone could imagine what he was foretelling.

The Weakening of the Pillars of Religion

Shoghi Effendi said:

"There can be no doubt that the decline of religion as a social force, of which the deterioration of religious institutions is but an external phenomenon, is chiefly responsible for so grave, so conspicuous an evil. "Religion," writes Bahá'u'lláh "is the greatest of all means for the establishment of order in the world and for the peaceful contentment of all that dwell therein. The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the hands of the ignorant and made them bold and arrogant. Verily I say, whatsoever hath lowered the lofty station of religion hath increased the waywardness of the wicked, and the result cannot be but anarchy."

"Religion," He, in another Tablet, has stated, "is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world, for the fear of God impelleth man to hold fast to that which is good, and shun all evil. Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness, of justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine." (WOB 186-188)

UNITY

Bahá'ís have a different view of religion compared to others. It is not a going-to-church-on-Sunday view of religion. It is every minute, every hour -- a lifetime affair. It is based on the recognition of one God and one religion and one human race, full of diversity but all descended from the same stock. Unity is at the center of this Faith.

"O ye children of men! The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men." (Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh,112)

This is the straight path. Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded." (WOB 203)

Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace -- The Little Job and the Big Job: Who works on Each?

Getting from "here to there," from "now to then" is the great challenge facing the human race. How are we to meet this challenge? In 1863, after announcing His mission to His followers, Bahá'u'lláh addressed the kings and rulers. He offered them the Most Great Peace "on a platter." All they had to do was accept. All ignored or refused His offer. He then told them to cling to the Lesser Peace -- a term never heard before Bahá'u'lláh spoke of it.

The Lesser Peace involves the elimination of the excessive burden of taxation that governments place on their peoples to finance weapons of war. The Lesser Peace involves the elimination of war. These matters are the responsibility of governments. The Most Great Peace is "an inner thing." It has to do with the heart and soul -- an inner spiritual transformation of individuals. This is directly related to the efforts of the Bahá'í community. This is the big job.

Bahá'u'lláh left the lesser job to governmental leaders. Regarding the Lesser and Most Great Peace, the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá marks the beginning of the formative age (the age of transition from the old to the new world order) -- a time devoted to the publication and gradual enforcement of the Aqdas, the establishment of the Lesser Peace, and the release of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh from the grip of religious orthodoxy (in places like Iran and Egypt) -- on the road to the Most Great Peace. The U.S. and the U.S. Bahá'í community have a special role to play.

Mission Given to the American Bahá'í Community.

In "Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour" (Citadel of Faith, p. 4) Shoghi Effendi refers to mission given to the American Bahá'í community:

"The God-given mission, constituting the birthright, and proclaiming the primacy of a community whose members the Founder of that community, the Center of the Covenant Himself, has addressed as the 'Apostles of Bahá'u'lláh' can only be fulfilled if they befittingly obey the specific Mandate issued by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Tablets of the Divine Plan." (see Citadel of Faith, 67-71)

In one of his letters, Shoghi Effendi says that Bahá'u'lláh used to speak of America to His followers.

There is a distinction between "Administrative Order" and "world order." America's responsibilities in regard to the Administrative Order date back to 1916-17 and The Tablets of the Divine Plan. The American government's role with regard to world order is evident during the same time period. Woodrow Wilson's 14 points were inspired by 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. Wilson's efforts are described in the Bahá'í Writings as the dawn of the Most Great Peace. Such efforts will ultimately lead to the unification of the eastern and western hemispheres.

Why is America singled out for this role?

'Abdu'l-Bahá spent 239 days in North America visiting numerous cities, some twice. Even before His visit, Bahá'u'lláh had addressed the Rulers of America -- but His Tablet to the Rulers of America [Aqdas, p. 88] was "different in tone" than those sent to others. It gave a mission to the rulers of America. This tablet, and the visit of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and The Tablets of the Divine Plan -- these have invested this part of the world with a special mission.

Shoghi Effendi, in The Advent of Divine Justice, provides us with 10 pages of quotes from Bahá'u'lláh (pages 75-84),

"each having a direct bearing on the tasks which actually face or lie ahead of the American Bahá'í community."

