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Messages from the Universal House of Justice:
1986-2001

by Universal House of Justice

Wilmette, IL: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 2009

Martyrdom of Three Bahá’ís in Iran

12 May 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

1.1 WITH HEAVY HEARTS ANNOUNCE MARTYRDOM THERE VALIANT SOULS IRANIAN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY. MR. SIRRU’LLÁH VAḤDAT-NIḤÁMÍ WAS EXECUTED BY HANGING 4 MAY 1986 IN TEHRAN. HE HAD BEEN IMPRISONED SINCE 13 FEBRUARY 1984. MR FIDRUS SHABRUKH, 38, WAS EXECUTED BY HANGING 9 MAY 1986 IN ZÁHIDÁN. HE HAD BEEN IMPRISONED FOR A SECOND TIME SINCE 26 SEPTEMBER 1983. BOTH THESE FRIENDS HAD BEEN SEVERELY TORTURED MUCH OF THEIR TIME IN PRISION.

1.2 THE THIRD VICTIM, FIFTEEN YEAR OLD PAYMÁN SUBHÁNÍ WAS TAKEN TOGETHER WITH HIS FATHER RÚḤU’L-AMÍN SUBHÁNÍ BY A GROUP OF FANATICS ENCOURAGED BY OFFICIAL RELIGIOUS ELEMENTS, TO THE MOUNTAINS, WHERE THEY WERE BEATEN AND STONED. BOTH WERE PRESUMED DEAD AND THROWN OVER A CLIFF. ACCIDENTALLY A VEHICLE STRAYED INTO THE AREA AND FOUND THEM. THE FATHER, BARELY ALIVE, WAS TAKEN TO A HOSPITAL IN TEHRAN WHERE HE IS STILL IN SERIOUS CONDITION. THE SON, PAYMÁN WAS DEAD.

1.3 THESE CRIMES AFTER RELATIVE QUEST PERIOD IN IRAN HAVE CAUSED CONCERN SAFETY, WELL-BEING IRANIAN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY...

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Assignments of the Continental Boards of Counselors

25 May 1986


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Beloved Friends,

2.1 The Six Year Plan has been launched and national Bahá’í communities throughout the world are engaged in formulating their national goals. On the Day of the Covenant, 26 November 1986, a new term of five years will begin for those appointed to the Auxiliary Boards. In preparation for that event, we find it propitious to announce the following decisions.

2.2 As from last Riḍván, Turkey has been transferred from the area of responsibility of the Continental Board of Counselors in Asia to that of the Continental Board of Counselors in Europe. Counselor Ilhan Sezgin is, therefore, a member of the European Board of Counselors. It has also been decided to increase the size of the European Auxiliary Board for the Protection of the Faith to 36 members, which is the same as the number currently authorized for the Propagation Board in that continent.

2.3 In view of the growth of the Bahá’í community and its emergence from obscurity, we have decided to make the following further changes in the number of members of the Auxiliary Boards, to be effective from 26 November 1986:

Present Number Number Added New Number
Africa Protection
Propagation
81
99
9
9
90
108
Americas Protection
Propagation
54
117
9
0
63
117
Asia Protection
Propagation
99
117
0
9
99
126
Australasia Protection
Propagation
27
36
9
9
36
45
Europe Protection
Propagation
36
36
0
0
36
36
Total 702 54 756
Total Protection
Total Propagation
297
405
27
27
324
432

2.4 This further expansion of the institution of the Auxiliary Boards reflects the recent increase of the number of Continental Counselors from sixty three to seventy two and is required by the marked growth in the size of Bahá’í communities, a growth which it is confidently expected will accelerate during the Six Year Plan as the impact of the Faith's emergence from obscurity begins to make itself evident in a growing interest in its teachings by people in all walks of life.

2.5 It will also assist the vital development in maturity and experience of the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies, a process which mus synchronize with the further development of the World Center of the Faith and the advance of mankind towards the attainment of the lesser peace. Who can tell what challenges these burgeoning divine instutions will have to face int eh years immediately ahead―years which may well see the realization of mankind's gravest fears and the apperance of the fulfillment of its highest hopes.

2.6 Our prayers at the Sacred Threshoold are offered on behalf of every faithful follower of the Blessed Beauty who is laboring for the promotion of His Cause.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Execution of a Bahá’í in Iran

25 June 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

3.1 WITH HEAVY HEARTS WE ANNOUNCE EXECUTION BY HANGING OF FARÍD BIHMARDÍ ON 10 JUNE 1986 IN TEHRAN. HIS FAMILY WERE UNAWARE OF HIS EXECUTION AND FOUND OUT ABOUT THIS SAD EVENT A FEW DAYS AFTER HE WAS BURIED BY THE AUTHORITIES. MR. BIHMARDÍ, AGE 46, WAS ONE OF THE OUTSTANDING BAHÁ’Í S IN THE CRADLE OF THE FAITH. HE WAS UNDER TORTURE FOR A VERY PROLONGED PERIOD OF TIME, BUT HIS ENDURANCE WAS A SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHER BAHÁ’Í PRISONERS WHO WERE WITNESSES TO HIS SUFFERING. FIVE OTHER PRISONERS HAVE INDICATED TO THEIR VISITING RELATIVES THAT IT MAY BE THE LAST VISIT THEY WILL HAVE, WHICH IMPLIES THEIR IMMINENT EXECUTION...

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Visit to the World Center by Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

8 August 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

4.1 IN HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S UNABATING CONFIRMATIONS, WE INFORM FRIENDS EVERYWHERE PRIVATE VISIT TO BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTER PRIME MINISTER COOK ISLANDS SIR THOMAS DAVIS AND LADY DAVIS 3 AND 4 AUGUST. OCCASION MADE HISTORIC BY PRIME MINISTER'S INITIATIVE IN REQUESTING CONSULTATION WITH UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE REGARDING WORLD PEACE. VISIT ALSO MARKED MOST CONCRETE RESPONSE TO DATE BY POLITICAL LEADER TO PEACE STATEMENT RELEASED TO PEOPLES WORLD LAST OCTOBER. DURING CONSULTATIONS WHICH TOOK PLACE ON FIRST DAY IN COUNCIL CHAMBER FOLLOWING PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT TO SHRINE BÁB AND ON SECOND DAY AT MANSION BAHJÍ FOLLOWING HIS VISIT SHRINE BAHÁ’U’LLÁH, SIR THOMAS DISCUSSED HIS THOUGHTS ABOUT WORLD PEACE AND HIS DESIRE FOR PRACTICAL ACTION CONSONANT WITH CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FACING VAST PACIFIC AREA.

4.2 OCCASION ALSO ENABLED LADY DAVIS, LEADING MEMBER COOK ISLANDS NOBILITY AND ONE OF THE FIRST BAHÁ’ÍS THAT COUNTRY, TO UNDERTAKE BRIEF PILGRIMAGE THUS SPIRITUALLY ENHANCING TOTAL UNPRECEDENTED EXPERIENCE ASSOCIATED WITH VISIT TO WORLD CENTER THESE TWO DISTINGUISHED PERSONS. WHILE SIR THOMAS MET WITH US IN COUNCIL CHAMBER, LADY DAVIS WAS RECEIVED AT SEAT INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER. PUNCTUATED BY BANQUET AT SEAT UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE, THERE ACTIVITIES AT WORLD CENTER ENDED WITH LUNCH AT MAZRA‘IH. SUBSEQUENTLY SIR THOMAS AND LADY DAVIS TRAVELED TO JERUSALEM WHERE THEY WERE ENTERTAINED BY OFFICIALS GOVERNMENT ISRAEL.

4.3 ONCE AGAIN ACTION BY LEADER FROM PACIFIC OCEAN CALLS TO OUR MINDS ONE OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S MOST TRENCHANT ASSERTIONS CONCERNING POWER HIS CAUSE: "SHOULD THEY ATTEMPT TO CONCEAL ITS LIGHT ON THE CONTINENT," HE WROTE, "IT WILL ASSUREDLY REAR ITS HEAD IN THE MIDMOST HEART OF THE OCEAN, AND, RAISING ITS VOICE, PROCLAIM: 'I AM THE LIFEGIVER OF THE WORLD!'"[1]

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. GPB, p. 253


Bahá’í Youth Killed in Iran

8 October 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

5.1 IN VARDÁVARD, A VILLAGE IN OURSKIRTS KARAJ, NEAR TEHRAN, SIXTEEN YEAR OLD BOY, MEMBER DEVOTED BAHÁ’Í FAMILY, BÍZHAN ṬÁLIBÍ, WAS KILLED A FEW DAYS AGO. FANATICAL ELEMENTS IN VILLAGE HAD REPEATEDLY ABUSED THIS FAMILY AND OTHER LOCAL FRIENDS. BODY FOUND IN GARDEN WITH EVIDENCE SEVERE INJURIES THROUGH BRUTAL BEATING. MURDERERS HAD THE BODY HANGED TO SUGGEST SUICIDE. HOWEVER LOCAL GENDARMES WHO ARRIVED ON SCENE AVERRED DEATH WAS DUE TO INJURIES. MEMBERS FAMILY COMPLAINED TO LOCAL AUTHORITIES, BUT THIS RESULTED IN HIS MOTHER, BROTHER AND COUSIN BEING HELD IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN TEHRAN....

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Apartheid

12 October 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

6.1 The above statement which was sent to you with our covering letter of 21 February 1986 has been revised by the Office of Public Information and approved by the Universal House of Justice. At the direction of the House of Justice, we enclose a copy of the revised statement, which supersedes the previous one.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Apartheid: A Bahá’í View

6.2 A little more than a hundred years ago, Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, declared that mankind was entering upon a new era in its history when accelerating processes of unification would soon compel universal recognition that humanity is one single race, one distinct species. He appealed to the peoples of the world to accept this central truth and to set aside the barriers of race, nationality, and culture which have been principal causes of war throughout history. There is, He said, no possibility of achievement of world peace until the fundamental principle of unity has been accepted and given practical effect in the organization of society.

6.3 Consequently, from the time of its inception more than a century ago, the Bahá’í world community has been characterized by the integration of the many religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and national elements which it comprises. Marriage between persons of different ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and particularly between black and which Bahá’ís, is warmly encouraged in the Bahá’í scriptures. In order to make certain that those members who suffer discrimination in society as a whole are not prevented from full participation in the life of the community, the Bahá’í teachings contain certain administrative principles which are designed to overcome the handicaps created by social inequalities. For example, where a tie vote has been cast in a Bahá’í community election or where two or more believers are equally qualified for a particular office, priority is given as a matter of principle to the one representing the disadvantaged or oppressed sector of society.

6.4 It is these principles which have guided the Bahá’ís in South Africa since the opening years of this century. When the apartheid laws made it illegal for certain local groups, including elected Bahá’í Spiritual Assemblies, to contain members from different racial backgrounds, it was the white Bahá’ís who surrendered the privilege of elected membership so that the principle of giving priority to disadvantaged segments of society could continue to prevail. Except for these local decision-making bodies whose membership was explicitly limited by civil law, Bahá’í meetings in South Africa have been racially integrated, a fact well known to the civil authorities.

6.5 Beyond attempting to provide an encouraging example of racial integration, the Bahá’í community in South Africa has devoted much of its energy to the inculcation of Bahá’í principles related to the oneness of mankind and on the development of a sense of self-worth and of social responsibility in the individual. Parallel with these activities has been a program aimed at training Spiritual Assemblies in principles of consultation and problem-solving. Bahá’ís are particularly proud of the results of this effort because through it black believers have assumed the highest elective and appointive offices in the community.

6.6 This historical background points up the Bahá’í conviction that solutions to situations such as that which prevails in South Africa must draw on the force of example. Fundamental changes in social attitude will be most readily achieved if the relevant spiritual and moral principles are courageously set forth and if men and women of good will can see others attempting successfully to give these ideals practical expression in individual and community life.

6.7 Violating as it does the very honor of humanity, the system of apartheid arouses in peoples of all nations and cultures deep feelings of abhorrence. Bahá’ís share these feelings particularly keenly. The moral challenge which the situation represents, however, has now become intertwined with partisan political concerns. So complete is this interrelationship that the issues in the conflict are inextricable from one another: social protest originating in moral outrage has assumed the character of political action.

6.8 It is natural that it should do so, given the adversary principle that characterizes our political traditions throughout the world. But political action, in the absence of conditions for genuine consultation, in which partisan interests are subordinated to the interests of the whole, will no itself bring an enduring resolution of the problems as serious as those convulsing South Africa. However difficult the task and however disheartening the present situation may seem, segments of South African society who believe full integration to be the fundamental issue face the challenge of focusing their efforts on creating such conditions. This is a moral imperative as urgent as any other motivating peoples of good will who seek to free South Africa from its terrible burden.

6.9 Bahá’ís are required by the teachings of their Faith to refrain from involvement in partisan political activity and civil disorder. This is true whether such activity is a response to racial oppression, as is generally the case in South Africa, or to more widespread attempts to keep people divided and vulnerable such as the persecution of religious belief, the suppression of women, or the denial of political freedom. The hard-won experience of Bahá’ís under all these conditions convinces them beyond any doubt that humanity can learn to live as one family and that all the forces of contemporary history are rapidly impelling the race in this direction. The pressure of quality of that response, and its speed, will depend as much on spiritual and moral conditions as it will on economic and political ones.



Equality of Women and Men

27 OCTOBER 1986


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

7.1 Your very thought-provoking letter of 24 June 1986 has been the subject of considerable research, and the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to send you the following reply.

7.2 The crucial task before you in relation to your two little daughters would seem to be to foster their confidence in and love for God, their acceptance of His Will and their assurance of the validity of the Bahá’í principle of the equality of men and women. In working towards this there are certain facts of history and principle in the Faith that you need to accept and reconcile.

7.3 You raise two basic issues, that all the Manifestations of God known to us have been men, and that they have appeared in the East.

7.4 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself in a talk given in Maiden, Massachusetts, confirms that "The East has ever been the dawning point of the Sun of Reality. All the Prophets of God have appeared there. The religions of God have been promulgated, the teachings of God have been spread, and the law of God founded in the East. The Orient has always been the center of lights." (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 289) Indeed, one can see that the Prophets of God named in the Scriptures have appeared, not just in the East, but in a very limited area of the East, stretching from the Levant and Egypt across Iran as far as India. We have no authenticated records of Chinese or Japanese Prophets. However, to complement this we must remember that the Founders of the Great Religions are but one of the kinds of prophet, and we should study the following Qur’ánic statements:

7.4a And every nation had an apostle; so when their apostle came, the matter was decided between them with justice and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.
(Surah 10, verse 47)
7.4b And certainly We raised in every nation an apostle saying: Serve God and shun the devil. . . .
(Surah 16, verse 36)
7.4c And on the day when We will raise up a witness out of every nation, then shall no permission be given to those who disbelieve, nor shall they be made to solicit favor.
(Surah 16, verse 84)
7.4d . . . And there is not a people but a warner has gone among them.
(Surah 35, verse 24)

7.5 There are Prophets mentioned in the Qur’án, such as Húd and Ṣáliḥ, about whom the Bible is silent. Idrís, whom the Qur’án states was a Prophet, is identified with Hermes by Bahá’u’lláh, Who states "In every tongue he hath a special name."[1] It is clear that He must have lived in very ancient times. Bahá’u’lláh made no mention of Buddha, and if it had not been for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's statement we would not have been in a position to state definitely that Buddha had been a Manifestation of God. There are a myriad traditions in the legends of peoples that point back to some sort of divine revelation but, as the beloved Guardian's secretary pointed out on his behalf in a letter written to an individual believer on 13 March 1950, ". . . We cannot possibly add names of people we (or anyone else) think might be Lesser Prophets to those found in the Qur’án, the Bible and our own Scriptures. For only these can we consider authentic Books." We must just accept that there are undoubtedly many prophetic figures of whom all authentic record has been lost. As to the future, the Research Department knows of no Text which states explicitly in which country Manifestations of God will appear.

7.6 The reason for the appearance of a Manifestation of God in a given place is not to honor a particular people or nation. Shoghi Effendi indicates a quite different reason in The Advent of Divine Justice and, more concisely, in a letter to an individual written on his behalf on 23 January 1944:

7.6a The ever-recurring miracle in the establishment of every religion is that such poor instruments accomplish the work of God. It is to demonstrate the fact that God is the power that overcomes every obstacle, and that Revelations are divine in origin, that leads Him to always choose the worst people among whom to manifest His Messenger and the most obscure and helpless of the population―relatively speaking―to establish the foundations of His Faith. The Bahá’í Dispensation is no exception to this rule, as you yourself have observed.

7.7 Beyond these points is the fact that God, the Almighty Creator, does not have to justify His choice of a race or nationality from which to raise up a Manifestation. As all sacred scriptures tell us, He does as He wills and shall not be asked of His doing, and we bow in humility before Him. Besides, as you must know, conceptions of race, nation, oriental, occidental, and the like reflect earthly limitations and are not qualifications attached to the reality of the soul in the limitless realms of God.

7.8 Regarding your desire to assist your daughters to overcome their perceptions of the unequal status of women, you are perhaps not aware of the compilation on women recently released to National Spiritual Assemblies.[2] Through the divine insights and instructions provided in this compilation, you can inspire your daughters with knowledge of the glorious station to which women are called in the Age of Bahá’u’lláh, and imbue them with assurance in the promises of the Blessed Beauty, so that through constant endeavor they may become as brilliant stars radiating a spirit of freedom from the stultifying notions of the past. On the particular question of the relationship between womanhood and prophethood, it is hoped that the following comments will be of help.

7.9 Even though there have been outstanding women such as Sarah, Ásíyih, the Virgin Mary, Fáṭimih, Ṭáhirih and the Greatest Holy Leaf in every Dispensation, it is an incontrovertible fact that all Manifestations of God known to us have been men. Moreover, it is a clear provision in Bahá’í administration that the Guardians were to be men and that membership on the Universal House of Justice is confined to men. Whether these facts point to a differentiation in function that is unalterable, or whether it was merely a characteristic of a period which will change when mankind attains its maturity is a matter that will, no doubt, become clear in the future. The important point for Bahá’ís to remember is that, in face of the categorical pronouncements in Bahá’í Scripture establishing the equality of men and women, even these facts are no evidence at all of the superiority of the male over the female sex. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has explained that equality does not mean identity of function. He has also stated that the few areas in which men and women are not equal are "negligible".[3]

7.10 We must also remember that sex is a characteristic of this world, not of the spiritual world. When the Guardian was asked about "soul mates" and the problem that could arise in the next world if one were to remarry in this life, his secretary replied on his behalf, on 4 December 1954:

7.lOa There is no teaching in the Bahá’í Faith that "soul mates" exist. What is meant is that marriage should lead to a profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world, where there is no sex, and no giving and taking in marriage; just the way we should establish with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters and friends a deep spiritual bond which will be everlasting, and not merely physical bonds of human relationship.

7.11 The House of Justice hopes that these remarks will help to ease some of your perplexity and will assist you and your dear wife to raise your daughters as devoted and knowledgeable Bahá’ís, confident of the validity of the principles promulgated by Bahá’u’lláh. Surely as they meet problems and questions and face them fearlessly, their understanding of the Cause of God will deepen and this will increase their ability to deal with the difficulties of life.

7.12 We are asked to assure you of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines that . . . and . . . may be the recipients of God's constant benediction and that their parents may be divinely assisted to protect and train them.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. TB, p. 148.
  2. For the compilation, see CC 2:355-406 or http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/c/CW/.
  3. CC 2:371.



New Stage in External Affairs of the Faith

29 OCTOBER 1986


To the meeting of the Senior Officers of the United Nations Office and the Office of Public Information

8.1 THE GATHERING IN NEW YORK ON 31 OCTOBER OF THE SENIOR STAFF OF THE OVERSEAS OFFICES OF THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MARKS A NEW, POTENT STAGE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EXTERNAL AFFAIRS OF THE WORLDWIDE BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY THIS STAGE BETOKENS THE PROMINENCE ATTAINED BY THE CAUSE OF GOD IN ITS EMERGENCE FROM OBSCURITY AND IS CHARACTERIZED BY THE NEW, INESCAPABLE CHALLENGES IMMEDIATELY TO BE MET AS A DIRECT RESULT OF THE OPERATION OF THE ONRUSHING PROCESSES THROUGH WHICH ARE EVOLVING THE RECONSTRUCTIVE INFLUENCES OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S WORLD ORDER A STRIKING MANIFESTATION OF THE NEW SITUATION CAN BE SEEN IN THE ACCUMULATING EVIDENCE OF THE SALUTARY RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPING BETWEEN THE BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY AND THE WORLD AT LARGE. THIS RELATIONSHIP MUST BE EXPANDED. AS WINDOWS OF THE BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY TO THE WORLD, THESE OFFICES MUST DISPLAY EVER MORE CLEARLY THE UNIFYING PRINCIPLES, THE HOPE, THE PROMISE, THE MAJESTY OF THIS EMERGING ORDER.

8.2 A GLANCE BACKWARD TO THE EMBRYONIC EFFORTS 39 YEARS AGO TO ASSOCIATE THE INTERESTS OF THE FAITH WITH THE WORK OF THE UNITED NATIONS CANNOT BUT AROUSE IN EVERY OBSERVANT BAHÁ’Í A DEEP SENSE OF PRIDE AND WONDERMENT AT THE MOMENTOUS PROGRESS ACHIEVED. THE FOUNDATION OF EIGHT NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES ON WHICH THOSE EFFORTS WERE LAUNCHED HAS, BY THE ESTABLISHMENT OF 148 NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES, BROADENED NEARLY NINETEENFOLD. FROM THAT SMALL BEGINNING TO THE HISTORIC MOMENT IN 1970 WHEN THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WAS ACCORDED CONSULTATIVE STATUS WITH THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL, FOLLOWED BY A SIMILAR ACCREDITATION WITH THE UNITED NATIONS CHILDREN'S FUND IN 1976, TO THE REMARKABLE OCCASION IN DECEMBER 1985 WHEN THE NAME OF THE FAITH WAS RECORDED IN A RESOLUTION PASSED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ITSELF, THE WORLD ORDER OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH HAS SURELY JUSTIFIED ITS PROMISE TO COME FORTH AS A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH IN THE CLOSING YEARS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY.

8.3 YOU HAVE WITNESSED IN THE LAST THREE YEARS THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION, THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND THE CREATION OF THE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT UNIT IN THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE, AND THE ENLARGEMENT OF THE GENEVA BRANCH OF THAT OFFICE WITH THE TRANSFER FROM NEW YORK OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS UNIT. . . . THESE ORGANIZATIONAL INITIATIVES AND REFINEMENTS BESPEAK AN ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSE TO THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES POSED BY THE FAR-REACHING DIPLOMATIC AND PUBLIC RELATIONS PROSPECTS OPENING BEFORE THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD COMMUNITY.

8.4 CLARITY AND UNITY OF VISION BETWEEN THE OFFICES OF THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST BE ACHIEVED. A HIGHER LEVEL OF COOPERATION WITHIN AND BETWEEN THESE OFFICES IS IMPERATIVE. EQUALLY ESSENTIAL IS A GREATER PARTICIPATION IN THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY'S PROGRAMS AND OBJECTIVES BY PERTINENT INSTRUMENTS OF THE BAHÁ’Í ADMINISTRATION THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, PARTICULARLY NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES, WHOSE GROWING GOOD RELATIONS WITH GOVERNMENTS AND INCREASING CONTACTS WITH PROMINENT ELEMENTS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COUNTRIES OFFER A WIDE FIELD OF ACTIVITY TO BE CHERISHED AND ENCOURAGED ON THE ONE HAND, AND EXPLORED AND EXPLOITED ON THE OTHER, BY THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AND THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION. FOSTERING A HARMONIOUSLY FUNCTIONING NETWORK COMPRISING THE VARIOUS ENTITIES OF A MATURING, FAR-FLUNG BAHÁ’Í SYSTEM―INDEED, THE WISE, SKILLFUL, STRATEGIC COLLABORATION OF THESE ENTITIES IN PROGRAMS BEING PURSUED BY THESE OFFICES CAN CONDUCE TO A DEPLOYMENT OF BAHÁ’Í INFLUENCE NOT YET EXPERIENCED.

8.5 YOUR AIM NOW IS TO VALIDATE SUCH PROSPECTS THROUGH LOVING, UNITED, EFFICIENT, SELFLESS, AND CEASELESS ENDEAVOR. DIFFICULTIES OF THE PAST MUST YIELD TO THE URGENT DEMANDS OF THE PRESENT; INCONGRUITIES OF PERSONALITY MUST DISSOLVE IN A WIDENING RANGE OF EFFECTIVE ACTIONS; ALL PARTICULARISMS MUST BE SUBORDINATED TO THE COMMON GOOD OF THE CAUSE. ONLY THUS CAN SUCCESS BE ASSURED.

8.6 IT IS WITH A COMMITMENT TO SUCH RESOLVES THAT YOU WILL NOT ONLY MEET AMONG YOURSELVES AS COWORKERS IN THE OFFICES OF THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, BUT ALSO INVITE THE PARTICIPATION OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA, WHICH WERE AMONG THE EIGHT NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES WHICH CONFIGURED THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AS AN ENTITY IN THE EYES OF THE UNITED NATIONS, WITH THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL ASSEMBLY THE SPEARHEAD. THESE REPRESENTATIVES WILL COME FROM COMMUNITIES WHICH CONSTITUTE A BULWARK OF HARD-WON BAHÁ’Í EXPERIENCE, RESOURCES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL ACTION, AND WHICH, AS IS WIDELY RECOGNIZED, SHOULDER EXTRAORDINARY RESPONSIBILITIES BY VIRTUE OF THE UNIQUE BLESSINGS BESTOWED ON NORTH AMERICA THROUGH ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ'S DIVINE PLAN. SUCH BLESSINGS WILL IN GOD'S APPOINTED TIME MAKE EVIDENT THE PREPONDERATING INFLUENCE WHICH THAT CONTINENT MUST AND WILL EXERT ON THE REALIZATION OF PEACE ON EARTH. AS THE RISE IN THE STATUS OF THE AMERICAN AND CANADIAN COMMUNITIES ALSO SIGNIFIES TO A GREAT EXTENT A RISE IN THE STATUS OF THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD COMMUNITY, IT IS ONLY FITTING THAT THE COLLABORATION OF THEIR NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES WITH THE UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AND THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION SHOULD BE WELCOMED, REAPPRAISED AND REINFORCED. THEY WILL IN TURN, NO DOUBT, EXTEND TO THOSE OFFICES EAGER HANDS OF SUPPORT AND THE WHOLEHEARTED WILL TO COOPERATE, AS MUCH WITH THE OFFICES AS BETWEEN THEMSELVES.

8.7 WE LOOK TO THE FUTURE, CONFIDENT THAT BY WORKING UNITEDLY TOGETHER, AND WITH DUE APPRECIATION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ROLE ASSIGNED TO THE ADMINISTRATOR-GENERAL, YOU WILL MAKE A NOTABLE CONTRIBUTION TO A PERIOD OF UNPRECEDENTED ADVANCEMENT FOR THE FAITH OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH. WITH THIS ASSURANCE WE OFFER OUR SUPPLICATIONS AT THE HOLY SHRINES THAT HE WHO WATCHES OVER THE DESTINY OF HIS WONDROUS CAUSE AND CONFIRMS THE HUMBLE EFFORTS OF HIS DEVOTED SERVANTS MAY GRANT YOU A FRESH MEASURE OF HIS GRACE AND BOUNTY.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Murder of Two Bahá’ís in Iran

31 OCTOBER 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

9.1 We are saddened to receive the following information from Iran. . . .

9.2 Mr. Íraj Mihdí-Nizhád, 59 years old, a prominent Bahá’í in Bandar-‘Abbás, was stabbed to death by a group of people. Sixteen knife wounds were observed on his body. Mr. Mihdí-Nizhád had been a civil servant and was dismissed from his job because of his faith, like thousands of other Bahá’ís. Out of necessity, he became a peddler, selling various articles in the streets in order to earn an income. Following the murder, his son-in-law and his son were detained for 48 hours by the police for questioning. However, later on, the murderers were apprehended. They belonged to a family, one of whose members had studied the Bahá’í Faith and expressed acceptance of it. It was some of the fanatical members of that family who attacked Mr. Mihdí-Nizhád, a prominent and active Bahá’í.

9.3 The police assembled a file of evidence related to the crime and sent it to the Attorney-General. However, the Attorney-General was apparently notified in advance by the members of the murderers' family, who may even have threatened him. As a result, before the file reached his desk he left his office, instructing his subordinate to refuse to accept the file on the pretext that the Attorney-General had gone on leave. In the meantime, the police, who had correctly carried out their duty in preparing the file, must have subsequently received instructions. As a consequence, when the file was returned to them, they indicated that no action would be taken, and even advised Mr. Mihdí-Nizhád's family to let the matter drop.

9.4 The members of the family, however, have not given up their efforts to pursue their complaint, although it is fraught with danger and there is very little prospect of bringing the murderers to justice.

9.5 Mr. Ḥabíbu’lláh Muhtadí, 70 years of age, a retired army officer and a graduate of law school, who had been out of the country during the Revolution, returned to Iran after the Revolution to take possession of his properties and prevent them from being confiscated. However, after he had sold one of his properties in Iran, he was immediately arrested, and the proceeds of the sale were taken from him. He was put in prison for five years, and all of his other properties were later confiscated. After his release, he was pursuing his case with the authorities to try and regain the properties which had been unjustly taken from him. On 27 August he was killed instantly by a blow to his head. Apparently, similar acts are being perpetrated by fanatical elements, emboldened by the lack of action on the part of the Government. They are sure that even if the crime is discovered, a Muslim will not be punished by law if he has committed a crime against a Bahá’í.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Celebrating Christmas

6 NOVEMBER 1986


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

10.1 Your letter of 28 September to the Universal House of Justice has been received, and we are asked to convey its answer to your questions concerning Bahá’ís celebrating Christmas.

10.2 Questions concerning the observance of Christmas by Bahá’ís were asked of the beloved Guardian, and two extracts from letters written on his behalf will be of assistance to your understanding of the Bahá’í position.

10.2a The Bahá’ís should give up the celebrating of Christian Holy Days such as Christmas. The same applies to Bahá’ís of Jewish and Moslem extraction etc. However, this is not a thing for the Spiritual Assemblies to enforce now; but each one should conscientiously begin to do this―otherwise, people will never know we are members of a new religion, but will think we are just people believing two or three things at the same time.
(15 August 1957)
10.2b As regards the celebration of the Christian Holidays by the believers; it is surely preferable and even highly advisable that the friends should in their relation to each other discontinue observing such holidays as Christmas and New Year, and to have their festal gatherings of this nature instead during the Intercalary Days and Naw-Rúz.
(11 March 1938)

10.3 It is important to note, in the second extract, the phrase "in their relation to each other"; it is clear, therefore, that among the members of the Bahá’í community the celebrations of former religious dispensations should be abandoned. However, Bahá’ís are encouraged to "consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship," and there is no harm in Bahá’ís sharing Christmas with Christian relatives or friends.[1] Indeed, families may contain both Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís, and the participation by Bahá’ís at celebrations of Christmas or of other religious observances, should not be made into a source of conflict but rather be used as an opportunity for demonstrating the honor due to other religions and also as an incentive for developing the celebration of Bahá’í Holy Days and anniversaries.

10.4 The House of Justice understands the problems of individuals and families who have come into the community and who require loving support through their transition to a new way of life, new Holy Days, and ways of celebrating the events of the new Dispensation. Prayers will be offered for your own guidance in this situation, which must not become a source of difficulty in the community.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. TB, p. 21.



Passing of the Hand of the Cause of God Zikrullah Khadem

14, 15 AND 16 NOVEMBER 1986


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

11.1 WITH SORROWFUL HEARTS ANNOUNCE PASSING INDEFATIGABLE FEARLESS DEFENDER FAITH DEEPLY LOVED HAND CAUSE ZIKRULLAH KHADEM. HIS STERLING SERVICES TO THE CAUSE, HIS TOTAL CONSECRATION TO TASKS ASSIGNED TO HIM BY BELOVED GUARDIAN, HIS OUTSTANDING EFFORTS AS MEMBER NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY CRADLE FAITH, HIS VALUABLE SOUL-UPLIFTING STIMULATION IMPARTED BODY BELIEVERS NORTH AMERICA, PARTICULARLY UNITED STATES BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY, HIS UNTIRING ENDEAVORS THROUGH HIS TALKS AND WRITINGS IN SAFEGUARDING COVENANT AND IN INSTILLING APPRECIATION LOVE FOR SHOGHI EFFENDI SHED UNDYING LUSTER OVER PERIOD HIS ADMIRABLE STEWARDSHIP CAUSE GOD. OFFERING PRAYERS HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS RADIANT SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM. URGE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS HIS NAME AT ALL HOUSES OF WORSHIP AS WELL AS IN ALL LOCAL BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITIES.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Infallibility of the Manifestations of God

26 NOVEMBER 1986


To a National Spiritual Assembly

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

12.1 The International Teaching Center has referred to the Universal House of Justice your letter of 29 September 1986 in which you seek comment on the draft of the letter you plan to send to the Local Spiritual Assembly of . . . for the guidance of . . . , a believer who has written an article entitled, "The Infallibility of the Prophets."

12.2 The House of Justice has studied your draft response and . . .'s paper in which he concludes, by means of logical analysis, based in part on his understanding of an article by Mr. Juan Ricardo Cole on the Tablet of Wisdom, that Bahá’u’lláh, and indeed all the Prophets of God, are not infallible. . . . expresses the opinion that attempts to resolve apparent contradictions in the Writings by seeking a broader context only serve to create insoluble logical difficulties, and he indicates that he is aware that the Institutions of the Faith may not agree with his views causing his status as a Bahá’í to be called into question. We are instructed by the Universal House of Justice to make the following reply.

12.3 . . .'s article raises fundamental issues about the station of the Manifestations and Their authority, as well as about the nature of individual interpretation.

12.4 It is clear from a study of the Text that infallibility is an essential attribute of the Manifestation of God. Bahá’u’lláh wrote:

12.4a . . . the Most Great Infallibility is confined to the One Whose station is immeasurably exalted beyond ordinances or prohibitions and is sanctified from errors and omissions. . . .
12.41b . . . Were He to pronounce right to be wrong or denial to be belief, He speaketh the truth as bidden by God. This is a station wherein sins or trespasses neither exist nor are mentioned.
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp. 108, 109)

12.5 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in Some Answered Questions, stresses the inseparability of "essential infallibility" from the Manifestation of God, and states:

12.5a . . . as the supreme Manifestations certainly possess essential infallibility, therefore whatever emanates from Them is identical with the truth, and conformable to reality. They are not under the shadow of the former laws. Whatever They say is the word of God, and whatever They perform is an upright action.[1]

12.6 The following extract from a letter dated 11 January 1942 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer underlines the vital link between Revelation and the infallibility of the Manifestation:

12.6a Regarding your Bahá’í friend who does not fully understand the infallibility of the Manifestation of God: You should influence that person to study the matter more deeply, and to realize that the whole theory of Divine Revelation rests on the infallibility of the Prophet, be He Christ, Muḥammad, Bahá’u’lláh, or one of the others. If They are not infallible, then They are not divine, and thus lose that essential link with God which, we believe, is the bond that educates men and causes all human progress.

12.7 As to the infallibility of the content of Bahá’u’lláh's revelation, . . . cites issues concerning the chronology of philosophical figures mentioned in Mr. Cole's article in the World Order magazine in 1979, as a basis for questioning the infallibility of Bahá’u’lláh. . . . appears to have misconstrued the tenor of Mr. Cole's article. Mr. Cole's article does not challenge the infallibility of Bahá’u’lláh, on the contrary, he shows that Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, states in the Tablet of Wisdom that He is quoting the writings of past sages. Bahá’u’lláh wrote:

12.7a Thou knowest full well that We perused not the books which men possess and We acquired not the learning current amongst them, and yet whenever We desire to quote the sayings of the learned and of the wise, presently there will appear before the face of thy Lord in the form of a tablet all that which hath appeared in the world and is revealed in the Holy Books and Scriptures. Thus do We set down in writing that which the eye perceiveth. Verily His knowledge encompasseth the earth and the heavens.
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 149)

12.8 Mr. Cole confirms this statement by comparison of the texts concerned. There is nothing in the text of this Tablet to show conclusively whether, by quoting these passages, Bahá’u’lláh was intending to confirm their assertions, or whether He was merely referring to historical authorities that were accepted by the audience He was addressing. It must be borne in mind that accounts of past events as recorded by historians of the East do not always agree with the accounts set down by chroniclers in other parts of the world. Perhaps in the future studies will be undertaken to ascertain the facts scientifically, if this is at all possible.

12.9 In reference to His Revelation, Bahá’u’lláh provides the following assurance that when viewed from the perspective of the Manifestation, the divine purpose of the verses will become apparent and questions will be resolved:

12.9a The verses are sent down at one time in a form that is untroubled by the rules of grammarians, transcending what the minds of men have yet conceived; and at another time they are sent down in a style that conformeth to the standards of men. Thy Lord, verily, is potent over whatsoever He willeth by virtue of His words "Be, and it is." Wert thou to view them with Mine eyes thou wouldst see that they are in conformity with the most consummate rules, and wouldst give thanks to the Lord, the Almighty, the Best-Beloved.
(Newly translated)

12.10 As to the question of individual interpretation, while individual interpretation is the fruit of man's rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings, the application of logical analysis has inherent limitations. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated:

12.10a Therefore, if the criterion of reason or intellect constituted a correct and infallible standard of judgment, those who tested and applied it should have arrived at the same conclusions. As they differ and are contradictory in conclusions, it is an evidence that the method and standard of test must have been faulty and insufficient.
(The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, p. 254)

12.11 Understanding of the Writings requires belief in the Manifestation of God, for, as the Master states:

12.11a . . . the knowledge of God is the cause of spiritual progress and attraction, and through it the perception of truth, the exaltation of humanity, divine civilization, rightness of morals and illumination are obtained.
(Some Answered Questions, p. 300)

12.12 Other important components in this process include an attitude of prayerful humility, acceptance of the statements of the Manifestation, confidence in the knowledge that understanding of their meaning will emerge with meditation, study of the texts and the passage of time, willingness to acknowledge that one's views may be erroneous, and, courage to follow in the direction defined by the authentic sacred texts.

12.13 The House of Justice urges your National Spiritual Assembly to use the guidance contained in this letter as a basis for guiding and educating the believer in question about some of the fundamental verities of Bahá’í belief as a means of assisting him to determine his relationship to the Faith. . . .

12.14 We are asked to assure you of the prayers of the House of Justice for the implementation of this weighty responsibility.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. SAQ, p. 173.



Conference on Ḥuqúqu’lláh

7 JANUARY 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

13.1 CONVEY ALL BELIEVERS JOYOUS NEWS CONVOCATION HOLY LAND DURING FIRST THREE DAYS JANUARY CONFERENCE ON ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH AS FIRST MAJOR STEP IN SIX YEAR PLAN TOWARDS FULFILLMENT GOAL EDUCATION ENTIRE COMMUNITY THIS GREAT LAW OF GOD.

13.2 TRUSTEE ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH HAND CAUSE GOD DR. ‘ALÍ MUḤAMMAD VARQÁ AND FIVE HIS DEPUTIES WITH REPRESENTATIVES INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER AND WORLD CENTER FINANCE DEPARTMENT MET IN CONSULTATION WITH UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE EXAMINE ALL ASPECTS APPLICATION THIS LAW WORLDWIDE. ACTION TAKEN DEVELOP MIGHTY INSTITUTION THROUGH APPOINTMENT BY TRUSTEE ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH THREE ADDITIONAL DEPUTIES, TWO IN AFRICA ONE IN ASIA, AND ADOPTION MEASURES LEADING ULTIMATE ESTABLISHMENT CENTRAL OFFICE ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH HOLY LAND AT HEART ADMINISTRATIVE CENTER FAITH.

13.3 DECISIONS TAKEN PREPARE CODIFICATION FOR DISTRIBUTION ALL COMMUNITIES TOGETHER WITH OTHER MATERIALS FACILITATE STUDY FRIENDS THIS LAW OBEDIENCE TO WHICH CHARACTERIZED BY BAHÁ’U’LLÁH AS "A BOUNTY WHICH SHALL REMAIN WITH EVERY SOUL IN EVERY WORLD OF THE WORLDS OF GOD."

13.4 DELIGHTED ACTIONS TAKEN BY NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES DISSEMINATION TEXTS ISSUED 4TH JULY 1985[1] CONFERENCE STIRRED BY REPORTS WESTERN BELIEVERS ALREADY SPONTANEOUSLY OFFERING ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH ON READING COMPILATION, SWELLING RANKS THOSE WHO HAVE LONG CHERISHED PRIVILEGE OBSERVE THIS LAW URGE NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES WHO HAVE NOT YET PUBLISHED COMPILATION TO EXPEDITE TRANSLATION PUBLICATION. CONDENSED COMPILATION NOW IN COURSE PREPARATION EASE TASK THOSE NATIONAL COMMUNITIES WHICH HAVE LIMITED FACILITIES TRANSLATION.

13.5 IT IS OUR ARDENT PRAYER SACRED THRESHOLD THAT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH WILL ABUNDANTLY BLESS PROCESSES NOW SET IN MOTION.

Notes

  1. A reference to the compilation on Ḥuqúqu’lláh; see CC 1:489-527.



Release of a Compilation on Trustworthiness

18 JANUARY 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

14.1 The Universal House of Justice felt that a compilation on trustworthiness, a cardinal Bahá’í virtue, would be useful to the friends everywhere, as they are endeavoring in their personal lives to mirror forth the eternal moral precepts inculcated in the teachings. The House of Justice has instructed the Research Department to prepare a compilation of extracts from the Bahá’í Writings on this subject.

14.2 A copy of this compilation is attached.[1] The Universal House of Justice leaves it to your discretion to determine how the friends under your jurisdiction can best be informed of its contents and encouraged to study them carefully.

14.3 It is of vital importance that the Bahá’í standard of trustworthiness be upheld at this time when the House of Justice has offered the Bahá’í experience to the world as a model for study in its search for peace. Furthermore, the central theme which the compilation helps to stress is a vital element which will contribute to the success of the rapidly increasing number of social and economic development projects undertaken by Bahá’í communities throughout the world.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 2:327-53.



Passing of Charles Wolcott, Member of the Universal House of Justice

27 AND 28 JANUARY 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

15.1 DEEPLY GRIEVED PASSING DISTINGUISHED SERVANT CAUSE GOD, DEDICATED WORKER HIS VINEYARD CHARLES WOLCOTT. SELFLESSNESS, HUMILITY, COURAGE, NOBILITY FAIR-MINDEDNESS, PERSEVERANCE CHARACTERIZED HIS UNINTERRUPTED SERVICES COURSE HALF A CENTURY, IN HIS CAPACITY AS MEMBER AND LATER SECRETARY NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY CRADLE ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER, AS SECRETARY-GENERAL INTERNATIONAL BAHÁ’Í COUNCIL FOLLOWED BY HIS OUTSTANDING LABORS AS MEMBER UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE SINCE ITS INCEPTION. PRAYING SHRINES PROGRESS HIS RADIANT SOUL, CONFIDENT RICH WELL-DESERVED REWARD ABHÁ KINGDOM HIS UNIQUE CONTRIBUTION PROGRESS CONSOLIDATION FAITH NORTH AMERICA AND AT WORLD CENTER EXTEND LOVING SYMPATHY HIS BELOVED WIDOW WHO SHARED SUPPORTED HIS SERVICES THROUGHOUT PERIOD HIS DISTINGUISHED PROFESSIONAL CAREER, HIS BRILLIANT LABORS CAUSE GOD AND TO HIS BEREAVED DAUGHTERS AND FAMILY. ADVISE FRIENDS EVERYWHERE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS, INCLUDING COMMEMORATIVE SERVICES IN HIS HONOR ALL MASHRIQU’L-ADHKÁRS.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Execution of a Bahá’í in Iran

29 JANUARY 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

16.1 WITH HEAVY HEARTS ANNOUNCE ANOTHER EXECUTION IN IRAN. AFTER TWO YEARS’ IMPRISONMENT, MOSTLY IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, AND HAVING BEEN SUBJECTED TO MUCH TORTURE, AIMED AT HIS RECANTATION FAITH, MR AḤMAD KÁVIH WAS EXECUTED ON 26 JANUARY IN ISFAHAN BY FIRING SQUAD. HE WAS IN HIS MID FIFTIES AND A MERCHANT NO INFORMATION RECEIVED AS TO ANY TRIAL PRIOR HIS EXECUTION. . . .

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Interpretations of Sacred Writings

9 MARCH 1987


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

17.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 8 February 1987 in which you inquire about the role of the individual in interpretation of the Writings: specifically whether given the existence of interpretations by the Master and the Guardian of passages from the Writings, there remains room for personal interpretations of these same texts. We are instructed to convey the following points in reply.

17.2 The interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian are divinely guided statements of what the Word of God means and as such these interpretations are binding on the friends. However, the existence of authoritative interpretations in no way precludes the individual from engaging in his own study of the teachings and thereby arriving at his own interpretation or understanding. Indeed, Bahá’u’lláh invites the believers to "immerse" themselves in the "ocean" of His "words," that they "may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths."[1]

17.3 Far from knowledge being limited, Bahá’u’lláh quotes the Muslim tradition that "every knowledge hath seventy meanings," and asserts that the "meaning" of the Word of God "can never be exhausted."[2] This potential richness of meaning is underlined by the provision whereby future Guardians, while not abrogating the "interpretations of former Guardians," may "elaborate and elucidate former interpretations," as set out in the extract from a letter dated 19 February 1947 which was written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer:

17.3a . . . regarding future Guardians: they cannot "abrogate" the interpretations of former Guardians, as this would imply not only lack of guidance but mistakes in making them; however they can elaborate and elucidate former interpretations, and can certainly abrogate some former ruling laid down as a temporary necessity by a former Guardian.

17.4 Individual interpretations based on a person's understanding of the teachings constitute the fruit of man's rational power and may well contribute to a more complete understanding of the Faith. Such views, however, lack authority. The believers are, therefore, free to accept or disregard them. Further, the manner in which an individual presents his interpretation is important. For example, he must at no time deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation, but rather offer his idea as a contribution to knowledge, making it clear that his views are merely his own.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. KA, ¶182.
  2. KI, ¶283; GWB, no. 89.1.



Avoiding Partisan Politics and Promoting the Lesser Peace

10 MARCH 1987


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

18.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 27 January 1987 and has asked us to convey on its behalf the following in response to the points you have raised.

18.2 It is not advisable for Bahá’í institutions or individuals to initiate actions designed to prod government leaders to urge their government or the leaders of other governments to convene the world conference called for by Bahá’u’lláh and echoed in The 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 Bahá’í plan or action. This is not to say that Bahá’ís should be inert. Indeed, Bahá’ís may promote the concept of the Lesser Peace with all that it implies without engaging in the political processes which its realization will require.

18.3 The House of Justice feels that the task before the Bahá’ís is to prepare the ground for the transition from the present system of national sovereignty to a system of world government. This requires a number of related activities which have been indicated in the goals of previous and present Plans of the community based on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. The activities which will indirectly prepare the world to make the final stride include the following.

18.4 The establishment as rapidly as possible of firmly grounded, efficiently functioning Local Spiritual Assemblies in every part of the world, so that seekers everywhere will have a point of reference to which they can turn for guidance and for the Teachings of the Faith. This implies a vast increase in Bahá’í membership. Although the Canadian and many other Bahá’í Communities have achieved remarkable progress, much work is required to bring the Bahá’í institutions all over the world to the degree of maturation that is needed.

18.5 A second important activity is the deepening of the believers, of all ages, in their understanding of and obedience to the Teachings of the Faith. A third is the proclamation of the Faith to all strata of society, and in particular to those in authority and to leaders of thought so that those who hold the direction of peoples in their hands will learn accurately about the nature and tenets of the Faith and will grow to respect it and implement its principles. A fourth is the promotion of Bahá’í scholarship, so that an increasing number of believers will be able to analyze the problems of mankind in every field and to show how the Teachings solve them. A fifth is the development of relations between the Bahá’í International Community and the United Nations, both directly with the highest United Nations institutions and at a grass-roots level in areas of rural development, education, etc.

18.6 These different activities, which began a long time ago and are still going on, coupled with the presentation of The Promise of World Peace to the leaders of the world, will gradually bring about circumstances which will indicate the direction of subsequent actions. The House of Justice will advise the Bahá’í world when the time is ripe for such actions. The unpredictability of certain events in the world, which are likely to change the current course of certain processes, makes it impracticable for the House of Justice to respond with precision to some of your questions.

18.7 The House of Justice in its message to the Bahá’ís of the World dated 2 January 1986 referred to Shoghi Effendi's perception of a dialectic of victory and crisis in the organic life of the Cause. This indicates the instrumentality of the forces of opposition which will help to bring about, over a period of time, conditions necessary for the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies to act effectively as Local and National Houses of Justice.

18.8 The stages of the evolution of these institutions, which will synchronize with the establishment of the Lesser Peace, are indicated in the writings of the beloved Guardian, such as in the following extract:

18.8a Not only will the present-day Spiritual Assemblies be styled differently in future, but they will be enabled also to add to their present functions those powers, duties, and prerogatives necessitated by the recognition of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, not merely as one of the recognized religious systems of the world, but as the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power.
(The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 6-7)

18.9 Your specific question about whether or not Bahá’ís in North America "are permitted to run for election to school boards, town or municipal councils, hospital boards and for local enforcement officer positions" should be answered by the National Assemblies concerned.

18.10 The completion of the buildings on the Arc "which will synchronize with two no less significant developments―the establishment of the Lesser Peace and the evolution of Bahá’í national and local institutions―the one outside and the other within the Bahá’í world"[1] speaks, as you have rightly perceived, "to the readiness of the Bahá’í Administrative Order to manage the ever-growing and complex affairs of the Cause as well as an increased capacity to interface with the non-Bahá’í world and its institutions."

18.11 Regarding the question in the final paragraph of your letter, the following reply was written on behalf of the beloved Guardian in a letter dated 14 March 1939 to an individual believer.

18.11a 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 Civi1ization."[2]

18.12 The fact that the Bahá’í institutions will not be directly involved in the eventual convocation of 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 mankind. Indeed, by promoting the principles of the Faith, which are indispensable to the maintenance of peace, 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 groundwork for a permanent peace, the Most Great Peace being their ultimate goal.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. MBW, p. 74
  2. See WOB, pp. 161-206.



Execution of Two Bahá’ís in Iran

13 MARCH 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

19.1 CONVEY SAD NEWS PAST FEW DAYS MR. SURÚSH JABBÁRÍ AND MR. ABU’L-QÁSIM SHÁYIQ WERE EXECUTED IN TEHRAN. EXACT DATE AND MANNER OF THEIR EXECUTION ARE NOT KNOWN AS NO ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE, AND THERE IS NO INDICATION WHETHER OR NOT TRIALS WERE HELD. THEIR BODIES WERE BURIED WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE THEIR RELATIVES AND FRIENDS.

19.2 MR JABBÁRÍ WAS 42 YEARS OLD AND HAD BEEN IN PRISON SINCE 15 SEPTEMBER 1984. HE WAS AN ENGINEER. MR SHÁYIQ WAS 47 YEARS OF AGE AND HAD BEEN IN PRISON SINCE 13 FEBRUARY 1984. HE WAS A GRADUATE IN HISTORY AND WORKED FOR THE GOVERNMENT BEFORE HIS DISMISSAL AS A BAHÁ’Í.

19.3 NO OTHER DETAILS ARE AVAILABLE.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Election of New Member of Universal House of Justice

20 MARCH 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

20.1 WARMLY WELCOME NEWLY ELECTED MEMBER HOUSE JUSTICE PETER KHAN.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Codification of the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh

25 MARCH 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

21.1 In furtherance of the goal of the Six Year Plan to educate the friends throughout the world in the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the Research Department has prepared a simple codification of the law. A copy of this codification is enclosed for you to share, as you judge appropriate, with the friends under your jurisdiction. It is based largely on a codification produced spontaneously by some friends in Austria and on another written under the auspices of the United States National Spiritual Assembly. References throughout the document are to the sections of the compilation on Ḥuqúqu’lláh which has already been sent to you.[1]

21.2 To help the friends increase their understanding of the significance of this Law of God, the Research Department was also requested by the Universal House of Justice to prepare a brief history of the development of the Institution which has been associated with the Law since the early years of its operation. This is also enclosed and is based on an article in Persian written by the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. ‘Alí Muḥammad Varqá, apart from the final section about Dr. Varqá himself, which has been added by the Research Department.