They can aid us to understand the events of September 11, 2001. If ever you are down or depressed, you should read these quotes. They will renew your spirit. At the end of these quotes, Shoghi Effendi says:

"One more word in conclusion. Among some of the most momentous and thought-provoking pronouncements ever made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in the course of His epoch-making travels in the North American continent, are the following: "May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the Standard of the Most Great Peace." And again: "The American people are indeed worthy of being the first to build the Tabernacle of the Great Peace, and proclaim the oneness of mankind.... For America hath developed powers and capacities greater and more wonderful than other nations.... The American nation is equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West for the triumph of its people. ...The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement. Its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching. It will lead all nations spiritually." (ADJ 72)

Continuing in The Advent of Divine Justice (72-73), Shoghi Effendi writes:

"The creative energies, mysteriously generated by the first stirrings of the embryonic World Order of Bahá'u'lláh have, as soon as released within a nation destined to become its cradle and champion, endowed that nation with the worthiness, and invested it with the powers and capacities, and equipped it spiritually, to play the part foreshadowed in these prophetic words. The potencies which this God-given mission has infused into its people are, on the one hand, beginning to be manifested through the conscious efforts and the nationwide accomplishments, in both the teaching and administrative spheres of Bahá'í activity, of the organized community of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in the North American continent. These same potencies, apart from, yet collateral with these efforts and accomplishments, are, on the other hand, insensibly shaping, under the impact of the world political and economic forces, the destiny of that nation, and are influencing the lives and actions of both its government and its people." [emphasis added]

Notice the word "insensibly." This is a very deep statement of Shoghi Effendi.

Shoghi Effendi continues:

"For no matter how ignorant of the Source from which those directing energies proceed, and however slow and laborious the process, it is becoming increasingly evident that the nation as a whole, whether through the agency of its government or otherwise, is gravitating, under the influence of forces that it can neither comprehend nor control, towards such associations and policies, wherein, as indicated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá her true destiny must lie." (ADJ 73) [Italics and emphasis added.]

America has regularly imagined it could live in isolation from the world. George Washington said that this country should not become entangled in the affairs of other nations. But Shoghi Effendi says the world is shrinking into a neighborhood and -- willingly or unwillingly -- America must assume her responsibility. Shoghi Effendi said:

"Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving." (ADJ 87-88) [Italics and emphasis added.]

You'll recall that the U.S. was "dragged" into WWII with the attack on Pearl Harbor. Our boys were sleeping off Saturday night while the enemy schemed -- but America soon woke up. So when you see the U.S. in Cambodia or in Vietnam -- or when you see America's young men in Lebanon, or knocking around in the Balkans -- "please, will you be quiet and let God do His work!"

The American Nation is Signally Blest in its Responsibility of Shaping the Lessor Peace (CF, p. 35)

Shoghi Effendi picks up on this theme in "The Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour" in The Citadel of Faith (p. 35):

"This nation so signally blest, occupying so eminent and responsible a position in a continent so wonderfully endowed, was the first among the nations of the West to be warmed and illuminated by the rays of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh soon after the proclamation of His Covenant on the morrow of His ascension. This nation, moreover, may well claim to have, as a result of its effective participation in both the first and second world wars, redressed the balance, saved mankind the horrors of devastation and bloodshed involved in the prolongation of hostilities, and decisively contributed, in the course of the latter conflict, to the overthrow of the exponents of ideologies fundamentally at variance with the universal tenets of our Faith."

"Many and divers are the setbacks and reverses which this nation, extolled so highly by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and occupying at present so unique a position among its fellow nations, must, alas, suffer. The road leading to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous. The impact of various forces upon the structure and polity of that nation will be tremendous. Tribulations, on a scale unprecedented in its history, and calculated to purge its institutions, to purify the hearts of its people, to fuse its constituent elements, and to weld it into one entity with its sister nations in both hemispheres, are inevitable." (Citadel of Faith, 36)

Do you understand New York now?