21.3 It is hoped that National Spiritual Assemblies will use this material as extensively as possible to educate the friends and deepen their understanding of this vital law of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT



A Codification of the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh
March 1987
Prepared by the Research Department at the request of the Universal House of Justice

I. Preamble

21.4 Ḥuqúqu’lláh (The Right of God) is a great law (7)[2] and a sacred institution (72). Laid down in the Most Holy Book (Kitáb-i-Aqdas), it is one of the key instruments for constructing the foundation and supporting the structure of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. It has far-reaching ramifications that extend from promoting the welfare of the individual, to buttressing the authority and extending the activity of the Head of the Faith. In providing a regular and systematic source of revenue for the Central Institution of the Cause, Bahá’u’lláh has assured the means for the independence and decisive functioning of the World Center of His Faith.

21.5 By identifying this law as "The Right of God" Bahá’u’lláh has reemphasized the nature of the relationship between human beings and their Creator as a Covenant based on mutual assurances and obligations; and, by designating the Central Authority in the Cause, to which all must turn, as the recipient of this Right, He has created a direct and vital link between every individual believer and the Head of his Faith that is unique in the structure of His World Order. This law enables the friends to recognize the elevation of their economic activity to the level of divine acceptability, it is a means for the purification of their wealth and a magnet attracting divine blessings. The computation and the payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, within the general guidelines set forth, are exclusively a matter of conscience between the individual and God (8, 104); demanding or soliciting the Ḥuqúqu’lláh is prohibited (8, 9, 38, 71, 96, 104), only appeals, reminders and exhortations of a general nature, under the auspices of the institutions of the Faith, are permissible (38, 70, 99, 104, 107). That the observance and enforcement of this law, so crucial to the material well-being of the emerging Bahá’í commonwealth, should thus have been left entirely to the faith and conscience of the individual, gives substance to and sheds light on what the beloved Master calls the spiritual solution to economic problems. Indeed, the implications of the law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh for the realization of a number of the principles of the Faith, such as the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, and a more equitable distribution of resources, will increasingly become manifest as the friends assume in ever greater measure the responsibility for observing it.

21.6 The fundamentals of the law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh are promulgated in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Further elaborations of its features are to be found in other Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, in Tablets from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and in letters from Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice, mostly in response to questions raised by the friends. All these major references have been compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice and separately published. A study of that compilation makes it clear that the application of the law has been progressive, and will continue to be so, as its ramifications and subsidiary rulings are elucidated.

21.7 The following is a preliminary attempt at codifying the information in the Writings on the subject of Ḥuqúqu’lláh. It should be emphasized, however, that the friends should not attempt to read into it an element of rigidity or total comprehensiveness. The questions put to Bahá’u’lláh, the Master and Shoghi Effendi were from friends residing in places and times with infinitely simpler economic systems and relationships than those which obtain today. What can be learned from them are clear guiding principles whose application to changing and more complex conditions must be considered. The subject will undoubtedly occupy the Universal House of Justice in evolving legislation, as necessary, for a long time to come. As the Fourth Epoch of the Formative Age of our Faith unfolds before the eyes of an increasingly watchful humanity, the universal assumption of the obligation of Ḥuqúqu’lláh by the friends will be a clear sign of attaining to a new level of spiritual maturity by the community of the Greatest Name throughout the world.


II. A Bounty Granted by God

21.8 God, while being wholly independent of all created things, has in His bounty given us this law (7, 10, 63), for the progress and promotion of the Cause depend on material means (1). Obedience to this law enables the believer to be firm and steadfast in the Covenant (63), provides a reward in every world of the worlds of God (7), and is a unique test of true faith (62).

21.9 The Ḥuqúqu’lláh is to be offered joyfully and without hesitation (2, 9, 32). When the Ḥuqúqu’lláh is offered in this spirit it will impart prosperity and protection to the friends, purify their worldly possessions (20, 31, 42, 46, 48, 100), and enable them and their offspring to benefit from the fruits of their endeavors (48).


III. Determining the Ḥuqúqu’lláh

21.10 Everything that a believer possesses, with the exception of certain specific items, is subject once and only once to the payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh.

A. Exempt from assessment to Ḥuqúqu’lláh are:
1. The residence and its needful[3] furnishings (11).
2. The needful business and agricultural equipment which produce income for one's subsistence (12, 67, 68).
B. Payment falls due:
1. Ḥuqúqu’lláh is payable as soon as a person's assessable possessions reach or exceed the value of 19 mithqals of gold (18, 19, 30). [19 mithqáls equals approximately 2.2 troy ounces, or approximately 69.2 grams (87, 105, 110). At the present time―March 1987―this is equivalent to some US$914.]
a. The amount to be paid is 19% of the value of the assessable property (10, 14).
b. The payment is due on whole units of 19 mithqáls of gold (15).
2. Ḥuqúqu’lláh is payable on further units of 19 mithqáls of gold when subsequently acquired possessions, after the deduction of the annual expenses, raise the value of the assessable property sufficiently. Among the expenses to be deducted are:
a. The general expenses of living (65, 66, 69, 78).
b. Losses and expenses incurred on the sale of possessions (103).
c. Sums which are paid to the State, such as taxes and duties (78).
3. When a person receives a gift or bequest it is to be added to his possessions and augments the total value in the same way as does an excess of annual income over expenditure (111).
4. If a property increases in value, Ḥuqúqu’lláh is not payable on that increase until it is realized, e.g. on the sale of the property.
5. If possessions decrease, such as through the expenses of a year exceeding the income received, Ḥuqúqu’lláh falls due again only after the loss has been made good and the total value of one's assessable possessions is augmented (15-19, 30, 65-68, 78, 108, 111).
6. The payment of debts takes precedence over the payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh (22).
7. The payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh is dependent on the person's financial ability to meet his obligations (24).
8. On the death of a believer, the completion of his payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh is accomplished in the following manner:
a. The first charge on the estate is the expense of burial (22).
b. Secondly, the debts of the deceased must be paid (13).
c. The Ḥuqúqu’lláh still due on the property should then be paid. In establishing the value of the property on which Ḥuqúq has not already been paid, the following are among the deductions to be made:
― expenses of burial (22),
― debts of the deceased (13),
― loss of value of the assets when realized (103) and
― expenses incurred in realizing the assets (103).
C. Further notes on determining Ḥuqúqu’lláh:
1. It is left to the discretion of the individual believer to decide what is "needful" for himself and his family (104-6, 112).
2. Although references are made to annual payments of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the time and method of payment are left to the discretion of the individual believer. There is, therefore, no obligation to liquidate one's assets in haste in order to fulfill one's current obligations to Ḥuqúqu’lláh (103).
3. Husband and wife are free to decide whether they want to honor their Ḥuqúqu’lláh obligations jointly or individually (109, 110).
4. The account of Ḥuqúqu’lláh should be kept separate from other contributions, inasmuch as the disposition of the funds of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh is subject to decision by the Central Authority in the Cause to which all must turn, whereas the purposes of the contributions to other Funds may be determined by the donors themselves.
5. Payment of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh has priority over making contributions to other Funds of the Faith (78, 79, 97, 100), as well as over the cost of pilgrimage (31). It is, however, left to the discretion of the believer whether or not he treats his contributions to the Fund as an expense when arriving at the value of the annual accretion to his property for the purpose of calculating the Ḥuqúqu’lláh that he is due to pay (105).


IV. Applicability of the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh

21.11 The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh can be enforced only gradually because the time must be ripe if the desired results are to be attained (84-86). Thus hitherto the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh has been applied only to the believers from Iran and other countries of the Middle East. The other believers have been encouraged to support their local and national funds in its place but, although the law is not yet binding on them, they are and have been free to offer the Ḥuqúqu’lláh if they wish to do so (82, 93, 102, 103, 109, 110).


V. Payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh

21.12 The Ḥuqúqu’lláh is normally paid to the Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, his Deputies, or their appointed Representatives (35, 58). These persons issue receipts and forward the funds to the World Center (56).


VI. Management of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh

21.13 Decisions on the necessary ordinances concerning Ḥuqúqu’lláh (81, 100), as well as on its disposition, lie within the sole jurisdiction of the Central Authority in the Cause. The Ḥuqúqu’lláh can be employed for charitable purposes (62, 65, 75), or for other purposes useful to the Cause of God (77, 78).


The Development of the Institution of Ḥuqúqu’lláh
March 1987
Prepared by the Research Department at the request of the Universal House of Justice


21.14 In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh refers to this Law as ranking in importance immediately after the two great obligations of recognition of God and steadfastness in His Cause, and yet the introduction and implementation of this Law are characterized by kindness, forgiveness, tolerance and magnanimity. Although it deals with the material things of this world, it is placed among those spiritual obligations resting on the individual soul, such as prayer and fasting, the fulfillment of which is a direct responsibility of each believer towards God, not subject to the sanctions or impositions of His institutions in this world. It is, indeed, a clear expression of the priorities with which Bahá’u’lláh views the duties of mankind. First comes the spiritual, and then the material―however important in practice the latter may be.

21.15 After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas had been revealed in response to the pleas of the friends, Bahá’u’lláh withheld it from publication for some time and even then, when a number of devoted Bahá’ís, having learned of the law, endeavored to offer the Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the payment was not accepted. The Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh show His acute consciousness of the way in which material wealth has been permitted to degrade religion in the past, and He preferred the Faith to sacrifice all material benefits rather than to soil to the slightest degree its dignity and purity. Herein is a lesson for all Bahá’í institutions for all time.

21.16 However, as the beloved Guardian explained, funds are the life-blood of the Cause. God Himself, as Bahá’u’lláh stated, has made achievement dependent on material means. Therefore, as the awareness of the friends grew, He permitted the Iluqdqu'lláh to be accepted, provided the donor made the offering willingly with joy and awareness.

21.17 To receive the Ḥuqúqu’lláh, Bahá’u’lláh brought into being one of the great Institutions of the Faith, the Trusteeship of Ḥuqúqu’lláh.

21.18 The first to be honored with appointment as Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh was Jináb-i-Sháh Muḥammad from Manshád, Yazd, who eventually received from the Blessed Beauty the title of Amínu’l-Bayán (Trustee of the Bayán). Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad had embraced the Faith in its early years and had the bounty of entering the presence of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad. The fire of love kindled in his heart made him impatient to offer his services to the Threshold of his Beloved, and this undertaking he followed until the last moment of his life, surrendering all material belongings in the path of service. Encompassed by hardship, danger and lack of means, this trusted servant of Bahá’u’lláh, in journey after journey, would carry the friends' donations of Ḥuqúqu’lláh and their petitions to the Sacred Threshold and, in return, bring them news and Tablets from the Blessed Perfection.

21.19 One of the most sacred tasks entrusted to Amínu’l-Bayán was to go to Iran to receive the Remains of the Báb from their custodian, the devoted and valiant Hand of the Cause of God Jináb-i-Ḥájí Ákhúnd, and to transfer them through innumerable dangers to a safe hiding place in the Mosque of the Imámzádih Zayd in Tehran, where they lay concealed until the time when, at the behest of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, they were transferred to the Holy Land to be laid in their permanent resting place on the slopes of Mount Carmel.

21.20 The attention of Jináb-i-Sháh Muḥammad was drawn to the rare qualities of nobility and detachment of one of the believers, Ḥájí Abu’l-Ḥasan Ardakání, who was also from Yazd. The bond of fellowship between them became so strong that they became the closest of companions. Jináb-i-Sháh Muḥammad chose Ḥájí Abu’l-Ḥasan to be his assistant and confidant in his services as the Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh. They were among the first group of pilgrims who, after encountering grave hardships and difficulties, were able to visit Bahá’u’lláh in ‘Akká. On their return to Iran they decided to make numerous journeys together, and on one of these journeys, in 1881, they were attacked and caught during a Kurdish revolt, and Jináb-i-Ḥájí Sháh Muḥammad was seriously wounded. Bahá’u’lláh instructed that, following the passing of Jináb-i-Sháh Muḥammad, the office of Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh should be conferred upon his loyal assistant and companion, Jináb-i-Ḥájí Abu’l-Ḥasan, who was subsequently entitled Amín (the Trusted One) or Jináb-i-Ḥájí Amín.

21.21 Jináb-i-Ḥájí Amín was a shining star who served the Cause for forty-seven years with eagerness and zeal, showing magnanimity, courage and incredible steadfastness. During the Ministry of Bahá’u’lláh he was imprisoned twice, by order of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh and his son, Kámrán Mírzí. In the course of his second imprisonment, in the prison of Qazvín, referred to as Sijn-i-Matín (the Mighty Prison) by Bahá’u’lláh in the opening verses of the Tablet of the World, he was together with the Hand of the Cause Ḥájí Ákhúnd. Here, Jináb-i-Amín suffered gravely, his legs in fetters and a chain around his neck. His jailers, in order to torment him, would add castor oil to his food. With manifest resignation and submission, he would neither complain nor refuse the food, eating as though nothing were amiss. He was a symbol of magnanimity and detachment. He had no worldly possessions, no home or shelter of his own. His habitation was in the hearts and souls of the Bahá’í friends who would receive and entertain him with warmth and love. Each one would impatiently await his arrival, to enjoy the sweet melody of his prayers and chanting of the Tablets, the glad-tidings and encouragement he would bring. Every day he would bid good-bye to one family to spend the night in another household, illumining another gathering with his presence. He was continually on the move, traveling to most Iranian cities and being the trusted adviser of many Bahá’í friends in their personal affairs.

21.22 Among the countless journeys that Ḥájí Amín made was one to Paris where he attained the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. During his long life he witnessed the last eleven years of the Ministry of Bahá’u’lláh, the twenty-nine years of the Ministry of the Center of the Covenant, and seven years of the Guardianship of Shoghi Effendi. Towards the end of his life he became ill and frail and was confined to bed, living in the home of his friend and assistant, Ḥájí Ghulám Riḍá, who, at the express desire of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had been appointed his successor as Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh. Upon his passing in 1928, Ḥájí Amín was named by the beloved Guardian a Hand of the Cause of God.

21.23 The third Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, Jináb-i-Ghulám Riḍá, was entitled Amín-i-Amín (Trustee of the Trustee). This distinguished soul was born into the wealthy merchant class of Tehran and was brought up to enjoy the comfortable life associated with it. During his youth, the urge to discover spiritual realities led him to the study of comparative religion and, while engaged in his business, he ventured to search out and associate with followers and leaders of religion. Disappointed in what he found, he sought more information about the Bahá’í Faith, which had been introduced to him by his secretary. This enquiry soon developed into a serious study of the sacred Tablets and Writings and his heart was illumined with the light of faith. After embracing the Cause, Jináb-i-Ḥájí-Ghulám Riḍá engaged in Bahá’í activities and, at the age of 32, he gave up trade to devote himself fully and freely to the service of the Faith. He developed a special attachment to Jináb-i-Amín and became his constant assistant. In due course he received a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá urging him to emulate Jináb-i-Amín and appointing him as Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh. While ever mindful of the responsibilities of his new position, he took the utmost care of Jináb-i-Amín for the remainder of his life.

21.24 Jináb-i-Ghulám Riḍá held the rank of Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh for eleven years. His home became a center for the gatherings of the friends and for the administration of the affairs of the Faith. It was during his Trusteeship that initial steps were taken for the registration of Bahá’í properties and endowments in Iran, and he was assiduous in doing his utmost for their protection and preservation. In 1938 he fell ill and passed away.

21.25 The fourth Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, appointed to this position by the beloved Guardian, was Jináb-i-Valíyu’lláh Varqá, the third son of Varqá the martyr. He was born in Tabríz and, after the martyrdom of his father and brother, he was brought up from early childhood by his grandmother, a staunch, powerful and fanatical Muslim. She did her utmost, until his early youth, to sow the seeds of enmity to the Faith in his heart. When he was sixteen, his uncle, surnamed Akhu’sh-Shahíd (the Brother of the Martyr), managed to remove him from this agonizing atmosphere of prejudice and took him to his home in Míyándu’áb. There he introduced him to the Bahá’í Faith and its teachings, opening a new world to Jináb-i-Varqá. So afire did he become with love for the Faith that, without any preparations, he decided to go on pilgrimage in the company of a close friend. However, his Local Spiritual Assembly did not approve of this, and guided him, instead, to go to Tehran to join his elder brother Jináb-i-‘Azízu’lláh Varqá.

21.26 After his schooling in Tehran, Jináb-i-Varqá's longing to make his pilgrimage was fulfilled, and he then attended the American University in Beirut, deepening his knowledge of the Bahá’í teachings under the guidance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during his summer vacations. During this time he made a journey to Iran at the behest of the Master, and later accompanied Him on His historic journey to Europe and America, as an interpreter. Upon the completion of this journey, he returned to Iran and rendered invaluable services on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tehran, in many Bahá’í administrative agencies, and ultimately on the National Spiritual Assembly. His loyal and dedicated service as Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh was to follow, occupying him for seventeen years, during which time the observance of the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh was spread throughout Iran, so that ever more of the friends fulfilled their obligations, offering large sums and many properties. In order to devote his full time to this sacred enterprise, Jináb-i-Varqá resigned from the work in which he was employed.

21.27 In 1951 Jináb-i-Valíyu’lláh Varqá was among the first contingent of eminent believers elevated by Shoghi Effendi to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God. This opened new opportunities for him to meet with the friends and cheer their hearts with news of the victories being achieved in the teaching work, especially during the Ten Year Crusade, which opened at Riḍván 1953. These memorable services culminated in the fulfillment of his long-cherished desire to visit the beloved Guardian.

21.28 On his return to Iran from pilgrimage, a previous ailment grew worse, and Jináb-i-Varqá was forced to go to Tübingen in Germany for hospital treatment and an operation. The treatment, alas, was unsuccessful, and in November 1955 his noble life drew to a close.

21.29 In the cable announcing the passing of Valíyu’lláh Varqá, Shoghi Effendi included the words: "His mantle as Trustee Ḥuqúq now falls on ‘Alí Muḥammad, his son. . . . Newly appointed Trustee Ḥuqúq now elevated rank Hand Cause."

21.30 Just two years following the appointment of Jináb-i-‘Alí-Muḥammad Varqá to this onerous task, he and his fellow Hands of the Cause of God were confronted with the heart-breaking and soul-stirring events associated with the passing of the beloved Guardian, and carried the entire Bahá’í world to the victorious conclusion of the Ten Year Crusade, bringing into being, at Riḍván 1963, the Universal House of Justice.

21.31 The following twenty-three years have seen storms of tribulation and persecution afflicting the Bahá’í community in Iran, causing immense problems to be wrestled with in relation to the safeguarding and sale of properties donated for the Ḥuqúqu’lláh as well as a multitude of other historic tasks that have fallen to the lot of Jináb-i-Varqá in his capacity as a Hand of the Cause of God.

21.32 The successive teaching plans caused an outflow of pioneers from Iran to all corners of the world, requiring the Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh to appoint Deputies and Representatives in many countries beyond the borders of Iran until, at this time, the Institution is represented in every continent of the earth. Not only do the friends from Middle Eastern countries continue to obey the law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh in their adopted countries, but, increasingly, other friends have been moved to offer the Ḥuqúq.

21.33 A new stage, therefore, has now been opened in the development of this Institution, a stage that will for ever be associated with the opening of the Fourth Epoch of the Formative Age of the Faith and the emergence of the Bahá’í community from obscurity into the arena of world affairs.

Notes

  1. See CC 1:489-527
  2. The numbers in parentheses refer to the paragraphs of the compilation on Ḥuqúqu’lláh issued by the House of Justice.
  3. See III.C.1.



Negotiations with the Government of Israel for Development of the Bahá’í World Center

30 APRIL 1987


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

23.1 This Riḍván, after decades of unabated effort involving prolonged, delicate negotiations, the Government of the State of Israel and the Bahá’í World Center signed an international agreement whose implications―spiritual, historical, and practical―are inestimable for the rapidly evolving World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.

23.2 Approved by unanimous vote of the Cabinet of the National Unity Government, the Agreement states as reasons for the Government's concurrence in it the "friendly relations between the Bahá’í world community and the State of Israel" and the "desire of the Government of Israel to give effect to this relationship, and to its recognition of the special status of the Bahá’í World Center." These friendly relations trace their foundation to the inspired initiatives of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself, particularly during the period following the Revolution of the Young Turks in 1908 when a general amnesty was effected for religious and political prisoners held under the old regime. The prestige acquired by the Faith through the dynamic force of the Master's unique spirit was demonstrated after His release from imprisonment in the actions He took to establish His residence in Haifa at the foot of Mount Carmel, to inter the sacred remains of the Báb in the mausoleum which had been erected by Him on the spot designated by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, and to travel extensively in the West. Subsequent to these travels, it was more conspicuously illustrated through the excellent relations He forged with high and low alike, the social impact of His liberal ministrations to the needs of the people in the Holy Land, and the conferring of a knighthood upon Him by the British Crown.

23.3 This legacy of prestige was evident in the recognition accorded Shoghi Effendi as Head of the Faith by the authorities of the British Mandate. The extent of the Guardian's energetic exertions to achieve recognition of the independent status of the Faith, whose permanent spiritual and administrative centers are in the Holy Land, is beyond the scope of this letter and must, in due time, be afforded full treatment in the work of future historians. Let it suffice to reaffirm here that what he was able to accomplish during the years of the Mandate, in securing custody of Bahá’í properties and in obtaining official protection of the Holy Places, recognition of the Bahá’í marriage certificate and of Bahá’í Holy Days, and relief from certain taxes, combined to reflect a status for the Faith which was accepted by the new Government when the State of Israel was established in 1948. Writing on Shoghi Effendi's behalf to a National Spiritual Assembly on 30 May 1952, his secretary stated that "All the Bahá’í properties and imports are exempt from taxation and customs, and the status of the Faith as a religion, recognized." However, the letter pointed out that "At present, we are planning to clarify our legal position with the Government, and get it on a more concrete footing." It is precisely in fulfilling the need for such clarification and more concrete footing that the instrument recently signed in Jerusalem represents a distinctive stage in the relations of the Bahá’í World Center with the Government of this country.

23.4 In a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry on 22 April 1987, the second day of Riḍván, the Agreement, comprising an exchange of letters, was signed by Mr. Shimon Peres, Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, on behalf of the Government of Israel, and Mr. Donald Barrett, Secretary-General of the Bahá’í International Community, on behalf of the Bahá’í World Center, in the presence of other high-ranking government officials and Mr. Ronald Bates, Deputy Secretary-General of the Bahá’í International Community. Among its contents are the following statements of recognition:

23.4a The Government of Israel recognizes the members of the Bahá’í Faith as a recognized religious community in Israel in accordance with Article 2 of the Palestine Order in Council, 1922-1947, and confirms that the Bahá’í World Center is the world spiritual and administrative center of the Bahá’í world community and that the Universal House of Justice in Haifa is the Head of the Bahá’í Faith and its Supreme Institution in accordance with its Constitution.
23.4b The Government of Israel recognizes that the holiest places of the Bahá’í Faith, in accordance with the Bahá’í Sacred Scriptures, are located in Israel, and confirms that the Universal House of Justice is the Trustee of the Bahá’í International Community over the Holy Places of the Bahá’í Faith in Israel and over the Bahá’í endowments in Israel.

23.5 From such clearly stated recognition flow privileges and benefits befitting the spiritual and administrative center of a world Faith. These provisions of the Agreement are defined in terms that are renewable or renegotiable at certain intervals, lending a flexibility and extension to the Agreement that are among its salient features. The Agreement can thus be regarded as the culmination of a series of preliminary measures of official recognition variously granted by sundry governmental authorities over a span of decades, now confirmed, amplified, extended, and defined in an instrument which places the operation of the Bahá’í World Center on a solid basis in its relations with the Government of Israel and in its other external relations. It thus launches a new phase in the development of the administration of the Faith at its World Center.

23.6 Of unusual importance―and fraught with implications for the future dealings of the Bahá’í community everywhere as the Faith passes through the stages of its evolution until its stature is fully acclaimed by the nations―is the nature of the final negotiations, which engaged our representatives in extensive consultations with highly placed officials, and from which emerged the procedure for sealing the Agreement. For it is a singular fact that the representative of a sovereign government, in the person of its Vice-Premier and Foreign Minister, and the representative of what was justifiably acknowledged as the "world center of a recognized international non-governmental organization" sat down together to sign an "International Agreement," the first such occurrence in the history of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

23.7 That this should have taken place in the Holy Land, to which only some 120 years ago the Founder of that Cause was banished as a prisoner, evokes in us feelings of wonderment and astonished joy. That the Government which was party to so unprecedented an act happens to be that of a people who have only recently returned, after many centuries of exile, to their homeland bespeaks a token of divine favor of incalculable spiritual and historical importance for the Jewish people.

23.8 Dear Friends, the Status Agreement now achieved makes an indelible mark on the Formative Age of our Faith, assuming a special place among the swiftly accumulating evidences of the divine confirmations which have thus far distinguished the opening period of the fourth epoch of that Age. These accompanying signs of God's abounding grace clearly include:

23.8a ― The Conference of Continental Counselors at the World Center at the close of which on 2 January 1986 was announced the opening of the fourth epoch.
23.8b ― The establishment in Jerusalem of an Office of Representation for the Bahá’í International Community to facilitate the relations of the World Center with the Government of Israel.
23.8c ― The successful conclusion of the Seven Year Plan, unforgettable for the stature the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh attained betokening its emergence from obscurity―an emergence resulting largely from the indescribable sacrifices of the beloved friends in Iran.
23.8d ― The completion of the distribution of The Promise of World Peace to heads of state and the outstanding events associated with the promulgation of its contents.
23.8e ― The launching of the Six Year Plan which incorporated the feature of planning involving the consultation of Continental Counselors with National Spiritual Assemblies, and to a large extent, consultation at the grass roots of the national Bahá’í communities, leading to the choice of goals for their countries by these National Spiritual Assemblies.
23.8f ― The first visit of a head of government to the World Center to consult with the Universal House of Justice on issues raised in its Peace Statement.
23.8g ― The participation of Bahá’í publishers in an International Book Fair in the capital of the People's Republic of China.
23.8h ― The dedication of the Mother Temple of the Indian sub-continent, an event which opened new opportunities for the Faith to be proclaimed in the Soviet Union, Eastern bloc countries, and China, and which has induced the visits of high-ranking officials from these and other countries to the Temple.
23.8i ― The establishment in Liberia of the first Bahá’í radio station on the continent of Africa.
23.8j ― The adoption of the design created by Mr. Ḥusayn Amánat for the complex of edifices remaining to be constructed on the Arc on Mount Carmel.

23.9 One practical and spiritually confirming effect of the signing of the Status Agreement is that it brings us within reach of the realization of the beloved Guardian's vision for the Arc on God's Holy Mountain. For with the Agreement in hand formidable obstacles to the execution of the Arc Project have been removed. The conjunction of the completion of the architect's design and the favorable action of the Government thus signals the ripeness of the time to pursue the obligation acutely felt by the entire Bahá’í world to bring to fruition, as soon as possible, the work begun by Shoghi Effendi in the erection of the Archives Building and carried forward in the completion four years ago of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice. The plans to be made and the material requirements for so extraordinary an undertaking will, of course, be communicated to the friends in due course. In the meantime, we are happy to announce that the architect of the Indian Temple, Mr. Fariborz Sahba has been assigned the task of designing the Terraces to be situated below and above the Shrine of the Báb; he has also been appointed Project Manager to execute the design already adopted for the three remaining buildings on the Arc.

23.10 We rejoice to know that the entire company of Bahá’u’lláh's loved ones joins us in prayers of thanksgiving for the manifold blessings He is showering in such profusion on the humble efforts being made in His glorious Name.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Pioneer Goals for Remainder of Six Year Plan

14 MAY 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

24.1 We have been asked by the Universal House of Justice to send this list of pioneer goals, which represents the minimum need for pioneers to settle within the next two years of the Six Year Plan. The goals for the Eastern European countries and the USSR are envisioned to cover the entire period of the Plan.

24.2 Formulated in consultation with the International Teaching Center, this first pioneer call has taken into consideration the requests for pioneers set forth by National Spiritual Assemblies. As the Bahá’í community grows and matures, its needs become more specialized and this call reflects the degree to which pioneers are needed for specific regions and to perform specific functions once they arrive at their posts.

24.3 While the settling of international pioneers is imperative, the House of Justice also wishes to emphasize the importance of homefront pioneering, which, in the majority of countries, is one of the most effective means of promoting and consolidating the Cause. You should feel free to seek assistance from the Continental Boards of Counselors, other National Spiritual Assemblies, and the Continental Pioneer Committees towards the realization of your pioneer goals.

24.4 The Universal House of Justice wishes to express its appreciation of the sacrificial services rendered by both international and homefront pioneers throughout the world. It looks forward to seeing the results of further achievements in the pioneering field and will offer prayers in the Holy Shrines for the successful fulfillment of these sacred responsibilities.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Authority of Local Spiritual Assemblies

14 MAY 1987


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

25.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 9 April 1987 and has asked us to convey the following on its behalf.

25.2 You are assured of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines on behalf of the Native American Indian Bahá’í Institute at Burnt Water for the success of its efforts in raising the number of Navajo Indian believers who are well deepened in the Faith.

25.3 With regard to the two quotations you have cited about the authority of the Local Spiritual Assembly, and your question about what you consider to be contradictory, the two self-explanatory extracts are indeed complementary. In both extracts individual believers and communities are required to uphold the authority of the Local Assembly and obey its decisions. The prerogative of the believer to offer at the Nineteen Day Feast "any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community"[1] does not give him or the community the right to disobey a decision of the Assembly or to act in such a way as to undermine its authority. The point to bear in mind is also included in the first extract from Shoghi Effendi's writings quoted in your letter: "But again it should be stressed that all criticisms and discussions of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the Assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the Community."[2]

25.4 A careful study of the principles of Bahá’í Administration and procedures which confirm the authority of the Assembly and, at the same time, guarantee the individual's right to freedom of expression and provide him with the right of appeal, will clarify the questions you have in this regard.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. LG, no. 288.
  2. LG, no. 288.



Recitation of the Prayer for the Dead

22 MAY 1987


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

26.1 In response to your letter of 15 April 1987 enclosing a letter from Miss . . . concerning the Prayer for the Dead, the Universal House of Justice instructs us to reply as follows.

26.2 The Prayer for the Dead should be read in its entirety by one person, while all others stand in silence. It is not the practice for those present to repeat any part of the prayer in unison.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




International Collaboration Goals

5 JUNE 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

27.1 On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, we send herewith the international collaboration goals for the Six Year Plan, based on your own considerations and on consultations with the International Teaching Center.

27.2 The goals are devised not only to achieve objectives, but to encourage mutual cooperation and sharing of ideas between National Spiritual Assemblies, processes which will strengthen the unity of the Bahá’í world community and enable it to present to mankind the pattern of a truly organic, universal, diversified but united society.

27.3 The House of Justice will offer its fervent prayers at the Holy Shrines that God may guide you in your devoted labors and enable you to carry out the tasks at hand with steadfastness and perseverance to achieve ultimate victory.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Bahá’í Education of Children

6 JUNE 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

28.1 Among the Six Year Plan goals for collaboration between national communities, are those concerned with the Bahá’í education of our children. The goals set out in the attached statement are of three kinds: goals for systematic teacher training, for the preparation of lesson plans for all age groups, and for the creation of teaching materials to support the educational process.

28.2 The group of national communities summoned to this vital and long overdue program of collaboration are those who are already known to be advanced in providing systematic child education, but also include some few now asked to make a positive contribution to this cooperative venture.

28.3 The Universal House of Justice will offer fervent prayers for the success of your labors in carrying out this collaborative project of utmost importance.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Plight of the Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples

15 JUNE 1987


To two individual Bahá’ís

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

29.1 Your letter of 11 April 1987, signed by yourselves, . . . , and . . . , has been received by the Universal House of Justice, and we have been instructed to convey the following response to you.

29.2 The House of Justice is deeply concerned at the plight of so many of the indigenous and aboriginal peoples in various parts of the world who have been denied their rights as a consequence of actions by oppressive majorities. Such inequities and injustices are to be found in many countries. The purpose of the coming of Bahá’u’lláh is to lift the yoke of oppression from His loved ones, to liberate all the people of the world, and to provide the means for their abiding happiness.

29.3 The Bahá’í approach to resolution of the manifold problems affecting human society rests upon the assertion by Bahá’u’lláh that these ills are but various symptoms and side effects of the basic disease, which the Divine Physician has diagnosed to be disunity. Bahá’u’lláh has made it abundantly clear that the first step essential for the health and harmony of the whole of mankind is its unification. He says, "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established" (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 203). By contrast, the approach of most people is the exact opposite: their concentration is on attempts to remedy the multitude of ills besetting mankind, with the expectation that the resolution of these problems will lead ultimately to unity.

29.4 This unity can only be achieved through the spreading of the Faith and the building up of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh states in Gleanings, Section 120:

29.4a That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error.

As Shoghi Effendi states in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 34:

29.4b What else, might we not confidently affirm, but the unreserved acceptance of the Divine Program enunciated, with such simplicity and force as far back as sixty years ago, by Bahá’u’lláh, embodying in its essentials God's divinely appointed scheme for the unification of mankind in this age, coupled with an indomitable conviction in the unfailing efficacy of each and all of its provisions, is eventually capable of withstanding the forces of internal disintegration which, if unchecked, must needs continue to eat into the vitals of a despairing society. . . .

29.5 Such an effort is frequently misunderstood by others who feel that the Bahá’ís are not concentrating on solving the immediate and pressing problems. This concern was addressed by the House of Justice in a letter written on 19 November 1974 to a National Spiritual Assembly:

29.5a . . . Bahá’ís are often accused of holding aloof from the "real problems" of their fellow-men. But when we hear this accusation let us not forget that those who make it are usually idealistic materialists to whom material good is the only "real" good, whereas we know that the working of the material world is merely a reflection of spiritual conditions and until the spiritual conditions can be changed there can be no lasting change for the better in material affairs.
29.5b We should also remember that most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combating every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá’ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils―which are in essence negative―will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá’í, a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a divinely created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustices which have so long bedeviled the world.[1]

29.6 It is contrary to Bahá’í principles for a believer to resort to partisan political action in asserting his rights or in seeking to obtain justice. It would be quite wrong for a Bahá’í to take up arms for a cause he or she believes to be just; such an action would be a direct contradiction of the aims of the Faith and of its laws. Believers are enjoined to deepen themselves more fully in the principles of world order expounded by Shoghi Effendi in his writings, so that they will gradually come to understand the underlying cause of the oppression of minorities, as well as the spiritual forces released by Bahá’u’lláh and animating the work of the Bahá’í community in laboriously erecting and perfecting the administrative institutions which are the means by which justice is being established in the world.

29.7 Bahá’ís are free to work within the existing political and legal system. There is no objection to any Bahá’ís making a legal claim to property or rights through the courts or administrative agencies to which he has access.

29.8 With the emergence of the Faith from obscurity, there are increasing opportunities to bring Bahá’í principles to the attention of governments and to offer advice in the promotion of human rights. It is essential that such endeavors be carried out under the aegis of the National Spiritual Assembly. The believers are free to make suggestions to their National Assemblies or to recommend a course of action, but they must trust in the wisdom of their National Spiritual Assemblies to decide whether or not such action is appropriate.

29.9 The House of Justice hopes the above makes clear the Bahá’í position on the important issue raised in your letter. We are asked to assure you that prayers will be offered at the Sacred Threshold for all those concerned with this distressing problem.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. MUHJ, no. 151.6-7.



Conduct of a National Convention

19 JUNE 1987


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

30.1 The Universal House of Justice has considered your letter of 10 June 1987 and has instructed us to send you the following reply.

30.2 The House of Justice was very pleased to know how fruitful you have found the consultation at your recent National Conventions to have been.

30.3 The Convention is, of course, free to decide that every suggestion made by a delegate be recorded and conveyed to the National Spiritual Assembly. Beyond this, the National Assembly members who are present are always free to note down for their own interest and further discussion any points that are made. It is by no means necessary to have a formal consultation and vote on every recommendation. It is important to remember, however, that the National Convention is not a conference, it is a consultative institution of the Faith; therefore, consultation and formal voting on recommendations should not be ruled out altogether. There may, for example, be disagreement among the delegates on certain proposals put forward, and it would be fruitful for the matter to be discussed and voted upon so that the National Spiritual Assembly will know the recommendation of the Convention as a whole on those issues.

30.4 Detailed aspects of Convention procedure which are not defined in the National Bahá’í Constitution, being secondary in nature, are within the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly to decide. The House of Justice feels that it is generally advisable not to be rigid and to leave it to the discretion of the Convention officers, or the Convention itself, to decide which recommendations need to be discussed and voted upon and which may be recorded without more ado. A distinction should be made in the record between recommendations of the entire Convention and those which are merely the proposals of individual delegates.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




The Bahá’í Role in Promoting World Peace

21 JUNE 1987


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Finland

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

31.1 . . . The outstanding success of the peace conference in Finlandia Hall which your community sponsored last autumn remains one of the highlights among the various Bahá’í peace events held throughout the world since the issuance of The Promise of World Peace. The House of Justice is happy to know of your continuing effort to keep the subject of world peace before the Finnish people; however, it advises you to be careful in choosing what such follow-up efforts should be and offers the following comments on your specific question about promoting the idea of a world conference of government leaders.

31.2 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 The 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.

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

31.3a 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."[1]

31.4 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 teaching and consolidation plans and also through their professional and other regular activities to promulgate universal peace.

31.5 It is a source of great satisfaction to the House of Justice to see with what intensity the peace initiative of the Bahá’í community is being pursued by the friends, who must now accelerate their activities at the grassroots level. 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 worldwide 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.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. See WOB, pp. 161-206.



Requirements for Membership in the Bahá’í Community

28 JUNE 1987


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New Zealand

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

32.1 Your letter of 25 May 1987 concerning Mr. . . . has been received by the Universal House of Justice, which has directed us to reply as follows.

32.2 In considering the status of believers such as Mr. . . . , it is necessary to review the requirements for membership in the Bahá’í community. The basic considerations are set out by the Guardian in his statement:

32.2a . . . I would only venture to state very briefly and as adequately as present circumstances permit the principal factors that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether a person may be regarded a true believer or not. Full recognition of the station of the Forerunner, the Author, and the True Exemplar of the Bahá’í Cause, as set forth in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Testament; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to, whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of our Beloved's sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as well as the form of the present day Bahá’í administration throughout the world―these I conceive to be the fundamental and primary considerations that must be fairly, discreetly and thoughtfully ascertained before reaching such a vital decision. . . .
(Bahá’í Administration, p. 90, October 24, 1925)

This specification was restated by the Universal House of Justice in addressing the issue of acceptance of new believers, when it wrote:

31.2b Those who declare themselves as Bahá’ís should become enchanted with the beauty of the teachings, and touched by the love of Bahá’u’lláh. The declarants need not know all the proofs, history, laws, and principles of the Faith, but in the process of declaring themselves they must, in addition to catching the spark of faith, become basically informed about the Central Figures of the Faith, as well as the existence of laws they must follow and an administration they must obey.
(From a letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 13 July I964)[1]

32.3 It follows that individuals who do not satisfy these requirements cannot be regarded as members of the Bahá’í community, irrespective of whatever statements they might make concerning the nature of their belief in Bahá’u’lláh. Such a situation arises, in some instances, when a person claims to accept the station of Bahá’u’lláh but does not accept the authority of the Administrative Institutions. The Guardian clarified this matter in a letter written on his behalf, stating:

32.3a . . . To accept the Cause without the administration is like to accept the teachings without acknowledging the divine station of Bahá’u’lláh. To be a Bahá’í is to accept the Cause in its entirety. To take exception to one basic principle is to deny the authority and sovereignty of Bahá’u’lláh, and therefore is to deny the Cause. . . .
(Letter to a National Spiritual Assembly, 30 May 1930)

32.4 If you feel that Mr. . . . does not accept "the authority and sovereignty of Bahá’u’lláh" as explained above, despite the statements he might make asserting his acceptance of the Bahá’í Faith, you should remove his name from the list of members and regard him as being a non-Bahá’í.

32.5 If you feel that the continued association of the Bahá’ís with Mr. . . . is potentially damaging to their belief or is detrimental to the unity of the community, you could well consider advising the believers to avoid association with him.

32.6 The House of Justice advises you to deal with this matter in a straightforward way, avoiding any actions which might serve to increase Mr. . . .'s sense of his own importance or which might needlessly antagonize him and hence provoke him into active opposition of the Institutions.

32.7 The House of Justice will offer its prayers at the Sacred Threshold for your guidance in resolving this matter.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. See MUHJ, no. 18.



Functioning of an Executive Committee of a National Spiritual Assembly

15 JULY 1987


To a National Spiritual Assembly

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

33.1 The Universal House of Justice has studied carefully the information conveyed in your minutes about the functioning of your Executive Committee. It has asked us to convey the following on its behalf.

33.2 It is entirely appropriate for your Assembly to appoint an Executive Committee and to authorize it to take action between National Spiritual Assembly meetings. While a committee of this type can be of considerable value to your Assembly, great care and close monitoring is required to guard against its becoming a source of difficulties which could ultimately weaken the authority of the Assembly.

33.3 Such a committee may be authorized to handle emergency matters which legitimately cannot await consultation by the full membership of the National Assembly, or matters which are of a routine nature and which can be dealt with through straightforward application of existing policy. Care is needed to ensure that the Executive Committee does not stray inadvertently beyond these bounds, and the functioning of the Committee should be a matter of careful review by the Assembly periodically.

33.4 The National Assembly has the responsibility to select the Assembly members who are to comprise the Committee. Valid meetings of the Executive Committee can take place only when all of its appointed members are duly notified. All members of the Assembly who have taken no part in the Executive Committee meeting should be informed of the decisions and actions taken, as soon after the meeting as practicable. This will afford them the opportunity to express the view as to whether the matter considered by the Committee should properly await a full meeting of the National Assembly. There may, of course, be instances when the urgency of a matter is such that a Committee decision has to be implemented before the other Assembly members can be informed; such instances are likely to be rare, and the Committee should be prepared to explain to the next meeting of the Assembly why it felt it necessary to proceed with such speed.

33.5 Furthermore, the matters considered by the Executive Committee should be placed on the agenda for the next full meeting of the National Assembly for ratification or otherwise. The House of Justice does not feel that it is sufficient to regard Executive Committee minutes as being "approved in principle" in the course of subsequent National Assembly consultation, nor does it feel that it is correct to delay submission of a full report of Executive Committee decisions to other than the next Assembly meeting.

33.6 As stated above, the House of Justice recognizes the value of your having an Executive Committee to avoid taking up the limited Assembly consultation time with routine matters, and to provide a mechanism by which urgent matters can be dealt with. However, it cautions you to be aware that there are dangers that such a committee could create a caucus within the Assembly membership which comes to the meetings with matters already discussed and minds made up. The Assembly must be vigilant to ensure that such an unfortunate condition does not occur, and that the Executive Committee does not unintentionally take over and handle the work of the National Assembly itself. Limits on the functioning of the Committee should be set and observed, and the definition of what constitutes an urgent matter constantly monitored.

33.7 With the progressive development of efficient means of communication, it should be possible to involve a greater number of the Assembly members, if not all, in consultation on emergency issues without the necessity for all members to be physically present in the same location. While such facilities may not exist at the present time in . . . , their future development will doubtless remove some of the difficulties associated with decisions being made on urgent matters by a committee rather than by the full Assembly.

33.8 The House of Justice commends to your careful attention the points made in this letter, and assures you of its prayers for the confirmation of your devoted efforts to serve the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Passing of Knight of Bahá’u’lláh ‘Azíz Navídí

6 AUGUST 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies in Africa

34.1 GRIEVED PASSING DEVOTED DEDICATED SERVANT CAUSE KNIGHT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH ‘AZÍZ NAVÍDÍ. HIS FEARLESS DEFENSE OPPRESSED BAHÁ’ÍS CRADLE FAITH HIGHLY PRAISED BY BELOVED GUARDIAN. HIS CONTINUOUS SERVICES PIONEERING FIELD CROWNED BY OUTSTANDING SUCCESSES GAIN RECOGNITION FAITH BY MANY AFRICAN COUNTRIES OBTAINED THROUGH HIS UTTER RELIANCE BAHÁ’U’LLÁH AND HIS INDEFATIGABLE RESOURCEFULNESS SACRIFICIAL EFFORTS, ALL SHED LUSTER UPON HIS LOVING MEMORY. REQUESTING NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY UGANDA HOLD MEMORIAL SERVICE MOTHER TEMPLE AFRICA RECOGNITION UNIQUE SERVICES THAT CONTINENT. ASSURE ARDENT PRAYERS PROGRESS SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM. ADVISE HOLD MEMORIAL GATHERING LONDON.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Support of Bahá’í Funds Exclusively by Believers

20 AUGUST 1987


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

35.1 Your letter of 22 July 1987 has been received by the Universal House of Justice, which has asked us to respond as follows.

35.2 The provisions set out in the letter of 17 July 1978 written to your National Spiritual Assembly on behalf of the House of Justice remain applicable, including the principle that it is improper for Bahá’ís to solicit funds from non-Bahá’ís in the name of the Faith for any purpose.

35.3 The following passage from the Pen of Bahá’u’lláh: "It would be impossible to conceive any act more contemptible than soliciting, in the name of the one true God, the riches which men possess"[1] clearly indicates what the attitude of the Bahá’ís should be.

35.4 There is, however, a wide range of fund-raising activities in which Bahá’ís may engage. For example, Bahá’í institutions are free to approach governments or institutions which hold themselves out as wishing to fund charitable activities, to apply for grants to assist in specific humanitarian projects. A Bahá’í school which has both Bahá’í and non-Bahá’í pupils is free to raise funds for its own development by such activities as concerts, etc., or by appeals to parents; in this instance, a humanitarian institution is clearly identified, and the funds are being collected in its name rather than in the name of the Faith. Another example is that of a Bahá’í who wishes to sell an item he owns to the general public for a fair market price; he is free to use the proceeds for any purpose he wishes, including contributing them all, or in part, to the Bahá’í Fund, provided he does not represent to the public that the sale is being conducted for the benefit of the Faith.

35.5 There would be no objection to the Bahá’í community's joining with others to give a concert or undertake some other similar activity to raise funds for a deserving charity. Such activities or even the making of donations to humanitarian work should be, and should be seen to be, acts of sincere assistance and cooperation. In choosing to engage in such fund-raising, a Bahá’í community would need to ensure that assisting the charity would not have partisan political implications or support purposes contrary to the interests of the Faith. It would need to watch carefully that its involvement in such activities does not divert its energies from the vital work of teaching the Faith and consolidating its Institutions.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 100.2.


Plans for Development of the Buildings on the Arc and Terraces

31 AUGUST 1987


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the world

Beloved Friends,

36.1 Nigh on one hundred years ago, Bahá’u’lláh walked on God's Holy Mountain and revealed the Tablet of Carmel, the Charter of the World Center of His Faith, calling into being the metropolis of the Kingdom of God on Earth. Through decades of oppression and expansion, persecution and emancipation, His followers have successfully labored to carry His message to the remotest regions of the earth, to erect the structure of His Administrative Order, and to proclaim to mankind the divinely prescribed cure for all its ills. In the past eight years the agonies suffered by His lovers in Iran have awakened the interest of a slumbering world and have brought His Faith to the center of human attention.

36.2 On this same Mount Carmel ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, with infinite pains, raised the Mausoleum of the Báb on the spot chosen by His Father, and laid to rest within its heart the sacred remains of the Prophet Herald of the Faith, establishing a Spiritual Center of immeasurable significance. In accordance with the same divine command, Shoghi Effendi embellished the Shrine with an exquisite shell and then, under its protecting wing, began the construction of the Administrative Center of the Faith, to comprise five buildings in a harmonious style of architecture, standing on a far-flung Arc centering on the Monuments of the Greatest Holy Leaf, her Mother and Brother. The first of these five buildings, the International Archives, was completed in the beloved Guardian's lifetime. The second, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, now stands at the apex of the Arc. Plans for the remaining three were prepared in fulfillment of a goal of the Seven Year Plan, and are now being detailed.

36.3 As indicated in our letter of 30 April 1987, the way is now open for the Bahá’í world to erect the remaining buildings of its Administrative Center, and we must without delay stride forward resolutely on this path.

36.4 Five closely related projects demand our attention: the erection of the three remaining buildings on the Arc and, added now to these, the construction of the terraces of the Shrine of the Báb and the extension of the International Archives Building. A brief description of each of these will convey an impression of their significance for the Faith.

36.4aThe Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb. In His plans for the development of Mount Carmel, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá envisaged nineteen monumental terraces from the foot of the mountain to its crest, nine leading to the terrace on which the Shrine of the Báb itself stands, and nine above it. These plans were often referred to by Shoghi Effendi, and he completed in preliminary form the nine terraces constituting the approach to the Shrine from the central avenue of the former German Templar Colony.
36.4bThe International Teaching Center will be the seat of that institution which is specifically invested with the twin functions of the protection and propagation of the Cause of God. The institution itself, referred to by the beloved Guardian in his writings, was established in June 1973, bringing to fruition the work of the Hands of the Cause of God residing in the Holy Land and providing for the extension into the future of functions with which that body had been endowed.
36.4cThe Center for the Study of the Texts. This building will be the seat of an institution of Bahá’í scholars, the efflorescence of the present Research Department of the World Center, which will assist the Universal House of Justice in consulting the Sacred Writings, and will prepare translations of and commentaries on the authoritative texts of the Faith.
36.4dThe International Archives Building. We have decided to construct, westwards, an extension to the basement of the present Archives Building to provide accommodation for the central office of the ever-growing Archives at the World Center. This institution is charged with responsibility for the preservation of the Sacred Texts and Relics and the historic documents of the Cause of God.
36.4eThe International Bahá’í Library. This Library is the central depository of all literature published on the Faith, and is an essential source of information for the institutions of the World Center on all subjects relating to the Cause of God and the conditions of mankind. In future decades its functions must grow, it will serve as an active center for knowledge in all fields, and it will become the kernel of great institutions of scientific investigation and discovery.

36.5 It is impossible at this stage to give an accurate estimate of the cost of these projects. All that we can now say is that in the immediate future two objectives have to be met: to accumulate rapidly a reserve of fifty million dollars on which plans for the construction can realistically begin to be implemented, and to provide an income of between twenty and twenty-five million dollars for the Bahá’í International Fund for each of the next ten years. As the work proceeds, contracts are signed and costs can be accurately determined, further information will be announced.

36.6 The great work of constructing the terraces, landscaping their surroundings, and erecting the remaining buildings of the Arc will bring into being a vastly augmented World Center structure which will be capable of meeting the challenges of coming centuries and of the tremendous growth of the Bahá’í community which the beloved Guardian has told us to expect. Already we see the effect of the spiritual energies which the completion of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice has released, and the new impulse this has given to the advancement of the Faith. Who can gauge what transformations will be effected as a result of the completion of each successive stage of this great enterprise? The Faith advances, not at a uniform rate of growth, but in vast surges, precipitated by the alternation of crisis and victory. In a passage written on 18 July 1953, in the early months of the Ten Year Crusade, Shoghi Effendi, referring to the vital need to ensure through the teaching work a "steady flow" of "fresh recruits to the slowly yet steadily advancing army of the Lord of Hosts," stated that this flow would "presage and hasten the advent of the day which, as prophesied by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, will witness the entry by troops of peoples of divers nations and races into the world."[1] This day the Bahá’í world has already seen in Africa, the Pacific, in Asia and in Latin America, and this process of entry by troops must, in the present plan, be augmented and spread to other countries for, as the Guardian stated in this same letter, it "will be the prelude to that long-awaited hour when a mass conversion on the part of these same nations and races, and as a direct result of a chain of events, momentous and possibly catastrophic in nature and which cannot as yet be even dimly visualized, will suddenly revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh."[2] This is the time for which we must now prepare ourselves; this is the hour whose coming it is our task to hasten.

36.7 At this climacteric of human history, we are called upon to rise up in sacrificial endeavor, our eyes on the awe-inspiring responsibilities which such developments will place upon Bahá’í institutions and individual believers in every land, and our hearts filled with unshakeable confidence in the guiding Hand of the Founder of our Faith. That our Beloved Lord will arouse His followers in every land to a mighty united effort is our ardent prayer at the Sacred Threshold.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. CF, p. 117.
  2. CF, p. 115.



Execution of Two Bahá’ís in Iran

1 OCTOBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

37.1 WITH PROFOUND SORROW AND DEEP SENSE OUTRAGE WE CONVEY REPORT JUST RECEIVED AT WORLD CENTER THAT ON 28 SEPTEMBER TWO BAHÁ’ÍS WERE EXECUTED IN TEHRAN. MR. ARDISHÍR AKHTÁRÍ AND MR. AMÍR-ḤUSAYN NÁDIRÍ WERE FORMER MEMBERS OF NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF IRAN. BOTH HAD BEEN IN PRISON SINCE 12 SEPTEMBER 1984. DEATH SENTENCES WERE PASSED WHILE SECRETARY GENERAL OF UNITED NATIONS WAS VISITING IRAN.