"Whatever the Hand of a beneficent and inscrutable Destiny has reserved for this youthful, this virile, this idealistic, this spiritually blessed and enviable nation, however severe the storms which may buffet it in the days to come in either hemisphere, however sweeping the changes which the impact of cataclysmic forces from without, and the stirrings of a Divine embryonic Order from within, will effect in its structure and life, we may, confident in the words uttered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá feel assured that that great republic -- the shell that enshrines so precious a member of the world community of the followers of His Father -- will continue to evolve, undivided and undefeatable, until the sum total of its contributions to the birth, the rise and the fruition of that world civilization, the child of the Most Great Peace and hallmark of the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh will have been made, and its last task discharged." (Citadel of Faith, p. 37, June 5, 1947)

[We must do our part to relieve the severity of these tribulations.

We should worry if we are not doing enough -- we should get busy.

It's not only a matter for governments and politicians.

Are we fulfilling our responsibilities as teachers of the Cause?]


We grieve over the senseless loss of innocent lives, yet it draws you together as one nation. We know it is a part of a process. We don't know how severe the things to come, but we know it is the Hand of Divine Providence. We must do our part to relieve the severity of these tribulations. We Bahá'ís have a very serious responsibility -- we should worry if we are not doing enough -- we should get busy. It's not only a matter for governments and politicians. Are we fulfilling our responsibilities as teachers of the Cause? Re-read the Ridvan 1998 (Ridvan 155) letter about the major and minor plan of God. Go back and read it. We have a Plan set before us by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and "parceled out in measured bits" -- a Plan that will take centuries to complete and will lead to the Golden Age.

In the Faith we measure time by epochs -- a period of time characterized by developments of a certain nature. Why epochs? Because our lives are so brief and we like to think we accomplished something during our brief lifespan, so we divide up time into periods or epochs. The most recent epoch was the 4th, which started in 1986 and ended early this year (2001).

What developments characterized the 4th epoch?

Outside the Faith: The collapse of the Soviet Union (which gave rise to a host of new NSAs from newly formed countries); a series of UN conference (such as one in Rio) attended by world leaders who made decisions which helped raise world consciousness; a flourishing of NGOs (the Bahá'ís emerged as the leading NGO on the planet, representing all NGOs at the Millennium Summit in New York in 2000 attended by the largest number of world leaders ever assembled) -- a very interesting way to complete a century -- "a remarkable thing."

Inside the Bahá'í Faith: The Centenary of the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, the Second World Congress in New York (after which New York "cleaned up its act" and has become a very different city); the publication of the Aqdas; the enforcement of additional laws related to prayer and fasting; the emergence of training institutes around the world. The meeting of the Universal House of Justice with the Hands, Counsellors, and Board Members in Haifa was characterized by such a level of spiritual development that it provided signs of a "new paradigm" -- a new epoch. So we've had a wake-up call. Let me share with you a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer [citation not noted]: It begins [paraphrasing]:

You seem to claim concern about the calamities that have befallen humanity? through such calamities over-rated material needs appear in their proper light? Present calamities are part of a process of purgation -- to teach man that he must view things internationally? to pay more attention to his moral development than to his material condition? to awaken to the importance of our duty? such suffering will remove us from our repose. [end]

I [Greg Watson] found the reference at http://www.bcca.org/srb/archive/960201-960430/1185.html as follows:

"You seem to complain about the calamities that have befallen humanity. In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light. Unless society learns to attribute more importance to spiritual matters, it would never be fit to enter the golden era foretold by Bahá'u'lláh. The present calamities are parts of this process of purgation, through them alone will man learn his lesson. They are to teach the nations that they have to view things internationally, they are to make the individual attribute more importance to his moral, than his material welfare." (Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi: Fire & Gold p.118-9)

Teaching the Faith

So it's very simple. We can sit in our meetings and forever discuss various approaches to teaching -- or we can teach. Bahá'ís have a personal responsibility to teach. Do you really need a course to tell you how to teach a friend at work? Don't you know the teaching committee can meet until the next Manifestation arrives! Don't worry about teaching committees and LSAs when it comes to the teaching work. They are there to organize your efforts and provide resources when needed (teaching materials, etc.). But if we are not fulfilling our obligation to teach, we can cripple our institutions.

In The Advent of Divine Justice (p. 72), Shoghi Effendi says:

"Tribulations, however afflictive, must never shatter their [our] resolve. Denunciations, however clamorous, must never sap their loyalty. Upheavals, however cataclysmic, must never deflect their course. The present Plan, embodying the budding hopes of a departed Master, must be pursued, relentlessly pursued, whatever may befall them in the future, however distracting the crises that may agitate their country or the world. Far from yielding in their resolve, far from growing oblivious of their task, they should, at no time, however much buffeted by circumstances, forget that the synchronization of such world-shaking crises with the progressive unfoldment and fruition of their divinely appointed task is itself the work of Providence, the design of an inscrutable Wisdom, and the purpose of an all-compelling Will, a Will that directs and controls, in its own mysterious way, both the fortunes of the Faith and the destinies of men. Such simultaneous processes of rise and of fall, of integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos, with their continuous and reciprocal reactions on each other, are but aspects of a greater Plan, one and indivisible, whose Source is God, whose author is Bahá'u'lláh, the theater of whose operations is the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of the human race and the peace of all mankind."

"Reflections such as these should steel the resolve of the entire Bahá'í community, should dissipate their forebodings, and arouse them to rededicate themselves to every single provision of that Divine Charter whose outline has been delineated for them by the pen of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The Seven-Year Plan, as already stated, is but the initial stage, a stepping-stone to the unfoldment of the implications of this Charter. The impulse, originally generated through the movement of that pen, and which is now driving forward, with increasing momentum, the machinery of the Seven Year Plan, must, in the opening years of the next century, be further accelerated, and impel the American Bahá'í community to launch further stages in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan, stages that will carry it far beyond the shores of the Northern Hemisphere, into lands and among peoples where that community's noblest acts of heroism are to be performed." (ADJ 73)

In conclusion, remember the words of Bahá'u'lláh:

"Let not the happenings of the world sadden you. I swear by God! The sea of joy yearneth to attain your presence, for every good thing hath been created for you, and will, according to the needs of the times, be revealed unto you." (Quoted from The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 82)

[end of notes on Mr. Mitchell's talk forwarded to me]

With respect to the role of the Universal House of Justice and the Bahá'í Community in the Lessor Peace, the following supplements are provided by the editor (Greg Watson):

[In most cases emphasis and highlighting are mine. G.W.]


"The Major Plan is God's plan for humanity that Bahá'ís believe He Himself operates, which is tumultuous in its progress, which works through humanity as a whole, and which forges mankind into a unified body through the fires of suffering and tribulation. Its ultimate object is the Kingdom of God on earth. The Minor Plan is that part of God's plan which the Bahá'ís are called upon to carry out. It is clear and orderly and operates in the world through the plans, instructions, and guidance given by Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and now by the Universal House of Justice."

(From the Universal House of Justice Messages 1963-1986, p 126 -- In the 1982 edition see pp. 24, 29-33).

"First: It is incumbent upon the ministers of the House of Justice to promote the Lesser Peace so that the people of the earth may be relieved from the burden of exorbitant expenditures. This matter is imperative and absolutely essential, inasmuch as hostilities and conflict lie at the root of affliction and calamity."
("Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas", p. 89)

WAR
"In reading over my diaries -- so very little of which I have quoted out of hundred of pages written off and on throughout the years -- it seems strange to me there is practically no reference to the World War raging everywhere during almost six years and constituting such a dire threat to the safety of the World Centre of the Faith and particularly to the Guardian himself as Head of that Faith. Nothing could more eloquently testify to the internal upheavals he was going through during all those years than this blank. The day-to-day pressures and the work, worry and mental exhaustion were so great that it crowded mention of this constant threat and anxiety into the background. Shoghi Effendi was the keenest observer of political events and kept abreast of all happenings. His intelligence and analytical faculties did not permit him to lull himself into any false complacency, induced by the rather childish idea people sometimes have of what "faith" means. He well knew that to have faith in God does not mean one should not use one's mind, appraise dangers, anticipate moves, make the right decisions during a crisis." (Priceless Pearl, p. 177)


[The following are taken from: The Universal House of Justice Messages 1963-1986 (page 126)]

Two Processes at Work. (Also see The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 33-34)