37.2 MESSRS. AKHTÁRÍ AND NÁDIRÍ, AS WELL AS MR. SURÚSH JABBÁRÍ AND MR. ABU’L-QÁSIM SHÁYIQ WHO WERE EXECUTED ON 3 MARCH 1987, WERE AMONG GROUP OF 14 BAHÁ’Í PRISONERS WHOSE FATE HAS BEEN SOURCE ACUTE CONCERN TO BAHÁ’ÍS IRAN SINCE BEGINNING THIS YEAR. . . .

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Release of a Compilation on Crisis and Victory

11 OCTOBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

38.1 We enclose a copy of a new compilation entitled Crisis and Victory, which was prepared by the Research Department at our instruction.[1] The purpose of this compilation is to orient the believers to the processes, within and without the Faith, that will accompany its progressive emergence on the world stage.

38.2 Tribulations attend and fuel the unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. In describing the sweep of Bahá’í history, the beloved Guardian identified a pattern of growth which is characterized by "a series of pulsations, of alternating crises and triumphs, leading it [the Faith] ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny."[2]

38.3 As the stature of the Cause of God increases in the eyes of the world, the process of its emergence into the limelight of public attention, resulting, in large part, from the indescribable sacrifices of the beloved friends in Iran, is accelerated, and the Faith, gradually and inevitably, is projected into the next stage of its divinely propelled development.

38.4 The shelter of its relatively imperceptible expansion enabled the foundations of the Faith to be established and consolidated, and the community to attain a level of stability. Now, with the entrance of the Faith on the world scene, we call upon the believers everywhere not to allow themselves, even for one moment, to be perturbed by any increase in opposition to the Cause. Rather let them deepen their understanding of the creative interaction between crisis and victory in the evolution of the Faith, and increase their awareness of the power inherent in the Cause to surmount all obstacles that threaten its progress. Armed with this knowledge, let them seize the opportunities that arise and embrace the God-given challenges, confident in the invincibility of the Faith and the steady onward march of its Institutions.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 1:131-85.
  2. GPB, p. 409.


Arrest of Six Bahá’ís in Iran

22 OCTOBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

39.1 WE CONVEY WITH PROFOUND SADNESS NEWS OF THE ARREST IN TEHRAN ON 20 OCTOBER OF SIX BAHÁ’ÍS. OUR DISTRESS IS DEEPENED BY FACT THAT TWO OF THESE, MR. JAMÁLU’D-DIN KHÁNJÁNÍ AND MR. ḤASAN MAḤBÚBÍ, WERE MEMBERS OF THE FORMER NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY, AND THAT THE ARRESTS OF SUCH PERSONS HAVE COME SO SOON AFTER THE EXECUTION ON 28 SEPTEMBER OF TWO OTHER FORMER NATIONAL ASSEMBLY MEMBERS.

39.2 THE OTHER FOUR INCLUDED IN THE ARRESTS ARE MR. CHANGÍZ FANÁ’ÍYÁN, MR. SUHRÁB ḤÁJÍYÁN, MR. BAHMAN SAMANDARÍ AND HIS WIFE, MRS. RUZÍTÁ SAMANDARÍ. ALL SIX WERE TOGETHER IN A PRWATE HOME WHEN THEY WERE ARRESTED AND TAKEN TO AN UNKNOWN DESTINATION. . . .

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message to the Bahá’í Publishers' Conference, London

26 OCTOBER 1987


To Bahá’í Publishers' Conference (London)

40.1 WE EXTEND A WARM WELCOME TO ALL PARTICIPANTS IN THIS TIMELY CONFERENCE ON ENGLISH-LANGUAGE BAHÁ’Í PUBLISHING, THE FIRST OF THIS NATURE SINCE THAT HELD IN MONTREAL FOLLOWING THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE OF SEPTEMBER 1982. WE COMMEND BOTH THE INITIATIVE TAKEN BY THE UNITED KINGDOM PUBLISHING TRUST IN INAUGURATING THE PRESENT HISTORIC GATHERING AND THE ENTHUSIASTIC RESPONSE IT GENERATED AMONG NATIONAL COMMUNITIES EUROPE AND BEYOND WHO ARE CONCERNED WITH THE VITAL QUESTIONS IT WILL CONSIDER. THIS DEGREE OF RESPONSE BETOKENS RECOGNITION ON PART OF PARTICIPANTS OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THE MAJOR OBJECTIVE OF THE SIX YEAR PLAN SET OUT IN OUR LETTER OF 25 FEBRUARY 1986 CALLING FOR A WORLDWIDE INCREASE IN THE TRANSLATION, PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION AND USE OF BAHÁ’Í LITERATURE. AS YOU BEGIN YOUR DELIBERATIONS WE HASTEN TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE VALUE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THE ROLE BAHÁ’Í PUBLISHING AGENCIES PLAY IN FULFILLING THIS GOAL AS WELL AS IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF IMPROVEMENTS IN THE DISTRIBUTION AND THE INCREASED PRODUCTION OF LITERATURE. WE LOOK FORWARD EAGERLY TO THE REPORT OF YOUR GATHERING AND PARTICULARLY YOUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AN UNPRECEDENTED INCREASE IN THE AVAILABILITY OF THE BAHÁ’Í WRITINGS WHOSE CAPACITY TO UPLIFT, HEAL, INSPIRE AND DIRECT IS THE VERY BEDROCK OF ALL OUR TEACHING EFFORTS.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Further Information on Bahá’ís Arrested in Iran

30 OCTOBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

41.1 RE OUR MESSAGE OF 21 OCTOBER ANNOUNCING ARREST OF SIX BAHÁ’ÍS IRAN, WE NOW HAVE FOLLOWING INFORMATION.

41.2 FIVE OF THE SIX HAVE BEEN FOUND EVIN PRISON. THEY HAVE BEEN VISITED BY FRIENDS AND APPEAR TO BE WELL.

41.3 WE HAVE LEARNED THAT MRS. RUZÍTÁ SAMANDARÍ HAD NOT ACTUALLY BEEN ARRESTED. ANOTHER BAHÁ’Í WOMAN, A RELATIVE OF ONE PRISONER, WAS ARRESTED SHORTLY AFTER ARREST FIVE MEN AND SUBSEQUENTLY RELEASED.

41.4 FATE FORMER MEMBERS NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY GREATLY FEARED AS INDICATED OUR PREVIOUS MESSAGE.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Joining the Network on Conservation and Religion

3 NOVEMBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

42.1 JOYFULLY ANNOUNCE THAT DURING OCTOBER BAHÁ’Í FAITH BECAME SIXTH WORLD RELIGION TO JOIN THE NETWORK ON CONSERVATION AND RELIGION WHICH WAS FORMED SEPTEMBER 1986 AT EVENT IN ASSISI, ITALY, TO MARK 25TH ANNIVERSARY FOUNDING WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE (WWF) WHICH IS WORLD'S LARGEST PRIVATE NATURE CONSERVATION ORGANIZATION. BAHRIs WERE INVOLVED IN SERIES OF RELATED EVENTS BETWEEN 3-5 OCTOBER 1987. AMONG THESE WAS CEREMONY IN WINCHESTER, ENGLAND, IN WHICH BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY ISSUED OFFICIAL BARU STATEMENT ON NATURE AND FORMALLY ENTERED NETWORK, SIGNALING NEW LEVEL COLLABORATION BETWEEN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL INTEREST GROUPS. BBC WORLD SERVICE BROADCAST NEWS THIS DEVELOPMENT SEVERAL TIMES. HIGHLIGHT THESE EVENTS WAS SPECIAL MEETING 5 OCTOBER IN GLAND, SWITZERLAND, WORLD HEADQUARTERS WWF, WHEN HRH THE PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH, PRESIDENT OF WNW RECEIVED COPY BAHÁ’Í STATEMENT ON NATURE FROM AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM WHO HEADED BAHÁ’Í DELEGATION TO MEETING. PRINCE PHILIP RESPONDED WITH PARTICULAR INTEREST TO COMMENTS BY AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM ON IMPORTANCE OF INVOLVING INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN CONSERVATION AT VILLAGE LEVEL.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Resignation of Two Members of the Universal House of Justice

17 NOVEMBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Beloved Friends,

43.1 In view of the steadily increasing burden of work resting upon the members of the Universal House of Justice, which will undoubtedly grow still heavier during the years immediately ahead, Mr. David Hofman and Mr. Borrah Kavelin, after prayerful consideration as to the best interests of the Cause of God, have, in light of their advanced ages, requested permission to relinquish their membership on this body in accordance with Article V.2.(c) of the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice.

43.2 The House of Justice has regretfully accepted the resignation of these beloved members, who have rendered a quarter of a century of continuous and highly valued service in the Holy Land. They will thus be able to continue their services to the Cause of God free from the inexorable pressure of work at the World Center. Since, however, the next international election is so near, we have requested them to remain in office until that time, and this they have readily agreed to.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Activities of Bahá’ís in Relation to Governments

14 DECEMBER 1987


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

44.1 At the conference of representatives for external affairs held in Langenhain last month, a question was raised about Bahá’í relations towards governments and the principle of noninvolvement in politics. The representative of the Universal House of Justice referred to a letter dealing with this question which was sent to an individual at the direction of the House of Justice. We have now been requested to send to each of you for your information a copy of that letter dated 23 June 1987. It is enclosed.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


23 JUNE 1987

To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

44.2 The Universal House of Justice received your letter . . . inquiring about permissible activities of the Bahá’ís in relation to governments. . . . We have been asked to convey the following.

44.3 Your letter touches upon a subject which, as time passes, will increasingly engage the attention of the House of Justice in accordance with its responsibilities as explicitly assigned in the Holy Texts. For instance, Bahá’u’lláh states:

44.3a According to the fundamental laws which We have formerly revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and other Tablets, all affairs are committed to the care of just kings and presidents and of the Trustees of the House of Justice.
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 93)

Elsewhere He states:

44.3b 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 Kit4b-i-Aqdas, p. 89)

And yet again He asserts:

44.3c All matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book.
(Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 27)

Furthermore, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is reported to have said in a talk:

44.3d He [Bahá’u’lláh] has ordained and established the House of Justice, which is endowed with a political as well as a religious function, the consummate union and blending of church and state. This institution is under the protecting power of Bahá’u’lláh Himself.
(The Promulgation of Universal Peace, 1982 ed., p. 455)

44.4 As can be seen from the current situation in the world and the current state in the development of the Bahá’í community, statements such as these indicate a future stage in the functioning of the House of Justice and of the operation of our world community; but in the meantime, the House of Justice will determine, as particular circumstances warrant, how the Bahá’ís and their national and local institutions will relate to their respective governments.

44.5 The general policy already enunciated by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pages 63-67, should be scrupulously upheld by the friends. However, as the Faith emerges from obscurity, the application of certain aspects of this policy will require the clarification of the House of Justice. With the passage of time, practices in the political realm will definitely undergo the profound changes anticipated in the Bahá’í writings. As a consequence, what we understand now of the policy of noninvolvement in politics will also undergo a change; but as Shoghi Effendi has written, this instruction, "at the present stage of the evolution of our Faith, should be increasingly emphasized, irrespective of its application to the East or to the West."

44.6 In view of the necessity of the Bahá’í community to relate to governments, whether for reasons of defending its persecuted members or of responding to opportunities to be of service, a correct understanding of what is legitimate Bahá’í action in the face of the policy of noninterference with government affairs is bound to be difficult to achieve on the part of individual friends. The force of circumstances, operating internally and externally, is pressing the Bahá’í community into certain relationships with governments. Hence, it is important that decisions as to the conduct of such relationships be made by authorized institutions of the Faith and not by individuals. In matters of this kind, given the utter complexity of human affairs with which the Bahá’í community must increasingly cope both spiritually and practically, individual judgment is not sufficient.

44.7 The support of passage of the Genocide Convention in the United States Senate, referred to in your letter, is a case in point. The particular circumstances which influenced the National Spiritual Assembly's involvement in the matter were delicate and compelling. There may be other situations in which significant questions being considered by a government are so intimately related to fundamental principles of our Faith, and the conditions are such, that the maintenance of strict neutrality on the part of the Bahá’í community would not be in the best interests of either the Faith or society. Awareness of this probability should, however, not cause the friends to go at a tangent and take such sensitive matters into their own hands. In any such situation the National Spiritual Assembly must weigh carefully the consequences, pro and con, of any contemplated action and carry out its decision, preferably with the foreknowledge and consent of the House of Justice. The friends must learn to appreciate this new situation, to acquiesce in the prerogative of their elected institutions to decide on questions involving or affecting relations with their governments, and evince confidence in the incontrovertible promise of Bahá’u’lláh to protect His community.

44.8 Considering the unusual challenges facing National Spiritual Assemblies, particularly resulting from the persecutions in Iran and the issuance of the Peace Statement, the Universal House of Justice will surely continue to guide these institutions to relate to their governments in ways which will preserve the essentials of the policy of noninvolvement in politics.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Release of a Compilation on the Covenant

25 DECEMBER 1987


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

45.1 We enclose a copy of a new compilation entitled The Covenant, which was prepared by the Research Department at our instruction.[1]

45.2 The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, the 100th anniversary of the inception of which will be commemorated in 1992, must be the subject of sustained and concentrated study. Instituted by the Revealer of God's Word in this Day to direct and canalize the forces released by His Revelation, the Covenant in essence guarantees the continuation of divine guidance after the ascension of the Manifestation through the presence in the world of an institution to which all the friends must turn.

45.3 So important for the development of the Faith at this time is the understanding of the Covenant in all its aspects that it has been designated as a major theme of the Six Year Plan. It is our earnest hope that the new compilation, consisting of extracts which convey essential elements of the Covenant, will serve not only to deepen the understanding and love of the believers for the Covenant, but also to increase their level of conviction, and their loyalty to the Cause and its Institutions. To this end you will undoubtedly wish to arrange for the compilation to be made available to the friends and, if translation is required, to have it translated in full into the main language or languages used in the areas under your jurisdiction. Should it be necessary to translate the text into vernacular languages of limited usage, you are free of course to prepare an abridged form by selecting extracts from the compilation.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 1:111-29.



Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination

14 JANUARY 1988


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Mariana Islands

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

46.1 Your letter of 25 November 1987 to the United Nations Office of the Bahá’í International Community concerning the issues of "indigenous rights" and "self-determination" was passed to the Universal House of Justice, which has instructed us to convey the following reply.

46.2 With the coming of Bahá’u’lláh and the emphasis that His Revelation gives to the oneness of mankind, it is inevitable that peoples in all parts of the world who once seemed dormant or who have suffered discrimination would rise to assert their place in society. As with so many fundamental social issues, those concerning "indigenous rights" and "self-determination" find, for Bahá’ís, their proper expression and resolution within the context of the principle of the oneness of mankind. However, as is often the case, such issues are expressed in political forms which are unacceptable to Bahá’ís, who conscientiously avoid partisanship, subversion, and the corrupt attitudes and involvements associated with politics. At the same time, it is recognized that important issues of society fall within the province of government and perforce engage political processes currently in practice. Increasingly, as the Faith emerges from obscurity the Bahá’í community will find itself compelled to assist in finding solutions to the social problems afflicting humanity; it will have to be wise in its actions to avoid the pitfalls of politics.

46.3 Generally, the wisest course for the Bahá’í community in controversial situations is to remain uninvolved; however, at times when primary Bahá’í principles are at the heart of an issue, the decision of the National Assembly concerned should not necessarily be to observe silence but, rather, to take action which rises above the partisan political manifestations of the controversy. The Assembly may, for instance, present its own statement to the authorities, setting forth its views on essential issues on the basis of principle, letting the circumstances determine how the principle is best to be applied. If you feel that such action would be appropriate in the situation you face with respect to the issues raised in your letter, you may wish to draft such a statement, but before releasing it, kindly check with the World Center.

46.4 Concerning indigenous rights, it stands to reason that indigenous people are entitled to all the human rights accorded other peoples. For example, they should be guaranteed the full rights of citizenship, and all acts of discrimination against them, which may have developed over the years, should be eliminated. At the same time, it would be unseemly for the demands for their rights to make, on the basis of their indigenousness, a special claim to exclusive rights and privileges which exceed the necessity to redress injustices. The Bahá’í attitude on such questions should be guided by Bahá’u’lláh's teaching that "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."[1] Thus it should be borne in mind that while upholding indigenous rights may well deserve the support of the Bahá’ís, often the viewpoints of those claiming such rights are so circumscribed and narrow that Bahá’ís find it difficult to wholeheartedly subscribe to them.

46.5 The United Nations Office of the Bahá’í International Community will send you the statements requested in your letter.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 117



Request Special Prayers for Bahá’ís in Iran

4 FEBRUARY 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

47.1 We feel that the period of the Fast from 2 March to 21 March is an appropriate time for the Bahá’ís of the world to offer special prayers on behalf of the Bahá’ís of Iran. Not only has the heroic perseverance of those tried and persecuted friends in the Cradle of the Faith attracted great admiration from Bahá’ís and non-Bahá’ís alike, but also their courage and steadfastness have inspired other Bahá’í communities to increase their services to the Threshold of Bahá’u’lláh.

47.2 Bahá’u’lláh has stated: "Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things."[1] Your daily prayers on behalf of the dear friends in Iran will have great significance during the Fast. We will beseech Bahá’u’lláh to answer the prayers of His beloved followers from all over the world that the present suffering of the Iranian Bahá’ís will be alleviated.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. PM, no. 85



Election of the Universal House of Justice - Riḍván 1988

1 MAY 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

49.1 NEWLY ELECTED MEMBERS UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE ‘ALÍ NAKHJAVÁNÍ, GLENFORD MITCHELL, HUSHMAND FATHEAZAM, IAN SEMPLE, PETER KHAN, DAVID RUHE, HUGH CHANCE, HOOPER DUNBAR, ADIB TAHERZADEH.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Purchase of Area Near the Grave of the Guardian

10 MAY 1988


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

50.1 HIGHLY PLEASED ANNOUNCE COMPLETION AGREEMENT WITH OWNERS NEW SOUTHGATE CEMETERY PURCHASE LARGE AREA ADJACENT RESTING PLACE BELOVED GUARDIAN. OFFERING PRAYERS GRATITUDE SACRED THRESHOLD OPPORTUNITY ENSURE PROTECTION PRECINCTS HALLOWED SPOT.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Appointment of International Teaching Center Members

19 MAY 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

51.1 REJOICE ANNOUNCE APPOINTMENT COUNSELOR MEMBERS INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER FOR FIVE-YEAR TERM BEGINNING 23 MAY 1988: DR. FARZAM ARBAB, DR. MAGDALENE CARNEY, MR. HARTMUT GROSSMANN, MR. MAS’ÚD KHAMSÍ, MRS. LAURETFA KING, MR. DONALD ROGERS, MRS. ISOBEL SABRI, MRS. JOY STEVENSON, MR. PETER VUYIYA. VIEW SUPREME IMPORTANCE ACCELERATION TEACHING WORK THIS STAGE FORMATIVE AGE, NUMBER COUNSELOR MEMBERS NOW RAISED TO NINE. EXPRESS PROFOUND GRATITUDE MR ‘AZÍZ YAZDÍ AND MISS ANNELIESE BOPP FOR THEIR ASSIDUOUS DEVOTED SELF-SACRIFICING SERVICES TEACHING CENTER OVER SO MANY YEARS.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Membership on the Universal House of Justice

31 MAY 1988


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New Zealand

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

52.1 We have been informed of a paper presented at a recent New Zealand Bahá’í Studies conference, which raises the possibility that the ineligibility of women for membership on the Universal House of Justice may be a temporary provision subject to change through a process of progressive unfoldment of the divine purpose. We present the following points as a means of increasing the friends' understanding of this established provision of the Order of Bahá’u’lláh that membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men.

52.2 The system of Bahá’í Administration is "indissolubly bound with the essential verities of the Faith" as set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. A unique feature of this system is the appointment of authorized interpreters, in the persons of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian, to provide authoritative statements on the intent of Bahá’u’lláh's Revelation. Writing in "The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh," Shoghi Effendi stated that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian "share . . . the right and obligation to interpret the Bahá’í teachings." In relation to his own function as interpreter, he further stated that "the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá."[1] The significance of this important provision is that the religion of God is safeguarded and protected against schism and its essential unity is preserved.

52.3 The function of the divinely appointed interpreters is evident in the progressive disclosure and clarification of the details of the Bahá’í teachings concerning the membership of the Universal House of Justice. Bahá’u’lláh in His Writings ordained both the Universal House of Justice and Local Houses of Justice. However, in many of His laws He refers simply to "the House of Justice" and its members as "Men of Justice," leaving open for later clarification to which level or levels of the whole institution each law would apply. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Center of Bahá’u’lláh's Covenant and the unerring Interpreter of His Word, not only provided for the establishment of National Spiritual Assemblies, to be designated at some future time as Secondary Houses of Justice, but He also outlined the means by which the Universal House of Justice was to be elected. In His Will and Testament the Master wrote:

52.3a And now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. . . . By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one. . . .
(p. 14)

And in one of His Tablets He had already written:

52.3b At whatever time all the beloved of God in each country appoint their delegates, and these in turn elect their representatives, and these representatives elect a body, that body shall be regarded as the Supreme House of Justice.[2]

In the following passage, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to membership of the "House of Justice" being restricted to men, without a specific designation of the level or levels of the institution to which this provision applied:

52.3c The House of justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God's, which will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.
(Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 80[3])

Later the Master clarified that it was only the Universal House of Justice whose membership was confined to men. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote:

52.3d According to the ordinances of the Faith of God, women are the equals of men in all rights save only that of membership on the Universal House of Justice, for as hath been stated in the text of the Book, both the head and the members of the House of Justice are men. However, in all other bodies, such as the Temple Construction Committee, the Teaching Committee, the Spiritual Assembly, and in charitable and scientific associations, women share equally in all rights with men.
(from a newly translated Tablet)

52.4 Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf to an individual believer, provided the following authoritative elaboration of this theme:

52.4a As regards your question concerning the membership of the Universal House of Justice: there is a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He definitely states that the membership of the Universal House is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be fully revealed and appreciated in the future. In the local as well as the National Houses of Justice, however, women have the full right of membership. It is, therefore, only to the International House that they cannot be elected. . . .
(28 July 1936)

52.5 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself, it should also be noted, had, as attested by the above-cited extracts from His Tablets, affirmed that the ineligibility of women for election to the Universal House of Justice had been set out "in the text of the Book" and "in the explicit text of the Law of God." In other words, this provision was established by none other than Bahá’u’lláh Himself.

52.6 Further, in response to a number of questions about eligibility for membership and procedures for election of the Universal House of Justice, the Guardian's secretary writing on his behalf distinguished between those questions which could be answered by reference to the "explicitly revealed" Text and those which could not. Membership of the Universal House of Justice fits into the former category. The letter stated:

52.6a The membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men. Fixing the number of the members, the procedures for election and the term of membership will be known later, as these are not explicitly revealed in the Holy Text.
(27 May 1940)

Hence, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian progressively have revealed, in accordance with divine inspiration, the meaning and implications of Bahá’u’lláh's seminal teachings. Their interpretations are fundamental statements of truth which cannot be varied through legislation by the Universal House of Justice.

52.7 The progressive clarification of the details of the laws concerning membership of the Houses of Justice has been accompanied by a gradual implementation of their provisions. For example, based on the Texts available to the believers at the time, membership of Local Houses of Justice was initially confined to men. When the Master began to elaborate on the differences between the levels of this Institution He clarified that the exclusion of women applied only to the Universal House of Justice. Thereafter, women became eligible for service as members of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies. Women in the West, who already enjoyed the benefits of education and opportunities for social involvement, participated in this form of service much sooner than, for instance, their Bahá’í sisters in Iran, who were accorded this right only in 1954, "removing thereby the last remaining obstacle to the enjoyment of complete equality of rights in the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Persian Bahá’í Community. "[4] It is important to note that the timing of the introduction of the provisions called for by the interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian in relation to the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, rather than constituting a response to some external condition or pressure, was dictated by the principle of progressive implementation of the laws, as enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh Himself. Concerning the implementation of the laws, Bahá’u’lláh wrote in one of His Tablets:

52.7a Indeed the laws of God are like unto the ocean and the children of men as fish, did they but know it. However, in observing them one must exercise tact and wisdom. . . . One must guide mankind to the ocean of true understanding in a spirit of love and tolerance.[5]

As mentioned earlier, the law regarding the membership of the Universal House of Justice is embedded in the Text and has been merely restated by the divinely appointed interpreters. It is therefore neither amenable to change nor subject to speculation about some possible future condition.

52.8 With regard to the status of women, the important point for Bahá’ís to remember is that in face of the categorical pronouncements in Bahá’í Scripture establishing the equality of men and women, the ineligibility of women for membership of the Universal House of Justice does not constitute evidence of the superiority of men over women. It must also be borne in mind that women are not excluded from any other international institution of the Faith. They are found among the ranks of the Hands of the Cause. They serve as members of the International Teaching Center and as Continental Counselors. And, there is nothing in the Text to preclude the participation of women in such future international bodies as the Supreme Tribunal.

52.9 Though at the present time it may be difficult for the believers to appreciate the reason for the circumscription of membership on the Universal House of Justice to men, we call upon the friends to remain assured by the Master's promise that clarity of understanding will be achieved in due course. The friends, both women and men, must accept this with faith that the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh will aid them and the institutions of His World Order to see the realization of every principle ordained by His unerring Pen, including the equality of men and women, as expounded in the Writings of the Cause.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. WOB, p. 151.
  2. CC 1:322.
  3. SWAB, no. 38.4.
  4. MBW, p. 65.
  5. KA, p. 6.



First Meeting of New International Teaching Center

16 JUNE 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

53.1 WITH GRATEFUL HEARTS CONVEY TO THE FOLLOWERS OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH THROUGHOUT WORLD JOYFUL NEWS FIRST MEETING NEWLY APPOINTED INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER.

53.2 ON MORNING OF FRIDAY THIRD JUNE THE HANDS OF THE CAUSE AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM AND ‘ALÍ AKBAR FURÚTAN, THE MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE AND THE NINE COUNSELOR MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER GATHERED IN BAHJÍ AND ENTERED THE MOST HOLY SHRINE FOR PRAYERS BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE MANSION OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH WHERE THEIR FIRST JOINT MEETING WAS HELD IN ROOM ASSOCIATED WITH SHOGHI EFFENDI. ALL WERE ACUTELY CONSCIOUS OF THE INESTIMABLE BLESSING OF INITIATING THEIR CONSULTATIONS IN THESE SACRED PRECINCTS.

53.3 IN THIS AND SUBSEQUENT CONSULTATIONS DURING THE DAYS WHICH FOLLOWED, THE TASKS OF THE INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER IN FACE OF THE TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITIES FOR TEACHING NOW BEFORE THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD WERE REVIEWED, AND NEW PATTERNS OF OPERATION WERE FORMULATED.

53.4 REJOICE NEW VISTAS OPENING FOR VICTORIOUS PROMOTION CAUSE GOD.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



New Members of Universal House of Justice, International Teaching Center, and Continental Boards of Counselors

16 JUNE 1988


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

54.1 Recent events have given rise to eleven vacancies in the membership of the Continental Boards of Counselors. Mr. Adib Taherzadeh has been elected to the Universal House of Justice; Dr. Farzam Arbab, Mr. Hartmut Grossmann, Mrs. Lauretta King, Mr. Donald Rogers, Mrs. Joy Stevenson and Mr. Peter Vuyiya have been appointed as Counselor members of the International Teaching Center.

54.2 In addition, ill health has sadly made it impossible for Dr. Chellie Sundram to continue his services as a Counselor for Asia, Dr. Iraj Ayman and Mrs. Thelma Khelghati have been compelled by circumstances beyond their control to leave, respectively, the continents of Asia and Africa in which they were serving, and Mr. Adam Thorne has had to resign, for personal reasons, from the Continental Board of Counselors for Europe. We wish first to express our profound appreciation of the contributions these dear friends have made to the advancement of the Cause of God during their years of service as Counselors, and we pray that the blessings of Bahá’u’lláh will surround them in all they undertake in the future.

54.3 We now have great happiness in announcing the appointment of the following believers as Continental Counselors:

Africa: Mr. George Allen and Mr. Hizzaya Hissani
The Americas: Mr. Gustavo Correa, Mrs. Jacqueline Delahunt and Dr. William Roberts
Asia: Dr. Kim Myung-Jung and Mrs. Shantha Sundram
Australasia: Mrs. Violette Haake
Europe: Mr. Patrick O'Mara, Mrs. Elisabeth Mühlschlegel and Dr. Shapoor Rassekh.

54.4 Furthermore, as two of the Counselors now appointed to the International Teaching Center had been Trustees of their respective Continental Funds, we now appoint Counselor Peter McLaren to be Trustee of the Continental Fund in the Americas, and Counselor Ben Ayala to be Trustee in Australasia.

54.5 As was abundantly apparent at the time of the Sixth International Bahá’í Convention and in the meetings of the Counselors which followed, the Bahá’í world has entered on a stage of the greatest importance in its development, when the teaching work throughout the world must be in the forefront of the thoughts of every ardent follower of Bahá’u’lláh. The challenges and opportunities are great, and are increasing in number with each passing day. We supplicate the Almighty to grant an unprecedented measure of divine confirmation to the institutions of His embryonic World Order and to His faithful believers who are laboring for the diffusion of His Message in every region of the globe.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




The Importance of Reaching Out to Native Communities

25 JULY 1988


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

55.1 Your letter of 30 March 1988 has been received by the Universal House of Justice and we have been asked to respond as follows.

55.2 It is abundantly evident, from innumerable passages in Bahá’u’lláh's Revelation, that His Message is intended for the whole of mankind and that every nation and race in human society should regard Him as a Manifestation of God Whose teachings are directed to their upliftment and happiness. He has written that "The summons and the message which We gave were never intended to reach or to benefit one land or one people only."[1] The people of minority backgrounds who have experienced oppression and subjugation might well contemplate the words of Bahá’u’lláh in which He states that "The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty."[2] The Bahá’í community should regard itself as having been commissioned by Bahá’u’lláh to deliver His Message to the whole of humankind, in obedience to His injunction to "Proclaim the Cause of thy Lord unto all who are in the heavens and on the earth."[3] Such considerations should guide the Canadian Bahá’í community in disabusing the Native people of the misconception that the Bahá’í Faith represents one of the "outside agencies" which are perceived as not having the best interests of the Native community at heart.

55.3 Your letter raises the issue of cultural diversity within the Bahá’í community. The Faith seeks to maintain cultural diversity while promoting the unity of all peoples. Indeed, such diversity will enrich the tapestry of human life in a peaceful world society. The House of Justice supports the view that in every country the cultural traditions of the people should be observed within the Bahá’í community as long as they are not contrary to the Teachings. The general attitude of the Faith towards the traditional practices of various peoples is expressed in the following statement of Shoghi Effendi's, published in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, U.S. 1982 edition, pages 41―42.

55.3a Let there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Bahá’u’lláh. . . . It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. . . . Its watchword is unity in diversity such as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself has explained:
55.3b "Consider the flowers of a garden. . . . Diversity of hues, form and shape enricheth and adorneth the garden, and heighteneth the effect thereof. . . ."

55.4 Of course, many cultural elements everywhere inevitably will disappear or be merged with related ones from their societies, yet the totality will achieve that promised diversity within world unity. We can expect much cultural diversity in the long period before the emergence of a world commonwealth of nations in the Golden Age of Bahá’u’lláh's new world order. Much wisdom and tolerance will be required, and much time must elapse until the advent of that great day.

55.5 A Bahá’í community in a Native area of Canada, seeking to maintain the distinctive features of the Native culture, must doubtless find it on many occasions confronted with the question of whether or not it should participate in traditional activities, such as festivals, which may be regarded as having a religious origin long ago. . . .

55.6 When a Spiritual Assembly is faced with questions of possible conflict between tribal practices and Bahá’í law, it should distinguish between aspects of tribal community life which are related to fundamental laws (such as monogamy) and matters of lesser importance, from which the friends can and should extricate themselves gradually. Furthermore, the House of Justice has offered the advice that the institutions of the Faith should be careful not to press the friends to arbitrarily discard those local traditions which are harmless and often colorful characteristics of particular peoples and tribes. Were a new Bahá’í suddenly to cease following the customs of his people, it is possible that they might misunderstand the true nature of the Bahá’í Faith, and the Bahá’ís could be regarded as having turned against the traditions of the land. However, Bahá’ís should exercise vigilance, with the aid of the institutions of the Faith, to avoid inadvertent involvement in events which appear at first sight to be purely cultural and traditional in nature, but which are, in fact, held as a cover for politically oriented gatherings. The weaning away of the Bahá’ís from customs and traditions which have been established among communities for centuries takes time and is a gradual process. While an Assembly should avoid rigidity in these matters, it should also not compromise when the interests of the Faith and its integrity and independence are at stake.

55.7 You have also raised a number of questions concerning the rights of indigenous people such as the Natives of Canada. It is quite clear that Native persons are fully entitled to all the human rights accorded to the majority population; for example, they should be guaranteed the full rights of citizenship, and all acts of discrimination against them, which may have developed over the years, should be eliminated. However, the freedom for indigenous people to exercise their rights carries with it the corollary need to recognize the rights of all others to the same expression. The implications for indigenous people also include: realization of the virtues of cross-cultural influences; appreciation of the values of other cultures as accruing to the wealth of human experience and the freedom of all to share in such values without necessarily giving up their respective identities; avoidance of parochial attitudes which degenerate into ethnic and cultural prejudices; and, above all, appreciation of the necessity to maintain a global perspective within which the particulars of indigenous expression can find an enduring context. From a Bahá’í perspective it would not be proper for indigenous people to make a special claim to exclusive rights and privileges which exceed the necessity to redress injustices. The Bahá’í attitude is guided by the statement of Bahá’u’lláh's that "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."[4]

55.8 The Bahá’í approach to eradication of the multitude of problems afflicting mankind, including the oppressive treatment of indigenous people, is outlined in the enclosed letter of 15 June 1987 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a Bahá’í couple in . . . , a copy of which was sent to you at that time.[5] Your attention is directed to the emphasis upon the achievement of unity as a basis for an enduring resolution of the problems of mankind. It should also be noted that while Bahá’ís are called upon not to take partisan political action in their quest for their rights or for the correction of injustices they have experienced, they are free to take legal action or to appeal to administrative agencies for their rights. It is the responsibility of the Bahá’ís, in their contact with the Native people, to explain that the Bahá’í approach, far from being indifferent to the real needs of disadvantaged peoples, represents a fundamental solution derived from the diagnosis by the All-Knowing Physician of the manifold ills of human society. . . .

55.9 In addition, enclosed is a letter of 14 January 1988 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Mariana Islands,[6] which addresses a number of issues arising from their concerns about the relationship with an indigenous rights movement in the Mariana Islands. Your attention is directed to the third paragraph of this letter, which deals with the question of Bahá’í statements on issues associated with indigenous rights, and which relates directly to some questions raised in your letter of 30 March 1988.

55.10 The final point made in your letter concerns the use of the Bahá’í system of administration as an example of how an Indian community should conduct its affairs, in light of the fact that the Bahá’ís may soon be the majority of the people in some Native communities. The Universal House of Justice has pointed out, in response to questions from Bahá’í communities in which there has been large-scale growth in village areas, that Bahá’í administration and the civil administration are two separate entities; the Local Spiritual Assembly does not automatically become the village council even though most, or even all, of the citizens of a village are Bahá’ís. However, the Bahá’ís in a village, irrespective of their numbers, can well offer, by precept and by their own practice, the model of consultation as an ideal means by which human beings may carry out their collective decision-making within the framework of the oneness of mankind.

55.11 When the Bahá’í community in a village is a significant proportion of the population, it has a wide range of opportunities to be an example and an encouragement of means of improving the quality of life in the village. Among the initiatives which it might take are measures to foster child education, adult literacy and the training of women to better discharge their responsibilities as mothers and to play an enlarged role in the administrative and social life of the village; encouragement of the people of the village to join together in devotions, perhaps in the early morning, irrespective of their varieties of religious belief; support of efforts to improve the hygiene and the health of the village, including attention to the provision of pure water, the preservation of cleanliness in the village environment, and education in the harmful effects of narcotic and intoxicating substances. No doubt other possibilities will present themselves to the village Bahá’í community and its Local Spiritual Assembly.

55.12 The House of Justice commends the diligent efforts being made by your Assembly to address the issues associated with presentation of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh to the dearly loved Native people of Canada and the consolidation of their communities. It will offer prayers in the Holy Shrines for the success of your endeavors.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 63.8.
  2. GWB, no. 45.
  3. GWB, no. 129.2.
  4. GWB, no. 117.
  5. See no. 30, pp. 58-59.
  6. See no. 47, p. 81.



Release of a Compilation on Living a Chaste and Holy Life

30 SEPTEMBER 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

56.1 We enclose a copy of a new compilation entitled A Chaste and Holy Life, which was prepared by the Research Department at the request of the Universal House of Justice.[1]

56.2 Given the rapidly declining moral standards in the world, the House of Justice has instructed us to emphasize that it considers it both necessary and timely for the Bahá’í friends to increase their understanding of and adherence to the standard of a chaste and holy life that is upheld in our Teachings. To this end, the House of Justice urges the National Spiritual Assemblies to make the compilation available to the friends on the widest possible scale, having it translated, as necessary, in whole or in part, into the major languages of the country. It is also important that the friends be encouraged to study the implications set forth in these extracts, and to endeavor strenuously to exemplify these noble standards in their personal lives.

56.3 As the range of activities and projects in which the Bahá’í community engages necessarily continues to expand and diversify, the House of Justice believes it is vital that the moral and ethical teachings of our Faith be neither overlooked nor mistakenly regarded as being of less importance than our social, administrative and metaphysical teachings. Indeed, Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, stressed the need for such balance and for according appropriate weight to the moral principles of the Faith.

56.4 Too much emphasis is often laid on the social and economic aspects of the Teachings; but the moral aspect cannot be overemphasized.

56.5 In the current climate of social and moral decline, at a time when, in the world at large, moral decay, hypocrisy and compromise are endemic, and words, unsupported by actions, have lost their value, the believers are challenged to become "Bahá’ís in character as well as in belief,"[2] to strive determinedly to exemplify the Bahá’í standard, to become distinguished for their moral excellence, and, by the quality of their individual lives and the nature of their Bahá’í community life, to demonstrate the vitalizing power of the Cause not only to bring peace, security and true spiritual happiness to the individual heart, but to transform society as well. Shoghi Effendi repeatedly emphasized the importance of the force of example. A letter written on his behalf states:

56.5a His constant hope is that the believers will conduct themselves, individually and in their Bahá’í Community life, in such a manner as to attract the attention of others to the Cause. The world is not only starving for lofty principles and ideals, it is, above all, starving for a shining example which the Bahá’ís can and must provide.[3]
With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 1:45-64.
  2. CC 2:13.
  3. CC 1:382.



Remarkable Numbers of New Enrollments

13 OCTOBER 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

57.1 REJOICE EVE WORLDWIDE CELEBRATIONS ANNIVERSARY BIRTH BLESSED BÁB EVIDENCES GROWING NUMBER NATIONAL COMMUNITIES ENGAGED TEACHING INITIATIVES LEADING TO ENTRY BY TROOPS. THIRTY-FIVE NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES HAVE SPONTANEOUSLY REPORTED ENROLLMENTS TOTALING QUARTER MILLION NEW BELIEVERS SINCE RIḌVÁN. GRATIFIED NOTEWORTHY CONSOLIDATION ACTIVITIES ESSENTIAL SAFEGUARD HARD-WON VICTORIES. HOUR PROPITIOUS FRIENDS ASSEMBLIES EVERYWHERE REDOUBLE SACRIFICIAL HIGHLY MERITORIOUS EFFORTS CONCENTRATE THEIR ATTENTION ON ALL-IMPORTANT TEACHING ACTIVITIES DESTINED CARRY BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S WORLD-REDEEMING FAITH INTO LONG-AWAITED PERIOD UNIVERSAL RESPONSE HIS LIFE-GIVING CALL.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Success of Collaboration with Network on Conservation and Religion

4 NOVEMBER 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

58.1 FULLY ONE YEAR SINCE ACCEPTANCE BAHÁ’Í FAITH INTO NETWORK ON CONSERVATION AND RELIGION OF WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE, WE ARE IMMENSELY PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE OUTSTANDING SUCCESS FUND-RAISING BANQUET AND RECEPTION ON 26 OCTOBER IN LONDON COSPONSORED BY WORLD WIDE FUND FOR NATURE AND BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. HELD AT SYON HOUSE, ANCESTRAL HOME OF DUKES OF NORTHUMBERLAND, EVENT LAUNCHED "ARTS AND NATURE" PROGRAM CONCEIVED BY HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH, AS MEANS OF DRAWING ON VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS TO ENLIST PUBLIC SUPPORT OF CRITICAL ENVIRONMENTAL NEEDS AROUND WORLD.

58.2 AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM, REPRESENTING BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, GAVE CAPTIVATING BRIEF ADDRESS IN WHICH SHE APPEALED TO HER DISTINGUISHED HEARERS TO JOIN IN COMMON EFFORT TO CONSERVE NATURE. IN HIS SUBSEQUENT SPEECH, PRINCE PHILIP REFERRED REPEATEDLY TO POINTS SHE HAD MADE.

58.3 ATTRACTING SOME MOST INFLUENTIAL FIGURES IN BRITISH SOCIAL AND PUBLIC LIFE AMONG ITS 200 GUESTS, EVENT BROUGHT TOGETHER NUMBER OF LEADING EUROPEAN ARTISTS IN PERFORMANCES ON THEME "ART AND NATURE," WHICH WAS FURTHER HIGHLIGHTED BY DISPLAY AT SYON HOUSE OF WORKS OF ART FROM ROYAL COLLECTION WHICH HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN HAD LOANED FOR THE EVENING.

58.4 OUR SPIRITS STIRRED BY POWERFUL INDICATIONS THUS GIVEN OF GREAT P0TENTIALITIES FOR SERVICE WHICH BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY WORLDWIDE CAN AND MUST RENDER IN MAKING ITS DISTINCTIVE CONTRIBUTIONS TO CONSERVATION AND ENRICHMENT PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT OUR BOUNTIFULLY ENDOWED PLANET.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Execution of Two Bahá’ís in Iran

13 DECEMBER 1988


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

59.1 It is with heavy heart that the Universal House of Justice instructed us to inform you that two believers who had been imprisoned in Iran for some time, have recently been executed.

59.2 Mr. Bihnám Páshá’í, a resident of Simnán and member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of that city, had been arrested on 19 November 1983 in Tehran. In the summer of 1988 he was transferred to Evin prison and his family has not been permitted to see him since July 1988. The news of his execution was communicated to his family on 3 December 1988. He was 49 years old.

59.3 Mr. Páshá’í was from a Muslim family and accepted the Faith some years 93 ago, the only member of his family to do so. It is assumed that this was the reason for his execution, for the authorities in Iran are known to be very severe on those who independently accept the Faith, considering them to be apostates according to Islamic law.

59.4 The other Bahá’í recently executed was Mr. Íraj Afshín. He was arrested late in 1986 and his family has not been allowed to see him since 17 July 1988. News of his execution was given to his family on 26 November 1988. He was 55 years old.

59.5 Mr. Afshín was a colonel in the Iranian Air Force, and the authorities maintain that his execution was on political grounds due to his connections with royalists, members of a group opposed to the Government. It is established, however, that Mr. Afshín had not engaged in political activities, that he firmly maintained his faith throughout his imprisonment, and that he was assigned to a prison ward where other Bahá’ís were kept.

59.6 To date, neither the exact charges, nor the dates of execution nor the places of burial are known for these two latest victims.

59.7 It was also reported that 36 Bahá’í prisoners had recently been in great danger of execution. They were housed in a prison ward together with many mujaheddin and communists. One night, when their fellow prisoners were rounded up for execution, the 36 Bahá’ís were also taken out with them, blindfolded and lined up to be shot. Among them were two very old Bahá’ís, Mr. Vafá’í of Isfahan and Mr. Maẓlúmí of Sangsar. Casually, one of the guards asked these two men what they had done at their age to deserve being shot. They answered that they were Bahá’ís, whereupon their executioners said that they had no orders to shoot Bahá’ís. Fortunately, the other Bahá’ís overheard these remarks and all stepped forward identifying themselves as such and, in this way, they were spared. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Individual Rights and Freedoms

29 DECEMBER 1988


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in the United States of America

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

60.1 We have noticed with concern evidences of a confusion of attitudes among some of the friends when they encounter difficulties in applying Bahá’í principles to questions of the day. On the one hand, they acknowledge their belief in Bahá’u’lláh and His teachings; on the other, they invoke Western liberal democratic practices when actions of Bahá’í institutions or of some of their fellow Bahá’ís do not accord with their expectations. At the heart of this confusion are misconceptions of such fundamental issues as individual rights and freedom of expression in the Bahá’í community. The source of the potential difficulties of the situation appears to us to be an inadequacy of Bahá’í perspective on the part of both individual believers and their institutions.

60.2 Recognizing the immense challenge you face to resolve such confusion, we pause to reflect with you on these issues in search of a context in which relevant fundamental questions may be discussed and understood in the community.

60.3 The extraordinary capacities of the American nation, as well as the superb stewardship of the Bahá’í community within it, have repeatedly been extolled in the writings of our Faith. In His Tablets and utterances, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Center of the Covenant, projected a compelling vision of the world-embracing prospects of that richly endowed country. "The American nation," He averred, "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."[1] In another assertion addressed to the Bahá’í community itself, He uttered words of transcendent importance: ". . . your mission," He affirmed, "is unspeakably glorious. Should success crown your enterprise, America will assuredly evolve into a center from which waves of spiritual power will emanate, and the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established."[2]

60.4 Shoghi Effendi, in various statements, celebrated the remarkable achievements and potential glories of that specially blessed community, but was moved to issue, in The Advent of Divine Justice, a profound warning which is essential to a proper understanding of the relation of that Bahá’í community to the nation from which it has sprung. "The glowing tributes," he solemnly wrote, "so repeatedly and deservedly paid to the capacity, the spirit, the conduct, and the high rank, of the American believers, both individually and as an organic community, must, under no circumstances, be confounded with the characteristics and nature of the people from which God has raised them up. A sharp distinction between that community and that people must be made, and resolutely and fearlessly upheld, if we wish to give due recognition to the transmuting power of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, in its impact on the lives and standards of those who have chosen to enlist under His banner. Otherwise, the supreme and distinguishing function of His Revelation, which is none other than the calling into being of a new race of men, will remain wholly unrecognized and completely obscured."[3] It is the far-reaching, transformative implications of this distinction which we especially invite you to contemplate.

60.5 The vantage point that gives us perspective and is the foundation of our belief and actions rests on our recognition of the sovereignty of God and our submission to His will as revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, His supreme Manifestation for this promised Day. To accept the Prophet of God in His time and to abide by His bidding are the two essential, inseparable duties which each soul was created to fulfill. One exercises these twin duties by one's own choice, an act constituting the highest expression of the free will with which every human being has been endowed by an all-loving Creator.

60.6 The vehicle in this resplendent Age for the practical fulfillment of these duties is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; it is, indeed, the potent instrument by which individual belief in Him is translated into constructive deeds. The Covenant comprises divinely conceived arrangements necessary to preserve the organic unity of the Cause. It therefore engenders a motivating power which, as the beloved Master tells us, "like unto the artery, beats and pulsates in the body of the world." "It is indubitably clear," He asserts, "that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant."[4] Through it the meaning of the Word, both in theory and practice, is made evident in the life and work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the appointed Interpreter, the perfect Exemplar, the Center of the Covenant. Through it the processes of the Administrative Order―"this unique, this wondrous System"―are made to operate.[5]

60.7 In emphasizing its distinctiveness, Shoghi Effendi has pointed out that "this Administrative Order is fundamentally different from anything that any Prophet has previously established, inasmuch as Bahá’u’lláh has Himself revealed its principles, established its institutions, appointed the person to interpret His Word and conferred the necessary authority on the body designed to supplement and apply His legislative ordinances." In another statement, he maintains that "It would be utterly misleading to attempt a comparison between this unique, divinely conceived Order and any of the diverse systems which the minds of men, at various periods of their history, have contrived for the government of human institutions." "Such an attempt," he felt, "would in itself betray a lack of complete appreciation of the excellence of the handiwork of its great Author."[6]

60.8 The lack of such appreciation will detract from the perspective of anyone who measures Bahá’í administrative processes against practices prevalent in today's society. For notwithstanding its inclination to democratic methods in the administration of its affairs, and regardless of the resemblance of some of its features to those of other systems, the Administrative Order is not to be viewed merely as an improvement on past and existing systems; it represents a departure both in origin and in concept. "This newborn Administrative Order," as Shoghi Effendi has explained, "incorporates within its structure certain elements which are to be found in each of the three recognized forms of secular government, without being in any sense a mere replica of any one of them, and without introducing within its machinery any of the objectionable features which they inherently possess. It blends and harmonizes, as no government fashioned by mortal hands has as yet accomplished, the salutary truths which each of these systems undoubtedly contains without vitiating the integrity of those God-given verities on which it is ultimately founded."[7]

60.9 You are, no doubt, conversant with the Guardian's expatiations on this theme. Why, then, this insistent emphasis? Why this repeated review of fundamentals? This emphasis, this review, is to sound an appeal for solid thinking, for the attainment of correct perspectives, for the adoption of proper attitudes. And these are impossible without a deep appreciation of Bahá’í fundamentals.

60.10 The great emphasis on the distinctiveness of the Order of Bahá’u’lláh is not meant to belittle existing systems of government. Indeed, they are to be recognized as the fruit of a vast period of social evolution, representing an advanced stage in the development of social organization. What motivates us is the knowledge that the supreme mission of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the Bearer of that Order, is, as Shoghi Effendi pointed out, "none other but the achievement of this organic and spiritual unity of the whole body of nations," indicating the "coming of age of the entire human race."[8] The astounding implication of this is the near prospect of attaining an age-old hope, now made possible at long last by the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. In practical terms, His mission signals the advent of "an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced."[9] It is a fresh manifestation of the direct involvement of God in history, a reassurance that His children have not been left to drift, a sign of the outpouring of a heavenly grace that will enable all humanity to be free at last from conflict and contention to ascend the heights of world peace and divine civilization. Beyond all else, it is a demonstration of that love for His children, which He knew in the depth of His "immemorial being" and in the "ancient eternity" of His Essence, and which caused Him to create us all.[10] In the noblest sense, then, attention to the requirements of His World Order is a reciprocation of that love.


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60.11 It is this perspective that helps us to understand the question of freedom and its place in Bahá’í thought and action. The idea and the fact of freedom pervade all human concerns in an infinitude of notions and modes. Freedom is indeed essential to all expressions of human life.

60.12 Freedom of thought, freedom of expression, freedom of action are among the freedoms which have received the ardent attention of social thinkers across the centuries. The resulting outflow of such profound thought has exerted a tremendous liberating influence in the shaping of modern society. Generations of the oppressed have fought and died in the name of freedom. Certainly the want of freedom from oppression has been a dominant factor in the turmoil of the times: witness the plethora of movements which have resulted in the rapid emergence of new nations in the latter part of the twentieth century. A true reading of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh leaves no doubt as to the high importance of these freedoms to constructive social processes. Consider, for instance, Bahá’u’lláh's proclamation to the kings and rulers. Can it not be deduced from this alone that attainment of freedom is a significant purpose of His Revelation? His denunciations of tyranny and His urgent appeals on behalf of the oppressed provide unmistakable proof. But does not the freedom foreshadowed by His Revelation imply nobler, ampler manifestations of human achievement? Does it not indicate an organic relationship between the internal and external realities of man such as has not yet been attained?

60.13 In his summary of significant Bahá’í teachings, Shoghi Effendi wrote that Bahá’u’lláh "inculcates the principle of 'moderation in all things'; declares that whatsoever, be it 'liberty, civilization and the like,' 'passeth beyond the limits of moderation' must 'exercise a pernicious influence upon men'; observes that western civilization has gravely perturbed and alarmed the peoples of the world; and predicts that the day is approaching when the 'flame' of a civilization 'carried to excess' 'will devour the cities.'"[11]

60.14 Expounding the theme of liberty, Bahá’u’lláh asserted that "the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal"; that "liberty causeth man to overstep the bounds of propriety, and to infringe on the dignity of his station"; that "true liberty consisteth in man's submission unto My commandments." "We approve of liberty in certain circumstances," He declared, "and refuse to sanction it in others." But He gave the assurance that, "Were men to observe that which We have sent down unto them from the Heaven of Revelation, they would, of a certainty, attain unto perfect liberty." And again, He said, "Mankind in its entirety must firmly adhere to whatsoever hath been revealed and vouchsafed unto it. Then and only then will it attain unto true liberty."[12]

60.15 Bahá’u’lláh's assertions clearly call for an examination of current assumptions. Should liberty be as free as is supposed in contemporary Western thought? Where does freedom limit our possibilities for progress, and where do limits free us to thrive? What are the limits to the expansion of freedom? For so fluid and elastic are its qualities of application and expression that the concept of freedom in any given situation is likely to assume a different latitude from one mind to another; these qualities are, alas, susceptible to the employment alike of good and evil. Is it any wonder, then, that Bahá’u’lláh exhorts us to submission to the will of God?

60.16 Since any constructive view of freedom implies limits, further questions are inevitable: What are the latitudes of freedom in the Bahá’í community? How are these to be determined? Because human beings have been created to "carry forward an ever-advancing civilization," the exercise of freedom, it may be deduced, is intended to enable all to fulfill this purpose in their individual lives and in their collective functioning as a society.[13] Hence whatever in principle is required to realize this purpose gauges the latitudes or limits of freedom.

60.17 Contemplating Bahá’u’lláh's warning that "whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence,"[14] we come to appreciate that the Administrative Order He has conceived embodies the operating principles which are necessary to the maintenance of that moderation which will ensure the "true liberty" of humankind. All things considered, does the Administrative Order not appear to be the structure of freedom for our Age? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers us comfort in this thought, for He has said that "the moderate freedom which guarantees the welfare of the world of mankind and maintains and preserves the universal relationships is found in its fullest power and extension in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh."[15]

60.18 Within this framework of freedom a pattern is set for institutional and individual behavior which depends for its efficacy not so much on the force of law, which admittedly must be respected, as on the recognition of a mutuality of benefits, and on the spirit of cooperation maintained by the willingness, the courage, the sense of responsibility, and the initiative of individuals―these being expressions of their devotion and submission to the will of God. Thus there is a balance of freedom between the institution, whether national or local, and the individuals who sustain its existence.

60.19 Consider, for example, the Local Spiritual Assembly, the methods of its formation and the role of individuals in electing it. The voter elects with the understanding that he is free to choose without any interference whomever his conscience prompts him to select, and he freely accepts the authority of the outcome. In the act of voting, the individual subscribes to a covenant by which the orderliness of society is upheld. The Assembly has the responsibility to guide, direct and decide on community affairs and the right to be obeyed and supported by members of the community. The individual has the responsibility to establish and maintain the Assembly through election, the offering of advice, moral support and material assistance; and he has the right to be heard by it, to receive its guidance and assistance, and to appeal from any Assembly decision which he conscientiously feels is unjust or detrimental to the interests of the community.

60.20 But occupation with the mechanics of Bahá’í Administration, divorced from the animating spirit of the Cause, leads to a distortion, to an and secularization foreign to the nature of the Administration. Equally significant to the procedures for election―to further extend the example―is the evocation of that rarefied atmosphere of prayer and reflection, that quiet dignity of the process, devoid of nominations and campaigning, in which the individual's freedom to choose is limited only by his own conscience, exercised in private in an attitude that invites communion with the Holy Spirit. In this sphere, the elector regards the outcome as an expression of the will of God, and those elected as being primarily responsible to that will, not to the constituency which elected them. An election thus conducted portrays an aspect of that organic unity of the inner and outer realities of human life which is necessary to the construction of a mature society in this new Age. In no other system do individuals exercise such a breadth of freedom in the electoral process.


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60.21 The equilibrium of responsibilities implied by all this presupposes maturity on the part of all concerned. This maturity has an apt analogy in adulthood in human beings. How significant is the difference between infancy and childhood, adolescence and adulthood! In a period of history dominated by the surging energy, the rebellious spirit and frenetic activity of adolescence, it is difficult to grasp the distinguishing elements of the mature society to which Bahá’u’lláh beckons all humanity. The models of the old world order blur vision of that which must be perceived; for these models were, in many instances, conceived in rebellion and retain the characteristics of the revolutions peculiar to an adolescent, albeit necessary, period in the evolution of human society. The very philosophies which have provided the intellectual content of such revolutions―Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Mill come readily to mind―were inspired by protest against the oppressive conditions which revolutions were intended to remedy.

60.22 These characteristics are conspicuous, for example, in the inordinate skepticism regarding authority, and consequently, in the grudging respect which the citizens of various nations show toward their govermnents; they have become pronounced in the incessant promotion of individualism, often to the detriment of the wider interests of society. How aptly, even after the lapse of half a century, Shoghi Effendi's views, as conveyed by his secretary, fit the contemporary scene: "Our, present generation, mainly due to the corruptions that have been identified with organizations, seem to stand against any institution. Religion as an institution is denounced. Government as an institution is denounced. Even marriage as an institution is denounced. We Bahá’ís should not be blinded by such prevalent notions. If such were the case, all the divine Manifestations would not have invariably appointed someone to succeed Them. Undoubtedly, corruptions did enter those institutions, but these corruptions were not due to the very nature of the institutions but to the lack of proper directions as to their powers and nature of their perpetuation. What Bahá’u’lláh has done is not to eliminate all institutions in the Cause but to provide the necessary safeguards that would eliminate corruptions that caused the fall of previous institutions. What those safeguards are is most interesting to study and find out and also most essential to know."

60.23 We make these observations not to indulge in criticism of any system, but rather to open up lines of thought, to encourage a reexamination of the bases of modern society, and to engender a perspective for consideration of the distinctive features of the Order of Bahá’u’lláh. What, it could be asked, was the nature of society that gave rise to such characteristics and such philosophies? Where have these taken mankind? Has their employment satisfied the needs and expectations of the human spirit? The answers to such questions could lay the ground for a contrasting observation of the origin and nature of the characteristics and philosophy underlying that Order.


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60.24 As to freedom of expression, a fundamental principle of the Cause, the Administrative Order provides unique methods and channels for its exercise and maintenance; these have been amply described in the writings of the Faith, but they are not yet clearly understood by the friends. For Bahá’u’lláh has extended the scope and deepened the meaning of self-expression. In His elevation of art and of work performed in the service of humanity to acts of worship can be discerned enormous prospects for a new birth of expression in the civilization anticipated by His World Order. The significance of this principle, now so greatly amplified by the Lord of the Age, cannot be doubted; but it is in its ramifications in speech that keen understanding is urgently needed. From a Bahá’í point of view, the exercise of freedom of speech must necessarily be disciplined by a profound appreciation of both the positive and negative dimensions of freedom, on the one hand, and of speech, on the other.

60.25 Bahá’u’lláh warns us that "the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison." "Material fire consumeth the body," He says in elaborating the point, "whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century." In tracing the framework of free speech, He again advises "moderation." "Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation," He states, adding, "As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets."[16]

60.26 Also relevant to what is said, and how, is when it is said. For speech, as for so many other things, there is a season. Bahá’u’lláh reinforces this understanding by drawing attention to the maxim that "Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it."[17]

60.27 Speech is a powerful phenomenon. Its freedom is both to be extolled and feared. It calls for an acute exercise of judgment, since both the limitation of speech and the excess of it can lead to dire consequences. Thus there exist in the system of Bahá’u’lláh checks and balances necessary to the beneficial uses of this freedom in the onward development of society. A careful examination of the principles of Bahá’í consultation and the formal and informal arrangements for employing them offer new insights into the dynamics of freedom of expression.

60.28 As it is beyond the scope of this letter to expatiate upon these principles, let it suffice to recall briefly certain of the requisites of consultation, particularly for those who serve on Spiritual Assemblies. Love and harmony, purity of motive, humility and lowliness amongst the friends, patience and long-suffering in difficulties―these inform the attitude with which they proceed "with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views," each using "perfect liberty" both in so doing and in "unveiling the proof of his demonstration." "If another contradicts him, he must not become excited because if there be no investigation or verification of questions and matters, the agreeable view will not be discovered neither understood." "The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions." If unanimity is not subsequently achieved, decisions are arrived at by majority vote.[18]

60.29 Once a decision has been reached, all members of the consultative body, having had the opportunity fully to state their views, agree wholeheartedly to support the outcome. What if the minority view is right? "If they agree upon a subject," ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has explained, "even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree, that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity, the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right."[19] Implicit in this approach to the social utility of thought is the profundity of the change in the standard of public discussion intended by Bahá’u’lláh for a mature society.

60.30 The qualities by which the individual can achieve the personal discipline necessary to successful consultation find their full expression in what Shoghi Effendi regarded as the "spirit of a true Bahá’í" Ponder, for instance, the appealing remark addressed to your own community in one of his earliest letters: "Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá’í can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor, and courage on the other."[20] This was an appeal to the maturity and the distinction towards which he repeatedly directed their thoughts.


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60.31 Because the Most Great Peace is the object of our longing, a primary effort of the Bahá’í community is to reduce the incidence of conflict and contention, which are categorically forbidden in the Most Holy Book. Does this mean that one may not express critical thought? Absolutely not. How can there be the candor called for in consultation if there is no critical thought? How is the individual to exercise his responsibilities to the Cause, if he is not allowed the freedom to express his views? Has Shoghi Effendi not stated that "at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views"?[21]

60.32 The Administrative Order provides channels for expression of criticism, acknowledging, as a matter of principle, that "it is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community." Correspondingly, the Assembly has the duty "to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them."[22]

60.33 Apart from the direct access which one has to an Assembly, local or national, or to a Counselor or Auxiliary Board member, there are specific occasions for the airing of one's views in the community. The most frequent of these occasions for any Bahá’í is the Nineteen Day Feast which, "besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfills various administrative needs and requirements of the community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá’í community." At the same time, Shoghi Effendi's advice, as conveyed by his secretary, goes on to stress the point that "all criticisms and discussions of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the Assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the community."[23]

60.34 Clearly, then, there is more to be considered than the critic's right to self-expression; the unifying spirit of the Cause of God must also be preserved, the authority of its laws and ordinances safeguarded, authority being an indispensable aspect of freedom. Motive, manner, mode, become relevant; but there is also the matter of love: love for one's fellows, love for one's community, love for one's institutions.

60.35 The responsibility resting on the individual to conduct himself in such a way as to ensure the stability of society takes on elemental importance in this context. For vital as it is to the progress of society, criticism is a two-edged sword: it is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention. The balanced processes of the Administrative Order are meant to prevent this essential activity from degenerating to any form of dissent that breeds opposition and its dreadful schismatic consequences. How incalculable have been the negative results of ill-directed criticism: in the catastrophic divergences it has created in religion, in the equally contentious factions it has spawned in political systems, which have dignified conflict by institutionalizing such concepts as the "loyal opposition" which attach to one or another of the various categories of political opinion―conservative, liberal, progressive, reactionary, and so forth.

60.36 If Bahá’í individuals deliberately ignore the principles imbedded in the Order which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has established to remedy divisiveness in the human family, the Cause for which so much has been sacrificed will surely be set back in its mission to rescue world society from complete disintegration. May not the existence of the Covenant be invoked again and again, so that such repetition may preserve the needed perspective? For, in this age, the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh has been protected against the baneful effects of the misuse of the process of criticism; this has been done by the institution of the Covenant and by the provision of a universal administrative system which incorporates within itself the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system. Admonishing the people to uphold the unifying purpose of the Cause, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, addresses these poignant words to them: "Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord."[24] Such assertions emphasize a crucial point; it is this: In terms of the Covenant, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Bahá’í community, namely, the establishment of the unity of mankind.


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60.37 We return to the phenomenal characteristics of speech. Content, volume, style, tact, wisdom, timeliness are among the critical factors in determining the effects of speech for good or evil. Consequently, the friends need ever to be conscious of the significance of this activity which so distinguishes human beings from other forms of life, and they must exercise it judiciously. Their efforts at such discipline will give birth to an etiquette of expression worthy of the approaching maturity of the human race. Just as this discipline applies to the spoken word, it applies equally to the written word; and it profoundly affects the operation of the press.

60.38 The significance and role of the press in a new world system are conspicuous in the emphasis which the Order of Bahá’u’lláh places on accessibility to information at all levels of society. Shoghi Effendi tells us that Bahá’u’lláh makes "specific reference to 'the swiftly appearing newspapers,' describes them as 'the mirror of the world' and as 'an amazing and potent phenomenon,' and prescribes to all who are responsible for their production the duty to be sanctified from malice, passion and prejudice, to be just and fair-minded, to be painstaking in their inquiries, and ascertain all the facts in every situation."[25]

60.39 In His social treatise, The Secret of Divine Civilization, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offers insight as to the indispensability of the press in future society. He says it is "urgent that beneficial articles and books be written, clearly and definitely establishing what the present-day requirements of the people are, and what will conduce to the happiness and advancement of society" Further, He writes of the "publication of high thoughts" as the "dynamic power in the arteries of life," "the very soul of the world." Moreover, He states that "Public opinion must be directed toward whatever is worthy of this day, and this is impossible except through the use of adequate arguments and the adducing of clear, comprehensive and conclusive proofs."[26]

60.40 As to manner and style, Bahá’u’lláh has exhorted "authors among the friends" to "write in such a way as would be acceptable to fair-minded souls, and not lead to caviling by the people." And He issues a reminder: "We have said in the past that one word hath the influence of spring and causeth hearts to become fresh and verdant, while another is like unto blight which causeth the blossoms and flowers to wither."[27]

60.41 In the light of all this, the code of conduct of the press must embrace the principles and objectives of consultation as revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. Only in this way will the press be able to make its full contribution to the preservation of the rights of the people and become a powerful instrument in the consultative processes of society, and hence for the unity of the human race.


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60.42 Some of the friends have suggested that the emergence of the Faith from obscurity indicates the timeliness of ceasing observance in the Bahá’í community of certain restraints; particularly are they concerned about the temporary necessity of review before publishing.

60.43 That the Faith has emerged from obscurity on a global scale is certain. This definitely marks a triumphant stage in the efforts of the community to register its existence on the minds of those who influence world events. Consider how, because of the sufferings and sacrifices of the friends in Iran, the concerns of the community in these respects have become a matter of discussion in the most influential parliaments and the most important international forums on earth. That this emergence frees the Cause to pursue objectives hitherto unreachable is also undeniable; but that it marks the attainment of the community's anticipated maturity is entirely doubtful.

60.44 How could it have attained maturity, when we know from the clear guidance of the beloved Guardian that obscurity is but one of the many stages in the long evolution towards the Faith's golden destiny? Has he not advised us all that the subsequent stage of oppression must precede the stages of its emancipation and its recognition as a world religion? Can the friends forget the oft-quoted warning of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concerning the bitter opposition that will confront the Cause in various lands on all continents? In the case of the American believers, has Shoghi Effendi not alluded to this coming fury in his description of them as "the invincible Army of Bahá’u’lláh, who in the West, and at one of its potential storm centers is to fight, in His name and for His sake, one of its fiercest and most glorious battles"?[28]

60.45 Those who are anxious to relax all restraint, who invoke freedom of speech as the rationale for publishing every and any thing concerning the Bahá’í community, who call for the immediate termination of the practice of review now that the Faith has emerged from obscurity―are they not aware of these sobering prospects? Widespread as has been the public revulsion to the current persecutions in Iran, let there be no mistake about the certainty of the opposition which must yet be confronted in many countries, including that which is the Cradle of the Administrative Order itself.

60.46 The Faith is as yet in its infancy. Despite its emergence from obscurity, even now the vast majority of the human race remains ignorant of its existence; moreover, the vast majority of its adherents are relatively new Bahá’ís. The change implied by this new stage in its evolution is that whereas heretofore this tender plant was protected in its obscurity from the attention of external elements, it has now become exposed. This exposure invites close observation, and that observation will eventually lead to opposition in various quarters. So, far from adopting a carefree attitude, the community must be conscious of the necessity to present a correct view of itself and an accurate understanding of its purpose to a largely skeptical public. A greater effort, a greater care must now be exercised to ensure its protection against the malice of the ignorant and the unwisdom of its friends.

60.47 Let us all remember that the struggle of the infant Faith of God to thrive is beset with the turmoil of the present age. Like a tender shoot just barely discernible above ground, it must be nurtured to strength and maturity and buttressed as necessary against the blight of strong winds and deadly entanglements with weeds and thistles. If we to whose care this plant has been entrusted are insensitive to its tenderness, the great tree which is its certain potential will be hindered in its growth towards the spreading of its sheltering branches over all humankind. From this perspective we must all consider the latent danger to the Cause of ill-advised actions and exaggerated expectations; and particularly must we all be concerned about the effects of words, especially those put in print. It is here that Bahá’í authors and publishers need to be attentive and exert rigorous discipline upon themselves, as well as abide by the requirements of review at this early stage in the development of the Faith.


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60.40 The right of the individual to self-expression has permeated the foregoing comments on the various freedoms, but, even so, a word more might be said about individual freedom. The fundamental attitude of the Faith in this respect is best demonstrated by statements of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concerning the family. "The integrity of the family bond," He says, "must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. . . . All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all."[29]

60.49 The individual's relation to society is explained by Shoghi Effendi in the statement that "The Bahá’í conception of social life is essentially based on the principle of the subordination of the individual will to that of society. It neither suppresses the individual nor does it exalt him to the point of making him an anti-social creature, a menace to society. As in everything, it follows the 'golden mean.'"[30]

60.50 This relationship, so fundamental to the maintenance of civilized life, calls for the utmost degree of understanding and cooperation between society and the individual; and because of the need to foster a climate in which the untold potentialities of the individual members of society can develop, this relationship must allow "free scope" for "individuality to assert itself" through modes of spontaneity, initiative and diversity that ensure the viability of society. Among the responsibilities assigned to Bahá’í institutions which have a direct bearing on these aspects of individual freedom and development is one which is thus described in the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice: "to safeguard the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals." A corollary is: "to give attention to the preservation of human honor."[31]

60.51 How noteworthy that in the Order of Bahá’u’lláh, while the individual will is subordinated to that of society, the individual is not lost in the mass but becomes the focus of primary development, so that he may find his own place in the flow of progress, and society as a whole may benefit from the accumulated talents and abilities of the individuals composing it. Such an individual finds fulfillment of his potential not merely in satisfying his own wants but in realizing his completeness in being at one with humanity and with the divinely ordained purpose of creation.

60.52 The quality of freedom and of its expression―indeed, the very capacity to maintain freedom in a society―undoubtedly depends on the knowledge and training of individuals and on their ability to cope with the challenges of life with equanimity. As the beloved Master has written: "And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellowmen? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight."[32]


* * *


60.53 The spirit of liberty which in recent decades has swept over the planet with such tempestuous force is a manifestation of the vibrancy of the Revelation brought by Bahá’u’lláh. His own words confirm it. "The Ancient Beauty," He wrote in a soul-stirring commentary on His sufferings, "hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty."[33]

60.54 Might it not be reasonably concluded, then, that "true liberty" is His gift of love to the human race? Consider what Bahá’u’lláh has done: He revealed laws and principles to guide the free; He established an Order to channel the actions of the free; He proclaimed a Covenant to guarantee the unity of the free.

60.55 Thus, we hold to this ultimate perspective: Bahá’u’lláh came to set humanity free. His Revelation is, indeed, an invitation to freedom―freedom from want, freedom from war, freedom to unite, freedom to progress, freedom in peace and joy.

60.56 You who live in a land where freedom is so highly prized have not, then, to dispense with its fruits, but you are challenged and do have the obligation to uphold and vindicate the distinction between the license that limits your possibilities for genuine progress and the moderation that ensures the enjoyment of true liberty.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. PUP, p. 143.
  2. TDP, no. 11.11.
  3. ADJ, ¶27.
  4. GPB, p. 238.
  5. GWB, no. 70.
  6. WOB, pp. 145, 152.
  7. WOB, pp. 152-3.
  8. WOB, p. 163.
  9. WOB, p. 43
  10. HW, Arabic, no. 3
  11. GPB, p. 218.
  12. KA, ¶123, 125, 124, 125; TB, p. 89.
  13. GWB, no. 109.2.
  14. GWB, no. 110.
  15. SWB, no. 227.27.
  16. KI, ¶213; TB, p. 143.
  17. GWB, no. 89.3.
  18. SWAB, no. 45; BWF, p. 406; SWAB, no. 44.
  19. BWF, p. 411.
  20. BA, pp. 63-64.
  21. BA, p. 63.
  22. LG, no. 288.
  23. LG, no. 288.
  24. TB, p. 222.
  25. GPB, p. 219.
  26. SDC, pp. 109-10.
  27. CC 2:407.
  28. ADJ, ¶60.
  29. PUP, pp. 232-33.
  30. DG, p. 53.
  31. CUHJ, p. 5.
  32. SDC, pp. 2-3.
  33. GWB, no. 45.



External Affairs Consultations

5 JANUARY 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

61.1 GREATLY PLEASED ANNOUNCE IMPORTANT CONSULTATIONS WORLD CENTER PAST WEEKEND WITH SENIOR OFFICERS BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HOLY LAND, NEW YORK, GENEVA, AND REPRESENTATIVES OF FIVE NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES. FAR-REACHING DELIBERATIONS CENTERED ON INCREASED EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ACTIVITIES FAITH. MUCH ENCOURAGED EVIDENCES EVER CLOSER TIES COLLABORATION WITH UNITED NATIONS, ITS AGENCIES AND NATIONAL GOVERNMENTS MANY LANDS, RESULTING EXPANDED SPHERE INFLUENCE FAITH FIELD INTERNATIONAL INITIATIVES. HEARTENED BY REVIEW INDICATING INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES SHARE BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S WORLD-REDEEMING MESSAGE VAST REGIONS . . . SOVIET UNION AND EASTERN EUROPE. REJOICE IN MOUNTING PRESTIGE CAUSE GOD WORLDWIDE. INVITE ALL FRIENDS JOIN IN OFFERING PRAYERS THANKSGIVING BAHÁ’U’LLÁH FOR HIS SUSTAINED ABUNDANT BLESSINGS.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Education in the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh

23 MARCH 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

62.1 One of the vital goals of the Six Year Plan is the education of the believers in the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, observance of which has a profound spiritual effect beyond the practical benefits for the work of the Cause.

62.2 The Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. ‘Alí-Muḥammad Varqá, has, at the request of the Universal House of Justice, been developing the structure of his Deputies and Representatives around the world. In addition to their function of receiving Ḥuqúqu’lláh from the friends, these Deputies and Representatives share with the National Spiritual Assemblies the responsibility for educating all the believers in this Law. To achieve the best results there should be close and wholehearted collaboration between the National Spiritual Assemblies and the Deputies and Representatives of Ḥuqúqu’lláh in their countries. The House of Justice is confident that these newly forged links will be greatly strengthened as the Bahá’í world enters the second half of the Six Year Plan, and assures you all of its prayers for your confirmation in your efforts to achieve this goal.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Application of the Law of Huqáqu'lláh

29 MARCH 1989


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

63.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 5 February 1989 in which you ask whether the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh is a purely personal law or whether it applies to elected institutions and corporate bodies as well.

63.2 We have been asked to inform you that, although the Trustee is authorized to accept contributions to Ḥuqúqu’lláh from believers who are not under the obligation of paying it, or from companies which are wholly owned by Bahá’ís, the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh imposes an obligation only on individual believers, not on Bahá’í institutions or corporate bodies.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Restoration of Local Spiritual Assembly of ‘Ishqábád
25 APRIL 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

65.1 OVERJOYED ANNOUNCE ELECTION FIRST DAY RIḌVÁN FESTIVAL LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY ‘ISHQÁBÁD. RESTORATION THIS HISTORIC BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY, FOLLOWING ECLIPSE LASTING OVER HALF A CENTURY, SIGNIFIED INITIAL STEP REHABILITATION FAITH THROUGHOUT SOVIET UNION. WE SHALL INFORM NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES IN DUE COURSE WHEN TIME RIPE ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS ESTABLISH FORMAL CONTACTS. OFFERING PRAYERS THANKSGIVING HOLY SHRINES.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Commencement of Preliminary Phase of Mount Carmel Projects

28 APRIL 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

66.1

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Responsibilities of Individual Believers in the Administrative Order

22 JUNE 1989


To a National Spiritual Assembly

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

67.1 The Universal House of Justice wrote to you on 21 September 1988 expressing its concern about the conditions existing within your Assembly and asking for views and recommendations to be sent to it by members of the National Spiritual Assembly individually. A number of responses have been received, along with additional information requested by the House of Justice from other sources. We have been directed to convey to you the following.

67.2 One of the distinctive features of the Bahá’í Administrative Order, which stands in striking contrast to the administrative systems associated with past Dispensations, is the responsibility it places upon the individual believer to participate in its activities. In contrast to the members of congregations of many other religions whose role is principally that of being the recipients of instruction and advice from their ecclesiastical leaders, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh are called upon, in their relationships within the community, to engage in consultation, to follow closely the affairs of the Faith in their region, to offer their views and recommendations on all matters which pertain to the interests of the Faith and its community, and to elect the Spiritual Assemblies and cooperate wholeheartedly with them. This active involvement by every Bahá’í in the life of the community provides it with access to each individual's insight and wisdom and is a source of great strength to the organic unit.

67.3 Membership on an Assembly imposes upon the believer the spiritual responsibility to become an active participant in its work, to be fully informed of its endeavors, and to ensure that its functioning is in accord with Bahá’í principles. Every Assembly member should recognize that he has a duty to ensure that his voice is heard and that appropriate consideration is given to his views. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that consultation succeeds in avoiding "ill-feeling or discord" when "every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument," with the further affirmation by the Guardian that "it is not only the right but the sacred obligation of every member to express freely and openly his views, without being afraid of displeasing or alienating any of his fellow members," and "The Assembly members must have the courage of their convictions, but must also express wholehearted and unqualified obedience to the well considered judgment and directions of the majority of their fellow members."[1]

67.4 No member of an Assembly should feel inhibited from participating in the consultation because of what he may believe to be deficiencies in his education, experience or knowledge of the Faith. Rather he should rely with unshakeable faith on the divine confirmations which will bestow wisdom and guidance upon the sincere believer who approaches his assigned functions in a spirit of consecration and humility, beseeching the aid of the Omniscient Lord. He should also be guided by the observation of the Guardian: "Not infrequently, nay oftentimes, the most lowly, untutored and inexperienced among the friends will, by the sheer inspiring force of selfless and ardent devotion, contribute a distinct and memorable share to a highly involved discussion in any given assembly."[2]

67.5 If an Assembly member feels that there are barriers affecting the consultation of the body, he should frankly and courageously raise his concerns; these barriers could include, for example, the consultation moving at a speed which confuses him, language being used which he cannot understand, behavioral characteristics which unwittingly express condescension leading to the humiliation of others, or a feeling that one is being ignored. Such barriers may well arise as the Faith continues its inexorable progress in creating dynamic consultative bodies which bring together, in a spirit of unity and equality, the historically divided elements of humanity, thus laying the foundation for a new and ever advancing civilization.

67.6 It is the responsibility of all members of an Assembly to ensure that its officers are elected properly, function correctly and discharge their duties in accordance with the decisions of the Assembly. If a member feels, for example, that the meetings are not chaired effectively, that the minutes are not an accurate report of the decisions made at the meeting, or that the correspondence of the secretary or the financial transactions carried out by the treasurer do not conform to the instructions of the Assembly, he should bring this matter up at the Assembly meeting, taking care to ensure that this is done with appropriate moderation, courtesy and balance.

67.7 The Universal House of Justice trusts that these clarifications will assist your Assembly to improve the quality of your consultation and the effectiveness of your functioning. It requests you to ensure that copies of this letter are provided to each member of the Assembly, and that translations are provided if any individual members of the Assembly feel that this would facilitate their understanding of it. When all members have had an opportunity to study the letter, you should arrange a special session of the Assembly for consultation on its contents. You may also wish to seek the advice of the Counselors on measures to be taken to carry out more fully its provisions.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. SWAB, no. 44; CC 2:1380.
  2. BA, p. 79.



The Importance of Literacy

10 JULY 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

68.1 The Holy Word has been extolled by the Prophets of God as the medium of celestial power and the wellspring of all spiritual, social and material progress. Access to it, constant study of it and daily use of it in our individual lives are vital to the inner personal transformation towards which we strive and whose ultimate outer manifestation will be the emergence of that divine civilization which is the promise of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.

68.2 The blessings which flow from the Word of God are implicit in this instruction of Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Mother Book of His Revelation: "Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths." Again in the same book, He bids us recite the "verses of God every morning and evening."[1] An astonishing insight as to the sublime influence of the revealed Word is conveyed in this further instruction gleaned from one of His Tablets: "Intone, O My servant, the verses of God that have been received by thee, as intoned by them who have drawn nigh unto Him, that the sweetness of thy melody may kindle thine own soul, and attract the hearts of all men. Whoso reciteth, in the privacy of his chamber, the verses revealed by God, the scattering angels of the Almighty shall scatter abroad the fragrance of the words uttered by his mouth, and shall cause the heart of every righteous man to throb. Though he may, at first, remain unaware of its effect, yet the virtue of the grace vouchsafed unto him must needs sooner or later exercise its influence upon his soul."[2]

68.3 The most immediate access to the dynamic influence of the sacred Word is through reading. The ability to read is therefore a fundamental right and privilege of every human being. Bahá’u’lláh promotes this right in His command to parents to ensure the instruction of their sons and daughters in the "art of reading and writing."[3] For this essential reason, in our last Riḍván message we called attention to the need for systematic attention to be given to eventually eliminating illiteracy from the Bahá’í community. This matter must assume its proper importance as a continuing objective of that community.

68.4 Let each National and Local Spiritual Assembly, according to necessity and circumstance, address itself to this objective, conscious that even where total achievement is not immediately possible, opportunities must be sought to make steady progress. Let each be confident that the shining example set by Iran, the mother community of the Bahá’í world, under the inspiration of Bahá’u’lláh's teachings and the urging of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, upholds a standard all can follow. In the earliest years of this century, when no systematic, overall plan of education existed in Iran, the Bahá’ís seized their chance and organized a widespread program of education. Its teachers were distinguished for their ability to foster child, youth and adult education, which led to significant self-improvement among the Iranian Bahá’ís. The emergence of a literate Bahá’í community was an outstanding result.

68.5 Some local or national Bahá’í communities may wish to follow the example of those who have already instituted their own literacy projects and are achieving notable success; others may wish to participate in literacy programs organized by governmental or nongovernmental organizations. Each community will have to determine whether to engage in one or the other, or to do both. Progress will depend not only on the initiatives of Bahá’í institutions in relation to children, but also on the active interest of adult believers who want to learn to read. Such friends should definitely be encouraged and assisted to achieve, with dignity, their heart's desire. Certainly, the willing participation of the friends in an undertaking of such importance to the upliftment of individuals and the consolidation of the Bahá’í community as a whole will attract divine favors and confirmations.

68.6 The United Nations has declared 1990 to be International Literacy Year so as to mobilize an all-out, ongoing effort to eradicate illiteracy around the world. The literacy projects already in progress in the Bahá’í community, and those which are yet to be adopted, will surely lend support to this noble and necessary effort. Therefore, we commend the purpose of this special year to the attention of the entire Bahá’í world. The Bahá’í International Community's United Nations Office will send National Assemblies information concerning activities associated with International Literacy Year and how Bahá’í communities may become involved. Moreover, agencies at the Bahá’í World Center having a special interest in literacy programs will offer helpful advice as necessary, but Spiritual Assemblies need not wait to hear from them before proceeding with their own plans.

68.7 We look forward with confident expectation to your achievements toward the ultimate fulfillment of this objective which is so essential to the progress of the Bahá’í community and indeed all humanity. And we assure you, as ever, of our continuing prayers at the Holy Shrines for your success.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. Revised translation in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: "Recite ye the verses of God every morn and eventide." (¶149)
  2. KA, ¶182, 149; GWB, no. 136.2.
  3. KA, ¶48.



The Role of the Nineteen Day Feast

27 AUGUST 1989


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

69.1 The Nineteen Day Feast, its framework, purpose and possibilities, have in recent years become a subject of increasing inquiry among the friends. It occupied much of the consultation at the Sixth International Bahá’í Convention last year, and we feel the time has come for us to offer clarifications.

69.2 The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh encompasses all units of human society; integrates the spiritual, administrative and social processes of life; and canalizes human expression in its varied forms towards the construction of a new civilization. The Nineteen Day Feast embraces all these aspects at the very base of society. Functioning in the village, the town, the city, it is an institution of which all the people of Bahá are members. It is intended to promote unity, ensure progress, and foster joy.

69.3 "If this feast be held in the proper fashion," ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, "the friends will, once in nineteen days, find themselves spiritually restored, and endued with a power that is not of this world."[1] To ensure this glorious outcome the concept of the Feast must be adequately understood by all the friends. The Feast is known to have three distinct but related parts: the devotional, the administrative, and the social. The first entails the recitation of prayers and reading from the Holy Texts. The second is a general meeting where the Local Spiritual Assembly reports its activities, plans and problems to the community, shares news and messages from the World Center and the National Assembly, and receives the thoughts and recommendations of the friends through a process of consultation. The third involves the partaking of refreshments and engaging in other activities meant to foster fellowship in a culturally determined diversity of forms which do not violate principles of the Faith or the essential character of the Feast.

69.4 Even though the observance of the Feast requires strict adherence to the threefold aspects in the sequence in which they have been defined, there is much room for variety in the total experience. For example, music may be introduced at various stages, including the devotional portion; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá recommends that eloquent, uplifting talks be given; originality and variety in expressions of hospitality are possible; the quality and range of the consultation are critical to the spirit of the occasion. The effects of different cultures in all these respects are welcome factors which can lend the Feast a salutary diversity, representative of the unique characteristics of the various societies in which it is held, and therefore conducive to the upliftment and enjoyment of its participants.

69.5 It is notable that the concept of the Feast evolved in stages in relation to the development of the Faith. At its earliest stage in Iran, the individual friends, in response to Bahá’u’lláh's injunctions, hosted gatherings in their homes to show hospitality once every nineteen days and derived inspiration from the reading and discussion of the Teachings. As the community grew, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá delineated and emphasized the devotional and social character of the event. After the establishment of Local Spiritual Assemblies, Shoghi Effendi introduced the administrative portion and acquainted the community with the idea of the Nineteen Day Feast as an institution. It was as if a symphony, in three movements, had now been completed.

69.6 But it is not only in the sense of its gradual unfoldment as an institution that the evolution of the Feast must be regarded; there is a broader context yet. The Feast may well be seen in its unique combination of modes as the culmination of a great historic process in which primary elements of community life―acts of worship, of festivity and other forms of togetherness―over vast stretches of time have achieved a glorious convergence. The Nineteen Day Feast represents the new stage in this enlightened age to which the basic expression of community life has evolved. Shoghi Effendi has described it as the foundation of the new World Order, and in a letter written on his behalf, it is referred to as constituting "a vital medium for maintaining close and continued contact between the believers themselves, and also between them and the body of their elected representatives in the local community."[2]

69.7 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.

69.8 If the Feast is to be properly experienced, beyond an understanding of the concept must also be the preparation of it and the preparation for it. Although the Local Spiritual Assembly is administratively responsible for the conduct of the Feast, it often calls upon an individual or a group of individuals to make preparations―a practice which is consonant with the spirit of hospitality so vital to the occasion. Such individuals can act as hosts and are sometimes concerned with the selection of the prayers and readings for the devotional portion; they may also attend to the social portion. In small communities the aspect of personal hospitality is easy to carry out, but in large communities the Local Spiritual Assemblies, while retaining the concept of hospitality, may find it necessary to devise other measures.

69.9 Important aspects of the preparation of the Feast include the proper selection of readings, the assignment, in advance, of good readers, and a sense of decorum both in the presentation and the reception of the devotional program. Attention to the environment in which the Feast is to be held, whether indoors or outdoors, greatly influences the experience. Cleanliness, arrangement of the space in practical and decorative ways―all play a significant part. Punctuality is also a measure of good preparation.

69.10 To a very large extent, the success of the Feast depends on the quality of the preparation and participation of the individual. The beloved Master offers the following advice: "Give ye great weight to the Nineteen Day gatherings, so that on these occasions the beloved of the Lord and the handmaids of the Merciful may turn their faces toward the Kingdom, chant the communes, beseech God's help, become joyfully enamored each of the other, and grow in purity and holiness, and in the fear of God, and in resistance to passion and self. Thus will they separate themselves from this elemental world, and immerse themselves in the ardors of the spirit."[3]

69.11 In absorbing such advice, it is illuminating indeed to view the Nineteen Day Feast in the context in which it was conceived. It is ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in these words: "It hath been enjoined upon you once a month to offer hospitality, even should ye serve no more than water, for God hath willed to bind your hearts together, though it be through heavenly and earthly means combined."[4] It is clear, then, that the Feast is rooted in hospitality, with all its implications of friendliness, courtesy, service, generosity and conviviality. The very idea of hospitality as the sustaining spirit of so significant an institution introduces a revolutionary new attitude to the conduct of human affairs at all levels, an attitude which is critical to that world unity which the Central Figures of our Faith labored so long and suffered so much cruelty to bring into being. It is in this divine festival that the foundation is laid for the realization of so unprecedented a reality.

69.12 That you may all attain the high mark set for the Feast as a "bringer of joy," the "groundwork of agreement and unity," the "key to affection and fellowship" will remain an object of our ardent supplications at the Holy Threshold.[5]

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. SWAB, no. 51.
  2. CC 1:957.
  3. CC 1:923.
  4. The translation used here differs from the final published version in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which appears in ¶57 and reads, "Verily, it is enjoined upon you to offer a feast, once in every month, though only water be served; for God hath purposed to bind hearts together, albeit through both earthly and heavenly means."
  5. CC 1:920.



Timing of Feast Observances

28 AUGUST 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

70.1 In addition to the accompanying letter addressed by the Universal House of Justice to the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh concerning the Nineteen Day Feast, we have been asked to convey its comments on the following points with which you will have to deal in assisting the community in its observance of this important festival.

70.2 First, the House of Justice is aware that in many areas only a limited time can be devoted to the Feast by the friends, because the Feast day may come during the week when most people have to work, and the evening hours do not allow much time for its observance. While the House of Justice does not wish to deemphasize the preference expressed by Shoghi Effendi that the Feast be held on the first day of the Bahá’í month, it feels that in instances of difficulty, where the friends would otherwise be unable to attend, the National Spiritual Assembly may point out to Local Assemblies that it is permissible to hold the Feast at another time within the Bahá’í month, such as on a weekend.

70.3 Second, the administrative portion of the Feast should not be laborious or burdensome. It can become so because too many reports by too many local Bahá’í committees are presented at one Feast. Such reports could perhaps be conveyed in bulletins. Also, there can be too many messages from agencies of the national administration. While it lies within the discretion of the National Spiritual Assembly to send a message or items of information to be shared at the Feast, care must be taken not to overburden these events with a multiplicity of items from the National Assembly and its auxiliary agencies. Some National Assemblies have developed the practice of sending a message to every Feast; this is, of course, not wrong in principle, but they may need to examine their methods of communicating with the believers and see whether occasional messages might not be sufficient. The idea is that the local Bahá’í communities should exercise control over the Feast and not be made to feel that they are being overrun by messages, instructions and assignments from the national administration of the Faith. This whole matter needs to be studied by the National Spiritual Assembly with a balanced perspective, so that while important national issues are not ignored, the potentialities of the Feast for development of the local community are fully realized.

70.4 Third, the accompanying letter to the friends points to the desirability of the inclusion in the Feast of cultural elements which can enhance the experience without contravening Bahá’í principles. The National Spiritual Assemblies will want to be watchful that the incorporation of such elements does not lead to a degeneration of the Feast as a uniquely Bahá’í institution and, particularly, that no objectionable customs and practices begin to creep into its observance.

70.5 We have also been asked to send you the enclosed compilation, entitled The Nineteen Day Feast,[1] as a resource on which you can draw in further educating the community and in answering the questions of the friends concerning this vital institution. You are free to share its contents with the friends but you are under no obligation to publish it.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 1, pp. 417-58.



Assessment of Six Year Plan Pioneer Goals

7 SEPTEMBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

71.1 On 14 May 1987 we wrote to all National Spiritual Assemblies on behalf of the Universal House of Justice conveying the call for the minimum number of pioneers who were to settle in their goals by Riḍván 1989, together with a call for pioneers to settle in a number of Eastern Bloc countries by the end of the Six Year Plan. This call was supplemented by a letter issued on 5 June 1987, listing the Inter-Assembly Collaboration Projects which had been included in the individual National Plans and which were, for the most part, intended to be pursued throughout the six years of the plan.

71.2 The Bahá’í world has now grown so large, and the flow of pioneers and traveling teachers so constant that it is virtually impossible to keep a detailed up-to-date record of the vast number of projects being undertaken in every country. However, the most recent information that the Department of Statistics has been able to collect presents the following highly encouraging picture of the pioneering goals so far achieved during the Plan.

71.3 During the first year of the Six Year Plan, before the pioneer call of May 1987 was sent out, a large number of believers pioneered, of whom 523 are still at their posts. During the subsequent two years, in answer to the call, 943 believers have settled in goals specified in the Plan or in posts not originally assigned. The total number of international pioneers since April 1986 is thus 1,466. The details of the response to the pioneer call, by continent receiving pioneers, are as follows.

Receiving Area Assigned Goals Goals Still Unfilled Goals Filled Extra Pioneers to Goals Pioneers to Other Places Total Pioneers Received
Africa 100 42 58 56 68 182
Americas 119 45 74 133 38 245
Asia 50 5 45 93 101 239
Australasia 45 18 27 18 28 73
Europe 115 66 49 11 144 204
The World 429 176 253 311 379 943

71.4 Of the 176 pioneer goals outstanding, 14 have been canceled in light of changed circumstances and in view of the new call for short-term pioneers described below. There remains, therefore, the immediate task for the Bahá’í world to fill the 162 pioneer posts remaining vacant from the original pioneer call and, indeed, to increase the flow of long-term pioneers to needy areas. In addition to these, the tremendous recent acceleration in the twin processes of expansion and consolidation calls for a new flexibility in meeting the needs in the field. Therefore, to supplement the work of pioneers and traveling teachers, the Universal House of Justice is now calling for a range of short-term pioneer projects during the remaining years of the Six Year Plan.

71.5 These short-term pioneer goals are being assigned in terms of months per pioneer. In other words, a goal of 24 could mean one pioneer for two years or two pioneers for twelve months or even four pioneers for six months each. We can also envisage that special circumstances may warrant a succession of short-term pioneers for terms as short as three months. These services could run either concurrently or one after the other. The idea is that they should be for longer periods than can normally be spent by a traveling teacher but, since the short-term pioneer does not have the aim of settling permanently in his post, he will, generally, be freed of the need to find employment, and so will probably obtain a visa more easily and will also be able to spend his time in remote areas which the homefront teachers and the long-term pioneers find it difficult to reach or on specific tasks which others are unable to perform for lack of time or other reasons.

71.6 Many of the short-term pioneers may be able to cover their own expenses; others will need financial help from the responsible National Spiritual Assemblies or the International Deputization Fund. All will need proper preparation for their service and orientation both before and after they arrive in their goal countries.

71.7 The responsibility for sending short-term pioneers has been assigned to specific National Spiritual Assemblies to ensure that volunteers are found and placed in the field. But such Assemblies do not necessarily have to draw the pioneers from their own communities. Volunteers may arise from communities which have no assigned goals, or from countries which neighbor the goal areas. The services of all these can be used and will count towards the achievement of the goals. The assistance and advice of the Continental Pioneer Committees can be sought in this regard.

71.8 Enclosed are two lists, one in the order of National Assemblies to receive assistance, the other in the order of National Assemblies which have the responsibility to send it. It will be noted that no goals are included for the countries of the Eastern Bloc; these are being dealt with separately in view of the unprecedented opportunities, great urgency and special conditions of the work there.

71.9 The Universal House of Justice will pray in the Holy Shrines that the believers in every land will arise with increasing determination to speed the process of entry by troops and the establishment of firmly grounded, efficiently functioning Local Spiritual Assemblies.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




The Function of Review in the Bahá’í Community

25 SEPTEMBER 1989


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

72.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter . . . concerning a writing project which you had been contemplating in collaboration with a professional filmmaker and writer who is not a Bahá’í, and we have been asked to send you the following reply. . . .

72.2 Given the long history and overwhelming current examples of repression in the world, it is not surprising that in a country like the United States, which upholds freedom of speech as a cardinal principle, the non-Bahá’í collaborator in a filmmaking project, such as you have described, would be concerned about any perceived, or misperceived, notion of censorship. As you know, review of manuscripts before publication is a discipline which the Bahá’í community applies to its own members as a temporary necessity, for it is anticipated that in due time this practice will cease. The reason is simple: At this early stage in the development of the Faith, which is striving against great odds to establish itself in a world that is highly critical, often antagonistic towards new ideas, and whose communications media tend to emphasize negative information, it is important that Bahá’í authors, scriptwriters and filmmakers endeavor to present the Faith with accuracy and dignity. It is one thing for a non-Bahá’í to make erroneous statements about the Faith; this can be excused on the basis of ignorance. But for a Bahá’í to make such errors is quite a different thing, because he is considered to be knowledgeable about that which he espouses.

72.3 Therefore, a Bahá’í author is expected to ensure to the extent possible a correct representation of the Faith in his work; as an aid he draws upon the reviewing facilities provided by Bahá’í institutions. A great many authors spontaneously and informally submit their manuscripts to a type of review, although they would not necessarily call it that, when they request the comments and criticisms of persons whose expertise and judgment they respect. Submission to Bahá’í review is no greater a requirement, and may well be less demanding in most cases, than the rigorous review of scientific papers before their publication. In the same way that scientists have acceded to the discipline of review in the interest of ensuring the precision and integrity of their dissertations, Bahá’í authors respect the function of review in the Bahá’í community.

72.4 The Bahá’í Faith makes very serious claims and has a rich and complex history, but it is as yet a young religion whose precepts are not widely understood. It has been undergoing severe persecution in the land of its birth and is experiencing serious opposition in other places where its detractors have no compunction in misrepresenting its purposes. Until its history, teachings and practices are well known throughout the world, it will be necessary for the Bahá’í community to make efforts within itself to present correct information about the Faith in books, films or other media. This can and must be done without violating the principle of freedom of expression, which, according to the teachings of the Faith, is a vital right of all persons.

72.5 It is not necessary for Bahá’í authors to make an issue of the function of review with others with whom they wish to collaborate, because it is not required of non-Bahá’ís, though they can, if they wish, call upon Bahá’í reviewing facilities when dealing with Bahá’í topics. Although the function of review in the Bahá’í community is concerned with checking an author's exposition of the Faith and its teachings, this function is not to be confused with evaluation of the literary merit of a work or of its value as a publication, which are normally the prerogative of the publisher. With or without review, the work presented by a Bahá’í to a non-Bahá’í collaborator will, it is presumed, be judged by that collaborator on its merits.

72.6 The House of Justice hopes that these points will clarify your thoughts on the function of review in the Bahá’í community.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Encouraging the Holding of Feasts

26 SEPTEMBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

73.1 The International Teaching Center has recently asked the Universal House of Justice about the possibility of direct involvement of Auxiliary Board members and their assistants in encouraging the holding of Nineteen Day Feasts in communities where the Local Spiritual Assembly is not exercising its responsibilities in this regard. The House of Justice responded as follows.

73.1a As you rightly point out, in many such communities the fostering of the Feast is an effective aid to community development. Feasts may, in turn, lead to other activities such as children's classes, and gradually help in the activation of the Local Assembly. Assistants may therefore assume the important role of encouraging the believers to gather for the Feast as an interim measure when the Local Spiritual Assembly is not functioning, although the Nineteen Day Feast can be an official administrative occasion only when there is a Local Spiritual Assembly to take charge of it. Indeed groups, spontaneous gatherings of the friends, and even isolated believers may certainly observe the Feast.
73.1b It should nevertheless be borne in mind that the goal is for the Local Assembly to be strengthened in order that it may itself assume responsibility to conduct the Feast.

73.2 It would be appropriate for you to consult with the Counselors about the matter. The Auxiliary Board members and their assistants can do a great deal to assist.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Passing of Roddy Lutchmaya, Continental Counselor

9 OCTOBER 1989


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

74.1 DEEPLY GRIEVED SUDDEN UNTIMELY DEATH DEVOTED PROMOTER FAITH RODDY LUTCHMAYA. HIS INCESSANT INTENSIVE EFFORTS TEACHING FIELD MAURITIUS FROM EARLY YEARS ESTABLISHMENT FAITH THAT ISLAND, HIS LONG RECORD ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES ON NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY, CULMINATING IN HIS MEMBERSHIP ON BOARD OF COUNSELORS IN AFRICA, WILL ALWAYS BE LOVINGLY REMEMBERED. HIS HUMILITY, STEADFASTNESS, PERSEVERANCE UNFORGETTABLE. HIS REWARD ABHÁ KINGDOM UNDOUBTEDLY BOUNTIFUL. MAY RISING GENERATION BAHÁ’ÍS ISLANDS INDIAN OCEAN FOLLOW HIS NOBLE FOOTSTEPS.

74.2 PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS RADIANT SOUL. CALLING FOR SPECIAL MEMORIAL GATHERINGS MOTHER TEMPLE KAMPALA AND IN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT AFRICAN CONTINENT CONVEY RELATIVES HEARTFELT SYMPATHY.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Appointment of European Bahá’í Youth Council

20 OCTOBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies in Europe

75.1 Announce appointment first European Bahá’í Youth council with following members: Onno Frank van Bekkum, Morten Bergsmo, Nadi Hofmann, Alessandra Lanfranconi, John McGill, Bahiyyih Tahzib, Robert Weinberg.

75.2 Duties Council will include coordination those activities European Bahá’í Youth having continental impact; assistance and advice to Continental Board of Counselors, National Spiritual Assemblies and National Bahá’í Youth Committees on matters related to Bahá’í youth activities; representation of European Bahá’í youth on continental basis with non-Bahá’í youth groups and other agencies.

75.3 First full meeting Council scheduled for weekend 4 to 6 November 1989 in London.

75.4 Hail this new development Bahá’í youth work, eagerly anticipate great enhancement potential for promotion Faith throughout continent. Praying Holy Shrines outpouring divine bounties confirm initial steps assumption highly meritorious tasks.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Release of a Compilation on Conservation of the Earth's Resources

26 OCTOBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

76.1 We enclose a copy of a new compilation entitled Conservation of the Earth's Resources, which was prepared by the Research Department at the instruction of the Universal House of Justice for the purpose of assisting the friends in responding to the call, in the Riḍván message, for an increase in Bahá’í activities aimed at supporting endeavors to protect the environment.[1]

76.2 The compilation was assembled, primarily, to deepen the believers’ appreciation of the Bahá’í concept of nature and to enhance their understanding of both man's relationship to nature and his responsibility to preserve the world's ecological balance. It could also serve as a valuable tool for use with non-Bahá’ís who have some knowledge of the Bahá’í Faith and its approach to the solution of pressing social problems.

76.3 It is the hope of the Universal House of Justice that the National Spiritual Assemblies will make the material in the compilation available to the believers and that, armed with increased knowledge of this important subject, the friends will be inspired to lend their assistance to those who are striving to make this world "an earthly paradise."[2]

76.4 With great pleasure the House of Justice takes this opportunity to announce the establishment of an Office of the Environment, which will conduct the external relations of the Bahá’í International Community with regard to environmental matters. Thus it will foster relations with the World Wide Fund for Nature and other like-minded nongovernmental organizations and will work in collaboration with the Office of Social and Economic Development. The new Office operates alongside the other offices of the Bahá’í International Community in New York, namely, the United Nations Office and the Office of Public Information.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. SWAB, no. 220.1.
  2. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 1, pp. 65-92.



Appointment of New Continental Counselor

30 OCTOBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

77.1 The untimely passing of Mr. Roddy Lutchmaya on 25 September 1989 left a vacancy on the Continental Board of Counselors in Africa. By the appointment of Mr. Gilbert Robert of Reunion to membership of that Board we have now filled this vacancy.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Formalities of Membership in the Bahá’í Community

9 NOVEMBER 1989


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Hawaiian Islands

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

78.1 The Universal House of Justice received your letter of 2 October 1989 about your laudable desire to simplify enrollment procedures and eliminate obstacles to new believers’ joining the Bahá’í community. It has asked us to send you the following reply.

78.2 First, the House of Justice does not believe that the By-Laws of a Local Spiritual Assembly are intended to imply by the term "voting membership" that there are two classes of membership in the Bahá’í community, except insofar as those under the age of 21 do not have the right to vote or serve on a Spiritual Assembly.

78.3 As you well understand, there is no universally applicable procedure that a new believer must follow in making a declaration of faith. In essence, it is simply the act of making it known to the Bahá’ís that he too believes in Bahá’u’lláh, accepts the Faith, and wishes to be recognized as a member of the Bahá’í community. The process of considering and accepting such a declaration by the institutions of the Faith or their duly appointed representatives should follow as swiftly as possible. The procedure for this is left to the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly, and can vary from area to area within the same country.

78.4 As you indicate in your letter, the process of issuing an enrollment card is a separate, purely formal, step that follows the above decision.