We are told by Shoghi Effendi that two great processes are at work in title world: the great Plan of God, tumultuous in its progress, working through mankind as a whole, tearing down barriers to world unity and forging humankind into a unified body in the fires of suffering and experience. This process will produce in God's due time, the Lesser Peace, the political unification of the world., Mankind at that time can be likened to a body that is unified but without life. The second process, the task of breathing life into this unified body -- of creating true unity and spirituality culminating in the Most Great Peace -- is that of the Bahá'ís, who are laboring consciously, with detailed instructions and continuing divine guidance, to erect the fabric of the Kingdom of God on earth, into which they call their fellowmen, thus conferring upon them eternal life.
[The compilation says: "For an explanation of the Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace, see the glossary."]

The working out of God's Major Plan proceeds mysteriously in ways directed by Him alone, but the Minor Plan that He has given us to execute, as our part in His grand design for the redemption of mankind, is clearly delineated. It is to this work that we must devote all our energies, for there is no one else to do it. So vital is this function of the Bahá'ís that Bahá'u'lláh has written:

"O friends! Be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been endowed, neither be neglectful of your high destiny. Suffer not your labors to be wasted through the vain imaginations which certain hearts have devised. Ye are the stars of the heaven of understanding, the breeze that stirreth at the break of day, the soft-flowing waters upon which must depend the very life of all men, the letters inscribed upon His sacred scroll. With the utmost unity and in a spirit of perfect fellowship, exert yourselves, that ye may be enabled to achieve that which beseemeth this Day of God."
(Gleanings, XCVI)

Because love for our fellowmen and anguish at their plight are essential parts of a true Bahá'í's life, we are continually drawn to do what we can to help them. It is vitally important that we do so whenever the occasion presents itself, for our actions must say the same thing as our words -- but this compassion for our fellows must not be allowed to divert our energies into channels which are ultimately doomed to failure, causing us to neglect the most important and fundamental work of all. There are hundreds of thousands of well-wishers of mankind who devote their lives to works of relief and charity, but a pitiful few to do the work which God Himself most wants done: the spiritual awakening and regeneration of mankind.

(From the Universal House of Justice Messages 1963-1986, p 126 -- In the 1982 edition see pp. 24, 29-33).

THE MOST IMPORTANT TASKS -- Our Task: Building Up the Bahá'í System

(The following paragraphs below are a continuation of the paragraphs above. The heading is not meant to distract... Various headings of this paragraph are included in some Bahá'í compilations.)

It is often through our misguided feeling that we can somehow aid our fellows better by some activity outside the Faith, that Bahá'ís are led to indulge in politics. This is a dangerous delusion. As Shoghi Effendi's secretary wrote on his behalf. "What we Bahá'ís must face is the fact that society is rapidly disintegrating -- so rapidly that moral issues which were clear a half century ago are now hopelessly confused, and what is more, thoroughly mixed up with battling political interests. That is why the Bahá'ís must turn all their forces into the channel of building up the Bahá'í Cause and its administration. They can neither change nor help the world in any other way at present. If they become involved in the issues the governments of the world are struggling over, they will be lost. But if they build up the Bahá'í pattern they can offer it as a remedy when all else has failed." (Bahá'í News, No. 241, p. 14) "We must build up our Bahá'í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their own way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary they will destroy us." (Bahá'í News, No. 215, p.1) (The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, pg 134-135)

"Other instructions from the Guardian, covering the same theme in more detail, can be found on pages 24 and 29 to 32 of Principles of Bahá'í Administration (1963 edition); you are no doubt already familiar with these. The key to a true understanding of these principles seems to be in these words of Bahá'u'lláh:

"O people of God! Do not busy yourselves in your own concerns; let your thoughts be fixed upon that which will rehabilitate the fortunes of mankind and sanctify the hearts and souls of men. This can best be achieved through pure and holy deeds, through a virtuous life and a goodly behavior. Valiant acts will ensure the triumph of this Cause, and a saintly character will reinforce its power. Cleave unto righteousness, O people of Baha! This' verily, is the commandment which this wronged One hath given unto you, and the first choice of His unrestrained Will for every one of you." (Gleanings, XLIII).
    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE"
    From the Universal House of Justice Messages 1963-1986 (page 126)
    In the 1982 edition see pp. 24, 29-33.
From '95 Ridvan letter:

...surely it evinced both the further advance of our world community in influencing the processes towards the Lesser Peace and a multiplication of opportunities for a wider diffusion of the reformative Message of Bahá'u'lláh. As such world events take place with greater frequency and the Bahá'í community pursues its goals with increased intensity, we can see more clearly the drawing closer together of the parallel processes about which Shoghi Effendi wrote several decades ago: the one leading to the political union of nations, the other to the ultimate union of hearts in one common faith. (UHJ, Ridvan 152, 1995)

Bahá'í author John Huddleston contributes:
The Administrative Order is only one aspect of a Bahá'í program to promote the "Lesser Peace," an interim stage on the way to "The Most Great Peace." Other aspects of that program include the community's development of personal standards of ethics, which will attract others giving service, e.g., economic and social development projects; support for the United Nations, and the recent peace statement addressed to the peoples of the world by the Universal House of Justice. ("A Just System of Government: The Third Dimension to World Peace," by John Huddleston, pg. 36)

In a report from an ABS Scholarship conference: Mr. Huffines, who was kind enough to travel from New York to join us, looked at the practical measures taken at the international level by the Bahá'í International Community (B.I.C.) to promote the Lesser Peace. He did this by outlining the various proposals within B.I.C. documents promoting issues that might stimulate international political unity. Furthermore, he assessed the degree to which these suggestions had been taken into account and put into practice by the world community. (bahai-library.com/hassall_yerrinbool_report_1998)


Asia-Pacific Conference: Whereas the task of Bahá'í communities world-wide has heretofore been focused on internal coherence and consolidation, the next decade must see an outward expression of Bahá'í values in order for these communities to achieve further definition and to fulfill their intended purpose, namely, contribution to the spiritual, moral and social regeneration of humankind. While the intellectual horizon of the Bahá'í community has been fixed on an ideal vision and promise of the "greater peace", there now exists need for consideration of the ways in which Bahá'í communities can contribute to the life of the wider community in the years leading to, and during, the "lesser peace". Given the rich sources within the Bahá'í writings for the generation of policy perspectives and principles, little has occurred in the way of their critical assessment. (bahai-library.com/hassall_state_society_aqdas)


And another Ridvan message:

(38) Even though the establishment of the Lesser Peace is not dependent on any Bahá'í plan or action, and although it will not represent the ultimate goal humanity is destined to reach in the Golden Age, our community has a responsibility to lend spiritual impetus to the processes towards that peace. The need at this exact time is to so intensify our efforts in building the Bahá'í System that we will attract the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh and thus invoke a spiritual atmosphere that will accrue to the quickening of these processes. Two main challenges face us: one is to mount a campaign of teaching in which the broad membership of our community is enthusiastically, systematically and personally engaged, and in which the activation of an extensive training programme will ensure the development of a mass of human resources; the other is to complete the construction projects on Mount Carmel towards which every sacrifice must be made to provide a liberal outpouring of material means. These twin foci, if resolutely pursued, will foster conditions towards the release of pent-up forces that will forge a change in the direction of human affairs throughout the planet.

(39) However short the path to peace, it will be tortuous; however promising the anticipated event that will set its course, it must mature through a long period of evolution, with its attendant tests, setbacks and conflicts, towards the moment when it will have emerged, under the direct influences of God's Faith, as the Most Great Peace. In the meantime, people everywhere will often face despair and bewilderment before arriving at an appreciation of the transition in progress. We who have been enlightened by the new Revelation have the sacred Word to assure us, a Divine Plan to guide us, a history of valour to encourage us. Let us therefore take heart not only from the Word we treasure, but also from the deeds of heroism and sacrifice which even today shine resplendent in the land in which our Cause was born. (bahai-library.com/uhj_ridvan_1996)

(The following is also found at bahai-library.com/uhj_peace_activities):

The Universal House of Justice
Bahá'í World Centre

Department of the Secretariat
17 June 1987

Dear Bahá'í Friend,

The Universal House of Justice read with keen interest your letter of 30 March 1987 reporting efforts exerted by Bahá'í s in your area to study the Bahá'í literature on peace. We have been asked to convey its reply to your questions.