78.5 Whether a newly declared Bahá’í should be invited to attend a Nineteen Day Feast before his declaration has been accepted is a matter at the discretion of the Local Spiritual Assembly in light of the specific circumstances. For example, where feasible, could the Assembly not provide that, if a declaration is made so soon before a Feast that the Assembly has no time to meet to accept it, the officers would be authorized to welcome the new believer to the Feast unless they have some reason for doubting that the declaration would be accepted? In general it would seem to be better to show a loving and welcoming spirit rather than to stand on a point of administrative procedure.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




A National Spiritual Assembly's Relations with Government

20 NOVEMBER 1989


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Guyana

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

79.1 Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 22 September 1989 raising the question of your National Spiritual Assembly's relations with the Government of Guyana, and it has requested us to convey the following.

79.2 In general, the manner in which the principle of noninterference in political affairs should be applied in Guyana depends upon your appraisal of the situation. The subject should be discussed with the friends in such a manner that they will not only understand its import for themselves, but will also see how they can positively and confidently explain it to non-Bahá’ís. The adherents of this Cause uphold the principles of loyalty and obedience to government, do not become involved in subversive activities, refrain from partisanship and do not join political parties. At the same time, as responsible citizens, they strive to promote the best interests of their respective nations and governments by making themselves productive, helpful members of society wholly committed to serving humanity for the love of God. Such considerations, while orienting the Bahá’ís to the attitudes they must adopt, should also allay the fears and suspicions of their non-Bahá’í fellow citizens, regardless of their political persuasions, concerning the outlook and intentions of the Faith. These attitudes should be neither offensive nor threatening to anyone. As the friends are seen increasingly to reflect them in their daily lives, they should gradually earn the respect and trust of all ranks and segments of society.

79.3 It is up to the National Spiritual Assembly to determine which posts and functions are "diplomatic or political" and which are "purely administrative in character" and "under no circumstances are affected by the changes and chances that political activities and party government, in every land, must necessarily involve." While the former represent activities the friends must avoid, the latter functions are open to Bahá’ís. Indeed, such functions are to be welcomed by the friends as they constitute opportunities which enable them "to serve, in an unselfish, unostentatious and patriotic fashion, the highest interests of the country" to which they belong. (The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh: Selected Letters, rev. ed. p. 65)

79.4 To throw oneself into the maelstrom of political struggles or to withdraw utterly from any interest in the affairs of men outside the Bahá’í community are two extremes that must be avoided by every loyal Bahá’í. The true course is more difficult to follow, and requires wisdom and mature judgment. The general guidelines are given with great clarity by the beloved Guardian in "The Golden Age of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh," and can be found on pages 64 to 67 of The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. . . .

79.5 The House of Justice will offer its prayers at the Holy Shrines for your guidance and for the reinforcement of your devoted endeavors.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Message to the International Teaching Conference Dedicated to the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Muhájir

28 NOVEMBER 1989


To the Friends gathered at the Teaching Conference dedicated to the memory of the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Raḥmátu’lláh Muhájir c/o The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ecuador

Dearly loved Friends,

80.1 As our hearts turn to your assemblage, we are moved to recall the remarkable spirit of Dr. Muhájir, whose presence is surely felt by all of you gathered on this occasion.

80.2 Dr. Muhájir was a man of vision, who had an extraordinary ability to recognize the practical needs of the community, but he was also a man of action, and his greatest dream was that the masses of humanity would soon awaken to the call of Bahá’u’lláh. He well understood that the greatest gift that Bahá’u’lláh has given us is the privilege to become instruments through which other souls are touched by His healing message. If we offer ourselves in the right manner, if we make selfless efforts, if we arise with love and with courage, then our services and sacrifices will be confirmed and many seeking souls will find eternal life. Thus the Cause of God will blossom before our eyes.

80.3 Dr. Muhájir has left a great legacy, and by the grace of God his earthly remains repose in Latin America, in a land and amongst a people that he loved so much. We earnestly pray that the memory of his indomitable spirit will inspire all of those present at this International Conference to arise and follow his noble example by offering enthusiastic and humble service during the yearlong teaching plan that has been dedicated to his memory.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Release of a Compilation on the Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections

10 DECEMBER 1989


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

81.1 The Universal House of Justice feels it is timely to release a compilation on Bahá’í elections as a useful tool to help National Spiritual Assemblies to increase the understanding of the believers regarding the nature and sanctity of these elections, and to prepare themselves for the expected rapid increase in the number of believers. A compilation entitled The Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections has been prepared by the Research Department, and a copy is attached.[1]

81.2 The study of this compilation will require careful and sustained planning by the National Spiritual Assemblies and Local Spiritual Assemblies, and it should become part of the ongoing program for the deepening of the friends in the fundamentals of Bahá’í administration. The House of Justice urges all National Spiritual Assemblies to discuss the implementation of such a program with the Counselors, so that the rank and file of the believers, with the wholehearted support of the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, will appreciate the importance of adhering to Bahá’í principles in this regard, and carry out all Bahá’í elections, on the national as well as the unit and local levels, in an exemplary manner, in full harmony with the spirit of purity and sanctity which must characterize them.

81.3 The Universal House of Justice wishes to stress at this point how important it is for all delegates allocated to the National Convention to be elected and the desirability of having all the elected delegates attend this vital national event. It has been noticed that, although attendance at most National Conventions is gradually improving, in several countries every year not all delegates are being elected, and in numerous instances, even when elected, they do not participate either in person or by sending in their ballots.

81.4 Be assured of ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines that your resolute efforts to improve the record of devoted and enthusiastic participation in delegate elections, National Conventions and Local Assembly elections will attract the assistance and blessings of the divine Concourse.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 3, pp. 139-53.



Message to the World Foresty Charter Gathering

11 DECEMBER 1989


World Forestry Charter Gathering, Savoy Hotel, London

82.1 May the noble aspirations of those working to protect and restore the world's forests, among whom Richard St. Barbe Baker was so outstanding an advocate, be given further impetus by the World Forestry Charter Gathering. May your actions become increasingly collaborative and unified in nature.

82.2 Efforts such as yours to reverse the deterioration of our natural environment reveal a growing awareness that solutions must embrace a global perspective in order to be effective.

82.3 "The earth," as Bahá’u’lláh stated a century ago, "is but one country and mankind its citizens."[1]

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 117.



Progress of the Mount Carmel Projects

23 JANUARY 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

83.1 KINDLY CONVEY ALL BELIEVERS NEWS PROGRESS HISTORIC MOUNT CARMEL PROJECTS.

83.2 FOLLOWING STRENUOUS DETAILED NEGOTIATIONS, TOWN PLANNING SCHEME ESSENTIAL FOR INITIATION OF PROJECTS WAS OFFICIALLY APPROVED BY LOCAL TOWN PLANNING COMMITTEE AND CITY COUNCIL OF HAIFA ON 11 OCTOBER 1989, CONFIRMING GOODWILL TOWARDS PROJECTS EXPRESSED BY CITY COUNCIL AT TIME INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION. SCHEME IS NOW BEFORE DISTRICT TOWN PLANNING COMMISSION FOR FINAL APPROVAL. THIS PLAN INCLUDES CANCELLATION TWO ROADS PREVIOUSLY APPROVED TO CROSS BAHÁ’Í LANDS, AND LOWERING LEVEL MAIN THOROUGHFARE THUS PERMITTING CONSTRUCTION TERRACES LINKING GARDENS SURROUNDING SHRINE BÁB WITH THOSE ADJACENT ARCHIVES BUILDING. GRANTING OF APPROVALS INVOLVES OUR COMMITMENT IMMEDIATELY START WORK.

83.3 GEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS ANNOUNCED RIḌVÁN MESSAGE, REQUIRED FOR DESIGN FOUNDATIONS BUILDINGS ARC, NOW COMPLETED.

83.4 BUILDING PERMIT DRAWINGS FOR ARCHIVES BUILDING EXTENSION AND CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF THE TEXTS SUBMITTED, ENABLING CONSIDERATION APPLICATION BUILDING PERMIT RUN CONCURRENTLY LAST STAGE APPROVAL TOWN PLANNING SCHEME.

83.5 OF $50,000,000 CALLED FOR AS ESSENTIAL RESERVE FOR INITIATION CONSTRUCTION, APPROXIMATELY $26,000,000 SO FAR CONTRIBUTED. REMAINING SUM NOW URGENTLY NEEDED.

83.6 EXECUTION STUPENDOUS COLLECTIVE UNDERTAKING GATHERING MOMENTUM, PARALLELING EXTRAORDINARY DEVELOPMENTS WORLD SCENE, ACCELERATION CONVERSION PEOPLES CAUSE GOD, WIDER DIFFUSION MESSAGE BAHÁ’U’LLÁH REMAINING AREAS GLOBE. SUPPLICATING BLESSINGS ALMIGHTY REINFORCE EVERY EFFORT HIS DEVOTED FOLLOWERS ACCOMPLISHMENT VITAL TASKS.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Establishment of Special Two Year Plan for Eastern Europe and Asia

8 FEBRUARY 1990


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the World

84.1 FAR-REACHING EVENTS BEING ENACTED WORLD STAGE, PARTICULARLY IN EASTERN EUROPE AND SOVIET UNION, ON THRESHOLD FINAL FATE-LADEN DECADE CENTURY OF LIGHT, PROVIDE FURTHER DRAMATIC EVIDENCE RESISTLESS OPERATION OF GOD'S MAJOR PLAN FOR TRANSFORMATION OF HUMAN SOCIETY. RAPID UNFORESEEN DEVELOPMENTS NECESSITATE CORRESPONDING PARALLEL ACCELERATION IN LIFE-GIVING ENTERPRISES BEING PURSUED BY INHERITORS BAHÁ’U’LLÁHS RESPLENDENT REVELATION.

84.2 REJOICE THEREFORE ANNOUNCE LAUNCHING AT RIḌVÁN OF SUBSIDIARY TWO YEAR TEACHING PLAN FOR VAST REMAINING REACHES EASTERN EUROPE AND ASIA. MOMENTOUS STEP INVOLVES FURTHER SYSTEMATIC UNFOLDMENT PROVISIONS TABLETS MASTER-PLAN OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ ALREADY IN ADVANCED STAGE OF OPERATION OTHER AREAS PLANET. REGIONAL ENTERPRISE, CONCEIVED IN CONSULTATION INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER, DESIGNED SIGNIFICANTLY REINFORCE CURRENT SIX YEAR GLOBAL PLAN. OBJECTIVES INCLUDE ATTRACTION NUMEROUS NEW SUPPORTERS FAITH, GREAT INCREASE TRANSLATION, PUBLICATION AND DISSEMINATION BAHÁ’Í LITERATURE IN REQUISITE LANGUAGES ENTIRE AREA, AND EXTENSION BENEFICENT INFLUENCE DIVINELY APPOINTED ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER THROUGH ERECTION FRAMEWORK LOCAL NATIONAL BAHÁ’Í INSTITUTIONS IN AS MANY EASTERN COUNTRIES AS POSSIBLE UP TO AND INCLUDING RIḌVÁN 1992.

84.3 CALLING UPON THOSE NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES EUROPE, ASIA AND AMERICA WHICH BEAR PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY FOR INDIVIDUAL NATIONS INVOLVED, TO CONSULT WITH COUNSELORS AND FORMULATE DETAILS SPECIFIC GOALS INCORPORATING AND SUPPLEMENTING THOSE ALREADY ADOPTED AND IN PROCESS ACCOMPLISHMENT UNDER SIX YEAR PLAN. MOVED PAY TRIBUTE PRESENT HOUR REMARKABLE UNSUNG ACHIEVEMENTS THOSE INSTITUTIONS AND INDIVIDUAL BELIEVERS PRESENTLY LABORING ADVANCEMENT CAUSE IN EASTERN EUROPE AND SOVIET UNION, ACHIEVEMENTS WHICH HAVE BLAZED TRAILS FOR COMING LARGE-SCALE INITIATIVE. CALL UPON BAHÁ’Í WORLD ARISE SUPPORT DIFFUSION WORLD-REDEEMING MESSAGE FAITH GOAL AREAS THROUGH SETTLEMENT PIONEERS AND THROUGH DESPATCH STEADY FLOW TRAVELING TEACHERS, ESPECIALLY THOSE WITH KNOWLEDGE LANGUAGES COUNTRIES AND REPUBLICS EASTERN BLOC. . . .

84.4 BROAD VISTAS NOW OPEN TO FAITH GOD PROVIDE UNPRECEDENTED OPPORTUNITIES WIN FRESH VICTORIES AS WORTHY OFFERING SACRED THRESHOLD BLESSED BEAUTY OCCASION COMMEMORATION FIRST CENTENARY HIS ASCENSION COMING HOLY YEAR. IMPLORING ABUNDANT OUTPOURING DIVINE CONFIRMATIONS PARTICIPANTS ALL FACETS HISTORIC SIX YEAR CAMPAIGN.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Establislunent of the Bahá’í Chair for World Peace

12 FEBRUARY 1990


To the Bahá’ís of the World

85.1 With feelings of thankfulness and joy we announce an achievement of immense importance to the accelerating progress of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. The University of Maryland and the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States recently signed a memorandum of understanding, establishing "The Bahá’í Chair for World Peace" at that University's Center for International Development and Conflict Management. The stated purpose of the Chair is "to conduct and publish research, design courses and conduct seminars in the field of Bahá’í studies and world peace within an interdisciplinary context; to initiate public forums for discussing the issues proposed in the Statement of the Universal House of Justice entitled The Promise of World Peace; and to establish academic linkages with and provide technical assistance to Bahá’í institutions in the fields of peace education and international development."

85.2 This first initiative by a well-founded, significant institution of higher learning to formulate such a serious program of Bahá’í studies is a direct response to the Peace Statement, as is borne out by a letter addressed to us by the Director of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management in which he said: "With this letter I am answering on behalf of CIDCM and the University of Maryland your call: 'If the Bahá’í experience can contribute in whatever measure to reinforcing hope in the unity of the human race, we are happy to offer it as a model for study.'"

85.3 Fully cognizant of Bahá’u’lláh's praise of knowledge as "wings to man's life" and of the importance which He assigns to its acquisition; of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's advice that we should "seek to impart the Message to influential persons and become a cause of guidance to the learned and distinguished"; and of Shoghi Effendi's call for a "resolute attempt" to reinforce measures "for the establishment of closer contact with the leaders of public thought, with colleges and universities," we hail this seminal development both as a mark of the Faith's emergence from obscurity and as the harbinger of that day when hosts of scholars will devote their energies to the exploration, exposition and defense of the dynamic principles animating the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, thereby fulfilling the need identified by the beloved Guardian for "well-read and well-educated people, capable of correlating our teachings to the current thoughts of the leaders of society."[1] On that day, we shall witness an expansion and consolidation of the community as has not yet been experienced.

85.4 May the Blessed Beauty enable the new Bahá’í Chair for World Peace to achieve its laudable purpose; may He shower upon all who support it His abundant confirmations.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. ESW, p. 26; CC 2:1823; CF, p. 9; CC 1:511.



Fiftieth Anniversary of the Passing of May Maxwell

2.2 FEBRUARY 1990


The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Argentina

86.1 EXTEND HEARTFELT GREETINGS INTERNATIONAL GATHERING COMMEMORATING FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY PASSING MASTER'S BELOVED HANDMAID DISTINGUISHED DISCIPLE MAY MAXWELL SOLEMN OCCASION EVOKES MEMORIES MAGNETIC INFLUENCE EXERTED UPON HER BY ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ COURSE HER VISIT AICKA COMPANY FIRST GROUP WESTERN PILGRIMS. BRILLIANT RECORD HER UNFORGETTABLE ACHIEVEMENTS CROWNED PRICELESS HONOR MARTYR'S DEATH DESTINED REMAIN FOREVER IDENTIFIED WITH SPIRITUAL AWAKENING LATIN PEOPLES BOTH OLD AND NEW WORLDS. HER GLORIOUS SACRIFICE FORGED VITAL IMPERISHABLE LINK BETWEEN CHIEF EXECUTORS DIVINE PLAN IN LAND HER BIRTH, THEIR PRINCIPAL ALLY IN HER ADOPTED CANADIAN HOMELAND, AND THEIR RIGHTFUL ASSOCIATES IN LATIN AMERICA, SCENE OF HER FINAL EXPLOITS. HOPE EXPRESSED BY SHOGHI EFFENDI THAT HER NOBLE EXAMPLE WOULD INSPIRE OTHERS ARISE FOLLOW IN HER FOOTSTEPS AND THUS GLADDEN HER SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM ABUNDANTLY REALIZED BY DYNAMIC EPOCH-MAKING SERVICES BELIEVERS WESTERN HEMISPHERE DURING FIVE DECADES SINCE HER PASSING. SINGULAR ACCOMPLISHMENTS LATIN AMERICAN BELIEVERS BOTH AT HOME AND IN FOREIGN FIELDS CONSTITUTE MEMORABLE CHAPTER HISTORY THIS PERIOD FORMATIVE AGE FAITH. THEIR PRESENT GROWING INVOLVEMENT WITH TEACHING VICTORIES IN AFRICA AND EASTERN EUROPE AS WELL AS WORTHY SERVICES OF SOUTH AND CENTRAL AMERICAN BELIEVERS WORLD CENTER FAITH FURTHER ENHANCE THEIR NOTABLE CONTRIBUTION ADVANCEMENT CAUSE LORD OF HOSTS. MAY CONFERENCE HELD CLOSE PROXIMITY HER ILLUMINED RESTING-PLACE AND BLESSED THROUGH PRESENCE AND INSPIRATION MRS. MAXWELL'S HIGHLY ESTEEMED DAUGHTER HAND CAUSE GOD AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM RELEASE NEW WAVES SPIRITUAL ENERGY CHARGE PARTICIPANTS FULLER VISION IMPLICATIONS MOMENTOUS WORLD MISSION LATIN AMERICAN BAHÁ’ÍS AS IMPLIED BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S CALL TO PRESIDENTS AMERICAN REPUBLICS IN HIS MOST HOLY BOOK. ARDENTLY SUPPLICATING HOLY SHRINES FRESH OUTPOURINGS SUSTAINING GRACE ENABLE FRIENDS WIN EVER GREATER PRIZES REMAINING MONTHS SIX YEAR PLAN.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Passing of the Hand of the Cause of God Jalal Khazeh

25 FEBRUARY 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

To all Hands of the Cause of God

To all Boards of Counselors

87.1 DEEPLY GRIEVED ANNOUNCE PASSING STAUNCH TIRELESS PROMOTER FAITH HAND CAUSE GOD JALAL KHAZEH. HIS STRENUOUS ENDEAVORS CRADLE FAITH HOLY LAND LATIN AMERICA AND WORLDWIDE TRAVELS AFTER PASSING BELOVED GUARDIAN SET SHINING EXAMPLE OF UNSHAKEABLE DEDICATION AND COURAGE, OF UNDEVIATING LOYALTY AND PERSEVERANCE. IMPERISHABLE RECORD HIS STERLING SERVICES AS GIFTED TEACHER DEFENDER CAUSE NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN. HIS NOBLE SPIRIT NOW ABHÁ KINGDOM WILL UNDOUBTEDLY INTERCEDE BEHALF PERSIAN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY WHOSE VITAL INTERESTS HE SERVED WITH SUCH HIGH DISTINCTION OVER SEVERAL DECADES. FERVENTLY PRAYING HOLY SHRINES FOR PROGRESS HIS ILLUMINED SOUL IN REALMS ON HIGH. ADVISE FRIENDS EVERYWHERE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS HIS HONOR PARTICULARLY ALL HOUSES OF WORSHIP.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Appointment of Continental Pioneer Committees

17 APRIL 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

88.1 The Universal House of Justice has reviewed the membership of all Continental Pioneer Committees and has made new appointments. The list of members is attached, along with statements of the present-day purpose and character of the Committees and of their functions.

88.2 These Committees stand ready to help you with any problems you may have in planning the travels of teachers or the settlement of pioneers, and you are urged to make full use of their services. You should especially note the provisions which have been made for access to the International Deputization Fund in the financing of budgets for teachers and pioneers when necessary.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT



Continental Pioneer Committees
A statement on their present-day purpose and character (January 1990)

88.3 Attached to this statement is a list of the functions of the Continental Pioneer Committees, as revised to reflect the current stage in the development of these Committees, the growing needs and opportunities of the Faith in the fields of pioneering (long-term and short-term) and traveling teaching, the increasing importance of close collaboration between the Committees and the Continental Counselors, and the cooperation of both with the National Spiritual Assemblies.

88.4 With the rapid increase of opportunities opening at this period all over the world for teaching the Faith to the masses of humanity, it has become essential that all possible measures be taken to ensure the swift, effective mobilization of pioneers, both long-term and short-term, and of international traveling teachers to meet the needs of every national community. The Continental Pioneer Committees serve as agencies, supplemental to the direct involvement of National Spiritual Assemblies in sending and receiving such manpower, by which every believer who arises for the service of Bahá’u’lláh may be sure of receiving the prompt, comprehensive guidance and assistance which he may need in carrying out his intention.

88.5 If pioneers and traveling teachers are to enter the field of service as rapidly, continuously, and effectively as the current historic hour demands, it is vital that the believers and institutions concerned are fully conversant with those instruments which have been created to serve their needs and with the methods and lines of communication which should be utilized. The Continental Pioneer Committees are one such instrument. This statement is designed to clarify their specific role in the process, to define their areas of responsibility, and to stipulate the resources at their disposal.

88.6 The functions of the Continental Pioneer Committees have been modifled to relieve the Committees, to some extent, of the information-gathering duties formerly assigned to them, to focus more on their duties as executive agencies in charge of facilitating pioneer and traveling teaching projects, to stress again to both the Committees and the Continental Boards of Counselors that close, creative interaction between the two institutions is an indispensable element in the application of the manpower resources of the Cause to the requirements of national Bahá’í communities, and to remind the National Spiritual Assemblies that they have access to the services of the International Teaching Center and the International Deputization Fund through the channel of the Continental Pioneer Committees and that these Committees are ever ready to assist them in the settlement of pioneers and the implementation of traveling teaching projects.

88.7 It is our particular hope that from time to time it may be possible for either the full membership, or at least the Secretary, of each Continental Pioneer Committee to meet with the Continental Board of Counselors in its region for consultation concerning the needs and possibilities of the continent in regard to pioneers and traveling teachers. The purpose of such consultation would be to ensure that areas where manpower is needed are quickly identified and all possible steps are taken to fill these needs. The Continental Boards of Counselors, with the Auxiliary Board members and the Continental Pioneer Committees, should likewise be alert to the need of cooperation with National Spiritual Assemblies in the orientation and briefing of pioneers and traveling teachers.

88.8 The Continental Pioneer Committees have been granted funds by the International Teaching Center with which to initiate or support traveling teaching projects which they themselves see are useful and needed. In addition, they constitute the correct avenue by means of which the National Spiritual Assemblies can apply for assistance from the International Deputization Fund for the support of either pioneer or traveling teaching projects. It is particularly important that this function of the Continental Pioneer Committees in regard to budgetary assistance be fully understood by both the National Spiritual Assemblies and the believers generally, especially insofar as it relates to the newly instituted short-term pioneer projects.

88.9 In the past, some of the Continental Pioneer Committees have found it useful to appoint a small number of regional representatives, in key distant locations of their continent, who have assisted them in the prompt discharge of their duties. This possibility is still open for the Committees to explore.

88.10 One of the most important aspects of this subject is the requirement for the rapid and accurate exchange of information needed to facilitate the movement and utilization of those believers who wish to join the ranks of pioneers and traveling teachers. The Continental Pioneer Committees require the full support and prompt cooperation of both the Continental Boards of Counselors and the National Spiritual Assemblies in the discharge of their vital functions. In turn, these institutions should be able to depend on the reliability, experience, and knowledge of the Continental Pioneer Committees.



Deputizing Pioneers for the End of the Six Year Plan

20 APRIL 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

89.1 Twenty-five years ago, when the International Deputization Fund was established in the Holy Land by the Universal House of Justice and the friends were invited to contribute to it in support of pioneering and traveling teaching projects throughout the world, these illuminating words of Bahá’u’lláh were quoted:

89.1a Center your energies in the propagation of the Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and promote it. Whoso is unable, it is his duty to appoint him who will, in his stead, proclaim this Revelation, whose power hath caused the foundations of the mightiest structures to quake, every mountain to be crushed into dust, and every soul to be dumbfounded. . . .[1]

It is clear from this injunction of Bahá’u’lláh's that the primary responsibility to promote the propagation of the Faith of God rests on the individual believer. It is, likewise, his responsibility, if he is unable to discharge this duty, to appoint one who will, in his stead, proclaim this Revelation.

89.2 Many of the friends have, ever since these words were revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, succeeded in responding to the call. A great number have not found it easy to select suitable and qualified deputies willing to undertake such a task for them.

89.3 We feel that the time has come, as the Bahá’í world is rapidly moving towards the end of the Six Year Plan, for National Spiritual Assemblies to take an active part in facilitating the selection and appointment of suitable pioneers and traveling teachers, by providing a link between those wishing to deputize, and those qualified and ready to be deputized. The manner in which this objective can be achieved is left to the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly, which should consider the conditions of its national community, and determine, preferably in consultation with the Counselors or their representatives, the wisest and most effective course of action to follow. It is hoped that whatever procedures are adopted, they will assist the friends to fulfill their responsibilities, to the extent possible, in the manner prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh.

89.4 The way is, of course, always open for the friends to use the International Deputization Fund as the vehicle of their compliance with Bahá’u’lláh's injunction. Thus, those who are unable, or find it difficult, to identify suitable candidates to be designated as their deputies are able to send their contributions to the International Deputization Fund on a regular basis in order to fulfill their sacred obligation for the promotion of the teaching work.

89.5 Responsibility for the administration of this Fund has been assigned to the International Teaching Center and, in its turn, the Teaching Center makes specific allocations through the Continental Pioneer Committees, whose memberships have recently been renewed and made known to the friends. A few months ago short-term pioneer projects were announced and the concept of short-term pioneers has been received with great excitement by the friends everywhere. Whenever supplementary funds are needed to assist in the prosecution of these projects, or to finance long-term pioneering and traveling teaching projects, application could be made to the International Deputization Fund. National Spiritual Assemblies, therefore, could work out cost estimates of projects needing financial support, and submit their requests for budget assistance to the Continental Pioneer Committees.

89.6 The occasion demands that the followers of Bahá’u’lláh should wholeheartedly, with fresh enthusiasm and renewed dedication, step into this arena of service. It is our hope and prayer that through such universal participation in this mighty endeavor, those whose circumstances do not enable them at this time to fulfill the Beloved's call, as clearly enunciated in His celebrated passage quoted above, will discharge their obligation by contributing to the International Deputization Fund, thus providing the means whereby others may propel the remaining stages of the Six Year Plan to a triumphant conclusion.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 96.3.



Commencement of Work on Extension of Terraces on Mount Carmel

24 MAY 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

91.1 WITH FEELINGS OF PROFOUND JOY ANNOUNCE TO FOLLOWERS OF BAHÁ’U’LLÁH IN EVERY LAND THAT ON MORNING OF TWENTY-THIRD MAY, ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-SIX YEARS AFTER THE DECLARATION OF THE BÁB, WORK ON EXTENSION TERRACES COMMENCED. THIS HISTORIC OCCASION MARKED BY VISIT HIS SHRINE AND SHRINE OF ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ BY THE HANDS OF THE CAUSE OF GOD AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM AND ‘ALÍ AKBAR FURÚTAN, THE MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE AND COUNSELOR MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER WITH FARIBORZ SAHBA, ARCHITECT OF TERRACES AND MANAGER OF ARC PROJECT, TO PRAY FOR DIVINE CONFIRMATIONS ENABLE UNINTERRUPTED PROSECUTION THIS MAJESTIC ENTERPRISE. SUBSEQUENTLY DETAILED PLANS WERE VIEWED FOR LENGTHENING EASTERN WING OF MAIN TERRACE OF SHRINE, MAKING IT EQUAL TO EXISTING WESTERN WING.

91.2 GLORIOUS UNDERTAKING CREATION BEFITTING RESTING PLACE MARTYR-HERALD FAITH WAS ENVISAGED BY BAHÁ’U’LLÁH HIMSELF, WAS SOLEMNLY INITIATED BY ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ, WHO RAISED WITH INFINITE PAINS ORIGINAL STRUCTURE AND PLACED WITHIN IT THE SACRED REMAINS OF THE BÁB, WAS VIGOROUSLY PURSUED BY SHOGHI EFFENDI, WHO COMPLETED CENTRAL EDIFICE, EMBELLISHED IT WITH BEAUTEOUS SUPERSTRUCTURE AND CONNECTED IT WITH MAIN AVENUE TEMPLAR COLONY THROUGH CONSTRUCTION FIRST NINE TERRACES, IS NOW ENTERING UPON CULMINATING PHASE ITS DEVELOPMENT THROUGH EXTENSION BEAUTIFICATION NINE EXISTING TERRACES AND CONSTRUCTION NINE MORE TO REALIZE MONUMENTAL CONCEPT REACHING FROM FOOT TO CREST HOLY MOUNTAIN.

91.3 CALL UPON FRIENDS EVERY LAND RALLY SUPPORT THIS SACRED ENTERPRISE NOW INSEPARABLY LINKED WITH ARC PROJECT EXPRESS BEFITTINGLY THEIR AWARENESS MAGNITUDE BOUNTY CONFERRED UPON MANKIND BY MINISTRY AND SACRIFICE BLESSED BÁB, DEMONSTRATE THEIR COMMITMENT TO BAHÁ’U’LLÁH'S CALL IN TABLET OF CARMEL TO ESTABLISH UPON THAT MOUNTAIN SEAT GOD'S THRONE AND FULFILL, THROUGH THEIR GENEROUS CONTRIBUTIONS, ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ'S AND SHOGHI EFFENDI'S VISION OF EFFLORESCENCE MIGHTY INSTITUTIONS FAITH ON MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Completion of the Restoration of the North Wing of the House of ‘Abdu’lláh Páshá
19 JUNE 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

92.1 REJOICE ANNOUNCE COMPLETION RESTORATION NORTH WING OF HOUSE OF ‘ABDU’LLÁH PÁSHÁ IN ‘AKKÁ PERMITTING FIRST VISIT ADDITIONAL AREA THIS HOLY PLACE BY CURRENT GROUP PILGRIMS ON SEVENTEENTH JUNE. WING CONTAINS HALL IN WHICH ‘ABDU’L-BAHÁ HELD FEASTS AND OTHER GATHERINGS AND ALSO ROOM OCCUPIED BY SHOGHI EFFENDI DURING BOYHOOD, BOTH ROOMS BEFITTINGLY FURNISHED BY AMATU’L-BAHÁ RÚḤÍYYIH KHÁNUM.

92.2 JOYFUL EVENT COINCIDED LETTING CONTRACT MAJOR WORKS EXTENSION MAIN TERRACE OF SHRINE OF THE BÁB. THIS INITIAL STAGE CONSTRUCTION TERRACES, COSTING APPROXIMATELY 550,000 DOLLARS, DUE TO BE COMPLETED IN FOUR MONTHS.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Passing of Hedayatoullah Ahmadiyeh, Continental Counselor


29 AUGUST 1990

To all National Spiritual Assemblies in the Americas

93.1 PROFOUNDLY DEPLORE TRAGIC CIRCUMSTANCES SUDDEN PASSING DEARLY LOVED, WHOLLY DEVOTED, INDEFATIGABLE SERVANT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH HEDAYATOULLAH AHMADIYEH. HIS CONSTANT PROMOTION SACRED CAUSE THROUGH HIS INTENSIVE IMMENSELY SUCCESSFUL INVOLVEMENT TEACHING WORK INCLUDING HIS AUTHORSHIP WIDELY USED TEACHING BOOKLET WAS AT CORE HIS DYNAMIC SERVICES AS CONTINENTAL COUNSELOR IN AMERICAS, AS MEMBER AND CHAIRMAN FOR MANY YEARS OF NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY BELIZE AND AS PIONEER DURING HIS YOUTHFUL YEARS IRAN. OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENTS HIS EXTENSIVE TEACHING TRIPS THROUGH CENTRAL, NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA WILL FOREVER BE ASSOCIATED WITH BRILLIANT CHAPTERS DEVELOPMENT FAITH THESE AREAS. DEEPLY SYMPATHIZE MEMBERS HIS BELOVED FAMILY WHOSE WHOLEHEARTED SUPPORT HIS ACTIVITIES WAS EXEMPLARY. PRAYING HOLY THRESHOLD THAT HIS SOUL MAY RECEIVE RICH REWARDS MAY BE IMBUED WITH ETERNAL HAPPINESS THROUGHOUT DIVINE WORLDS.

93.2 ADVISING MEMORIAL SERVICES BE HELD TEMPLES PANAMA CITY AND WILMETTE AND IN COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT AMERICAS IN HIS HONOR

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Release of a Compilation on Teaching Prominent People

28 SEPTEMBER 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

94.1 The Universal House of Justice draws to your attention that portion of the most recent Riḍván message in which the friends throughout the world are asked to focus on the need to attract people of capacity and prominence to the Faith. Because of the emphasis the House of Justice wishes the friends to place on this matter, the Research Department was asked to prepare a compilation of texts on the subject. The compilation is now ready and a copy is enclosed.[1]

94.2 It is the ardent prayer of the House of Justice that careful study of the passages included will assist the believers to appreciate the importance of fostering cordial relations with accomplished and distinguished figures, with people of capacity and with those occupying prominent positions in society. The aim of the believers should be to make of them friends of the Faith, dispelling any misconceptions they may have and unfolding before their eyes the vision of world solidarity and peace enshrined in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. The friends should be confident that the spiritually minded and receptive souls among such people will eventually accept the truth of the Bahá’í Revelation and join the ranks of its active supporters.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation is too lengthy to include here; see CC 2, pp. 257-80.



Passing of the Hand of the Cause of God Collis Featherstone

30 SEPTEMBER 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

95.1 DEEPLY GRIEVED ANNOUNCE PASSING VALIANT HAND CAUSE GOD COLLIS FEATHERSTONE WHILE VISITING KATHMANDU, NEPAL COURSE EXTENSIVE JOURNEY ASIA.

95.2 HIS NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS STAUNCH, FEARLESS DEFENDER COVENANT, HIS UNCEASING COMMITMENT PROPAGATION CAUSE ALL PARTS WORLD, ESPECIALLY PACIFIC REGION, HIS UNREMITTING PERSEVERANCE FOSTERING ESTABLISHMENT LOCAL, NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER, HIS EXEMPLARY DEVOTION TO WRITINGS FAITH, HIS OUTSTANDING PERSONAL QUALITIES UNSWERVING LOYALTY, ENTHUSIASM, ZEAL AND DEDICATION, DISTINGUISH HIS MANIFOLD SERVICES THROUGHOUT MANY DECADES.

95.3 OFFERING PRAYERS HOLY SHRINES BOUNTIFUL REWARD HIS RADIANT SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM. ADVISE FRIENDS EVERYWHERE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS, PARTICULARLY IN MASHRIQU’L-ADHKÁR, RECOGNITION HIS MAGNIFICENT ACHIEVEMENTS.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Means for Assisting a Traumatized World

24 OCTOBER 1990


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

96.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter . . . . We have been directed to convey the following on its behalf.

96.2 The several issues raised in your letter are best considered in light of the insights conveyed in the Bahá’í teachings about the manner in which the innumerable problems of an ailing society can best be resolved and its distressing condition ameliorated.

96.3 Bahá’u’lláh has stated in His Tablet to Queen Victoria:

96.3a That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error.[1]

96.4 The well-being of humanity is a reflection of its spiritual state, and any enduring change for the better in its material affairs requires a change in its spiritual condition. For this reason the principal concern and contribution of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh is the spiritual transformation of human society, with full confidence that by this means they are making a most valuable and most fundamental contribution to the betterment of the world and the rectification of its many problems.

96.5 It is the responsibility of the institutions of the Faith to assist the believers in their endeavors to acquire an accurate and profound understanding of the indissoluble connection between their efforts to propagate the Faith and consolidate its institutions and their commendable desire to contribute to improvement in the quality of human life. They should realize also that their approach to the solution of the world's problems will not be understood, and may even be disparaged by the idealistic materialists whose labors are directed so assiduously to improvement in the material welfare of humanity, and to whom material good is the only standard by which the condition of society is assessed. The Universal House of Justice has stated on an earlier occasion that:

96.5a . . . most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combating every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá’ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils―which are in essence negative―will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá’í, a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a divinely created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole of human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustices which have so long bedeviled the world.[2]

96.6 Such a perspective does not mean that Bahá’ís should avoid doing what-ever they can to help others and alleviate human distress, or that they should not associate with and support suitable like-minded organizations. On the contrary, the believers should, at all times, be alert to opportunities to do whatever is within their power to make the conditions of human life better; by this means they will manifest that commitment to action exemplified by the Master, will demonstrate the relevance of Bahá’í principles to the issues of contemporary society, and will attract the receptive and discerning to the Bahá’í teachings. In so doing they should keep clearly in mind that the ultimate purpose is to hasten the establishment and triumph of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh within which resides the power to heal the ills of the world and to establish a world civilization.

96.7 Not only is the Bahá’í perspective unique, so too are the methods used by the believers to achieve their objectives. Unity and cooperation are important values which should be the watchwords for activities in which the believers engage. As a consequence, Bahá’ís eschew the adversarial approach of dispute and confrontation, and seek rather the methods of consultation, with its commitment to informed discussion and mutual respect, and with its goal the achievement of consensus in the pursuit of truth. Bahá’ís aim to persuade others of the correctness of their views through their example and the use of reason, and shun the techniques of pressure, condemnation and abuse which are a deplorable feature of much of the present-day quest for social justice.

96.8 The injunction to avoid participation in political controversies, identification with political pursuits, or involvement in partisan political affairs is binding on all believers, whether they act as individuals or as representatives of the Bahá’í community. Within those bounds, there is a wide range of possible activities open to them in participating with other groups which aim to promote measures entirely in accord with the Bahá’í principles, such as improvement in race relations, the emancipation of women, conservation of the earth's resources, the promotion of world peace, and so on. The institutions of the Faith are generally subject to a greater restriction in the issues with which they would choose to identify themselves, since their involvement will necessarily have a direct implication for the reputation of the Faith and for its possible misrepresentation by its adversaries.

96.9 These considerations may be used to clarify the specific issues raised in your letter. For example, in light of the Bahá’í approach to the search for truth, it would not be proper for a Bahá’í to become involved in environmental activities which are confrontationist. The concern of the Tasmanian Bahá’ís for conservation is highly commendable, but they should be aided to find other, more productive, means to express this concern; a study of the recently prepared compilation on conservation of the earth's resources may well be of benefit to them in this regard.[3]

96.10 In considering whether they should participate in coordinated campaigns such as letter writing, or signing petitions, Bahá’ís should be guided by their Spiritual Assemblies, and are encouraged to accept this guidance in a spirit of radiant acquiescence. The Assemblies should give careful consideration to the motives of the originators of the activity and the methods which are being used. Bahá’ís should avoid contention and strife, and are to be distinguished by their honesty and fair-mindedness, and their respect for the rule of law. They should carefully avoid being involved in partisan activities which are sponsored by a political organization, and are warned to "beware lest they allow themselves to become the tools of unscrupulous politicians, or to be entrapped by the treacherous devices of the plotters and the perfidious among their countrymen."[4]

96.11 As your letter points out, there are instances where the Guardian endorsed Bahá’ís identifying themselves with protest activities on vital issues which the Bahá’í teachings illuminate. It must be remembered that there is an important distinction between protest against attitudes and practices prevalent in some quarters of society and protest antagonistic to the government. The Bahá’í Faith directs its attention principally to the promotion of attitudinal change consequent to acceptance of the claim of Bahá’u’lláh, confident that the transformation of attitudes and values will, in due course, yield its fruit in measures which will resolve the problems with which humanity is now burdened.

96.12 The Universal House of Justice appreciates the serious attention you are giving to providing appropriate guidance to the believers as they seek to steer their course around the many hazards and pitfalls associated with this transitional stage in human affairs. Understanding the Bahá’í approach is facilitated by a deep appreciation of the implications of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, destined to evolve from the present-day Administrative Order; this divinely ordained system is an expression of the social reorganization of humanity far beyond the conception of present-day political and social movements whose aim is no more than to repair a lamentably defective order which is fundamentally incapable of meeting the needs of the new age into which humanity is being irresistibly propelled.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. SH, ¶176.
  2. MUHJ, no. 151.7
  3. See CC 1, pp. 65-92.
  4. WOB, p. 64.



Appointment of Continental Boards of Counselors

25 OCTOBER 1990


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

97.1 It gives us great pleasure to announce the membership of the Continental Boards of Counselors as from the Day of the Covenant, 26 November 1990. The number of continental Counselors remains at 72, but adjustments have been made in their geographical distribution in consonance with the development of the Faith around the world.

97.2 The membership of the Continental Boards of Counselors as now appointed is:

97.2a Africa (18 Counselors): Dr. Hushang Ahdieh (Trustee of the Continental Fund), Mr. George Allen, Mrs. Beatrice O. Asare, Mr. Gila Michael Bahta, Mr. Kiser Barnes, Mrs. Parvin Djoneidi, Mr. Mehraz Ehsani, Mr. Friday Ekpe, Mr. Shidan Fat’he-Aazam, Mr. Kassimi Fofana, Mr. Hizzaya Hissani, Mr. Zekrollah Kazemi, Mr. Muḥammad Kebdani, Mr. Daniel Ramoroesi, Mr. Gilbert Robert, Mrs. Edith Senoga, Mrs. Lucretia M. Warren, Mr. Wingi Mabuku.
97.2b The Americas (17 Counselors): Mr. Eloy Anello, Mr. Gustavo Correa, Mr. Rolf von Czékus, Mrs. Jacqueline Delahunt, Dr. Wilma M. Ellis, Dr. Peter McLaren (Trustee of the Continental Fund), Mr. Shapoor Monadjem, Mrs. Linda Neufeld, Mrs. Ruth Pringle, Dr. William Roberts, Mrs. Isabel de Sanchez, Mr. Fred Schechter, Mr. Errol Sealy, Dr. Arturo Serrano, Mr. Alan Smith, Dr. David R. Smith, Mr. Rodrigo Tomás.
97.2c Asia (17 Counselors): Dr. Sabir Afaqi, Mr. Burháni’d-Dín Afshín, Mr. Faḍil Ardikání, Mr. Jabbar Eidelkhani, Mr. Bijan Farid, Dr. John Fozdar, Mr. David Huang, Mr. Abbas Katirai, Dr. Kim Myung Jung, Mrs. Lee Lee Ludher, Mr. S. Nagaratnam, Dr. Perin Olyai, Mrs. Rose Ong, Mr. Vicente Samaniego, Mrs. Kimiko Schwerin, Mrs. Zena Sorabjee, Mrs. Shantha Sundram (Trustee of the Continental Fund).
97.2d Australia (10 Counselors): Mr. Ben Ayala, Mrs. Beatrice Benson, Mr. Afemata Moli Chang, Dr. Kamran Eshraghian (Trustee of the Continental Fund), Mrs. Violette Haake, Mrs. Tinai Hancock, Mrs. Betra Majmeto, Mrs. Gayle Morrison, Dr. Sírús Narájí, Mr. Bruce Saunders.
97.2e Europe (10 Counselors): Mr. Louis Hénuzet, Mr. Foad Kazemzadeh, Mrs. Elisabeth Mühlschlegel, Mr. Patrick O'Mara (Trustee of the Continental Fund), Mr. Nabil Perdu, Mrs. Polin Rafat, Dr. Shapour Rassekh, Mr. Paul Semenoff, Dr. Ilhan Sezgin, Mr. Sohrab Youssefian.

97.3 The following eighteen devoted believers who are now being relieved of the onerous duties of membership on the Boards of Counselors will, as distinguished servants of the Cause, continue through their outstanding capacities and experience to be sources of stimulation and encouragement to the friends.

97.4 Mr. Suhayl Ala’i, Mr. Husayn Ardekani, Justice Richard Benson, Mrs. Isabel de Calderón, Mr. Oloro Epyeru, Dr. Agnès Ghaznavi, Mr. Zabíhu’lláh Gulmuḥammadí, Mr. Robert Harris, Mr. Bharat Koirala, Mr. Lisiate Maka, Mr. Rouhollah Momtazi, Mrs. Ursula Mühlschlegel, Dr. Leo Niederreiter, Mr. Khudáraḥm Paymán, Mr. Masíḥ Rawḥání, Dr. Mihdi Samandari, U Soe Tin, Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto.

97.5 We express to each and every one of these dear friends our heartfelt gratitude and assure them of our prayers in the Holy Shrines for the confirmation of their highly meritorious and self-sacrificing services to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

97.6 Throughout all the continents the influential and energetic services of the Counselors have demonstrated the progressive development of their essential sphere of operation. The effective manner in which they inspire both the believers and institutions with a greater sense of vision and direction; the extensive consultations they carry out with National Spiritual Assemblies in the prosecution of the objectives of the Six Year Plan; the part they play in the vanguard of believers addressing the needs of the supplementary Two Year Plan in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Mongolia and China; the widespread support they offer to the consolidation efforts at the grass roots of the communities through the dedicated untiring efforts of their Auxiliary Board members and their assistants; the steady encouragement they lend to both the enrollment and deepening of youth and children; the generous assistance they extend to the teaching work through the allocation of subvention funds to special projects and the publication and dissemination of Bahá’í literature and audiovisual materials―in all these activities we witness the manifold evidences of the vital role exercised by these high-ranking officers of the Faith in the protection and propagation of the Cause of God.

97.7 We are calling upon the Counselors from all continents to gather at the World Center from 28 December 1990 through 3 January 1991 for a conference to deliberate on the tasks and opportunities of the years immediately ahead, as we approach the end of the Six Year Plan and the observance of the Holy Year marking the Centenary of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh and of the inauguration of His Covenant.

97.8 It is our fervent hope that from this Conference will flow a stream of guidance and inspiration to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in every land, reinforcing a hundredfold their endeavors to achieve the triumph of the Cause of God.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Formation of New Local Spiritual Assemblies in Eastern Europe and Former USSR

12 NOVEMBER 1990


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the World

98.1 SEVEN MONTHS AFTER LAUNCHING SUPPLEMENTARY TWO YEAR PLAN REJOICE ANNOUNCE FOURTEEN LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES IN SOVIET UNION, PLUS SIX IN ROMANIA WHERE THERE ARE NOW OVER 600 BELIEVERS, AND ONE LOCAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY EACH IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA, HUNGARY AND YUGOSLAVIA. DEVELOPMENT FAITH IN ALL THESE COUNTRIES AS WELL AS IN ALBANIA, BULGARIA, MONGOLIA AND POLAND GOING FORWARD WITH EXTRAORDINARY SPEED, FORMATION MORE LOCAL ASSEMBLIES IN PROCESS OR EXPECTED SHORTLY.

98.2 IN HOLY LAND WORK ON TERRACE OF SHRINE OF THE BÁB PROGRESSING. RESERVE REQUIRED FOR COMMENCEMENT WORK ON ARC NOW REACHED $45,000,000: $29,000,000 FROM EARMARKED CONTRIBUTIONS, $16,000,000 THROUGH TRANSFERS MADE FROM CONTRIBUTIONS TO ḤUQÚQU’LLÁH AND THE BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL FUND. IMPERATIVE FULFILL INITIAL GOAL $50,000,000 FORTHWITH, AND ENSURE ANNUAL CONTRIBUTION $20,000,000 FOR MOUNT CARMEL PROJECTS TO ENABLE WORK PROCEED WITHOUT INTERRUPTION.

98.3 CONFIDENT INVINCIBLE SPIRIT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH WILL ENABLE HIS FOLLOWERS EVERY LAND MEET CHALLENGE WORLDWIDE EXPANSION CAUSE AND INTERNATIONAL NEEDS OF THE FAITH AT WORLD CENTER.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message to the Moscow Conference

21 NOVEMBER 1990


To the Friends gathered at the Moscow Conference

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

99.1 It is with a sense of joy and wonderment that we address you, the representatives of the Bahá’í communities throughout the USSR and of the National Spiritual Assemblies which have been given the awesome responsibility for raising up the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh in that vast area. The march of world events has utterly transformed the scene of your labors, presenting you with formidable problems but with achievements and opportunities which must cause your hearts to sing with joy to the Almighty.

99.2 In the Heroic Age of the Faith many events occurred to link it with the peoples of Russia. We need but mention the offer of asylum extended to Bahá’u’lláh by the Russian Government prior to His banishment to Iraq; His Tablet addressed to Tsar Alexander II; the deep interest that the Cause aroused in Russian scholars and leading literary figures; the glories of the Bahá’í community which arose in ‘Ishqábád; the exemplary action of the members of that community in appealing for clemency for its persecutors; and the raising of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in that city. A beginning which showed such promise was eclipsed by the restrictions following the First World War but, even in those dark days, the beloved Guardian saw clearly that it was but a temporary veiling of the light of this Revelation. In a letter he wrote in Persian to the believers in ‘Ishqábád on 11 January 1923 we find these insightful words:

99.2a There is no doubt that the day will come when the very people who are now engaged in destroying the foundations of faith in God and promoting this baseless doctrine of materialism will arise and, by their own hand, snuff out the flame of this commotion. They will sweep away the entire structure of their unrestrained godlessness and will arise with heart and soul, and with hitherto unmatched vigor, to atone for their past failures. They will join the ranks of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh and arise to promote His Cause. . . . If the friends remain steadfast, and discharge their duties with loyalty and prudence, the veils of God's inscrutable wisdom will be lifted and extraordinary events will be witnessed. The hosts of divine confirmation, fortified by the power of the Spirit will, in unimaginable ways and from unexpected quarters, provide the means for the triumph of the Cause of our Self-Subsisting Lord, and in so doing will brighten the eyes of the faithful throughout the world.

And again, on 2 January 1930:

99.2b Russia will in the future become a delectable paradise, and the teaching work in that land will be carried out on an unprecedented scale. The House of Worship established in its very heart will shine forth with dazzling splendor, and the call of the Most Great Name will reverberate in its temples, its churches, and its places of worship. We need to show forth patience and forbearance. In these momentous convulsions there lie concealed mighty and consummate mysteries, which will be revealed to men's eyes in the days to come.

99.3 We have been blessed to see the beginning of the unfoldment of these mysteries, and to this generation has been entrusted the task of conveying the Message of Bahá’u’lláh to the many races and peoples of that land, and of raising up Bahá’í communities in its cities, towns and villages.

99.4 The society in the midst of which you are called upon to work is undergoing radical changes in every aspect of its life, changes which are but a concentration of the problems with which every country, and world society as a whole, is grappling. The underlying cause of this transformation is that this is the age of the Oneness of Mankind, and therefore every people, whether of the USSR or in other parts of the world, must find its way to the unity in diversity, the harmony of formerly conflicting elements, which Shoghi Effendi held forth as the goal towards which mankind is striving. On this theme he wrote on 11 March 1936 to the emerging Bahá’í communities of the West, directing their attention to the challenging statements made by the Founder of their Faith:

99.4a "A new life," Bahá’u’lláh proclaims, "is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause, or perceived its motive." "O ye children of men," He thus addresses His generation, "the fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race . . . This is the straight path, the fixed and immovable foundation. Whatsoever is raised on this foundation, the changes and chances of the world can never impair its strength, nor will the revolution of coundess centuries undermine its structure." "The well-being of mankind," He declares, "its peace and security are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." "So powerful is the light of unity," is His further testimony, "that it can illuminate the whole earth. The one true God, He Who knoweth all things, Himself testifieth to the truth of these words . . . This goal excelleth every other goal, and this aspiration is the monarch of all aspirations." "He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful," He, moreover, has written, "cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body. Haste ye to win your share of God's good grace and mercy in this Day that eclipseth all other created days."[1]

Commenting on the implications of these momentous words, Shoghi Effendi states:

99.4b 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. . . .
99.4c A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation―such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.[2]

99.5 No one who contemplates the present conditions of the world, let alone of the USSR, could expect that such a consummation will come without great effort, without traversing manifold difficulties. But the mainspring of its achievement is the awakening of ever more human beings to the truth of the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, and their adherence to His Cause and His Covenant, the illumination of their spiritual and moral lives by the light of His Teachings, and the unification of their efforts through His Administrative Order. Through their individual transformation and through their combined efforts they will transform the conditions of the world and bring to birth a new, worldwide civilization.

99.6 The culmination of this process lies in centuries ahead, but it is not in the end alone that joy is found. The true nature of the human soul is spiritual; it is the relationship of each soul to God and its kinship with every other soul that brings true happiness and fulfillment. Our Bahá’í communities are still far from the perfection that Bahá’u’lláh desires for us, but it is in our loving support of one another, in our forbearance of each other's failings, in our determination to develop and uphold the institutions which Bahá’u’lláh has ordained, in our spirit of love and of tolerance towards all people, and in our courage and perseverance through all difficulties, that we achieve the fulfillment of our lives.

99.7 Now, at this Conference, you are to consider the conditions of the Cause in your lands, to examine the possibilities before you and to recommend the courses of action that you deem to be most advantageous in the months immediately ahead. There are tasks to which you must now set your hands to prepare for the achievements of tomorrow. Do not permit the problems in your way to dismay you or deflect you from your goals; it is to overcome the problems of humankind that the Bahá’í community has been brought into being. Your vital task is to immerse yourselves in the study of the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, to enrich your spiritual lives and to discover thereby the best direction for your endeavors, to express them in your actions, and to convey them to those who thirst for guidance. You are the instruments of the purpose of God, the channels of His grace, the bearers of His Message, the holders of the key to the challenges of the age. Follow His guidance and the successes you will achieve will be an inspiration to your fellow-believers and the quickener of hope in the hearts of the people.

99.8 Be assured that as you arise for the promotion of His Cause, the confirmations of Bahá’u’lláh will surround you, and you will witness the truth of these exalted words uttered by Him in His Most Great Prison:

99.8a Verily, We behold you from Our realm of Glory, and shall aid whosoever will arise for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high and a company of Our favored angels.[3]

99.9 We shall pray ardently on your behalf in the Holy Shrines and eagerly await news of the outcome of your deliberations.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. WOB, p. 202.
  2. WOB, pp. 203, 204.
  3. KA, ¶53.



Suspension of Pilgrimage Program

3 DECEMBER 1990


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

100.1 Further to our letter of 8 October 1990, in view of the continued unsettled conditions in the Middle East, the Universal House of Justice has decided that pilgrimages to the Holy Land up to the end of March 1991 should be canceled. The individual pilgrims scheduled for this period are also being informed.

100.2 For the same reason, the conference for the Counselors which was scheduled to be held in the Holy Land from 28 December 1990 through 3 January 1991 has also been canceled. The House of Justice hopes it will be possible to convene such a conference at a later date.

100.3 The friends should not allow their concern about the situation in these regions to deter them from their efforts to promote the vital interests of the infinitely precious Faith of God.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Message to the Continental Boards of Counselors

20 DECEMBER 1990


To the Continental Boards of Counselors

101.1 On the occasion of the initial meetings of your newly reappointed Boards we express to each of your members our abiding love and esteem and the assurance of our fervent prayers at the Holy Shrines for your abounding success in this new term of service. It was with deep regret that we found it necessary to postpone your much anticipated gathering in the Holy Land. Despite this, we feel confident you will draw upon the challenge of the hour to charge yourselves with ever greater feelings of responsibility, to enliven your vision of the clear needs ahead, and to fortify your resolve to unflinchingly carry forward your far-reaching activities, keenly aware of the great role to which you have been called.

101.2 After some two decades of development, the vital importance of the services of the Counselors is appreciated by institutions and believers alike―a recognition which greatly enhances your possibilities. A brief period of fifteen months separates us from the end of the worldwide Six Year Plan and the supplementary Two Year Plan, and the opening of the Holy Year which will mark the hundredth anniversary of the Ascension of the Blessed Perfection and of the inauguration of His triumphant Covenant. Many objectives have already been attained. Much beyond our expectations has been accomplished. Numerous and extraordinary achievements still lie within our grasp. May the Counselors, at this urgent and propitious time, through both their inspiration and their example, sustained by the unfailing and energizing confirmations of the hosts on high, rouse and electrify the friends everywhere to perform such heroic and luminous deeds as will strike a worthy and commensurate contrast to the darkening agonies of a world in its travail, and bring the Bahá’í community to the conclusion of its current collective enterprise laden with undreamed-of victories.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Features of Elections and Administration

2 JANUARY 1991


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

102.1 The Universal House of Justice has studied your letter . . . which contains proposals for a number of changes to Bahá’í electoral, judicial and reviewing procedures. . . .

102.2 The questions you have raised are worthy of the most serious consideration. Although they are specifically concerned with certain administrative procedures, they touch upon fundamental principles of far-reaching implications. To a significant extent the answers to them relate to the basic attitude we as Bahá’ís have both toward the nature of man at the advent of the coming of age of the entire human race, and toward the developmental processes of a world community in the initial stages of its formative age during the most critical time of transition from the old dispensation to the new.

102.3 The sense of our newness as an evolving community is underscored by the fact that at this very moment we are engaged for the first time in preparing for the publication of the full text of our Book of Laws, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, with annotations. This anticipated event indicates how much more we have to understand our fundamental laws before our institutions can proceed to lay down rules and regulations beyond those which are already in effect. The House of Justice feels that enough has been stated by the Guardian to enable the friends to cope for the time being with the problems you have cited. However, we are to convey the following comments on the various points of your letter.

102.4 For all its size―some five million members worldwide, the majority of whom have joined the Faith in the past 15 years―the Bahá’í community is still far from attaining the administrative maturity that would allow for the imposition, even if it were permissible, of certain rules. However acute your observations, they are based on a history limited in time and in experience. It bears noting that even though the systematic efforts of establishing the Bahá’í administration began some seven decades ago, a large majority of the current National Spiritual Assemblies (95 out of 151) came into existence only during the last 26 years and have emerged in communities the vast majority of whose members are not yet deeply grounded in the administrative principles of the Faith. Ordinarily, a substantial proportion of the voting members of the communities do not regularly participate in Bahá’í elections. Moreover, because of the relatively small number of nationally active believers, the range of choice in many communities may seem to the conscientious voter to be limited in terms of the stated qualifications for membership on the National Spiritual Assembly. Given these facts, it is remarkable that at this stage in the development of the world community, National Spiritual Assemblies are successfully elected annually in accordance with basic Bahá’í principles.

102.5 You hold that for the National Spiritual Assembly of a country like Germany or the United States to be composed of almost the same members over many years is neither comprehensible nor advantageous. Change is indeed healthy for living organism, as Shoghi Effendi pointed out, but he also said that change for change's sake is unwise. Without defending any particular position, we feel it important to recognize that a period of no change in Assembly membership could be a stabilizing necessity for a community. A believer who had concerns similar to your own in his wish to see more rapid change in the membership of his National Spiritual Assembly suggested to Shoghi Effendi two alternative solutions: (1) that only delegates would be eligible for membership on the National Spiritual Assembly; and (2) that no believer should serve more than nine consecutive years on a Spiritual Assembly, suggesting that after the lapse of one year the believer could be reelected for another period of nine years. The Guardian's reply was conveyed in a letter written by his secretary on 6 July 1944:

102.5a Regarding your questions concerning the advisability of changing the basis of the National Assembly's election and confining it to the body of delegates or of limiting the term of office: He feels that as any such changes are of a radical nature and should therefore also apply to the National Spiritual Assemblies of other countries they are inadvisable and premature, both for this reason and because of their very nature.
102.5b What is needed is to get the Administration in its present form to run more efficiently and at the same time to build up a higher sense of responsibility among the body of the believers. They should be encouraged to think more, not only about the qualifications of members of their elected bodies, but also about such things as you mention, the law of averages, the age and indisposition of some of the members, etc.[1]

102.6 With respect to the United States, your observation does not quite hold up if you consider the numerous changes in membership which have occurred in that country's National Assembly over the last 30 years, and even in the last eight years when two-thirds of the membership has changed and there have been several changes of officers. Nor has the membership of the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany remained static: according to records at the Bahá’í World Center, during the last 12 years, there have been 12 individual changes in that Assembly's membership; today only one from the members of the 1978-79 Assembly remains on the body.

102.7 You contend that an elected body which has been formed in the same manner over many years conceals the danger of rigidity, immobility, insistence on tradition, etc. Such condition cannot indefinitely remain concealed if the body of the community with its many local entities and varied activities, including the Nineteen Day Feast, is functioning conscientiously. There is a direct relationship between the quality of the functioning of the local communities and the condition of the National Spiritual Assembly, but the dynamics of this relationship have yet to be fully recognized in all national communities. In this regard the work of the Continental Counselors and their Auxiliary Boards is of particular relevance, since assisting Spiritual Assemblies to function properly is one of their duties.

102.8 There is a tendency on the part of the friends, because of its broad authority and overarching responsibilities, to concentrate unduly on the influence, real or imagined, of the National Spiritual Assembly; however, little is appreciated of the latent vast and salutary effect which well-functioning local communities can exert on the development of the national community and thus on the very shaping of the National Spiritual Assembly itself. Some of the problems now evident in the composition and performance of National Spiritual Assemblies have their roots in weakness and malfunctioning at the local level, where the true character of the Faith has the widest latitude to express itself both in the corporate manner in which practical matters are dealt with and in the quality of the involvement and initiative of the individuals composing these communities. The ideal functioning of a National Spiritual Assembly and of the electoral system that sustains it obviously cannot be forced and must trust to development over time as experience is gained.

102.9 The Bahá’í system of elections provides the voter with a degree of freedom unequalled by any other system; as a corollary, it restricts the freedom of those called upon to serve. The voter is called upon to consider prayerfully the range of believers for whom he can vote, and then to vote only for those who best combine the necessary qualities, irrespective of any extraneous or material factors. Such an attitude, if dispassionately exercised by every voter at each election, should ensure that those elected are among those best suited, making allowance for lack of perfection in the voters.

102.10 Your observation that the current system of Bahá’í elections can lead to a perpetuation of the same membership on a Spiritual Assembly is quite accurate, but the system is not bound by any requirement to reelect the same membership; it is as free to do so as it is capable of effecting gradual or radical change, depending solely on the voters' perception of prevailing circumstances and conditions and of the needs of the Cause. Time and education of the friends will bring about corrections of any faults in the current operation of the electoral system.

102.11 The sacred nature of Bahá’í elections, especially as it is expressed in the freedom of conscience of the voters, is, of course, a major consideration in any attempt to introduce rules such as you have recommended. A letter dated 4 February 1935 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer stresses the importance of such freedom and indicated that it

102.11a constitutes the distinguishing feature and the marked superiority of the Bahá’í electoral methods over those commonly associated with political parties and factions.
(The Light of Divine Guidance: The Messages from the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith to the Bahá’ís of Germany and Austria, p. 67)

Further, in a letter dated 14 May 1927 Shoghi Effendi described ways in which the voters should carry out their sacred responsibilities in electing members of Spiritual Assemblies:

102.11b I feel that reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the friends should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals. We should refrain from influencing the opinions of others, of canvassing for any particular individual, but should stress the necessity of getting fully acquainted with the qualifications of membership referred to in our Beloved's Tablets and of learning more about one another through direct, personal experience rather than through the reports and opinions of our friends.
[Principles of Bahá’í Administration: A Compilation, 1st Indian ed. (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1982), p. 47]

It is clear then that to adopt a rule limiting the eligibility of an Assembly member for reelection would limit the freedom of choice of the electors and would add an element completely discordant to the entire pattern of Bahá’í elections.

102.12 The question of limiting the terms of office must be considered in the same light, but a National Spiritual Assembly need not accept an untenable situation with regard to any of its officers. While the National Spiritual Assembly has no control over the composition of its membership, it does have control over the performance of its own officers and is free to discuss its concerns if an officer is declining in his functions. If it becomes imperative not to reelect an officer, the members should not be inhibited by secondary considerations. If the disadvantage to the institution of reelecting an officer outweighs all other considerations, the members should not fail in their duty to act in the best interest of the Cause as conscience dictates. This requires moral courage. One of the virtues of secret balloting and non-electioneering in Bahá’í elections at any level is the freedom afforded the voter to act privately and conscientiously, and it removes any need for the voter to reveal or justify his choice to anyone. Questions affecting the personal circumstances of the officer, such as his employability outside the Bahá’í community, financial needs, etc. should be dealt with separately and with candor and considerateness. In a case of extreme difficulty the guidance of the House of Justice may be sought.

102.13 You raise concerns about the problems that can arise from the service of a husband and wife on the same Assembly. We should point out that the same problems can arise from the joint service of a parent and child, of two brothers, of two partners in business, or of any two other people who have close association outside their membership on the Assembly. A rule to deal with all these possibilities would itself introduce serious problems. The solution to this is a question of maturation. Bahá’ís have to learn to stand on their own two feet and speak their minds and judge according to their own understanding, as strongly exhorted by Bahá’u’lláh in the Hidden Words, in which He declares that "The best beloved of all things in My sight is justice."[2]

102.14 You call attention to the conflict of interest and other problems which can arise if a member of an Assembly is called upon to consult on a matter which concerns him personally and intimately; for example, to be a judge in his own case or in that of his spouse. Such a situation can, indeed, produce serious and embarrassing complications. The House of Justice has held that it is not proper for a member of a Spiritual Assembly to be debarred from exercising his right to membership in the consideration of such matters. (In some instances, the individual concerned has exercised on his own initiative the option of absenting himself from the proceedings to allow his fellow members greater freedom to judge the case.) However, in certain circumstances, an Assembly may find it wise and helpful to avoid the problems latent in such a situation by adopting different approaches: it could appoint a special committee to deal with the matter on its behalf; or it could refer the case to the National Spiritual Assembly for it to deal with, either directly or through a committee.

102.15 You offer the suggestion that a "Bill of Rights" be formulated to define basic human rights and to set out the legal position of the believers in relation to the institutions as a means of eliminating arbitrary behavior and the possible miscarriage of justice. The House of Justice asks us to say that undoubtedly such procedures as will be required in the future to protect the rights of individuals in their relationship to the institutions will evolve. At the present time, however, the imposition of them would complicate the functioning of Spiritual Assemblies without providing a commensurate degree of advantage. The basic safeguard, which has been in force, is the right of every believer to appeal a decision, first to the Local Assembly which rendered it, then to his National Spiritual Assembly, and finally to the Universal House of Justice. As you are well aware, Bahá’í institutions are bound by the teachings of the Faith to uphold freedom of expression and to safeguard the personal rights and initiative of the individual. The responsibilities and duties of the institutions towards the believers are also incorporated, in broad terms, in such documents as the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice and the Declarations of Trust and the By-Laws of the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies. In addition, the letter of 29 December 1988 to the American Bahá’í community from the House of Justice draws attention to the "equilibrium of responsibilities" that underpins the relationship between the Assemblies and the believers, and it reaffirms a nonadversarial framework to guide their interactions.[3]

102.16 Regarding the issue of the competent review of the writings of Bahá’í authors, the House of Justice is of the opinion that the difficulties which arise in the review process come, not from a need for clarification of the guidelines, but from a need for good judgment and common sense in their application. It endeavors from time to time to improve the functioning of National Spiritual Assemblies and their reviewing committees in this area.

102.17 In relation to your suggested minimum requirement that reviewers possess the requisite factual competence to perform the reviewing task, we are to say that the House of Justice does not feel that it is necessary for the reviewer to be qualified in the same discipline as the writer of the document. For example, in the case of an article by a professional historian, it is not the function of the reviewer to ascertain the correctness of the article from a historian's point of view; it is his task to ensure that the writer has not, in the course of his discussion, misrepresented the Bahá’í teachings or put forward theses which are incompatible with being a Bahá’í. It is evident, then, that reviewers should combine a profound knowledge of the Faith and understanding of its principles with the wisdom and good judgment to understand their limitations in the author's specific area of expertise. Furthermore, authors of scholarly works that are based on materials that may not be known or available to those who must do the reviewing are at liberty to bring this situation to the attention of the responsible National Assembly. Should a difference of opinion arise between the author and the reviewing committee, and the National Spiritual Assembly is unable to find a resolution, the matter may be referred to the Universal House of Justice.

102.18 Finally, we are to say that the House of Justice entirely agrees with your perception that elements of the "old" order should not be discarded simply because they are old. The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh provides the essential Laws and Principles on which all must be built, but in this building, and in the carrying out of our work, we Bahá’ís should take the utmost advantage of every skill and element of experience available to us, no matter from where it comes. We must, however, be careful in our approach. As the methods of the old order fit the stage of the evolution of society in which they were conceived, it is not always possible to judge clearly which of them may safely be applied to the operation of the Bahá’í community. What we have to bear in mind is that the old systems represent immature stages in the political evolution of mankind and that their best features have, according to Shoghi Effendi, been incorporated into the Bahá’í Administrative Order. We should therefore not be too anxious to adopt old methods in our efforts to correct perceived irregularities, which may only be incidental to the transition taking place rather than intrinsic to the system ordained by Bahá’u’lláh.

102.19 The House of Justice trusts that these comments will aid your thinking about these important issues and assures you of its prayers on your behalf.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. DG, p. 24.
  2. HW, Arabic no. 2.
  3. See no. 60, pp. 102-20.



Safeguarding against Unsettled Conditions in the Middle East

7 JANUARY 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

103.1 We are conscious that the friends around the world are concerned by the unsettled conditions in the Middle East, so we are writing to assure you that we have taken all steps that are necessary to safeguard the essential requirements of the Cause of God.

103.2 In January 1981 we addressed a message to all Continental Boards of Counselors through the International Teaching Center, and a copy of that message was shared at the time with all National Spiritual Assemblies. It confirmed that if at any time communication with the World Center would be cut off, the Counselors would, both collectively and individually, assist National Spiritual Assemblies to ensure the uninterrupted continuation of the normal administration of the Faith by these Assemblies until communications could be restored.

103.3 We rely now, as then, on the Continental Boards of Counselors and the National Spiritual Assemblies to ensure that the all-important work of teaching the Faith and consolidating its institutions will continue with unabated zeal in every part of the world.

103.4 On a number of occasions in the history of the Faith the World Center has been threatened by dangers of various kinds, and the knowledge of how the Almighty has preserved the vital interests of His Faith in the past will reinforce the certainty of all the believers that whatever occurs will but serve to carry forward the realization of His immutable purpose for mankind.

103.5 We shall remember you all at the Sacred Threshold and shall pray for the bounties of Bahá’u’lláh to guide and sustain you in the execution of your vital responsibilities in the promotion of His Cause.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Formation of Two New National Spiritual Assemblies

9 JANUARY 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

104.1 REJOICE ANNOUNCE DECISION ESTABLISH AT RIḌVÁN 1991 TWO NEW NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLIES: ONE FOR THE USSR WITH ITS SEAT IN MOSCOW, AND ONE FOR ROMANIA WITH ITS SEAT IN BUCHAREST. OFFERING PRAYERS BOUNDLESS GRATITUDE TO BAHÁ’U’LLÁH FOR OUTPOURING HIS DIVINE CONFIRMATIONS.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Formation of Another New National Spiritual Assembly

20 FEBRUARY 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

105.1 OUTSTANDING PROGRESS TEACHING WORK CZECHOSLOVAKIA MOVES US CALL FOR ELECTION NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY THAT COUNTRY COMING RIḌVÁN. WITH FORMATION NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES USSR AND ROMANIA ALREADY ANNOUNCED, AND THAT OF WEST LEEWARD ISLANDS WITH ITS SEAT IN BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, IN FULFILLMENT GOAL SIX YEAR PLAN, NUMBER OF PILLARS UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSITCE WILL BE RAISED TO ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-FIVE.

105.2 WORK MOUNT CARMEL PROJECTS CONTINUING WITH UTMOST SPEED IN SPITE TROUBLED CONDITIONS MIDDLE EAST. REJOICE ANNOUNCE INITIAL GOAL FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS FUND THIS PURPOSE NOW ACHIEVED. URGE FRIENDS ALL LANDS CONTINUE FLOW VITALLY NEEDED FUNDS ENABLE THESE HISTORIC PROJECTS BE CARRIED FORWARD WITHOUT HESITATION DURING MONTHS AND YEARS IMMEDATELY AHEAD.

105.5 IRRESISTIBLE ADVANCE CAUSE GOD DURING TIMES INTERNATIONAL CRISIS STRIKING EVIDENCE DIVINE CONFIRMATIONS. PRAYING FERVENTLY HOLY SHRINES REALIZATION BRILLIANT VISION FOUNDER FAITH FUTURE MANKIND.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Update on Bahá’ís in Kuwait

4 MARCH 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

106.1 Offering thanksgiving Blessed Beauty news just received all dear friends Kuwait are safe.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




The Holy Year 1992-1993

3 APRIL 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

107.1 Further to the Riḍván 1991 message which has already been mailed to you,[1] the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to convey the following advice and information with regard to the forthcoming Holy Year.

107.2 You are already aware of the two major events of the Year: the commemorative gathering in the Holy Land during May 1992 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, and the World Congress in New York during November 1992 to celebrate the centenary of the inauguration of His Covenant. As the time draws closer, you will be receiving more and more communications from the various agencies acting on behalf of the House of Justice in making preparations for these events. To prevent confusion and to enable you to respond effectively to these communications, the House of Justice suggests that, if you have not already done so, you appoint an active, efficient and reliable individual or small committee to study these communications on your behalf, keep you thoroughly informed of their contents and requirements, and assist you to coordinate your responses and to take timely and necessary actions in relation to your community.

107.3 As was pointed out in the Riḍván 1990 message,[2] the two major events being planned should not be the only commemorative activities of the Holy Year; indeed, the entire Bahá’í world at its local and national levels will engage in activities appropriate to the purposes of the Holy Year. It is important that throughout this period the attitude of the friends in all localities reflects the significance of the two occasions to be commemorated.

107.4 For the observance of the first occasion, the centenary of Bahá’u’lláh's passing, you will want to make sure that a proper devotional program takes place in each locality, at the appropriate time on 29 May, and that the best effort is made to uphold the preeminent importance, the dignity and the profoundly spiritual character of the occasion, to which non-Bahá’ís may be invited according to the discretion of the Spiritual Assemblies. To support your preparations and to unite the hearts and experience of the believers worldwide, the House of Justice will soon be sending to you the sacred readings which have been selected for the gathering at the Most Holy Shrine on that occasion. Beyond these devotional programs, the friends may plan to hold other special events―national, regional or local―for the benefit of both themselves and non-Bahá’ís, to give a more public character to the observance of this anniversary and at which informative and inspirational presentations on the life and teachings of Bahá’u’lláh can be made and discussions held.

107.5 For the second commemoration, communities everywhere, at local, regional and national levels, should plan to hold events in relation to the World Congress. Some of these may be held at the same time as the World Congress, some at other times. Whatever the decision of the Spiritual Assemblies, the events should have the same objective as the World Congress, which is to celebrate the centenary of the inauguration of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh and to proclaim its aims and unifying power. The prospect of such events should encourage the friends to study the history and meaning of the Covenant; in such study, the Continental Counselors, the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants will, no doubt, be sources of encouragement, stimulation and assistance.

107.6 Celebration in this connection does not mean merely festive activities. It is primarily a spiritual celebration that is called for: occasions for deep reflection on the historic importance, the uniqueness, the meaning and the efficacy of the Covenant established by Bahá’u’lláh, on the outstanding results of its influence in raising up a worldwide community comprising a great diversity of members, and on the triumph of its virtue as a unifying power. At the heart of such reflection will be contemplation of the peerless purpose, magnetic person, luminous character and exemplary acts of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His station as the Center and living embodiment of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. Consciousness of the exceptional and glorious stage in humanity's spiritual evolution initiated by the Covenant, the awe such consciousness inspires and the thankful gladness it induces are of the essence of the celebration intended by the World Congress and all other events associated with this centenary. A major purpose of these events will therefore be to evoke this solemn consciousness, which is itself the wellspring of the most exquisite celebratory joy. In this spirit the commemorative activities around the world should acclaim and proclaim the Covenant as the pivotal center of unity for all humankind and illustrate its dynamic effect on the struggle, the spread, and the redemptive achievements of the Bahá’í community since the passing of the Blessed Beauty.

107.7 You will undoubtedly appreciate that publicity through the mass media should be incorporated into your plans for the Holy Year. All suitable and available creative resources―writers, artists, composers, musicians, poets, public information experts―should be called to the aid of the community, so as to imbue its plans with the most effective and attractive variety of expression. The World Center will be interested in learning of these plans as they are developed, so that news of them might be shared with others.

107.8 An important feature of the activities of the Holy Year will be the widest possible proclamation of the Name of Bahá’u’lláh; care must, of course, be exercised in all situations to uphold the dignity of this Name. As an assistance to your efforts, a statement on Bahá’u’lláh has been prepared, at the request of the House of Justice, by the Office of Public Information at the Bahá’í World Center. We are happy to enclose a copy.

107.9 Bearing the title Bahá’u’lláh, the statement is intended primarily for wide distribution to the public; however, as you will readily see, it has great value as a source of study and inspiration for the friends themselves. You are free to translate and print it in dignified but moderately priced editions so that its cost to the friends will be affordable. Perhaps you will want to collaborate with other National Assemblies or with the publishing trust of any one of them in acquiring a supply of the printed material for your community. You may also wish to produce a special edition for presentation to dignitaries and prominent figures in your country; the Office of Public Information is planning to print a special edition in English for limited use and you may find such an edition appropriate to your needs. Furthermore, you will want to draw upon the statement in providing substance for various presentations on the Faith to be made during the course of the Holy Year. It is left entirely to your discretion to determine in what ways you can most effectively exploit its contents. Whatever your plans, the House of Justice expects that the statement will be published widely and abundantly for liberal distribution and use by the friends everywhere.[3] National and Local Spiritual Assemblies and their agencies, with the encouragement and support of the Continental Counselors and their auxiliaries, will certainly see to the successful pursuit of these important objectives.

107.10 We have been asked to assure you of the ardent prayers of the House of Justice at the Holy Shrines that your endeavors to raise ever higher the standard of Bahá’u’lláh during the special year ahead may evoke His good pleasure and constant confirmations.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. See no. 109, pp. 203-5.
  2. See no. 91, p. 168.
  3. The statement was published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States under the title Bahá’u’lláh (Wilmette, IL: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991).



Acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh and the Laws He Has Revealed

1 MAY 1991


To two individuals

Dear Friends,

109.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letters . . . and has instructed us to send you the following reply. . . .

109.2 First of all, we are asked to explain that although Bahá’ís believe that the Teachings and Order of Bahá’u’lláh are the solution to the current problems of mankind, they abstain completely from ever attempting to put them into effect through political action. Only if people voluntarily accept them and submit themselves freely to this Order will it be implemented in the world. Bahá’ís should never attempt to impose their belief on anyone. Bahá’u’lláh has given certain teachings which Bahá’ís believe to be true; they offer these teachings to the rest of mankind. Whosoever accepts them is a Bahá’í, but everyone is free to reject them. No one is ever compelled to become a Bahá’í, nor is anyone compelled to remain a Bahá’í. If one has accepted the Bahá’í Faith and later concludes that one has made a mistake, one is free to withdraw, and no stigma is attached to such an action. In all such things Bahá’ís uphold Bahá’u’lláh's principle of independent investigation of truth.

109.3 But one must ask what is the truth? Naturally human beings are continually discovering more and more about the truth. God is infinite, so His truth also is infinite. Nevertheless, as human knowledge progresses there are certain truths that are clearly established. Acceptance of such truths is not a surrender of freedom but is a free acceptance of things as they are. For example it is now clearly established by science that the earth moves round the sun, and not vice versa. Any human being is free to believe the contrary but to do so is not an assertion of freedom, it is an evidence of ignorance or foolishness. In the same way, to accept that Bahá’u’lláh's claim to be a Manifestation of God is true is not a surrender of freedom but the acceptance of a conclusion that one has confirmed to one's own satisfaction.

109.4 Bahá’u’lláh teaches, and Bahá’ís believe, that the fundamental truths of religion are not discovered by human beings but are revealed to mankind by God through His Manifestations. Whether or not this belief is true is, clearly, a matter of profound importance. If one does not accept it, one is free to adopt all manner of viewpoints including the one propounded by you in your letter, namely, that the followers of all the different religions should live together in harmony without becoming one religion, and that one can choose certain of Bahá’u’lláh's teachings and reject others. This is a valid position, but the point that you should realize is that it is not the Bahá’í position. Bahá’ís respect your right to hold it, but you cannot hold it and be a Bahá’í because a Bahá’í, by definition, accepts Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this age and upholds His Covenant as, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, "the axis of the oneness of the world of humanity."[1]

109.5 Bahá’ís believe that in this age God has revealed through Bahá’u’lláh the Teachings which will lead the followers of all religions to recognize their common foundation so that they will flow into this latest Dispensation of God's Revelation like rivers into one ocean and, in the words of Jesus, "there shall be one fold and one shepherd."[2] They also believe that the Law of God revealed by Bahá’u’lláh for this stage of human history, and the institutions that He has founded, are the bedrock on which the unity and harmony of mankind will be built. This is what they teach, because this is what they believe to be the truth. Nevertheless, this does not prevent their living together in harmony with those who believe otherwise, or stop their collaborating in humanitarian activities with their fellow human beings of all other religions and of none.

109.6 It is apparent from your letters that you have not properly studied or understood the Bahá’í teachings and may well have been antagonized by shortcomings among members of the Bahá’í community. Of course, Bahá’ís try not to have shortcomings. They are striving with varying success to put the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh into effect in their lives and to raise up the institutions which He has ordained. Individuals and even Spiritual Assemblies are imperfect―this is an inevitable aspect of growth―but they have the satisfaction of witnessing improvement and maturation as the years go by.

109.7 The House of Justice hopes that you will make a deeper study of the Bahá’í teachings in collaboration with your Bahá’í friends and, even if you finally decide that you cannot accept them, that you will be able to collaborate with Bahá’ís and all others in the building of a better world.

With all good wishes,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. TDP, no. 8.8.
  2. John 10:16 (KJV).



Message to the Pacific Women's Conference

10 MAY 1991


To the Pacific Women's Conference, 30 May-7 June 1991

110.1 One of the most encouraging developments, as a new millennium approaches, is the speed at which women everywhere are arising to assume an equal part with men in the management of the affairs of humankind. For the Bahá’í community this fundamental change in the role played by women is a harbinger of the approach of global peace. Only as the spiritual and intellectual capacities which have found particularly vigorous expression in women are able to exert their proper influence in the life of society will the conditions for lasting global reconciliation emerge.

110.2 For those who share this perception, no area of the world holds greater promise than the nations of the Pacific. Though for the most part small in population and widely separated geographically, your island countries have demonstrated a steadily increasing capacity for creative response to the challenges facing our planet. The Bahá’í communities of this vast region feel a deep sense of pride that they have been able to play a part in this spiritual adventure.

110.3 Be assured of our heartfelt prayers that the consultations on which you are embarked will add another impulse to the irresistible process by which women the world over are awakening to the role they alone can play in building a just and peaceful world.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court

27 MAY 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

111.1 In the Riḍván message of the Universal House of Justice, reference was made to an extremely significant decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany. Since this decision may be of assistance to National Spiritual Assemblies in other countries where difficulties are experienced in obtaining recognition for the Faith, or where the Spiritual Assemblies meet with complications in acquiring legal incorporation, the House of Justice has instructed us to send you the enclosed three documents:

  1. The decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, in German
  2. A translation of this decision into English
  3. An elucidation of the abbreviations used in the above
  4. A brief outline of the background to the decision and indications of its importance, drawing on an article by Dr. Udo Schaefer published in Bahá’í Nachrichten (the newsletter of the German Bahá’í community).

111.2 We should mention that it proved very difficult indeed to translate the decision into English, since the forms and concepts of German Law differ radically from those of English Law. There is often, therefore, no exact equivalence of terminology. Nevertheless, the English translation is sufficiently faithful as to convey a clear impression of the original.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT



Guiding Principles
for the decision of the Second Senate of 5th February 1991
[Translation―from German]
2 BvR 263/86

111.3 1. A community's mere assertion and self-understanding of professing a religion and of being a religious community cannot justify reference for it and its members to the guarantee of religious freedom of Art. 4, par. 1 and 2 GG; rather it must be a religion and a religious community in fact, according to spiritual content and outward appearance. To examine and determine this in case of dispute is the duty of the organs of the State, of the courts in the final analysis, in application of the ruling of the State's legal system.

111.4 2.

a) To the freedom of religion in the meaning of Art. 4, par. 1 and 2 GG belongs also the freedom of religious association, arising from this regulation in connection with the relevant Weimar Church Articles included by Art. 140 GG.
b) The guarantee of freedom of religious association contains also the freedom to form a religious association and organize according to one's common faith. This does not mean the right to a particular legal form, such as that of an incorporated association or some other form of corporation; what is guaranteed is the possibility of legal existence in some form or other, including participation in general legal proceedings.


Federal Constitutional Court
In the Name of the People
In the Proceedings on the Constitutional Appeal

[Translation―from German]
2 BvR 263/86

111.5 1. of the "Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Tübingen, with its seat in Tübingen," represented by the Chairman, Mr. S. . . ,

111.6 2. of Mr. S. . . ,

111.7 3. of Mrs. S. . . ,

111.8 4. of Mrs. S. . .

- Represented by: Attorneys Dr. Michael Uechtritz, Dr. Hans Schlarmann, Birkenwaldstrasse 149, Stuttgart 1 -

against

a) the decision of the High State Court Stuttgart of 27 January 1986 - 8 W 252/85 -,
b) the decision of the State Court Tübingen of 8 May 1985 - 5 T 34/84 (FGG) -,
C) the decision of the District Court Tübingen of 8 December 1983 and of 2 January 1984
- GReg. 11 922/83 -

the Federal Constitutional Court - Second Senate - with the participation of Judges

Vice-chairman Mahrenholz,
Böckenförde,
Klein,
Grasshof,
Kruis,
Franssen,
Kirchhof,
Winter

decided on 5 February 1991:

The Decisions of the High State Court Stuttgart of 27 January 1986 - 8 W 252/85 -, of the State Court Tübingen of 8 May 1985 - 5 T 34/84 (FGG) - and of the District Court Tübingen of 8 December 1983 and of 2 January 1984 - GReg. II 922/83 - violate the basic rights of the appellants accorded by Article 4, paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Constitution. They are repealed. The case is referred back to the District Court.
The State of Baden-Württemberg has to reimburse the appellants for the necessary expenses.


Reasons

A.

111.9 Subject of the Constitutional Appeal is the question to what extent Art. 4, par. 1 and 2 GG requires that the individuality of a religious association, considering and organizing itself as part of a religious community, must be taken into account in the interpretation and application of regulations of corporate law of the Code of Civil Law.


I.

111.10 The Religious Community of the Bahá’ís, constituting a religious movement arisen out of Shí’ih Islam, is represented in a multiplicity of countries. It is hierarchically organized and is currently governed by the "Universal House of Justice," consisting of nine elected members, with its seat in Haifa (Israel). In countries with a considerable number of local communities, a nine-member National Spiritual Assembly is elected annually in an indirect election by the totality of its members. In the Federal Republic of Germany this is established as a registered association; in other countries it makes use of other legal forms of association or incorporation according to the laws valid there. As governing bodies on a local level, Local Spiritual Assemblies also consisting of nine members are elected by the believers of the local community, and are responsible for regulating local affairs.


II.
111.11 1. The appellant under 2) is chairman, the appellants under 3) and 4) were further elected officers of the appellant under 1). On 14 February 1983 the appellant under 2) as chairman of the governing body applied to the District Court Tübingen for registration of the appellant under 1) in the Court's Register of Associations. The By-Laws on which this application is based contain the following regulations, which are significant here:


Article 2
111.12 Purpose of the Association
I. The purpose of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Tübingen is the administration of all the affairs of the Bahá’í Community in Tübingen according to the teachings and administrative principles of the Bahá’í Religion, as they appear in the Appendix following the By-Laws. . . .
II. Accordingly the Spiritual Assembly exclusively and directly pursues charitable and religious purposes and purposes of public benefit in the sense of the paragraph on "Tax-favored purposes" in Tax Law.
III. The Spiritual Assembly acts in a disinterested capacity and does not pursue purposes for its own economic benefit.


Article 3
111.13 Establishment of Membership
I. . . .
II. The members of the Spiritual Assembly are elected by the voting members of the Bahá’í Community from amongst their midst by secret ballot with simple plurality vote, for the duration of one year, or until the election of their successors. This election takes place on 21 April of each year at the Annual Convention of the Bahá’í Community. Details are regulated by Article 10.
III. . . .


Article 4
111.14 Termination of membership
I. Membership is terminated by the expiration of time and new election of the Spiritual Assembly, by resignation, by removal, by leaving the Bahá’í Community of Tübingen.
II. The removal of a member of the Spiritual Assembly falls within the competence of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany.


Article 5
111.15 By-Election
I. Vacancies in the membership of the Spiritual Assembly are replaced by election at a special meeting of the Bahá’í Community duly called by the Spiritual Assembly for this purpose. As long as the number of members of the Spiritual Assembly does not fall below 5, its decision-making competence is maintained.
II. If the number of vacancies is higher than four, so that the Spiritual Assembly is no longer competent to make decisions, the election is carried out under the supervision of the National Spiritual Assembly.


Article 9
111.16 Meeting of the members
I. . . .
II. All subsequent meetings are called informally (in writing, by telephone or orally) by the Secretary of the Spiritual Assembly at the request of the Chairman or, if he is prevented, by the Vice-chairman, or at the request of three members of the Assembly or by decision of the Assembly in advance. . . .
III. . . .
IV. . . .


Article 11

111.17 The National Spiritual Assembly

I. The institution superior to all the Spiritual Assemblies in the Federal Republic is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany e.V.
It decides
a) . . . and b) . . . ;
c) about the area of jurisdiction of the Local Spiritual Assembly;
d) . . . to f) . . .


Article 13

111.18 Amendment of the By-Laws

I. . . .
II. Amendments to the By-Laws require the approval of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany. They become effective on registration in the Court's Register of Associations.


Article 14
111.19 Dissolution
I. The dissolution of the Spiritual Assembly can result
a) from an absolute majority decision taken by the members of the Assembly in a meeting of the members called exclusively for this purpose,
b) from an absolute majority decision of the National Spiritual Assembly.
II. In case of the dissolution of the Spiritual Assembly its assets are transferred to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís in Germany, which must use them directly and exclusively for charitable and religious purposes and purposes of public benefit.

111.20 2. The District Court indicated questionable legal points of a formal and material kind in the registration procedure and demanded rectification. The appellant under 1) was stated to lack particularly the necessary legal independence, because its existence is dependent on the one hand on the local community, and on the other on the National Spiritual Assembly. The appellants counter-claimed that the institutional structure of the worldwide Bahá’í Community rests on a divine foundation and cannot be changed by them. As, according to the Constitutional Law of the Bahá’ís, all power of jurisdiction lies with the elected bodies, these should be given legal capacity in order to be able to participate in legal proceedings. The District Court rejected the application for registration with decision of 8 December 1983, and another application of 22.12.1983 with decision of 2 January 1984.

111.21 3. The immediate appeal of the appellants under 2) to 4) against the decisions of the District Court of 8 December 1983 and 2 January 1984 was rejected as unjustified by the State Court on 8 May 1985. The Association's By-Laws presented were stated to violate § 37 par. 1 BGB, as well as the principle of corporate autonomy. Art. 9 par. 2 of the By-Laws, which gives the provisions for calling a meeting of the members, was stated not to do justice to the protection of the minority called for in § 37 par. 1 BGB. The legal provision demands that the number of members at whose request a meeting of the members is to be called be fixed proportionately, so that allowance will be made for future changes in the strength of the Association. The membership of the Association could drop to five without resulting in legal incapacity to make decisions. In this case the number of three members fixed in Art. 9 par. 2 no longer represents a minority. Above all it was pointed out that the By-Laws contain regulations leading to a legal and organizational dependence of the Association on a third party and are thus incompatible with the principle of independence and self-administration of associations. On the one hand through Art. 4 par. 2, 11 par. 1, 13 par. 2, 14 par. 1 letter b, and through further regulations, the National Spiritual Assembly as a nonmember of the Association is to be given the right of decision-making in the removal of members, amendment of the By-Laws, dissolution of the Association and other matters concerning the Association; on the other hand the Bahá’í Community is to decide through elections on the establishment and the duration of the membership, according to Art. 3 par. 2 and 4 par. 1. Such wide-ranging influence by a third party in the organization of an association is inadmissible.

111.22 4. The High State Court Stuttgart rejected as unjustified the further appeal of the appellants under (2) to (4) with decision of 27 January 1986 (OLGZ 1986, p. 257). It noted that Art. 9 par. 2 of the By-Laws violates § 37 par. 2 BGB, because it does not ensure, with a possible change in the number of members, that the call for a meeting of the members has to follow the request of a minority. The By-Laws are furthermore not reconcilable with the principle of independence and self-administration of the Association (corporate autonomy). Art. 14 par. 2 letter b, according to which the National Spiritual Assembly can dissolve the Association, violates § 41 BGB. It is inadmissible to give the right to an external third party to dissolve the Association against the wish of its members. Insofar as jurisprudence had judged such regulations in individual cases to be admissible (KG, DJ 1936, p. 1948; OLG Karlsruhe, JW 1936, p. 3266; OLG Stuttgart, Das Recht [The Law] 1936, col. 151), these decisions had been made in the time of National Socialism and their reasoning was not convincing. The election of the members by the Bahá’í Community, as envisaged in Art. 3 par. 2 and Art. 4 par. 1 of the By-Laws, violates § 38 and 58 No. 1 BGB. The form by which a new member joins and the declaration of acceptance could indeed be regulated in the By-Laws in any way that is desired, and membership can be tied to certain preconditions. But in principle the Association is to be free to decide whether to accept someone as a member, as long as it is not, as a vitally important Association with monopoly status, exceptionally obliged to accept members. Apart from these individual regulations, the overall picture of the By-Laws shows such a strong third-party influence that there can no longer be a question of autonomous action on the part of the Association. Significant hereby are the National Spiritual Assembly's rights of intervention, according to Art. 4 par. 2 (removal of a member), Art. 11 par. 1 letter c (right of decision-making on the area of jurisdiction), Art. 13 par. 2 (reserving approval for amendment of the By-Laws), Art. 14 par. 2 (transfer of the assets to the National Spiritual Assembly in case of the dissolution of the Association). The By-Laws contain a renunciation of the autonomy of the Association not in accordance with corporate law.


III.

111.23 The Constitutional Appeals are addressed against the decisions of the High State Court and of the State Court as well as―in the relevant interpretation of the brief of the Constitutional Appeal―against both decisions of the District Court. The appellants presented an expert opinion by Prof. Dr. Friedrich Muller on this and claim essentially:

111.24 1. The Constitutional Appeals are admissible. The required interest for legal protection is established. This is not contravened by the fact that the rejection of the application to register was based also on an objection to Art. 9 par. 2 of the By-Laws, which the appellants had agreed to change. Should an application again be made after amendment of this provision of the By-Laws, it would again be rejected because of the other provisions of the By-Laws which were questioned by the High State Court, in which case there would probably be no reexamination of the case.
111.25 2. The High State Court has interpreted the corporate law of the Code of Civil Law incorrectly, and has especially misunderstood the content and significance of Art. 4 par. 1 and 2, Art. 144 GG in connection with Art. 137 par. 3, 4 WRV.
a) Contrary to the interpretation of the High State Court § 41 par. 1 BGB does not prevent the transfer to a third party of the right to dissolve the Association. This is certainly true when the assembly of the members has this right as well. The provisions of the By-Laws for the election of the members of the Association by the Bahá’í Community and the termination of their membership due to new elections are in accordance with §§ 38 and 58 BGB. As is shown from §§ 25 and 40 BGB, State Law leaves it to the Association to make such provisions. No objections can be derived from the Code of Civil Law either against the competence of the National Spiritual Assembly to remove a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly (Art. 4 par. 2 of the By-Laws), or to the definition of its area of jurisdiction (Art. 11 par. 1 letter c), or to the duty of approval for amendment of the By-Laws provided for in Art. 13 par. 2, or to the transfer of assets of the Spiritual Assembly in case of its dissolution to the National Spiritual Assembly (Art. 14 par. 2). Altogether the provisions of the By-Laws contested by the High State Court did not grant an inadmissible outside influence of a third party on the appellant under 1). Its integration in the hierarchical structure of the Religious Community of the Bahá’ís is of necessity given by its rules and principles, which are based on divine Revelation.
b) The denial of legal capacity violates the constitutional rights of the appellant under 1) as derived from Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG and violates Art. 140 GG in connection with Art. 137 par. 3 and 4 WRV. These provisions of the Constitution comprehend an organizational structure for a religious community, including the right to seek legal capacity for an administrative institution of the community. In the understanding of the Bahá’ís, which is relevant here, it is an unyieldable principle that the administrative institutions of the local communities, but not the communities themselves, should attain legal capacity. The Constitution in Art. 140 GG in connection with Art. 137 par. 2 to 5 WRV gives religious communities the basic right of choice as regards their legal form. Since the Bahá’ís were denied the status of 'Körperschaft des Öffendichen Rechts' [Corporate Body under Public Law] which they sought, the appellant under 1) must be granted legal capacity under Civil Law. Even if the High State Court's interpretation of corporate law for nonreligious associations should be correct, its effect on the appellant under 1) is more serious because of his religious aims and the necessity of integration in the national and international order of the Bahá’ís which they require, and thus it cannot be applied to him.

111.26 The appellants under 2) to 4) as officers of appellant under 1) suffer violation of their right, protected by Art. 4 par. 2 GG, to carry out administrative activities for the religious community.


IV.

111.27 On the Constitutional Appeal the Federal Minister of Justice and the Ministry for Justice, Federal and European Affairs of Baden-Württemberg have given their opinion. Both consider the Constitutional Appeal unjustified.

111.28 1. The Federal Minister of Justice explains that the right to be granted legal capacity for the appellant under 1) cannot directly be derived from Art. 4 par. 2 and Art. 140 GG in connection with Art. 137 par. 3 WRV by referring to the contents of belief of the Bahá’í Religion. Art. 4 par. 2 GG obliges the State to respect belief and to protect the practice of religion, but not to create legal regulations which correspond to the particular contents of belief of individual religious communities. It is questionable whether Art. 137 par. 3 WRV covers the attainment of legal capacity by the appellant under 1); Art. 137 par. 4 WRV, which is not directly applicable to the appellant under 1) as a mere sub-organization of a religious community, gives an explicit regulation just for this area. In any case, the Spiritual Assembly can attain legal capacity only according to the general prescriptions of Civil Law; lesser requirements than those demanded in Art. 137 par. 4 WRV for the registration of a religious community as an association, could not apply in this case. The Courts, in their decision on the registration of the appellant under 1), have not misunderstood the meaning and significance of Art. 140 GG in connection with Art. l37 par. 3 and 4 WRV.

111.29 2. According to the view of the Minister of Justice, Federal and European Affairs of Baden-Württemberg, the By-Laws violate not only individual regulations of the compulsory law. They also depart significantly in their totality from the type of autonomous association regulated in the Code of Civil Law, and so expose the appellant under 1) to dominating third-party influences, that the decision of the High State Court cannot be contested in the light of the regulations of corporate law of the Code of Civil Law. Even when taking the relevant Constitutional Law into necessary consideration, no other result can obtain. The appellants have not so far proven conclusively that the belief of the Bahá’ís demands in particular the organizational rules considered irreconcilable with the regulations of the Code of Civil Law. It is suggested rather that the teachings of the Faith grant a certain flexibility in the arrangement of details of the organizational structure.


B.

111.30 The Constitutional Appeals are admissible.

111.31 1. The appellant under 1) is entitled to make the Constitutional Appeal. As a union of persons he can, independent of given legal capacity, claim the possible violation of a constitutional right (cf. BVerfGE 3, 383 <391>). The Constitutional Appeal specifically concerns the question whether the appellant under 1) can be denied registration as an association and thus the attainment of legal capacity, without violation of his constitutional right from Art. 4 par. 2 and 2 GG.

111.32 The appellant under 1) asserts that his freedom of religious practice is violated by the fact that with the denial of his registration in the Court's Register of Associations it has been made impossible for him to organize in accordance with the internal constitution prescribed essentially and imperatively by the belief of the Bahá’ís. Thus the protection of the Constitutional Law of religious freedom is infringed. The claim of the appellant under 1) is adequately substantiated; according to his presentation the material and vital areas of religious freedom are concerned and there appears a possible violation of the guarantee of the Constitutional Law.

111.33 2. The appellants under 2) to 4) claim that the denial of registration to the appellant under 1) makes it impossible for them to organize themselves in the framework of their religious community according to the binding prescriptions of the Revelation underlying it, and thus to practice their religion. With this presentation they have sufficiently proven the possibility of a violation of their constitutional right from Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG, which is also an individual constitutional right. That the appellants under 3) and 4) no longer belong to the Local Spiritual Assembly, has not lessened their original interest in a decision of the case. How a change in the situation affects a Constitutional Appeal already made, is to be decided in each individual case, taking into consideration the contested act of sovereignty underlying the appeal, the significance of the constitutional guarantee appealed to and the purposes of the Constitutional Appeal (BVerfGE 76, 1 <38>). In the present case the basic significance of the Constitutional Question brought up is to be considered, and further, that the appellants under 3) and 4) can again become members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís in elections, and further court proceedings in case of renewed applications for registration in the Court's Register of Associations are possible (cf. also BVerfGE 21, 139 <143>).
111.34 3. The legitimate interest to take legal action as basis for the Constitutional Appeal is not vitiated through the High State Court's having based its decision also on the consideration not contested by the appellants, namely that Art. 9 par. 2 of the By-Laws does not guarantee, as regards calling a meeting of the members, the protection of minorities required in § 37 par. 1 BGB. Thus, this is obviously a question which plays only a subordinate role in the court proceedings. The appellants are ready to amend the By-Laws on this point. They cannot be expected to again go through a hopeless application after such an amendment.


C.

111.35 The Constitutional Appeals are justified.

The decisions of the Courts do not do justice to the significance of the constitutional right of freedom of religious association, guaranteed in Art. 4 par. 2 and 2 GG in connection with Art. 140 GG/137 par. 2 and 4 WRV, for the interpretation (and application) of the corporate law of the Code of Civil Law, and they thereby violate the constitutional rights of the appellants.


I.

111.36 The Local Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Tübingen and the believers of the Bahá’í Community are entitled to the constitutional right from Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG. A community's mere assertion and self-understanding of professing a religion and of being a religious community cannot justify reference for it and its members to the guarantee of religious freedom of Art. 4, par. 1 and 2 GG; rather it must be a religion and a religious community in fact, according to spiritual content and outward appearance. To examine and determine this in case of dispute is the duty of the organs of the State, of the courts in the final analysis,―in application of the ruling of the State's legal system. These cannot decide freely in such a case, but must base their decision on the concept of religion to which the meaning and purpose of the fundamental guarantee refers, as intended or set forth in the Constitution. In the present case it is not necessary to go more deeply into this, as the character of the Bahá’í Faith as a religion and of the Bahá’í Community as a religious community is evident, in actual everyday life, in cultural tradition, and in the understanding of the general public as well as of the science of comparative religion.


II.

111.37 Religious freedom in the meaning of Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG also includes freedom of religious association as it follows from this regulation in connection with the relevant Weimar Church Articles which are included by Art. 140 GG.

111.38 1. Freedom of religious association is not expressly mentioned in Art. par. 1 and 2 GG; specifically guaranteed are freedom of religion, conscience, religious and ideological belief, as well as the freedom of religious practice. According to the judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court the freedom of religion guaranteed in Art. 4 GG has to be understood in a comprehensive manner (cf. BVerfGE 24, 236 <244 ff.>). The intention of the framer of the Constitution, after the experience of religious persecution by the National Socialist regime, was aimed at guaranteeing freedom of religion not just as particular partial freedoms, but fully. In any case none of the rights to religious freedom, which had been recognized in the Weimar Constitution as the result of hundreds of years of historical development, should now be excluded. A part of these rights to religious freedom was freedom of religion and conscience, including freedom of belief, freedom of private and public religious practice (freedom of worship) and freedom of religious association (cf. Art. 135, 137 par. 2 WRV and G. Anschütz, Die Religionsfreiheit [The Freedom of Religion], in: Anschütz/Thoma (Publ.) HDStR, vol. 2, 1932, § 106, p. 681 ff.).

111.39 This is confirmed by the history of its development. In the consultations of the Parliamentary Council, what was later to be Art. 4 expressly contained the guarantee of the freedom of religious association ("The right of association for religious and ideological societies is recognized"), from its presentation by the Committee of Principles and the first reading in the Main Committee as sentence 2 of par. 1. Only in the fourth reading in the Main Committee on 4 May 1949―after inclusion of the Weimar Church Compromise into the Constitution―this sentence was deleted with the reasoning that it is now unnecessary, because Art. 137 par. 2 WRV is now part of the Constitution (v.Doemming/ Füsslein/Matz, Entstehungsgeschichte der Artikel des Grundgesetzes [History of the Development of the Articles of the Constitution]: JöR, N.E., vol. 1, p. 73 foll.; Parl.Council, HA-Prot., 57th meeting on 4.5.1949, p. 745). From this it follows, according to the intention of the Parliamentary Council, that freedom of religious association is, and is to continue to be, guaranteed in Constitutional Law. It would be totally opposed to this ruling and to the intention of the framer of the Constitution, if it [freedom of religious association] were to be denied merely because of its deletion from Art. 4 which was only made in order to avoid a double guarantee, since it is part of the freedom of religion guaranteed in Constitutional Law. It is rather to be deduced that Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG refers for its guarantee of the freedom of religious association to Art. 140 GGI 137 par. 2 WRV and includes its normative content.