The House of Justice has noted that as a result of the dissemination of "The Promise of World Peace", a Senator has agreed to submit a "proposed" resolution in the Washington State Legislature and that, as you say, the "whole situation here with state resolutions and the need for citizens to write in support of them is getting out of hand". While the Bahá'í community should welcome spontaneous actions on the part of legislators to respond to the urgent call issued in the Peace Statement, the friends should be very wise in determining their actions under such circumstances. They should consult their Spiritual Assemblies, Local and, if necessary, National, for this is an area of activities in which personal judgment is not sufficient.

It is not advisable for Bahá'í institutions or individuals to initiate actions designed to prod government leaders to urge their governments or the leaders of other governments to convene the world conference called for by Bahá'u'lláh and echoed in "Promise of World Peace". Two points should be borne in mind in this regard 1) Because of the political gravity of the decisions implied by this call and the differing political attitudes which it evokes, such actions on the part of the Bahá'í community would embroil the friends in partisan politics. There is quite a difference between identifying, as does the Peace Statement, the need for a convocation of world leaders and initiating the political processes towards its realization. 2) In the writings of the Faith (e. g., the closing passages of "The Promised Day is Come"), it is clear that the establishment of the Lesser Peace, of which the conference of leaders will be a related event, will come about independently of any direct Bahá'í plan or action.

The following reply was written on behalf of the beloved Guardian in a letter dated 14 March 1939 to an individual believer:

...Your view that the Lesser Peace will come about through the political efforts of the states and nations of the world, and independently of any direct Bahá'í plan or effort, and the Most Great Peace established through the instrumentality of the believers, and by the direct operation of the laws and principles revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and the functioning of the Universal House of Justice as the supreme organ of the Bahá'í super state — your view on this subject is quite correct and in full accord with the pronouncements of the Guardian as embodied in the "Unfoldment of World Civilization".

It is clear, then, that the friends must respect the prerogatives of political leaders in this matter and allow them the latitude to exercise the initiative that only they can effectively take towards the establishment of the Lesser Peace. The fact that Bahá'í institutions will not be directly involved in the eventual convocation of the world leaders and in effecting the political unity of nations does not mean that the Bahá'ís are standing aside and waiting for the Lesser Peace to come before they do something about the peace of humanity. Indeed, by promoting the principles of the Faith, which are indispensable to the maintenance of peace, by living the Teachings, and by fashioning the instruments of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, which we are told by the beloved Guardian is the pattern for future society, the Bahá'ís are constantly engaged in laying the foundation for world peace, the Most Great Peace being their ultimate goal. The Bahá'ís should do whatever they can within the context of their Bahá'í teachings and consolidation plans and also through their professional and other regular activities to promulgate universal peace.

Concerning your specific questions, the details of your current activities to promote peace should be taken up with your National Spiritual Assembly and its guidance followed. The grassroots effort of the Bahá'ís should prepare the ground for the transition from the present system of national sovereignty to a system of world government. This it can do by concentrating on wide and continual dissemination of the Peace Statement whose contents should be known by the generality of humanity, on engaging people from all walks of life in discussions on peace, and on instilling and encouraging a sense of personal commitment to the prerequisites of peace. In a word, what is needed now is a world-wide consciousness of not only the requirements but also the possibility, and inevitability, of peace. Therefore, our immediate and inescapable task as Bahá'ís is to imbue the populations with such hope.

The language of any proposed resolution and related details should, of course, be left to the legislators concerned. The House of Justice has no objection if the language used in such resolutions is drawn from or based upon the Peace Statement, and it is not necessary that any credit be given to the Faith for any ideas which may be attributable to the Statement.

The House of Justice greatly appreciates the spirit of urgency and involvement conveyed in your letter. It assures you of its ardent prayers at the Holy Shrines that you and all the other friends engaged in peace activities may be guided and confirmed by the Blessed Beauty.
    With loving Bahá'í greetings,
    ...
    For the Department of the Secretariat
    cc: National Assembly of the United States
    (Taken from bahai-library.com/uhj_peace_activities )
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