111.40 2. The guarantee of freedom of religious association includes the freedom to form and organize as a religious association based on a common Faith. Even the concept of religious association points to the fact that a union on the basis of State Law is intended, and not just a mere spiritual community of worship. The possibility of forming a religious association is to open the way to organizing as a union of people for the realization of a common religious purpose, to give some legal form, and to participate in general legal proceedings. This is not meant as a right to a particular legal form, such as that of an incorporated association or some other form of legal person; guaranteed is, however, the possibility of a legal existence in some form or other, including participation in general legal proceedings.

111.41 It is in conformity with this that Art. 140 GG in connection with Art. 137 par. 4 WRV opens and guarantees to religious communities the possibility of acquiring legal capacity according to the general conditions of Civil Law. These conditions have to be observed by everyone on principle, including religious communities. Nothing is therefore lost, if a religious community or one of its parts cannot acquire a particular legal form it is aspiring to, because of a special organization rooted in its belief. Freedom of religious association demands, however, that the self-understanding of the religious community, insofar as it is rooted in the freedom of religious belief and confession guaranteed in Art. 4 par. 1 GG and is realized in the practice of the religion protected by Art. 4 par. 2 GG, is to be especially considered in the interpretation and application of the relevant law, here of corporate law of the Code of Civil Law (cf. BverfGE 53, 366 <401> m.w.N.). This means not only that the religious community is allowed to make full use of the leeway in organization opened to it by Dispositive Law [i.e. Law that is amenable to negotiation]. Even in the application of compulsory regulations leeways of interpretation are to be used in favor of the religious community if necessary; this must not, however, lead to neglect of imperative consideration of the security of legal proceedings or of the rights of others.

111.42 It would be incompatible with the freedom of religious association, if a religious community, in view of its internal organization, were to be denied participation in general legal proceedings entirely, or this were made possible only under unacceptable conditions.


III.

111.43 The contested decisions do not satisfy the normative content of the freedom of religious association described. The corporate law of the Code of Civil Law admits of taking into account special requirements of internal organization resulting from the individuality of religious associations which are a part of a religious community or in some special relationship to it. Since the legal form of a 'Körperschaft des Öffentlichen Rechts' [Corporate Body under Public Law] is not available to the Bahá’ís (1 following), this is applicable to the Local Spiritual Assembly, from Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG (2 following).

111.44 1. The Bahá’í Community cannot acquire the character of a Corporate Body under Public Law according to Art. 140 GG/Art. 137 par. 5 WRV. With this form of organization the existing problems would be solved, because in the framework of a "Corporate Body under Public Law" which in connection with the regulations of Art. 137 par. 5 WRV functions only as a blanket concept, the inclusion into a hierarchical structure, as it appears to be given for the Bahá’ís in their belief, could be fully realized organizationally. This is shown, for example, in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, for which a hierarchical organizational structure is determined which acquires validity in State Law without diminution. Thus, church parishes are established or dissolved by the local bishop alone, after a hearing in the Diocesan Council of Priests, without the advice or the agreement of the priest or the congregation of the church or of a body selected by the congregation being necessary (Can. 515, § 2 i.V.m. Can. 127, §§ 1 and 2 CIC). The appellants have, however, shown that recognition as a Corporate Body under Public Law is out of the question for the Bahá’í Community, according to the relevant recommendations of the Conference of the Ministers of Religion and as the result of an enquiry to the Ministry of Religion of Hesse; it had only about 4,000 to 5,000 members in the Federal Republic in the year 1986, who moreover were divided among approximately 50 local Bahá’í communities. It cannot be said that the denial of recognition as a Corporate Body under Public Law is legally incorrect or even wrong in view of these circumstances and of the criteria of Art. 137 par. 5 WRV. Therefore it is uncertain whether the Bahá’í Community, were the acquisition of the character of a Corporate Body under Public Law possible for it, could be referred to it without losing its right to freedom granted in Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG, or would have a choice of legal form.
111.45 2. It is possible in the framework of the corporate law of the Code of Civil Law, and it is demanded by Constitutional Law, that the religious requirements for the internal organization of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís as a religious association and as part of a religious community be especially considered.
a) The regulations of the By-Laws presented, which were considered by the Courts to be incompatible with the principle of independence and self-administration (autonomy of the Association), on the establishment of membership (Art. 4 par. 2), removal from membership (Art. 4 par. 2) and the dissolution of the Association (Art. 14 par. 1 letter b), the requirements for amendment of the By-Laws (Art. 13 par. 2) and the definition of the tasks of the Association (Art. 11 par. 1 letter c), do not concern those regulations of corporate law which, in the interest of the security and clarity of legal proceedings, regulate the affairs and legal relations with external effects (appointment or removal of the officers, their power of representation, liability of the assets of the Association, liquidation in case of dissolution of the Association etc). They refer solely to the internal organization of the Association.
b) The regulations contested are not in contradiction to the wording of the regulations of corporate law on the internal organization of the Association. The dissolution of the Association regulated in § 41 BGB by decision of the general meeting of members is not excluded but supplemented by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís' right of dissolution; on neither the manner of the establishment of membership, nor on the possibilities for removal, does § 58 BGB contain any regulation; the regulation of § 33 BGB on amendment of the By-Laws is dispositive [not obligatory] (§ 40 BGB); on the definition of the tasks of the Association there is no legal regulation.
c) The courts justify the inadmissibility of the mentioned By-Laws merely on the basis of their incompatibility with the principle of corporate autonomy characterizing corporate law. This principle of corporate autonomy is not expressly laid down in the corporate laws of the BGB; rather it is deduced from jurisprudence and from the doctrine of the totality of regulations, which trace back the bringing into being and organization of an association, as well as the conduct of its affairs, to the will of the members of the association. Its aim, similar to that of private autonomy, is to preserve the character of the association as a union of persons carried on mainly by the will and action of its members (KG, OLGZ 1974, p. 385 <387>; RGRK-Steffen, 12th ed., marginal No. 31 f. before § 21, § 25 marginal No. 1; Staudinger-Coing, 12th ed., introd. remark to §§ 21-54, marginal No. 38; AK-Ott, § 25 marginal No. 15 f.; cf. also Flume, Allgemeiner Teil des Bürgerlichen Rechts [General Part of Civil Law] 1/2, 1983, p. 189 f.). Part of this autonomy is to give institutions which are provided with it the right to give themselves the organization suitable to their aims, and to freely determine it, as long as there are no binding provisions or principles derived from the character of the particular institution which are contrary to it. It is emphasized in jurisdiction that this autonomy can also be practiced in such a way, that the right of self-administration of the association is limited by its Constitution; such a limitation also represents a practice of autonomy; it is therefore a curtailment of autonomy when such regulations are declared inadmissible (cf. KG, OLGZ 1974, p. 385 <387>; Dütz, 2. FS for Herschel, 1982, p. 55 <73 ff.>; a.A. Flume, a.a.O., p. 194 ff.).

111.46 The principle of corporate autonomy, as it is understood in legal judgments and literature, is thus marked by two tendencies in regard to its content, which do not necessarily run parallel: on the one hand it protects autonomy in the formation of the organizational structure of the association according to the free self-determination of the members, to which can also belong integration in a hierarchically organized community; on the other hand it protects the self-determination of the association and its members from a renunciation which almost totally defeats their own self-determination. It does not exclude the possibility, rather it opens up the way, to an equalization in the interpretation and application of both tendencies, by taking into consideration the concrete case, i.e. in relation to the aims and individuality of the Association in question. Thus it is considered consistent with corporate autonomy, to create associations at different levels, inside which the lower-level associations―be they of legal capacity or not―are in a relation of dependency to the superior associations, but do not thereby lose their character as associations, as long as they also pursue tasks independently (Reichert/ Dannecker/Kühr, Handbuch des Vereins-und Verbandsrechts [Handbook of the Law governing Associations and Unions], 4th ed. 1987, marginal No. 2098 ff.; Soergel-Hadding, marginal No. 53 before § 21; BGHZ 90, p. 331).

d) If, in this connection, one considers the individuality of religious associations which are organized as parts of a religious community, it is obvious, in view of the frequently observable hierarchical internal organization rooted in the belief of religious communities, that associations which are part of religious communities, or in a particular relationship to them, wish to be integrated into the hierarchy of their religious community. This cannot automatically be considered as submission to outside third-party influence which threatens the essential independence and self-administration of the association.
aa) Autonomy in the formation and organization of a religious association can be practiced in such a way, that one of the aims of the association is to be part of a religious community and to integrate into the structure determined by its religious laws. Such self-determined aims of integration which, in the case of a religious association, may well represent an expression of the religious self-determination of the members in their common Faith, must not be judged simply as surrender of the self-determination of the association. A limit is reached only when the self-determination and self-administration of the association is ruled out, not only in certain respects as a consequence of the hierarchical integration arising from the religious law, but greatly beyond that; the association would then no longer be carried on mainly by the will of its members, but would become a mere administrative center or would be run for the separate estate of another party (cf. KG, OLGZ 1974, p. 385 <390>; BayObLGZ 1979, p. 303 <308 ff.>).
According to the above, corporate law permits, in the case of a religious association constituted as part of a religious community, that limitations in the autonomous rights of dissolution, removal or activity shall not be considered as inadmissible external third-party influence incompatible with corporate autonomy, as long as they serve, andare limited to, safeguarding integration into the greater religious community in the framework of existing ties of religious law―such as the preservation and identity of belief and basic duties of daily living. With such a limitation to the powers of intervention of a hierarchically superior institution, which only claims for itself some kind of authority over the teachings and corresponding rights of jurisdiction, a sufficient share of self-determination and self-administration of the association is preserved.
bb) By considering the influence of the National Spiritual Assembly specified in the By-Laws in regard to the continuance, membership and activities of the Local Spiritual Assembly as constituting in general an inadmissible third-party influence over the Association, the courts have misunderstood the character of religious associations which, as part of their belief, organize themselves hierarchically as part of a religious community, and thus have misconstrued the significance of the Constitutional Law of freedom of religious association for the interpretation and application of the principle of corporate autonomy. They have considered the National Spiritual Assembly to be an extraneous organization, characterized by different aims and interests, exercising a dominating influence, without considering the unity and mutuality linked to religious law. It is no different with the conclusion concerning the election of the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly by the believers of the local Bahá’í community. These, by virtue of the ties of religious law, are not third parties subjecting the Association to an alien influence from outside and thereby annulling its self-determination; rather, this manner of establishing membership is in accordance with the purpose of the Association to administer the affairs of the local Bahá’í Community as a hierarchical governing body (Art. 2 par. 2 of the By-Laws and Preamble), and it precisely serves its realization.
e) Nor can an inadmissible third-party influence be deduced from the fact that, in case of dissolution of the Association by the National Spiritual Assembly, the assets will fall to it (Art. 14 par. 1 and 2 of the By-Laws). The purpose of this provision of the By-Laws is not that of enabling the National Spiritual Assembly, by making use of its right of dissolution, to seize another's assets for the purpose of increasing its own assets. This is contradicted by the fact that according to the By-Laws no contributions are levied with the purpose of accumulating assets; the financing of the Association is solely through voluntary donations; moreover, the Association has expressly subordinated itself to the legal conditions of charitable purpose (Art. 2 par. 2 and 3 of the By-Laws).


IV.

111.47 The cited decisions therefore violate the appellants' constitutional right from Art. 4 par. 1 and 2 GG in connection with Art. 140 GG/137 par. 2 and 4 WRV, in that they do not sufficiently consider, in the interpretation and application of the meaning of corporate autonomy, the character of the Local Spiritual Assembly as a religious Association and as part of a religious community. They are therefore to be revoked. The case is to be referred back to the District Court for renewed consideration. It will have to examine, among other things, whether the right of dissolution and removal accorded the National Spiritual Assembly, expressed without limits in the By-Laws, is sufficiently limited by the purpose of the Association and the Preamble to the Constitution, in the sense of the explanations under III 2 d) aa), or if an express definition in the By-Laws is needed.

111.48 The decision on the costs follows from § 34a par. 2 BVerGG.

Mahrenholz Böckenförde Klein
Grasshof Kruis Franssen
Kirchhof Winter


Decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court
Elucidation of Abbreviations

111.49


Abbreviation Elucidation in German Elucidation in English
a.A. andere Ansicht Other opinion or view
a.a.O. am angegeben Ort (bereits vorher zitierte Quelle) idem. (from the source already cited)
AK-Ott Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch (Reihe Alternativkommentare), 1. Auflage 1979ff. Ott = Bearbeiter Commentary in the Code of Civil Law (series of alternative commentaries), 1st edition 1979ff. Ott = name of author
BayObLGZ Bayerisches Oberstes Landespricht, Enscheidungssammlung in Zivilsachen Bavarian Supreme State Court, Collection of decisions in civil matters
BGB Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch Book of the code of civil law
BGHZ Bundesgerichtshof, Entscheidungen in Zivilsachen Federal Court, decisions in civil matters
BverfGE Bundesverfassungsgericht, Entscheidungen Federal Constitutional Court, Decisions
BverfGG Gesetz über das Bundesverfassungsgericht in der Fassung vom 3.2.1971 Law on the Federal Constitutional Court in the draft of 3 February 1971
BvR Registerzeichen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts für Verfassungsbeschwerden Registration symbol of the Federal Constitutional Court for constitutional appeals
Can. Canon Canon (i.e. in relation to the canon Law of the Church)
CIC Codex Iuris Canonici Codex of Canon Law
FGG Reichsgesetz über die freiwiffige Gerichstbarkeit vom 17.5.1898 Imperial Law on voluntary jurisdiction of 17 May 1898
FS für Herschel Festschrift für Herschel Publication in honour of Herschel
GG Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland vom 23.5.1949 Basic Law (Constitution) of the Federal Republic of Germany of 23 May 1949
GReg Gerichtsregister Court Register
HA-Prot Protokolle des Hauptsausschusses des Parlamentarischen Rates Minutes of the Main Committee of the Parliamentary Council
HDStR Handbuch des deutschen Staatskirchenrechts Handbook of German State Church Law
i.V.m. In Verbindung mit In connection with
m.w.N. Mit weiteren Nachweisen With further indications
OLGZ Entscheidungen der Oberlandesgerichte in Zivilsachen Decisions of the High State Courts in civil matters
RGRK-Steffen Das Bürgerliche Gesetzbuch mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rechtsprechung, des Reichsgerichts und des Bundesgerichtshofes, Kommentar, 12. Auflage 1974ff. Steffen = Bearbeiter The Code of Civil Law with special reference to legal pronouncements, to the Imperial Court and to the Federal Court, Commentary, 12th edition 1974ff Steffen = name of author
WRV Weimarer Verfassung vom 11.8.1919 Weimar Constitution of 11 August 1919


Decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court
Background and significance

111.50 In a decision handed down on 5 February 1991 the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany upheld a constitutional appeal made by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Tübingen. This decision is of such far-reaching importance that the Universal House of Justice has asked that the following summary of its background and effects be sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies. This summary is freely based on an article prepared by Dr. Udo Schaefer at the request of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Germany for publication in Bahá’í Nachrichten, the newsletter of the German Bahá’í community.


I.

111.51 The Bahá’í Administrative Order has so many unique features, and is so different from the organizational structure of most other religions, that not infrequently difficulties are experienced in conveying to the authorities in some countries a clear understanding of the nature of our institutions, and thus of obtaining a status that is accorded to other similar bodies under civil law.

111.52 In Germany, for example, 95 percent of all associations are recognized as being "of public benefit." This is similar to what is known as "charitable status" in other countries, and is the basis for the granting of various tax exemptions. Over the years the Spiritual Assemblies in Germany repeatedly experienced difficulty with the Inland Revenue offices until the National Spiritual Assembly turned to the Federal Minister of Finance, who issued a decree on 6 August 1990 clarifying that the Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá’ís "serve the promotion of religious purposes" and thus have public-benefit status. Even after this, one of the Revenue Offices continued to insist that the By-Laws of a Spiritual Assembly needed to be amended.

111.53 A second problem was that of the form under which Bahá’í Spiritual Assemblies could be incorporated. This was the problem that eventually came before the Federal Constitutional Court, namely, whether the Local Spiritual Assemblies could be incorporated under German Law using the By-Laws that are the universal Bahá’í standard. When different legal systems collide there are always problems, and this was the case here, where Bahá’í constitutional law seemed to be incompatible with German civil law. In order to make these problems intelligible and to explain the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court, it is necessary to consider the historical background.


II.

111.54 Firstly, it is necessary to understand that the Bahá’í Community is not only a religious community but also a community of law. The believers are linked together not only by the tie of belief and love, but also by the legal norms with which the Founder of our Faith has endowed His community, legal norms which govern the structure of the community, its administrative organs and its functions. The main sources of these legal norms, which are to be found throughout the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Will and Testament, as well as the works of Shoghi Effendi who, as the Authorized Interpreter, expounded and elaborated these norms in his letters (especially in those published in Bahá’í Administration and The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh).

111.55 The revelation of the laws of the Faith, and their application in practice, has been a very gradual process. Bahá’u’lláh had appointed four Hands of the Cause of God during His own lifetime, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had brought into being embryonic Local Spiritual Assemblies, but the raising up of the institutions of the Administrative Order really started with the ministry of Shoghi Effendi.

111.56 In the establishment of the Administrative Order the American Bahá’í Community played a leading role. In the twenties, under the unerring guidance of the Guardian, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada formulated a constitution for itself, consisting of a Declaration of Trust and By-Laws, and one for Local Spiritual Assemblies, comprising a set of By-Laws, all based on the laws and principles of the Faith, and in a form through which these institutions could incorporate (obtain legal capacity) under American law. In doing this the difficulty was to mould the noncodified Bahá’í laws and principles into forms made available by civil law for the attainment of legal capacity. With the expert help of American jurists, constitutions were worked out for the National Assembly and the Local Assemblies which were endorsed by Shoghi Effendi and prescribed by him as the pattern for the establishment of the Bahá’í Administration in other parts of the world.


III.

111.57 When, after the Second World War, the Spiritual Assemblies that had been dissolved under the Nazi regime were reestablished in Germany, the National Spiritual Assembly adopted the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws which formed the national Bahá’í constitution, and the By-Laws of a Local Spiritual Assembly which were the standard local Bahá’í constitution, simply translating them from English into German. Wherever the Local Assemblies attained legal capacity, they were incorporated with these By-Laws.

111.58 As the establishment of the judicial system of the German Federal Republic progressed, the scrutiny of articles of incorporation became increasingly strict, and Local Spiritual Assemblies which wished to incorporate met with more and more difficulties. The standard By-Laws corresponded to American legal concepts and were expressed in American legal language. These were radically at variance with the concepts of German law and thus, in many instances barely comprehensible to German lawyers.

111.59 Under the pressure of this experience the German Bahá’í institutions acquired the understanding that, while the fundamental structures and principles of our law as "Divine Law" are unalterable, they have to be expressed in different terminology according to the legal systems of particular countries. This experience was shared by other Bahá’í communities around the world.

111.60 Thus, in the seventies, with the agreement of the Universal House of Justice, new By-Laws, which are faithful to the Bahá’í standard constitution and are also in accordance with German Law, were drafted and introduced as a pattern for all Local Spiritual Assemblies in Germany. All Spiritual Assemblies in the Federal Republic are today incorporated according to these sample By-Laws. The National Spiritual Assembly also prepared a new constitution for itself, but this has not yet been registered, because the Court of Registration concerned was awaiting the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court.

111.61 Although this development placed the German Spiritual Assemblies in an incomparably better position in relation to the Courts of Registration, it soon became clear that the legal construction of the By-Laws was still not easily conveyed to the courts concerned. It is not the community (with the Assembly as its managing body) which is the association, but the Assembly itself, which is elected by the members of the community; this is an unusual construction in Germany. Normally, membership in an association is attained by joining it, but membership in a Spiritual Assembly is through election by a "third party," the community. Normally in Germany, an Association has a minimum size (7 members) and has no upper limit. As against that the membership of the Assembly is limited in number: it has nine members, no fewer and no more. In spite of these difficulties it was usually possible to overcome the Registrar's objections and obtain legal incorporation. Sometimes this required proceedings in the law courts.


IV.

111.62 The legal administrator of the District Court of Tübingen was especially obstinate. He objected to no less than eight points in the By-Laws and finally, on 8 December 1983, refused incorporation. The legal measures taken against this decision were unsuccessful. The State Court of Tübingen rejected the further appeal of 5 May 1985. The High State Court in Stuttgart, to which the case was subsequently appealed, rejected it on 27 January 1986.

111.63 With that the legal measures were exhausted, and this would have meant that the Spiritual Assembly of Tübingen would never be able to incorporate with the By-Laws of the standard local Bahá’í constitution. Beyond this, when the decision of the High State Court in Stuttgart was published in the legal literature, a number of other courts, alerted by this decision, demanded that incorporated Local Assemblies amend their By-Laws or else face cancellation of their existing incorporation.

111.64 The decision of the High State Court in Stuttgart was founded on the principle of corporate autonomy which applies to associations under German civil incorporation law. According to this, an association is an autonomous body free from third-party influence and is subject only to the law of the land. The fact that Local Spiritual Assemblies are linked in a hierarchy and that their superior institutions, the National Assembly and the Universal House of Justice, have a series of rights of intervention according to the By-Laws, is seen to violate this principle of corporate autonomy.

111.65 Thus a critical situation had arisen for the German Community. There was a great danger that all incorporated Spiritual Assemblies, including the National Spiritual Assembly, would be deprived of their legal capacity.

111.66 The German Constitution provides a possibility for recognized religious communities to incorporate, in certain circumstances, under "public law" rather than as associations under civil law. But this presupposes a minimum number of members which the German Bahá’í community is still far from having reached.

111.67 The Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá’ís must therefore have recourse to the corporate law of the German Code of Civil Law to achieve legal capacity. But, to obtain such registration the Spiritual Assemblies would have had to change the basic structures of their By-Laws. Such changes the Bahá’ís cannot and will not accept, because the essential structures of the constitutional law of our community are the Law of God and are therefore not open to compromise. These essential structures include the vertical form of institutional organization.

111.68 With all other legal means exhausted, the Federal Constitutional Court presented the last resort for the German Bahá’í community, but this presupposed that the decisions previously passed by the courts had violated the constitutional rights of the Spiritual Assembly of Tübingen. The National Spiritual Assembly was convinced that this was unmistakably the case. Article 4 of the German Constitution guarantees not just freedom of religious practice, which includes freedom of belief and worship, but also freedom of organization. The decisions passed by the courts, and the interpretation of civil law underlying them, had led to the result that hierarchical integration within the framework of the Bahá’í Administration was made impossible for the Bahá’ís. Were these decisions to be enforced, each local Bahá’í community would be isolated from the rest of the Administrative Order. The community as a whole would no longer exist, it would be only an amorphous collection of autonomous bodies with no links to one another. The Bahá’í Community as the "People of God" embodied in a legal structure, would no longer exist. In this the National Assembly saw a violation of Article 4 of the Federal Constitution and concluded that the submission of a Constitutional Appeal was advisable.

111.69 Although, from the outset, this constitutional question had been referred to in writing, the courts concerned with the successive appeals on the case had not considered them at all.

111.70 After receiving the Constitutional Appeal, which was submitted in March 1986, the Federal Constitutional Court considered this extremely unusual matter very intensively. It even requested original literature from the German Bahá’í Publishing Trust, asked for and examined numerous By-Laws of other associations, Christian and Islamic, and solicited views from the Federal Minister of Justice and from the Ministry of Justice of Baden-Württemberg, the Evangelical Church in Germany and the Institute for State Church Law of the Dioceses of Germany (on the question of corporate autonomy in the case of church associations). The two Ministries of Justice expressed an opinion very unfavorable to the Bahá’ís, concluding that the contested decisions had been passed correctly and so the Constitutional Appeal was unfounded.

111.71 The Federal Constitutional Court took a long time to reach its decision. It had to consider the far-reaching consequences which a decision in our favor could have. Would it not open wide the floodgates for organizations unjustifiably calling themselves "religions" to make use of this decision in future?


V.

111.72 The decision which the Federal Constitution Court reached, wholly in our favor, on 5 February 1991, is a relatively rare decision in the field of State Church Law in Germany, and for this alone it constitutes a highly significant precedent in the formulation and development of German Law.

111.73 For the German Bahá’í Community this decision, as shown by the above explanations, is of far-reaching significance and cannot be overestimated: It ensures the legal status of the community and brings to an end all attempts by the courts to require the amendment of the basic structures of our By-Laws. It confirms once and for all the right of the Bahá’ís to organize as a hierarchically structured legal community according to the revealed Law of God.

111.74 The decision first of all sets a limit to its application, in a statement that is of the greatest importance as a testimony to the widespread recognition of the Bahá’í Faith as an independent religious community. It explains that the mere assertion of a community that it is a religious community is not sufficient for it to submit such a constitutional appeal. The authorities and courts have to examine in each specific case whether it is really a religion and a religious community, according to spiritual content and external appearances. Here the Court states: "In the present case it is not necessary to go more deeply into this, as the character of the Bahá’í Faith as a religion and the Bahá’í Community as a religious community is evident, in actual everyday life, cultural tradition, and in the understanding of the general public as well as of the science of comparative religion."

111.75 In its decision, the Federal Constitutional Court reviewed in detail the constitutional right of freedom of religious organization and came to the conclusion that the lower courts, in arriving at their decisions, had not done justice to this constitutional right; that it is possible, within the framework of the German civil law governing incorporations, to give special consideration to the religious requirements governing the internal organization of the Local Spiritual Assembly as a religious association and as part of a religious community; and, moreover, that Constitutional Law demands that such special consideration be given.

111.76 The Court pointed out that, because associations which are part of religious communities wish to be integrated into the hierarchy of their religious community, the granting of the right of intervention to superior institutions cannot be considered as submission to an external influence which would threaten the essential independence of the association or its right to administer itself. The Federal Constitutional Court concluded that the courts acting in this case had misunderstood the constitutional right of freedom of religious organization in the interpretation and application of the principle of corporate autonomy, in that they had considered the National Spiritual Assembly "to be an extraneous organization, characterized by different aims and interests, exercising a dominating influence, without considering the unity and mutuality linked to religious law." The same was true, the Court explained, for the election of the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly by the believers in the local community, who are not "third-parties."

111.77 From the reasons given for the decision it can be inferred that a positive decision was possible only because the Bahá’í Law, which underlies our constitutions as revealed Law, is an indispensable part of our Faith.


VI.

111.78 The magnitude of the achievement this judgment represents in the efforts to preserve and ensure the legal status of the Spiritual Assemblies in Germany can be judged from the fact that only 1.5 percent of all Constitutional Appeals meet with success.

111.79 The National Spiritual Assembly had the wisdom to shrink from no effort or cost in order to ensure the best presentation of the case. It engaged a renowned Stuttgart firm of attorneys for its legal protection. The presentation of the case was in the hands of an expert in the fields of Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and State Church Law. Beyond that the National Spiritual Assembly solicited an opinion from a highly regarded expert in State Church Law at the University of Heidelberg (Professor Friedrich Müller). This profound opinion, comprising 115 pages, which clearly and convincingly sets forth the legal position of the Bahá’ís, was a great support for this Appeal and surely had an effect in helping to bring it to a successful conclusion. A gratifying side-effect of the work and funds devoted to this Appeal is to be found in the number of highly placed ministerial officials, professors and scientific collaborators, who had to concern themselves intensively with the Faith, not to mention the judges of Germany's highest Court. The decision will be included in the collection of official records and will be published in all the legal journals.

111.80 Undoubtedly further fruits will be gathered in the years ahead when this landmark decision assists judicial authorities in other lands to appreciate the stature of the Bahá’í Faith and the fundamental importance of the laws and principles embedded in its Sacred Scriptures.

22 May 1991



The Passing of the Hand of the Cause of God John Robarts

19 JUNE 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

112.1 WITH SADDENED HEARTS ANNOUNCE PASSING MUCH-LOVED STAUNCH PROMOTER FAITH, KNIGHT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH, HAND CAUSE GOD JOHN ROBARTS. HIS DISTINGUISHED ADMINISTRATIVE TEACHING PIONEERING ACTIVITIES IN HIS NATIVE CANADA, IN AFRICA AND EUROPE, DURING MINISTRY BELOVED GUARDIAN AND SUBSEQUENTLY ON WORLD SCALE THROUGH HIS INTERNATIONAL TRAVELS WERE SOURCE ABUNDANT INSPIRATION COUNTLESS FRIENDS MANY LANDS. HIS RELIANCE AND EMPHASIS ON PRAYER IN ALL EFFORTS PROMOTION CAUSE AND HIS SUSTAINED SERVICES PATH LOVE FOR BLESSED BEAUTY WERE CHARACTERIZED BY SPIRIT CERTITUDE, SELF-EFFACEMENT AND VIGOR WHICH SET A STANDARD OF STEWARDSHIP THAT HIS ENRICHED ANNALS FAITH. HE HAS ASSUREDLY EARNED BOUNTIFUL REWARD ABHÁ KINGDOM. PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS RADIANT SOUL. ADVISE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS IN HIS HONOR THROUGHOUT WORLD INCLUDING ALL HOUSES WORSHIP.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Commencement of Phase Two of the Mount Carmel Projects

20 JUNE 1991


To the Bahá’ís of the World

113.1 FOLLOWING RECEIPT BUILDING PERMITS FOR SECOND PHASE OF TERRACES OF THE BÁB'S SHRINE AND FOR EXCAVATION FOR THE FIRST TWO BUILDINGS, AND AFTER COMPLETION TENDER FORMALITIES, WE REJOICE ANNOUNCE CONTRACT SIGNED SEVENTEENTH JUNE 1991, OFFICIALLY COMMENCING PHASE TWO OF MOUNT CARMEL PROJECTS.

113.2 THIS PHASE, WHICH IS EXPECTED TO TAKE APPROXIMATELY SIXTEEN MONTHS, WILL INCLUDE EXCAVATION AND ANCHOR WORK FOR CENTER STUDY TEXTS AND ARCHIVES EXTENSION AS WELL AS EARTHWORK OF FIVE. TERRACES IMMEDIATELY BELOW HOLY SHRINE AND EXTENSION OF MAIN TERRACE. TOTAL COST THIS PHASE ESTIMATED FIVE MILLION DOLLARS.

113.3 APPEAL CONTINUING FLOW FUNDS ENSURE UNINTERRUPTED PROGRESS.

113.4 SUPPLICATING SACRED THRESHOLD DIVINE CONFIRMATION HISTORIC UNDERTAKING.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Progress of the Mount Carmel Projects

11 SEPTEMBER 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

114.1 The historic Arc and Terraces projects are now advancing at full speed, and the Universal House of Justice has asked us to inform you of the progress being made.

114.2 The work is planned to proceed in several distinct phases. Phase One involved the strengthening and facing of the two-hundred-meter-long retaining wall supporting the main Terrace of the Shrine of the Báb. This work continued in spite of many difficulties during the Gulf crisis and has now been completed.

114.3 Phase Two, the contract for which was signed on 17 June 1991, as already announced, involves the excavation for the Center for the Study of the Texts and the Archives Extension, the extension eastwards of the main Terrace of the Shrine of the Báb, and the completion of eight of the Terraces below the Shrine. Work is currently in progress in three main areas, as explained below.

114.4 On the site of the Center for the Study of the Texts and the Archives Extension a security fence has been erected around the work area to separate it from the Archives Building and the gardens below the Arc Path. Access roads have been opened to permit removal of excavated material. The first stage of excavation has been completed and rock bolts have been installed, allowing the construction of the first retaining wall to begin.

114.5 The extension of the main Terrace of the Shrine of the Báb eastward to make it symmetrical with the western half will provide a large underground storage area of great practical use in the care of the gardens. The excavations for this extension have now been completed and foundations are being laid.

114.6 On the site of the Terraces from the Shrine of the Báb leading down to ‘Abbás Street, over two hundred valuable trees were carefully dug up and have been temporarily replanted on the Temple Land until they can be returned to the area of the Terraces after regrading of the mountainside. Now the remaining trees, undergrowth, topsoil and existing structures have been removed. The material from the excavations on the Arc is being moved to this area to provide the fill needed for the Terraces.

114.7 Phase Three will involve the construction of the Center for the Study of the Texts and the Archives Extension, and is scheduled to begin in July 1992. It is to be followed by several other phases to complete the projects, and announcements about these will be made in due course.

114.8 It can thus be seen that the work is in full flow. The flow of funds to finance the work must likewise be uninterrupted. The Universal House of Justice is confident that the followers of Bahá’u’lláh will bend every effort to bring to speedy completion this stage in the fulfillment of the beloved Guardian's vision of the establishment of the World Administrative Center of the Cause of God. It assures the friends in every land of its ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines for the successful completion of the great enterprises before the Bahá’í world at one of the most critical periods in human history.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Appointment of New Continental Counselor

7 OCTOBER 1991


To all National Spiritual Assemblies Dear Bahá’í Friends,

115.1 We are happy to announce the appointment of Dr. Payman Mohajer as a new member of the Continental Board of Counselors in Asia.

115.2 He is replacing Mr. S. Nagaratnam who, due to ill health and personal circumstances, found it necessary to resign from the Board of Counselors. His resignation was regretfully accepted and his many years of dedicated service in his capacity as a Counselor are warmly remembered.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message to Bahá’í International Women's Conference, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

9 OCTOBER 1991


Bahá’í International Women's Conference Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

116.1 The contribution of women to social, economic and cultural development is paramount. As the primary educators of children, women must themselves be educated and receive literacy training. As wives and mothers, as members of the professions, as farmers, as stewards of the health and well-being of families, and as members of Bahá’í administrative institutions, women must be welcomed into full partnership with men in consultative decision-making and in guiding the progress of their communities.

116.2 We are confident of your ability to set in motion processes of development and patterns of living which, emanating from within the Bahá’í communities, will exert salutary effects on the destiny of nations. Inspired and reinforced by the guidance and life-giving properties of the Word of God, the Bahá’ís of Africa can choose to play a leading role in brightening the fortunes of their entire continent. Be assured of our heartfelt prayers at the Sacred Threshold that this conference will be a center of spiritual illumination inspiring the friends to redouble their efforts towards ensuring the unhampered, systematic involvement of women in the vital work of the Cause.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Passing of Magdalene Carney, Counselor Member of the International Teaching Center

10 OCTOBER 1991


To All National Spiritual Assemblies

117.1 DEEPLY GRIEVED SUDDEN PASSING STALWART MAIDSERVANT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH MEMBER INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER MAGDALENE M. CARNEY. HER WELL NIGH THREE DECADES UNBROKEN SERVICE CAUSE GOD EXERTED IMMENSE INFLUENCE TEACHING WORK SOUTHERN REGION UNITED STATES, INVOLVED THIRTEEN YEARS MEMBERSHIP NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY THAT COUNTRY UNTIL HER APPOINTMENT IN 1983 TO INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER INDOMITABLE FAITH, UNSWERVING DEVOTION COVENANT SELFLESS SPIRIT, OPEN CANDOR, WHOLEHEARTED COMMITMENT EDUCATION CHILDREN AND YOUTH ARE AMONG QUALITIES THAT WILL EVER BE ASSOCIATED WITH GOLDEN MEMORIES HER HIGHLY ACTIVE LIFE. ARDENTLY PRAYING HOLY THRESHOLD PROGRESS HER STERLING SOUL THROUGHOUT DIVINE WORLDS.

117.2 ADVISE HOLD MEMORIAL SERVICES HER HONOR ALL HOUSES WORSHIP AND IN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT WORLD.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




The Need for Prepublication Review

28 OCTOBER 1991


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

118.1 . . . The House of Justice was deeply touched by the spirit of your letter, warmly congratulates you on the status you have attained as an academic, and appreciates your efforts to make use of your scholarly training in lending expression to the Faith in academic circles.

118.2 The requirement that materials about the Faith authored by Bahá’ís must be reviewed by Bahá’í institutions before publication is imbedded in a Bahá’í administrative policy which originated with the explicit instruction of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Shoghi Effendi included this instruction in his outline of the duties of National Spiritual Assemblies, and the duty of reviewing Bahá’í material is included in the constitution of these institutions with his approval. The requirement is temporary and is meant to protect the interests of the Faith at the early stages of its development.

118.3 You are, of course, entirely correct that only the Guardian had the prerogative of interpretation; it is not a prerogative that he could have devolved on other institutions. Yet in a number of letters written on his behalf, the importance of reviewing manuscripts about the Faith was repeatedly emphasized, such as in a letter dated 15 November 1956 written to an individual, in which the following is stated:

118.3a. Any Bahá’í book presenting the Faith should be reviewed by a competent body. This only means that they should ascertain whether there is any misrepresentation of the Teachings in it. Sometimes the friends think they have to go into literary reviews and interfere with the author's style etc., which of course is wholly unnecessary. . . .[1]

Clearly, then, there is a distinction between the function of interpretation for which Shoghi Effendi was solely responsible and the function of Bahá’í review, which is essentially a matter of judgment. Literary review is, of course, a separate matter.

118.4 The House of Justice feels certain that it is possible for scholars to abide by this requirement without undermining the academic standard of their work, since the purpose of review is not inimical to academic excellence. Your concerns as an academic certainly deserve careful attention. But the Bahá’í community also has immense concerns about the consequences of dispensing too quickly with this requirement. The Bahá’í Faith makes very serious claims and has a rich and complex history, but it is as yet a young religion whose precepts are not widely understood. It has been undergoing severe persecution in the land of its birth and is experiencing serious opposition in other places where its detractors have no compunction in misrepresenting its purposes. Until its history, teachings and practices are well known throughout the world, it will be necessary for the Bahá’í community to make efforts within itself to present correct information about the Faith in published material. This can and must be done without violating the principle of freedom of expression, which, according to the teachings of the Faith, is a vital right of all persons.

118.5 Even in the world of journalism where the most libertine excesses of expression are stoutly defended on the grounds of constitutional protection, as is the case in the United States, serious questions are being raised about the accuracy of nonfiction books being published these days. An article in a recent issue of Columbia Journalism Review (July/August 1991), that bastion of freedom of expression, devoted attention to such questions, querying the responsibility of publishers and editors and commenting on the sloppiness of some writers. It encourages reviewers of inaccurate books to take the publishers to task and to expose the authors' transgressions, pointing out, by quoting one such reviewer, that: "A newspaper can report one thing one day and revise or revoke the report the next day; a book makes a promise of much longer duration and far greater authority. The scale and presentation make a vital difference." But this has to do with review after publication. Among its suggestions for prepublication solutions to inaccuracy, the article offers the following thought to publishers: "They could pay in-house or outside researchers to request documentation from the author, then judge its worthiness. At the very least, they could pay for a spot check, then decide whether a full-scale review is necessary."

118.6 The positions you have taken in the third paragraph of your letter indicate an overreaction and a misconception of the real purpose of Bahá’í review. Is it not possible for Bahá’í academics to acknowledge the merit of the intention of this temporary requirement and, recognizing the sensitivity of the matter in view of the attitudes of the academic community, assist themselves and the Bahá’í institutions to find a balance between both academic and Bahá’í expectations? Bahá’í review is not an exercise in censorship; it is in large measure a benefit offered to an author by the Bahá’í institutions, which are, in fact, the major repositories of the source materials that ordinarily constitute the wellspring of the author's work and are for other reasons the channels of elucidation for a wide range of obscure questions relating to the Faith. Certainly, a dispassionate exploration by Bahá’í scholars of the issues concerning both the academic community and the Bahá’í institutions in this matter could result in the formulation of a rationale appropriate to aiding understanding in academic circles as to the nature and necessity of Bahá’í review. Bahá’í academics, after all, are, first and foremost, believers in the Cause of God and upholders of divine law.

118.7 The House of Justice has acknowledged in the past that the process of review is often irksome, frequently takes far too long and is subject to many problems in implementation. Nevertheless, it is convinced that this is not the time to remove this temporary procedure. National Spiritual Assemblies responsible for administering the reviewing procedure have been urged to do all they can to improve and expedite its operation, and efforts are continually being made to this end. The House of Justice looks forward to the day when this requirement will be definitely removed; in the meantime it may well be modified as conditions change.

118.8 With regard to your particular concerns, there is nothing in the current regulations that would prevent a scholar who has written a work to recommend to the National Spiritual Assembly one or more individuals whom he would like to see included among the reviewers selected by the Assembly. This approach offers the author a way of satisfying himself that he has had a direct part in the arrangement for review, and he can take confidence that some measure of peer review has been invested in the procedure.

118.9 The House of Justice trusts that this procedure will reduce your concerns and assures you of its prayers on your behalf in the Holy Shrines.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. LDG, p. 120.



Selecting Reviewers for Manuscripts

30 OCTOBER 1991


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

119.1 The Universal House of Justice has requested us to send you the enclosed copy of a letter dated 28 October 1991 which we have written at its instruction to a believer who is an academic and who requested that consideration be given to changing the Bahá’í administrative policy requiring prepublication review of manuscripts authored by Bahá’ís.[1] The concern expressed is that this policy contradicts values of free inquiry as perceived in academic circles and that submission to it could undermine scholarly credibility. As you will see from the enclosure, the House of Justice does not agree with this perception of Bahá’í review, but it sympathizes with the difficulties faced by Bahá’í academics in upholding and defending Bahá’í policy. Your attention is called particularly to the penultimate paragraph of the letter which mentions an approach intended to ease these difficulties and which can readily be accommodated by the current regulations on Bahá’í review.

119.2 The scholar who has authored a manuscript on a Bahá’í subject may recommend to the National Spiritual Assembly one or more individuals for inclusion among the reviewers selected by the Assembly. If for some particular reason the Assembly finds his nominees unacceptable, it may ask the author to submit other names for its consideration. While the National Assembly must retain control of the reviewing process and operate its reviewing mechanism as it sees fit, it must at the same time exercise a flexibility which will allow it to accommodate such a procedure. As in any other instance of review, the Assembly should exercise independent judgment as to the merits of the recommendations it receives from its appointed reviewers.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. See no. 118, pp. 240-43.



The Need for an Increase in Contributions to the Fund

18 NOVEMBER 1991


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh in Every Land

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

120.1 A time of challenge for the stalwart upholders of the Cause of God has now come upon us at the very moment when the world is grappling with tremendous problems, moral, social, economic and ecological. The Bahá’í community has grown in size and influence to the point where it is put to the test on all sides and at all levels. The opportunities are immense but we now face the question of whether to push forward with all speed, or to hold back because the resources available to us are inadequate for the purpose.

120.2 In lands where people have accepted the Faith in large numbers, the process of economic and social development, linked with the establishment, consolidation and strong functioning of Local Spiritual Assemblies, is attaining ever greater importance and is placing upon the international resources of the Faith a heavy demand for manpower and finance. In the countries of the former Eastern Bloc the need for assistance in the form of Bahá’í literature, pioneers, traveling teachers, the establishment of local centers, is made the more urgent by the extraordinary receptivity to the Message of Bahá’u’lláh shown by the spiritually thirsty populations. The opportunities for the promotion of the Cause of God in these areas cannot be allowed to go unheeded.

120.3 At the national level, the structure of Bahá’í communities is growing in complexity as the number of believers rises, and National Spiritual Assemblies are being increasingly invited by national governments and nongovernmental organizations to offer advice and assistance in upholding human rights, in safeguarding the environment, in promoting moral education, and in overcoming the ravages of prejudice and the rising tide of lawlessness which are undermining the social structure. Internationally a parallel process is taking place.

120.4 At the World Center itself, the construction work on the Mount Carmel Projects has begun, preparing facilities befitting the central institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh for that time when they will have to shoulder the tremendous responsibilities that will be thrust upon them as the Lesser Peace begins to be established in the world.

120.5 Over the past four years there was a steady increase in the contributions of the friends worldwide to the international funds of the Faith, and it had been our hope and expectation that this rise would continue and even be accelerated in the current year. But since last Riḍván, on the contrary, there has been a sudden drop in contributions both to the international funds as a whole and to the Arc Projects Fund, creating a crisis which must be promptly overcome. In response to the growing needs of the teaching work and the Arc Projects, we have for several years been drastically cutting the expenditure of the World Center, canceling or postponing many activities which, although valuable, cannot be pursued under the present condition of shortage of funds. This process cannot be taken much further without seriously hampering the ability of the World Center to function at the level which the interests of the Faith require.

120.6 If the financial needs of this year and those immediately ahead are to be met, the contributions to the international funds of the Cause must, far from decreasing, be substantially increased.

120.7 Such an effort will call for sacrifice on the part of individual believers and also for the diversion of funds from those local and national projects which are not essential. We are confident that the friends will respond to this call, as they did to the crisis precipitated by the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when, at one moment, 61% of the income of the international funds was cut off.

120.8 This is the immediate need. Beyond this there is, we believe, a worldwide need for appreciation of this basic principle of our Faith: that contributing to the Fund should constitute an integral part of the spiritual life of every Bahá’í and be regarded as the fulfillment of a fundamental spiritual obligation. In too many countries we have encountered a reluctance among the teachers of the Cause to include, in their presentation of the Teachings, support of the Fund as a natural part of Bahá’í life. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh more than once refers to the necessity for combining spiritual and material means in achieving the purposes of the Faith. Shoghi Effendi, for his part, referred to the Fund as the life-blood of the Cause.

120.9 We urge all the friends to give deep thought to the importance of supporting the Cause financially and to the effect that Bahá’í activities have on the condition of the entire human race.

120.10 It is our fervent prayer at the Sacred Threshold that Bahá’u’lláh will inspire His devoted followers in every land to arise unitedly in the service of His Cause and will reward their sacrifices with an outpouring of heavenly bounties.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message on the Day of the Covenant

26 NOVEMBER 1991


To the Followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the World

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

121.1 On the occasion of the Day of the Covenant, amidst the dramatic events within and without the Faith which evince an accelerating momentum in the concluding months of the Six Year Plan, and less than half a year from the beginning of the long-anticipated Holy Year, we rejoice in conveying this triple announcement to the entire Bahá’í world.

121.1a Seven new National Spiritual Assemblies will be formed at Riḍván 1992: Angola in Africa; Greenland in the Americas; and Albania, the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland in Europe. The emergence of the latter five will set a befitting seal on the victorious supplementary Two Year Plan launched at Riḍván 1990. In addition, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Congo Republic, after a lapse of more than a decade due to political conditions, will be reestablished.
121.1b The Office of Ḥuqúqu’lláh has been established in the Holy Land under the direction of the Chief Trustee of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the Hand of the Cause of God ‘Alí-Muḥammad Varqá, in anticipation of the worldwide application of the Law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh next Riḍván. Concurrent with this development are the steps being taken by Dr. Varqá to organize regional and national Boards of Trustees of Ḥuqúqu’lláh, following the example of the Board already functioning in the United States.
121.1c At Riḍván 1993, immediately following the Holy Year and during a period which will witness the holding of the Seventh Bahá’í International Convention at the World Center, a Three Year Plan will be launched. The national goals of this global Plan will be set through consultations between the Continental Counselors and National Spiritual Assemblies. The unusual character and rapidity of developments both inside and outside the Faith signify the necessity for a short, flexible plan attuned to the dynamic nature of the times.

121.2 This momentous announcement, coinciding significantly with the opening of a new term for members of the Auxiliary Boards on all continents, is indicative of the fresh flood of divine confirmations pouring upon the current efforts of the Community of the Most Great Name in all parts of the planet. The coincidence demonstrates anew the existence of tremendous challenges and opportunities which must be met, and it calls attention to the vital role to be played by these distinguished servants of the Faith in aiding the believers everywhere to attain further heights in the unfolding glory of our great Cause.

121.3 We are moved to appeal to the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in every land, at this critical moment in the destiny of the Cause and of humankind, to make a supreme effort to gather the as yet unharvested victories in the fast-fleeting days remaining to the Six Year Plan. Let them do this that they may enter, with a fit sense of triumph, the impending Holy Year―a period charged with untold significance and pregnant with possibilities for major advances of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, possibilities which can only faintly be imagined as the Centenary of His Ascension draws closer.

121.4 Our ardent hopes for you all are intermingled with our supplications at the Holy Threshold that the Blessed Beauty may, to an unprecedented degree, rain down upon His loved ones His invigorating, victory-inducing confirmations.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




The Role of Assemblies in Dealing with Violations of Bahá’í Law

9 DECEMBER 1991


The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í of Australia

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

122.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 26 September 1991 which raises a number of questions concerning the exercise of your functions in situations where the Bahá’í laws are being violated. We have been asked to provide the following response.

122.2 Before commenting on your specific questions, the House of Justice feels it would be useful to review some aspects of the role of the Local and National Assemblies in regulating the behavior of the members of the Bahá’í commumty.

122.3 The aim of any Spiritual Assembly should be to develop a warm and loving relationship with the believers in its community, so that it can most effectively nurture and encourage them in the acquisition of a deeper understanding of the teachings, and can assist them to follow the Bahá’í principles in their personal conduct. The Assembly should aspire to being regarded by the members of the community as a loving parent, wise in its understanding of the varying degrees of maturity of those entrusted to its care, compassionate in dealing with the problems which arise as a result of any shortcomings, ever prepared to guide them to the correct path, and very patient as they strive to effect the necessary changes in their behavior. Such an approach is far removed from the harshly judgmental and punitive approach which so often characterizes the administration of law in the wider society. The Bahá’í application of justice, firmly rooted in spiritual principle and animated by the desire to foster the spiritual development of the members of the community, will increasingly be seen as a distinctive and highly attractive feature of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.

122.4 Such an attitude of forbearance, restraint, and patience toward believers who are striving to change practices and attitudes acquired in the years before they entered the sanctuary of the Cause of God should not blind a National Assembly to the fact that, at this stage in the development of the Faith, there may well be some believers in the community whose behavior necessitates that they be treated in a firm and uncompromising manner. The following passage from a letter written on behalf of the Guardian is of broad applicability:

122.4a He feels that your Assembly must keep before its eyes the balance specified by Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, in other words, justice, reward and retribution. Although the Cause is still young and tender, and many of the believers inexperienced, and therefore loving forbearance is often called for in the place of harsh measures, this does not mean that a National Spiritual Assembly can under any circumstances tolerate disgraceful conduct, flagrantly contrary to our Teachings, on the part of any of its members, whoever they may be and from wherever they may come. . . .
122.4b The National Assembly is the guardian of the welfare of the Faith, a most sacred and heavy responsibility and one which is inescapable. They must be ever vigilant, ever on the look-out, ever ready to take action, and, on all matters of fundamental principle, refuse to compromise for an instant. Only in this way can the body of the Faith be free of disease.
122.4c . . . we should not confuse the true believers with those who are not quickened with the spirit of faith, have some ulterior motive, or are indifferent to the reputation they have personally, and the damage they may do the Cause in the eyes of the public. There is all the difference in the world between these two categories, and your Assembly must be ever watchful and ready to take action when necessary.[1]

122.5 A survey of the letters written on behalf of the Guardian shows that he advised the National Spiritual Assemblies that they should resort to the severe sanction of deprivation of a believer's administrative rights only for such matters as "disgraceful conduct, flagrantly contrary to our Teachings," "seriously injuring the Faith in the eyes of the public through his conduct or flagrantly breaking the laws of God," "gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status," "conduct which is disgracing the Cause," and "breaking of laws, such as the consent of parents to marriage," or "acts of such an immoral character as to damage the good name of the Faith."[2]

122.6 It is clear that the removal of voting rights is a serious action which an Assembly should take reluctantly when the circumstances require that the Bahá’í community or its reputation in the eyes of the public must be protected from the effects of an individual's behavior, and where the authority of the laws of the Faith must be upheld. It should be the hope and prayer of the Assembly that the believer who has been administratively expelled from membership in the Bahá’í community will come to see that his behavior is in violation of the teachings, will endeavor to rectify his conduct, and will thus open the way to being welcomed back into the community so that he can lend his support to the vital and glorious task of establishing the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.

122.7 Turning now to your questions: you have enquired about believers convicted of an offense in the civil courts. As you know, the Bahá’í institutions do not have a responsibility to enforce the criminal laws of a nation, although they do quite properly exhort the believers to obedience to government, which includes obedience to its laws. Violations of criminal law are handled by the civil courts of a country and enforced by its civil administration. The fact that a believer has been charged with a criminal offense, or is suspected of having committed such an offense, or is convicted by the court, should not automatically result in the application of Bahá’í sanctions. Each case is to be considered on its own merits, and in the light of the aforementioned considerations pertaining to the effect on the Bahá’í community and its reputation. For example, an Assembly would be most unlikely to consider imposition of sanctions on a Bahá’í convicted of violating the laws regulating automobile traffic flow, but it might well consider that a person known to be a Bahá’í convicted of selling narcotic drugs had brought disgrace to the name of the Faith and damaged its reputation before the public.

122.8 When an Assembly is aware that a believer is charged with a criminal offense, normally it should not pass judgment on the matter until a decision has been given in the courts, at which time it would consider whether it should impose administrative sanctions. There may be cases, however, when an Assembly is justified in taking certain actions to protect the interests of the Cause. Generally, the Assembly would regard the decision of the court as being valid in determining whether or not the Bahá’í was guilty of the stated offense, and would not undertake its own independent investigation. However, there may be special circumstances associated with a particular case, or with the reputation of the civil judicial system, which would incline an Assembly to decide that the verdict of the court should not be accepted as a basis for Bahá’í administrative action without further investigation by the Assembly; it is left to the Assembly to make that determination.

122.9 When an allegation is made that a believer has violated Bahá’í law, irrespective of the consequence in civil law, the process of investigation calls for a diligent and persistent effort by the Assembly to ascertain the facts, and for wholehearted cooperation of all concerned in the search for truth. Believers called upon to provide information should, if necessary, be reminded of the responsibility they bear to speak the truth and of the spiritual consequences of a failure to do so. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts:

122.9a Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness, progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.[3]

If this "holy attribute" should adorn the behavior of believers toward others, how much more should it characterize the statements which a Bahá’í makes to a divinely ordained institution.

122.10 The prospect of a believer's displaying an attitude of hostility, when being interviewed by a Spiritual Assembly or its representatives who are seeking to determine the facts of a matter, is abhorrent. All believers are strongly enjoined to have the utmost respect for the Assemblies, to cooperate fully with them, and to support their decisions. An Assembly enquiring into a matter should not allow itself to be deterred by the hostility of a believer who is withholding relevant information; it should appeal to him for cooperation, remind him forcefully of his responsibilities and, in extreme cases such as threats made to the investigators, warn him of the administrative consequences of the persistence of his deplorable conduct.

122.11 When an Assembly comes to the point where it must make a decision in the face of conflicting assertions and insistent denials, it might well recall the advice of the Guardian:

122.11a . . . when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision, they should, after dispassionate, anxious, and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer, and with earnestness and conviction and courage record their vote. . . .[4]

122.12 A believer who is distressed by the decision reached by an Assembly as a result of its investigation may well find comfort and reassurance in the following passage from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

122.12a The Assembly may make a mistake, but, as the Master pointed out, if the Community does not abide by its decisions, or the individual Bahá’í, the result is worse, as it undermines the very institution which must be strengthened in order to uphold the principles and laws of the Faith. He tells us God will right the wrongs done. We must have confidence in this and obey our Assemblies. . . .[5]

As regards the need to warn an individual before his voting rights are removed, the basic principle is expressed in the following passage written on behalf of the Guardian:

122.12b . . . before anyone is deprived of their voting rights, they should be consulted with and lovingly admonished at first, given repeated warnings if they do not mend their immoral ways, or whatever other extremely serious misdemeanor they are committing, and finally, after these repeated warnings, be deprived of their voting rights.[6]

There are, however, many different ways in which this is applied, depending upon the nature of the offense and the situation in each case.

122.13 For example, when there is an isolated but serious offense, such as that of a Bahá’í woman who indulges in one act of immorality as a result of which she gives birth to a child out of wedlock, this is no grounds for the removal of administrative rights. But the Assembly, when it learns of the situation, should certainly arrange for the believer to be met and consulted with, to assist her in her difficulties, to ascertain her attitude to the situation. If she has no regret for the offense and indicates that she feels free to repeat it in future, she will need to be educated in the teachings, counseled and, if she does not change her attitude, to be warned that a continuation of such actions would cause forfeiture of her administrative rights. If, however, she is contrite and is determined to lead a moral life henceforth, there would be no question of sanctions. The same course would be followed with the man involved, if he were a Bahá’í.

122.14 Another example would involve, not a single offense, but a continuing course of behavior, such as flagrant and continuing violation of the law prohibiting the consumption of alcoholic beverages. In such a situation the Assembly should explain the law to the believer, urge him to obey it, encourage and assist him and warn him if necessary If the response is favorable there would, again, be no need to deprive him of his administrative rights, but, if the believer is obdurate or continues in his course of misbehavior, he should, according to the circumstances of each case, be warned and warned again, with increasing severity and a time set for him to rectify his conduct. If this produces no amelioration, he would have to lose his administrative rights.

122.15 A third example involves the taking of a definite step which violates a clear law with which the believer is familiar. In this instance, the Assembly may conclude that the believer has been warned repeatedly of the consequences of such behavior through statements in widely circulated Bahá’í publications or in the deepening which a member of the community might reasonably be expected to have received. Into this category would fall the offenses against the Bahá’í requirement of parental consent to marriage, and the violations of law about which general warnings have been given in your newsletter.

122.16 Circumstances may arise where the offense is so serious that immediate action is required by the National Assembly to protect the Faith. In this connection, it is stated in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian:

122.16a You should vigilantly watch over and protect the interests of the Bahá’í Community, and the moment you see that any of the . . . Bahá’ís . . . are acting in a way to bring disgrace upon the name of the Faith, warn them, and, if necessary, deprive them immediately of their voting rights if they refuse to change their ways. Only in this way can the purity of the Faith be preserved. Compromise and weak measures will obscure the vision of its followers, sap its strength, lower it in the eyes of the public and prevent it from making any progress.[7]

122.17 The Universal House of Justice has stated that, in matters concerning the deprivation of voting rights, an Assembly should bear in mind that, at the present time, when Bahá’í laws are being progressively applied and a sizeable proportion of a community consists of newly declared believers, an Assembly may accept ignorance of the Bahá’í law as a valid excuse when it is convinced that such ignorance existed; great wisdom is required in the application of this provision, since it is not unknown for a believer guilty of flagrant misconduct to attempt to escape the administrative consequence of his behavior through a fervent but spurious claim of ignorance of the law.

122.18 In deciding whether or not to remove voting rights, every case should be considered on its merits and in light of the particular circumstances. The purpose of the administrative sanction should be borne clearly in mind in deciding how much weight to give to factors such as the passage of time, the extent to which the individual concerned has experienced an adverse reaction in the Bahá’í community, the degree of suffering and contrition exhibited by the believer whose status is being questioned, his stature in the Bahá’í community or the wider society, and media publicity of his delinquent behavior. While there is room for compassion, this should not deflect you from giving due consideration to the responsibility you bear to protect the community and its good name, and to uphold the authority of Bahá’í law.

122.19 It is within the discretion of a National Spiritual Assembly to decide whether to notify the community when a believer has been deprived of his administrative rights; the Assembly is also free to decide how such a notification is to be made, and whether or not the reasons for the deprivation are to be disclosed. Such decisions might be made with regard to the purposes which would be served by such an announcement, and the benefit to the community of this knowledge. If a believer advises you of an appeal to the Universal House of Justice against your decision to withdraw his voting rights, he remains without these rights while the merit of his appeal is being assessed by the House of Justice; it would generally be preferable not to make an announcement to the community about his loss of voting rights while the appeal is being considered, but special circumstances, such as the imperative need to protect the Bahá’í community from his actions, could compel you to do otherwise.

122.20 When a believer is deprived of his administrative rights, he is entitled to clear information on the requirements to be fulfilled in order that his rights may be restored; these may include the passage of a prescribed period of time, the performance of certain remedial actions, or the alteration of an attitude or pattern of behavior which is considered unworthy or harmful. A condition for the restoration of voting rights is that the believer be repentant, as evidenced by his statement to that effect or by his demeanor and conduct. A believer should not feel compelled to admit his past errors in order to be regarded as repentant; you can infer repentance from his behavior, his manifest spirit of cooperation with the Assembly, and his evident desire to scrupulously adhere to the teachings. Should he display a rebellious or resentful attitude, or be contemptuous of Bahá’í law and the consequence of violation of its provisions, you would be justified in denying him the right to reenter the Bahá’í community.

122.21 The Universal House of Justice is fully cognizant of the difficulties encountered by National Spiritual Assemblies in administering Bahá’í law at this period in history when the world is afflicted with lawlessness, moral decadence, and confusion. The institutions of the Cause are called upon to guide and regulate the conduct of the believers so that the Bahá’í community may offer, to both seeker and skeptic, a compelling proof of the transforming power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. By this means will humankind be led to accept the truth of His claim, and will thereby be enabled to find that unity and harmony for which it is so desperately yearning. Upon this foundation will be constructed the future world civilization which humanity is destined to attain.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. LDG, pp. 297-8.
  2. LDG, p. 297; CC 2:1519; LG, no. 178; MC, pp. 39, 51.
  3. ADJ, ¶39.
  4. BA, p. 64.
  5. CC 2:1401.
  6. MC, p. 51.
  7. LDG, p. 297.



Formation of Three New Spiritual Assemblies

7 JANUARY 1992


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

123.1 We take great joy in announcing, consequent upon the changed situation in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and further to our message of 26 November 1991, the formation next Riḍván of three additional Spiritual Assemblies in that vast area, as follows:

123.1a The Regional Spiritual Assembly of Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova with its seat in Kiev.
123.1b The Regional Spiritual Assembly of Central Asia with its seat in ‘Ishqábád, comprising the republics of Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
123.1c The National Spiritual Assembly of Azerbaijan with its seat in Baku.

123.2 In accordance with these changes, the former Spiritual Assembly of the USSR with its seat in Moscow will become the Regional Spiritual Assembly of Russia, Georgia and Armenia.

123.3 Furthermore, with the recent official recognition of the Faith in Niger, the National Spiritual Assembly of that country will also be reestablished, with its seat in Niamey.

123.4 Together with those recently announced, the number of Regional and National Spiritual Assemblies to be newly formed or reestablished at Riḍván 1992 amount to 12.

123.5 We are thrilled by such evidences of the extension of the institutions of Bahá’u’lláh's administrative order at this crucial, concluding stage in the Six Year Plan. May the friends throughout the world, and particularly in the countries directly affected, derive fresh impetus from these developments, confident that every effort exerted to expand the base supporting the structure of these prospective institutions will bring untold victories at this fate-laden period in the life of the Bahá’í world community.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Responding to Homosexuality

1 MARCH 1992


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

124.1 Your letter of 22 January 1992 has been received by the Universal House of Justice, and we are to provide the following response.

124.2 The House of Justice was sorry to learn from your letter that your son has recently informed you that he is a homosexual. It commends your attitude of compassion and your efforts to both maintain harmony in your marriage and to keep open the lines of communication to your son. In answer to your specific question, there is little in the Bahá’í writings that specifically points to the causes of homosexuality itself, but as the House of Justice has emphasized in past letters to individuals who sought its advice on this question, there is much that concerns the nature of man, his inner life and growth, and the way to a true Bahá’í life. In a letter to an individual believer, the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, gave the following advice:

124.2a No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and homosexual relationships He looks upon as such, besides being against nature.
124.2b To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
124.2c God judges each soul on its own merits. The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and that one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it. We must be hopeful of God's mercy but not impose upon it.[1]

124:3 . . . In general, the House of Justice urges you to avoid dwelling on thoughts of guilt which you, as a parent, would likely experience, and to continue to demonstrate love and acceptance toward your son; such an attitude, however, should imply no agreement with his attitude towards homosexuality. You will, no doubt, want to urge your son to seek appropriate counseling; in this connection you are encouraged to seek the assistance of your National Spiritual Assembly, which has often dealt with such cases, and can most probably assist you in identifying individuals who are experienced in this area and whose views on homosexuality are basically compatible with those of the Bahá’í Faith.

124.4 Regarding your husband's refusal to permit your son to return home, it is understandable that a parent might feel deeply confused and angry when confronted with such questions which go to the very root of what it means to be a human being and what it means to educate and raise a child. Prayer, faith in God, loving consultation and patience will aid you to deal with this difficulty. As for your family members who are causing you further anguish, it is perhaps also to be expected that reactions to such inherently perplexing questions, nowadays compounded more than ever by the general disarray in moral thinking, tend toward extremes, either of resignation or condemnation. You are obliged to hew your own course, as illuminated by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Whether you can persuade anyone of the correctness of your responses, which seek to preserve your relationship to your son and also to avoid alienating your husband, is secondary; the main thing is that you strive to deal with these difficulties in a manner consistent with the spirit of the Cause of God, which is neither harsh and maledictory nor excessively liberal and forbearing.

124.5 Be assured of the ardent prayers of the House of Justice at the Sacred Threshold that your marriage may be fortified and that your son may be divinely guided and assisted to overcome the problem which has beset him. It will also offer prayers that you may have the strength and wisdom to deal with this problem.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. LG, no. 1223.



Commemoration of Certain Bahá’í Holy Days

15 MARCH 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

125.1 A number of questions have been asked concerning the exact times at which certain Bahá’í Holy Days should, if possible, be observed in view of the different times of sunset in various localities and also the use by some countries of such devices as daylight saving time. Since this matter will be of particular importance to the friends during the Holy Year, the Universal House of Justice has asked us to share the following advice with you.

125.2 As the Guardian indicated, the commemoration of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh should be held, if feasible, at 3 a.m. on 29 May, and that of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at 1 a.m. on 28 November. These times should be measured according to standard time in each area. If daylight saving time is being used in the country, the commemorations should continue to be observed according to standard time.

125.3 It will be noted that, in accordance with this schedule, the observances held on each Holy Day succeed one another for an entire twenty-four hours, as the earth turns on its axis.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Passing of the Hand of the Cause of God William Sears

26 MARCH 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

126.1 OUR HEARTS DEEPLY SADDENED, BAHÁ’Í WORLD GREATLY DEPRIVED, BY PASSING HAND CAUSE GOD WILLIAM SEARS, VIBRANT, CONSECRATED, STOUT-HEARTED STANDARD-BEARER FAITH BAHÁ’U’LLÁH. HIS MORE THAN HALF CENTURY UNBROKEN SERVICE MARKED BY UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO BELOVED GUARDIAN, INFECTIOUS ENTHUSIASM FOR TEACHING, GALVANIZING SENSE DRAMA, DISARMING HUMOR, SPECIAL LOVE FOR CHILDREN, UNFLAGGING DETERMINATION IN FACE DIFFICULTIES. HE WILL EVER BE REMEMBERED FOR DEDICATING FULL RANGE HIS CREATIVE AND ENERGETIC CAPACITIES AS WRITER, EDITOR, LECTURER, RADIO AND TELEVISION PROGRAM DIRECTOR, TO HIS VARIED SERVICES AS TRAVELING TEACHER TO NUMEROUS COUNTRIES, PARTICULARLY IN THE AMERICAS, AND AS PIONEER TO AFRICA WHERE HE WAS MEMBER OF AUXILIARY BOARD AND OF NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY SOUTH AND WEST AFRICA WHEN IN 1957 HE WAS ELEVATED RANK HAND CAUSE. HE LATER SERVED AS MEMBER BODY HANDS HOLY LAND. HIS LOSS ACUTELY FELT IN NORTH AMERICA WHERE HE EXPENDED LAST MEASURE HIS EBBING STRENGTH PROMOTION TEACHING ACTIVITIES. DYNAMIC EFFECTS HIS WORK WILL ENDURE THROUGH HIS MANY BOOKS AND RECORDINGS. GENERATIONS TO COME WILL REJOICE IN RICH LEGACY LEFT THEM THROUGH HIS HISTORIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS. FERVENTLY PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS ILLUSTRIOUS SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM.

126.2 ADVISE FRIENDS THROUGHOUT WORLD COMMEMORATE HIS PASSING. REQUEST BEFITTING MEMORIAL SERVICES IN HIS HONOR ALL HOUSES WORSHIP.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Execution of a Bahá’í in Tehran

5 APRIL 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

127.1 It is with deep distress that we inform you that news has reached us today of the execution of Mr. Bahman Samandarí at Evin Prison in Tehran probably shortly before Naw-Rúz. He was among the four friends arrested for meeting in his home about four years ago but who were released from several months of imprisonment following a global campaign in protest. Details concerning the execution are being sought. . . .

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Confirmation of Execution of a Bahá’í in Tehran

8 APRIL 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

128.1 With sorrowful hearts we have received confirmation of the execution in Evin Prison in Tehran on 18 March 1992 of Mr. Bahman Samandarí, member of a distinguished Bahá’í family who had been active in the affairs of the Bahá’í community. No reason for his execution has been given by the judicial or prison authorities, nor have they disclosed the location of his grave.

128.2 This tragic surprise is the more shocking for the fact that the whole matter has been shrouded in secrecy. The execution was kept quiet for more than two weeks; no advance information was given to the family; no subsequent announcement about it was made; the news of it was broken to Mr. Samandarí's widow only when she attempted to visit him on 5 April, the date given her by the authorities after they had denied her permission to see him despite her several previous attempts since his arrest on 17 March. The manner of informing her of his death was to hand her her husband's will, which had been written on 18 March. No death certificate was issued, although inquiries by the Samandarí family at the office of the Tehran general cemetery brought the response that the name of Bahman Samandarí had been entered into its records.

128.3 No official charge or verdict was announced, assiduous inquiries by the family members producing only a vague indication that Mr. Samandarí's execution had to do with his previous arrest four years ago when he and four other Bahá’ís were arrested for meeting in his home. At that time, 21 October 1987, charges were leveled against him because of his membership in the Bahá’í community. He and his fellow prisoners were released on 18 December 1987, after the title to Mr. Samandarí's home had been turned over to the authorities along with a large sum of money as bail.

128.4 The timing and suddenness of the matter and the duplicity on the part of the authorities are also a cause of bafflement. Mr. Samandarí was summoned by the authorities on 17 March ostensibly to receive a document from them. On 18 March, the date of his will which was handed to Mrs. Samandarí by the Evin Prison authorities, he was killed. On 20 March he was buried. These events took place at the time of the approach of the long public holiday associated with the Iranian new year, an obviously inconvenient time for inquiries.

128.5 It is a source of outrage to the international Bahá’í community that after a cessation of executions of Bahá’ís for a period of three and a half years, such a brutal act could again be perpetrated against an innocent community. It belies the position publicly and repeatedly affirmed by the Iranian Government that Bahá’ís are not being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

128.6 As further details become known, they will be sent to you. . . .

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Release of a Compilation on Proclaiming the Faith through Mass Media

3 JUNE 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

130.1 A few months ago, the World Congress Media Task Force, which is charged with organizing media activities in connection with the World Congress, requested the World Center to prepare a compilation of extracts from the Writings on proclaiming the Faith through mass media. When the Task Force received and studied the compilation that was prepared, they indicated that they had found it helpful and suggested that a copy be sent to National Spiritual Assemblies, as it might be equally useful to them.[1]

130.2 The Universal House of Justice has approved this suggestion, and it is hoped that the enclosed copy will perhaps prove to be of assistance to you, or to the national committees appointed by you, in promoting your proclamation work through the mass media.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. The compilation enclosed with this communication is unpublished.



Centenary of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh

7 JUNE 1992


To the Bahá’ís of the World

131.1 As we reflect on the events which a few days ago marked the commemoration in the Holy Land of the Centenary of the Ascension of BallTu'lldh, we feel impelled to express to the Bahá’í world our sense of wonderment at the exalted character of what transpired. The nature of the Anniversary was in itself awe-inspiring and evocative of profound emotion. But the gathering of some 3,000 Bahá’ís, including 113 Knights of Bahá’u’lláh, representing no less than 200 countries and dependent territories—the widest diversity of human beings ever to have assembled on a Bahá’í occasion—filled the eyes with the vision of a garden of humanity that overwhelmed the senses, inducing a spirit of beauty, joy and splendor. Bahjí was never more resplendent. And we offer prayers of thanksgiving to our beloved Lord that so fitting an assemblage could have been realized on this special Anniversary, indicating the amazing extent to which the pervasive power of His influence has triumphed throughout the world.

131.2 May the evident blessings flowing from this heavenly experience infuse the dear friends everywhere with new strength and fresh encouragement, emboldening their efforts and enlarging their capacity to proclaim the Name and promote the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh during the course of the Holy Year so auspiciously begun.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



On the Occasion of the Centenary Commemoration at Bahjí of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh
A Tribute by the Universal House of Justice[1]

131.3 With soul-stirring emotion we gather in the hallowed environs of His resting place to honor the memory of the Supreme Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh, on the solemn, historic occasion of the centenary of His ascension.

131.4 We lift our voices at the prompting of our hearts' desire to pay tribute to a life infinitely beyond compare. But how shall we realize such a wish when it is evident that no mind can attain the comprehension which would make possible the vocabulary worthy of His celestial court? In very truth, our tongues falter in their impotence to describe, let alone extol, the prodigies of a prophetic career which was framed in superlatives. For here at Bahjí, one hundred years ago, was drawn the last breath on earth of the world's greatest Luminary, Founder of the Dispensation marking the culmination of the six-thousand-year-old Adamic Cycle, and Inaugurator of the five-thousand-century Bahá’í Cycle. He, the Most Great Manifestation, appeared in the Most Great Name and endured the greatest suffering in authoring the Most Great Revelation, which is the wellspring of the Most Great Peace. In our attempt to appreciate these matchless bounties, we recite the gem-like names of the Adored One, picked out as pearls from the veritable ocean of His Revelation, bestrewing them throughout our testimonial that they may lend an acceptable gleam to our expression of His glory and majesty.

131.5 King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Supreme Mediator, Most Ancient Beauty: He is the Well-Beloved of all worlds. We hail Him as the long-awaited Promised One, the Object of the adoration of the world. And we exclaim: "Hallowed be the Lord in Whose hand is the source of dominion!"[2]

131.6 How grievously Bahá’u’lláh suffered to regenerate the world! Wrongly accused, imprisoned, beaten, chained, banished from country to country, betrayed, poisoned, stripped of material possessions, and "at every moment tormented with a fresh torment": such was the cruel reception that greeted the Everlasting Father, Him Who is the Possessor of all Names and Attributes. For two score years, until the end of His earthly days, He remained a prisoner and exile―persecuted unceasingly by the rulers of Persia and the Ottoman Empire, opposed relentlessly by a vicious and scheming clergy, neglected abjectly by other sovereigns to whom He addressed potent letters imparting to them that which, in His truth-bearing words, "is the cause of the well-being, the unity, the harmony, and the reconstruction of the world, and of the tranquility of the nations." "My grief," He once lamented, "exceedeth all the woes to which Jacob gave vent, and all the afflictions of Job are but a part of My sorrows."[3]

131.7 The voice halts for shame from continuing so deplorable a recitation, the heart is torn by mere thought of the Divine Target of such grief―grief no ordinary mortal could endure. But lest we give way to feelings of gloom and distress, we take recourse in the tranquil calm He induces with such meaningful words as these: "We have borne it all with the utmost willingness and resignation, so that the souls of men maybe edified, and the Word of God be exalted."[4] Thus, the Wronged One, patient beyond measure, preserved a majestic composure, revealing His true Self as the Merciful, the Loving, the Incomparable Friend. Concentrating His energies on the pivotal purpose of His Revelation, He transmuted His tribulations into instruments of redemption and summoned all peoples to the banner of unity.

131.8 No worldly power could thwart the purpose of the Most Exalted Pen. Through the copiousness of His writings, He poured upon the planet the healing waters of the Word of God renewed. Descending upon Him like a spring rain, His Revelation comprises some one hundred volumes―"volumes replete with unnumbered exhortations, revolutionizing principles, world-shaping laws and ordinances, dire warnings and portentous prophecies, with soul-uplifting prayers and meditations, illuminating commentaries and interpretations, impassioned discourses and homilies, all interspersed with either addresses or references to kings, to emperors and to ministers, of both the East and the West, to ecclesiastics of divers denominations, and to leaders in the intellectual, political, literary, mystical, commercial and humanitarian spheres of human activity." Foremost among His Books is His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the charter of the future world civilization in which He has announced the Laws of God for this age. Our hearts thrill to the prospect that during the course of this centennial year, the annotated English translation of this Mother Book of Bahá’u’lláh's Revelation is to be published. We acknowledge with astonished joy the prolific legacy of this divine outpouring. And we exclaim: "Praised be Thou, Who art the Desire of the world, and thanks be to Thee, O Well-Beloved of the hearts of such as are devoted to Thee!"[5]

131.9 Today, we bear witness to the further abundance of a peerless heritage. With the setting of the Sun of Bahá, the Moon of His Covenant rose in reflected glory, lifting the darkness of a night of despair, and lighting the path to the unity of all humankind. In the fullness of its radiance stands the magnetic Figure of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the beloved Son Whom Bahá’u’lláh designated as the Interpreter of His Word and Executive of His authority, and Whom He appointed the Center of His Covenant, an office without parallel in all religious history.

131.10 We acknowledge the mysterious power of His wisdom, the illuminating potency of His words, the immortal example and unific character of His deeds. By His untiring exertions the fame of the infant Cause was spread abroad, the design of its Administrative Order was completed, the World Center of the Faith emerged into clear visibility, and the splendors of the Mountain of God, as alluded to in Bahá’u’lláh's Tablet of Carmel, began to be manifested. With profound gratitude for such evident blessings we reaffirm our loyalty to the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. And we exclaim: "Glorified be the All-Merciful, the Lord of Grace abounding!"[6]

131.11 As a result of the phenomenal effects of His Covenant, a world community has been raised up on an "unassailable foundation."[7] The entire system of the Administrative Order originated by Bahá’u’lláh in His Most Holy Book has been erected. A vigorous network of local, national, continental and international institutions functions in exemplary harmony throughout the planet. Vitalized and nurtured by His stupendous Revelation, watered by the precious blood of countless martyrs, and tended by the loving care of unnumbered, devoted servants, the Tree of the Cause has, in these hundred years, grown mightily, has put forth its far-stretching branches and borne its first and plentiful fruit.

131.12 Bahá’u’lláh found the world in a "strange sleep."[8] But what a disturbance His coming has unloosed! The peoples of the earth had been separated, many parts of the human race socially and spiritually isolated. But the world of humanity today bears little resemblance to that which Bahá’u’lláh left a century ago. Unbeknownst to the great majority, His influence permeates all living beings. Indeed, no domain of life remains unaffected. In the burgeoning energy, the magnified perspectives, the heightened global consciousness; in the social and political turbulence, the fall of kingdoms, the emancipation of nations, the intermixture of cultures, the clamor for development; in the agitation over the extremes of wealth and poverty, the acute concern over the abuse of the environment, the leap of consciousness regarding the rights of women; in the growing tendency towards ecumenism, the increasing call for a new world order; in the astounding advances in the realms of science, technology, literature and the arts―in all this tumult, with its paradoxical manifestations of chaos and order, integration and disintegration, are the signs of His power as World Reformer, the proof of His claim as Divine Physician, the truth of His Word as the All-Knowing Counselor.

131.13 Bahá’u’lláh wrote voluminously about the purpose of this mysterious force and its transformative effects, but the essence can be drawn from these few perspicuous words: "Through the movement of Our Pen of Glory We have, at the bidding of the Omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this worldwide regeneration." And again: "A new life is, in this age, stirring within all the peoples of the earth; and yet none hath discovered its cause or perceived its motive." And yet again: "He Who is the Unconditioned is come, in the clouds of light, that He may quicken all created things with the breezes of His Name, the Most Merciful, and unify the world, and gather all men around this Table which hath been sent down from heaven."[9]

131.14 Let the denizens of the earth wake from their slumber at the resonances of His Name and arise from their confused dreams to embrace the clarity of the new Day: For "This is the King of Days, the Day that hath seen the coming of the Best-beloved, Him Who through all eternity hath been acclaimed the Desire of the World."[10]

131.15 Our thoughts turn back to the mourning time in 1892 when a vast number of residents from the surrounding area came to join His bereaved followers in lamenting the departure of the immortal Beloved. These were not adherents of His Cause and had no real understanding of His station, but the effect of His presence among them was such as to fill them with a grave sense of loss. Today, a century later, it is we, who identify ourselves with His community, who have come in multitudinous array from the far corners of the earth to pay homage to the King of Glory. With us in spirit are the millions of His lovers scattered among tens of thousands of villages, towns and cities, themselves observing in their own localities this solemn anniversary, their hearts focused on the Primal Spot here at Bahjí.

131.16 And among us at this Point of Adoration are a number of the heroic souls from the celebrated company who earned the accolade Knight of Bahá’u’lláh conferred upon them by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Cause―this to signify their acts of daring and devotion as teachers of the Faith. It is they who were in the vanguard during the triumphant Ten Year World Crusade. Their exploits, built upon the dramatic feats of the Heroic Age and the sacrifices of countless martyrs and heroes of the past, and following the trail blazed by earlier teachers of the Faith, realized the actual establishment of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh as a world religion.

131.17 Now, on this commemorative occasion, the Roll of Honor on which the names of the Knights have been inscribed is being deposited by Amatu’l-Bahá Rúḥíyyih Khánum at the entrance door of the Most Holy Shrine in the spot designated by our beloved Guardian. This is both a symbol and a promise―a symbol registering the reality of a clear response, at a critical time, to the duty laid upon us by the Lord of Hosts to diffuse His teachings among all peoples; a promise that the commitment so dazzlingly displayed by these intrepid pioneers will be reaffirmed by generations of their successors, ensuring that the light of Bahá’u’lláh's Revelation, "shining in all its power and glory, will have suffused and enveloped the entire planet."[11]

131.18 This is also a mark of recognition of the power of the Hand of Omnipotence to turn gnats into eagles. His bounties embolden us. Broken-winged birds are we; yet, with His assurances resounding in our souls, we soar to ever greater heights in His service. "I am the royal Falcon on the arm of the Almighty!" He declares, benevolently adding: "I unfold the drooping wings of every broken bird and start it on its flight."[12] How then can we fail?

131.19 We here make this vow: With a stirring history of divine support behind us and a clear vision of unfolding destiny before us, we move onward, renewed, reconsecrated, resolute, until the consciousness of every human being has been touched by the knowledge of God's triumphant Faith. And, intoning the expectant words of His Martyr-Herald, we exclaim: "Exalted be His glory, and magnified be His might, and sanctified be His holiness, and glorified be His grandeur, and lauded be His ways!"[13]

Notes

  1. The following text was read on the occasion of the ceremony at Bahjí on the morning of 28 May 1992 for the placement of the Roll of Honor of the Knights of Bahá’u’lláh at the entrance door of the Most Holy Shrine.
  2. SWB, 7:1.2.
  3. PDC, p. 100; ESW, pp. 45, 77.
  4. ESW, pp. 76-77.
  5. GPB, p. 220; ESW, p. 43.
  6. TB, p. 21.
  7. ADJ, ¶36.
  8. PDC, p. 6.
  9. ADJ, ¶109; GWB, no. 96.2; ESW, p. 46.
  10. WOB, p. 106.
  11. MBW, p. 155.
  12. TB, p. 169.
  13. ESW, p. 153.



Passing of Isobel Sabri, Counselor Member of the International Teaching Center

18 JUNE 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

132.1 HEARTS PROFOUNDLY SADDENED LOSS GREATLY LOVED OUTSTANDING PROMOTER CAUSE GOD, MEMBER INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER ISOBEL SABRI. HER STERLING INDEFATIGABLE PIONEERING AND ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES OVER SEVERAL DECADES FIRST BRITISH ISLES AND THEN AFRICA CROWNED BY UNFORGETTABLE HIGHLY VALUED CONTRIBUTIONS WORLD CENTER SINCE 1983. INTEGRITY HER EXEMPLARY LIFE POWERFULLY REINFORCED HER FEARLESS VALIANT UNFLAGGING EFFORTS CHAMPION TRUTHS AND DEFEND INTERESTS FAITH SHE DEARLY CHERISHED. PRAYING HOLY SHRINES CONTINUED PROGRESS HER LUMINOUS SOUL ABHÁ KINGDOM WHERE RICH REWARD ASSUREDLY AWAITS HER. ADVISE HOLD MEMORIAL SERVICES HER HONOR HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT BAHÁ’Í WORLD.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE



Desecration of Bahá’í Sites in Tehran

24 JUNE 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

133.1 As you are already aware from previous communications, the Bahá’í Holy Places and other properties and endowments belonging to the Bahá’í community of Iran are still under government control. Many have been desecrated or demolished and the sites used for constructing roads or other buildings.

133.2 Among these confiscated properties was the once beautiful and well-kept Bahá’í cemetery in Tehran. It has been desecrated and the headstones and marble coverings of the graves were removed and later sold in auctions. All identification marks on the graves were obliterated, and a school and playground are being built on this site.

133.3 The Bahá’í community had owned a large piece of property to the south of Tehran which was intended for use as the future cemetery of the Tehran Bahá’í community. This was also confiscated and all petitions to regain it have been fruitless. Instead, a small, barren piece of land without any public service or utilities was assigned to the Bahá’ís of Tehran by the Iranian Government for use as a burial site for their dead. However, neither headstones nor any identification of the individual graves are permitted on that site. A Bahá’í friend living in the United States, who visited Iran in October 1991, has described it as very depressing. The bodies of the dead have to be prepared for burial at home or water has to be fetched for that purpose from a Christian cemetery in the neighborhood. . . .

133.4 It should be recalled that most of the Bahá’í cemeteries in Iran have been desecrated or demolished and that thousands of Bahá’ís who wish to visit these cemeteries in order to pray for their departed relatives are either denied access, or they return with grieved hearts after witnessing the deplorable condition of the graves of their loved ones. Moreover, many of the Bahá’í martyrs executed in prison have been buried in areas not even known to their relatives.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Murder of a Bahá’í in Iran

25 JUNE 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

134.1 The Universal House of Justice deeply regrets to inform you that, following earlier reports received from members of the Ghedami family residing in Canada and the United States, the friends in Iran have now confirmed that Mr. Rúḥu’lláh Ghedami, a staunch member of their community, has become the victim of a brutal murder at the hands of two members of the Iranian Disciplinary Forces.

134.2 The following details are reported by the friends in Iran:

134.2a Mr. Rúḥu’lláh Ghedami was 65 years of age. He used to be employed by the Iranian Railway Company and was dismissed from work. He was a farmer in the village of Muẓaffaríyyih near Islám-Shahr for about 20 years. His wife and five of his children are living outside of Iran.
134.2b Mr. Ghedami had a great love for the Faith and would often talk about it to non-Bahá’ís. Towards the end of 1370 (1991), he started associating with a member of the Disciplinary Forces of the Government of Iran and began talking to him about the Faith. These conversations continued for a while until he was officially asked, in that same year, to report to one of the police stations in the town of Rayy. He was then given a questionnaire with 40 items which were all answered by him. Mr. Ghedami later explained to one of his friends that all the questions related to Bahá’í subjects.
134.2c On 25/3/71 (15 June 1992), at 11:00 p.m., a man in uniform came to Mr. Ghedami's house in a car without a license plate, and told Mr. Ghedami that he had come to arrest him. The neighbors insisted that the uniformed man should come back on the following day, but he paid no attention and took Mr. Ghedami with him. There were two other individuals sitting in the car. Following this event, there was no news of Mr. Ghedami for several days and all the police stations claimed that they knew nothing about him.
134.2d On 27/3/71 (17 June 1992), a man by the name of Sulaymán ‘Aynu’lláhí, who used to live in Muẓaffaríyyih a few years ago, entered Mr. Ghedami's house with a key that he had in his possession. He claimed that he had purchased the house from Mr. Ghedami and told the tenant to vacate it.
134.2e The tenant reported the matter to the police who then summoned Sulaymán ‘Aynu’lláhí and his brother, Raḥmán ‘Aynu’lláhí, both guards in the Disciplinary Forces. After the interrogations and investigations carried out by the Office of Criminal Investigation, it was determined that these two brothers had forced Mr. Ghedami to give them a letter attesting to the sale of his property, following which they strangled him, and then drove the body 60 kilometers outside Tehran on the Qum Highway, where they set fire to it, using gasoline.
134.2f The body was found several days later by the Ḥasanábád Police Station and was transferred to the coroner's office to be examined by a doctor. It was identified with great difficulty because it was so badly burnt. The body is still in the coroner's office and is supposed to be transferred to the Bahá’í Cemetery on 4/4/71 (25 June 1992).

134.3 The friends in Iran conclude by reporting that the murderers are now in custody, but that the facts about this case have been only partially registered in the official records. They are certain that the murder took place as a result of religious prejudice and because of Mr. Ghedami's teaching activities. Whether the authorities had any previous knowledge of this murder is not known. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Two Bahá’ís Sentenced to Death in Iran

3 SEPTEMBER 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

135.1 The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to inform you of the following disturbing news just received from the Bahá’í friends in Iran. . . .

135.2 Messrs. Bihnám Mítháqí and Kayván Khalajábádí, two active Iranian Bahá’ís who were arrested three years ago and are still being held at the Gohardasht Prison in Karaj near Tehran, have recently been called to the prison authorities where they were orally informed that an Islamic Revolutionary Court has issued a verdict condemning them to death.

135.3 The friends in Iran had earlier reported that, as an unprecedented gesture, the Iranian authorities had instructed these two Bahá’í prisoners to choose Muslim lawyers to defend them. Presumably, this was an exercise designed to impress Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, who was due to visit Iran at that time. Such lawyers were eventually engaged by the Bahá’ís, but, having taken some initial steps regarding the two defendants, they found themselves unable to continue and resigned. Therefore, the trial which resulted in the death sentences for the two Bahá’ís took place without any lawyers defending them. Messrs. Mítháqí and Khalajábádí have appealed against these verdicts to a higher court in Iran, but the outcome is uncertain. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Further Information on Bahá’í Prisoners in Iran

7 SEPTEMBER 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

136.1 The Universal House of Justice was pleased to receive replies from a number of National Spiritual Assemblies in response to our communication of 3 September 1992, reporting the actions they have taken in regard to two Bahá’í prisoners in Iran, Messrs. Bihnám Mítháqí and Kayván Khalajábádí. Although it is not possible at present to answer all the questions raised concerning these two friends, we have been asked to share with you the following background information gleaned from the records thus far available.

136.2 Messrs. Mítháqí and Khalajábádí were members of a group of three well-known Bahá’ís of Karaj who were assisting the Bahá’ís in that community. At the time of their arrest they were also helping Bahá’í children in their studies. Mr. Mítháqí is 30 years of age and married. Mr. Khalajábádí is of similar age, but his marital status is not known.

136.3 Following their arrest on 29 April 1989, they were taken together to the Gohardasht Prison in Karaj for interrogation. Although their cases are similar in many ways, they do differ in some details and it is assumed, therefore, that they are being dealt with separately by the authorities. Both prisoners had been seen by Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in Evin Prison on his last visit to Iran in December 1991, and he later reported that they appeared to be in bad health. Further information about each of these cases is set forth below.

136.3a Bihnám Mítháqí―After being arrested on 29 April 1989, he was taken to the Gohardasht Prison and put into solitary confinement for an unspecified period. On 19 June 1989, the Islamic Court in Karaj condemned him to eight years' imprisonment on charges of "spying for the Bahá’í organization." He appealed this verdict to the Islamic Court at Evin Prison, and a second verdict issued on 12 May 1990 by that Court sentenced him to three years' imprisonment and 15 lashes. The time already served in prison was not counted against this new term.
136.3b Following this, there was a further appeal by Mr. Mítháqí's wife, Maryam, resulting in another judgment, and later still he had a fourth trial. All charges and sentences were communicated to him verbally and not in writing.
136.3c When Mr. Galindo Pohl asked him why he had not taken a lawyer for his defense, he replied that he did not have the means and, in any case, this would not be useful as a Government lawyer, instead of defending him, would only advise him to admit to the accusations made against him in order to obtain a reduction of his sentence. As you have already been informed, he was recently condemned to death.
136.3d Kayván Khalajábádí―Having been arrested at his home three years ago by the Revolutionary Guards, he was taken to Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, where he was interrogated about not being in the army and trying to go abroad. After five days of interrogation all his Bahá’í books were confiscated and he was put into solitary confinement for 30 days. After a second interrogation he was put in a very small cell for 51 days. The interrogators and judges were Muslim clerics and they all asked him the same questions. At one stage, he was pressured to sign a paper that he was not allowed to read and when he refused to sign it he was insulted and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment on the charge of "spying for the Bahá’í party."
136.3e Mr. Khalajábádí objected to this sentence and appealed to a higher court. Later, the deputy director of the prison asked him if he was still a Bahá’í. When he responded in the affirmative, he was put in solitary confinement for six months and condemned to receive 50 lashes. In a third sentencing he was condemned to death on charges of "spying for the government occupying Jerusalem." He appealed again and, as of December 1991, was awaiting his fourth trial.
136.3f All charges and sentences were conveyed to him orally only. On several occasions pressure was brought to bear on him in an unsuccessful attempt to force him to admit that he had been engaged in the activities defined in the charges against him.

136.4 . . . Additional information will be shared with you if and when it becomes available.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Details Concerning the Bahá’í Prisoners in Iran

10 SEPTEMBER 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

137.1 Further to our communication dated 7 September 1992 concerning the two condemned Bahá’í prisoners in Iran, Messrs. Bihnám Mítháqí and Kayván Khalajábádí, the Bahá’ís in Iran have reported that the relatives of these two prisoners have submitted their complaints against the death sentences in writing to the Iranian Supreme Court, the Public Prosecutor's Office and to the Office of General Investigation. . . .

137.2 The following details which have been provided by the believers in Iran may be shared only with your government contacts at present:

Personal information about the prisoners:

137.2a Mr. Bihnám Mítháqí was born in 1962, is married and has a six-year-old daughter.
137.2b Mr. Kayván Khalajábádí was born in 1960 and is single.

Arrest and Sentencing:

137.2c Both men were arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Committee of Rajá‘í on 29 April 1989 in Gohardasht and were held at Gohardasht Prison for a period of time. Later they were transferred to Evin Prison.
137.2d Their first trial took place at Branch Number 1 of the Office of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Karaj and, according to Court Order Number 1/209/78 dated 19 June 1989, they were sentenced to eight years' correctional imprisonment on the charge of "Spying activities of the Espionage Sect of Bahá’ísm." The sentences were effective as of 19 June 1989. Both prisoners appealed their sentences under File Number 13815/68 V-1.
137.2e Following the appeal of the above sentences, a second verdict was issued on 12 May 1990 at Branch Number 4 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran, at Evin, in which they are accused of "Administrative activities within the Bahá’ísm Group." Both were sentenced to three years' imprisonment effective as of 12 May 1990, plus 50 lashes. Both prisoners protested against this sentence as well and appealed it.
137.2f A third sentence was issued on 30 April 1991 by Branch Number 3 of the Revolutionary Court which stated the following: "On the charges of involvement in administrative activities of Zionist Bahá’ísm and continued spying activities for the Espionage Sect of Bahá’ísm, and spying for the Zionist Regime of Iraq, and for the usurping Regime of Israel, the accused are sentenced to death." Both prisoners again protested against and appealed their sentences.
137.2g On 29 October 1991, the Iranian authorities orally informed Messrs. Mítháqí and Khalajábádí of their right to hire a lawyer. After necessary investigations, two Muslim lawyers were requested to take on their cases. One of them visited the Office of the Revolutionary Court in order to file, as is customary, in the presence of the accused, a letter of appointment to act as their lawyer, but he was threatened by the officials of that Office who warned him about the consequences of his involvement in these cases. Hence, on returning from that Office he refused to accept the position. The second lawyer, being aware of the situation, refused to even visit the Office of the Revolutionary Court to file the appointment letter. All of this took place prior to Mr. Galindo Pohl's arrival in Iran.
137.2h On 24 August 1992, another sentence was issued by Branch Number 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which was conveyed to the prisoners by Branch Number 6, Department of Law Enforcement of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, under Reference Number 2149/J-A. The text of this sentence states the following: "On the charges of membership in the administration of Zionist Bahá’ísm and continued activities for the realization of its goals and also for spying for the regime occupying Jerusalem, in accordance with the verse number 38 of the Súrih of Má‘idih of the Holy Qur’án, and Article Number 198 of the Islamic Penal Code, they are sentenced to death." (File Number 15733/68/B/2/1) After orally conveying the sentence to the prisoners, the authorities informed them that they should prepare themselves for their execution. Both prisoners again protested against this verdict.

Manner of trials held and informing the prisoners of the verdicts, and the filing of their appeals:

137.2i During the trials only the presiding judge, a Court secretary and the accused were allowed to be present. These Court cases and verdicts have not been publicized in the media at all.
137.2j When the prisoners protested against their sentences orally and demanded to have something in writing, the law enforcement officer copied by hand on a letterhead of the Prosecutor of the Islamic Revolution what appeared to be the text of the original verdict, but without any signature. He then instructed the prisoners to sign that copy which would be used by him as evidence that the Court sentence was communicated to them. At the same time, he informed the prisoners that in case they wished to appeal their sentences, they could do so on the same piece of paper. This the prisoners have done. However, the original verdict, which was in the possession of the officer, was not shown to the prisoners at all.
137.2k At no time in the above-mentioned stages of sentencing did the accused receive any official verdict themselves. In one case only an unsigned copy was provided to them.

137.31 The friends in Iran commented that the above-mentioned method of repeated appeals is quite unusual as normally after a second appeal, the Court sentences are carried out without any possibility of further appeal and that the cases of these two prisoners are, therefore, quite unprecedented.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Formulating Goals for the Three Year Plan

30 SEPTEMBER 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

138.1 The Holy Year is approaching its midway point and the time is ripe for all National Spiritual Assemblies to consult with the Counselors to formulate national goals for the Three Year Plan which will be launched next Riḍván.

138.2 The experience you gained in formulating and then carrying out the goals of the Six Year Plan can now enable you to refine the process in relation to the Three Year Plan. The main theme for the Bahá’í community during the Three Year Plan will be to pursue three closely related developments which can be summarized as enhancing the vitality of the faith of individual believers, greatly developing the human resources of the Cause, and fostering the proper functioning of its local and national institutions.

138.3 We are asking the Counselors to make a special point of consulting with each National Spiritual Assembly on how this challenge can best be met through the instrumentality of goals based on the seven major objectives set forth in 1986, which still provide a valid framework for your planning, and to ensure that no essential element of your community's development is overlooked.

138.4 Each National Spiritual Assembly is to formulate specific goals towards the attainment of the objectives in light of the present conditions and opportunities in each country―goals that match the urgent needs and that can be achieved in the short space of three years. No doubt each country will require its specific emphasis among these objectives, and your consultations with the Counselors will be invaluable in assisting you to focus the endeavors of the friends in each of your communities.

138.5 For ease of reference, we repeat the objectives as originally stated:

  1. Carrying the healing Message of Bahá’u’lláh to the generality of mankind
  2. Greater involvement of the Faith in the life of human society
  3. A worldwide increase in the translation, production, distribution and use of Bahá’í literature
  4. Further acceleration in the process of the maturation of local and national Bahá’í communities
  5. Greater attention to universal participation and the spiritual enrichment of individual believers
  6. A wider extension of Bahá’í education to children and youth, and the strengthening of Bahá’í family life
  7. The pursuit of projects of social and economic development in well-established Bahá’í communities.

138.6 As a further element in the responsibility conferred upon National Spiritual Assemblies for the formulation of goals, each National Assembly able to do so is encouraged, in addition to setting goals for its homefront, to propose to the World Center those goals and activities which it judges its community can undertake in assisting other national Bahá’í communities. These proposals for international collaboration goals will then be considered at the World Center before they are finally approved.

138.7 During the course of the Six Year Plan we have seen a notable evolution of the capacity of National Spiritual Assemblies as well as a marked increase in their number. The believers throughout the world have paid special attention to deepening their understanding of and loyalty to the Covenant, and they have now been blessed by the worldwide application of the law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh.

138.8 The Holy Year has already raised high the call of Bahá’u’lláh to mankind and has been a source of infinite bounty to those who are enlisted under His Banner. By its close, the World Congress will have been held and the English translation of the Most Holy Book will have been published to the community of the Most Great Name and to all the world.

138.9 It is yet too soon to evaluate the effect of these momentous events, but under the driving power of God's Great Plan the world is passing through a period of rapid change. The Bahá’í community alone knows clearly the direction that this is taking and it must now, as never before, demonstrate in its community life and the lives of its individual members the reality of the transformation that Bahá’u’lláh intends for all humankind. To achieve this we must know well His Teachings and put them into practice with ardor and conviction in every aspect of our behavior. It is our fervent prayer that the Three Year Plan will effect a transformation in the character of the worldwide Bahá’í community that will inspire admiration and emulation on every side and greatly increase the number of those who acclain the coming and follow the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

138.10 We eagerly look forward to receiving a report of your goals as soon as you have set them down following consultation with the Counselors.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Confiscation of Bahá’í Properties in Iran

30 SEPTEMBER 1992


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

139.1 We are instructed to convey to you the following disturbing news which was just received from the friends in Iran.

139.2 During the past few weeks, Iranian Islamic revolutionary institutions in Yazd, Tehran, and Isfahan have confiscated a considerable number of private homes and other property belonging to Bahá’ís. The Bahá’ís concerned are neither prominent believers nor were they engaged in Bahá’í administrative activities.

139.3 The friends in Iran explained that, in Yazd, these confiscations are based on a religious edict issued to the Judiciary by the late Áyatu’lláh Ṣadúqí, former Imam of Yazd, on the strength of which the members of the Imam Khomeini Foundation are seizing the homes of Bahá’ís and are harassing the occupants. The late Áyatu’lláh, in turn, had taken this action on the instigation of a certain Mr. Kashmírí, who had played an active role in the oppression of the Bahá’ís in Yazd and was keenly interested in their properties. The details are as follows.


Yazd

139.4 In Yazd, 11 families are presently affected by such confiscations. Mr. Dáryúsh Dahmúbidí's family, residing in Taft, was already forcefully evicted and their house with all its furnishings was taken over by the Imam Khomeini Foundation.

139.5 The families of 10 other Bahá’ís named below were served notice by the Islamic revolutionary institutions to vacate their homes and hand them over to the Government. Although, due to their protestations and appeals to higher authorities, their evacuation has not yet taken place, they are under severe pressure to relinquish their homes.

Mr. ‘Atá’u’lláh Lur
Mr. Khudáyár Akhtarkhávarí
Mrs. Írándukht Ḥakhámanishí
Mr. Jamshíd Lur
Mr. Ghulám-Ḥusayn Shádpúr
Mr. Panj’alí A’rábí
Mr. Rúḥu’lláh Rustamí
Mr. Ḥabíbu’lláh Tafakkurí
Mr. ‘Atá’u’lláh Rustamí
Mr. Adíb Dánishníyá


Tehran

139.6 In Tehran, three cases were reported, as follows:

139.6a Mrs. Mihrangíz Rawḥání, who had been dismissed from her position as midwife at the Public Health Department, was served an order by the Islamic Revolutionary Court that her house was confiscated. As a result of her appeals, no action has been taken yet by the Court, but the case is not resolved.
139.6b A complex consisting of a large shop and 10 apartments, as well as a two-storey residential building, belonging to Mr. Qudratu’lláh Ḥishmatí were occupied by members of the Imam Khomeini Foundation against the will of the owner, in this case without any official order from the judicial authorities. Unfortunately, his appeals and complaints to the authorities have not succeeded in restoring the property to him so far.
139.6c Mrs. Mawhibatí was forcefully evicted from her home after being served an order by the Attorney-General that her house was confiscated.


Isfahan

139.7 In Isfahan, the following cases were reported:

139.7a Mrs. Bádkúbi’í had donated a two-storey building to a Bahá’í institution before the Islamic Revolution, retaining tenancy for life in one apartment while renting out the other as her only source of income. Although, according to Islamic and civil law, she is entitled to occupy the building for life and no one has the right to eject her from it, she has been pressured to vacate the house, and the authorities have already compelled the tenant of the other apartment to leave the premises as well.
139.7b Perhaps the most tragic case is that of Mr. Aḥmad Ishráqí, resident of Isfahan, who is over 80 years of age. In mid-September 1992, several Government officers invaded his home and took away all his books, numbering several thousand volumes. They ejected him from his home and took possession of the building. Mr. Ishráqí was not able to take anything with him and is now dependent on his friends. No appeal or complaint has been entertained by the authorities concerning his case.
139.7c Furthermore, officers of the Attorney-General of Isfahan have entered eight Bahá’í homes during the past two weeks, taking away books, household items, radios, television sets, recorders, cameras, and cash. The Bahá’í owners have lodged complaints with the judicial authorities, but without any result so far.

139.8 The Universal House of Justice is concerned that this sudden intensification of actions against the Bahá’ís, taken almost simultaneously in different centers in Iran, may signal the beginning of a new phase in the persecution of the sorely tried friends in the Cradle of the Faith. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




The Station of Bahá’u’lláh

15 OCTOBER 1992


To an individual Bahá’í

Dear Bahá’í Friend,

140.1 The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 3 September 1992 and is very glad that you have raised this matter. It has recently been disturbed at the degree to which these issues seem to have been giving concern to Bahá’ís in different parts of the world. It may, indeed, be providential for the matter to be brought to the fore now, before the English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is published. We have been asked to convey to you the following comments.

140.2 As you know, the human soul is "a heavenly gem . . . whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel," "one of the signs of God, a mystery among His mysteries."[1] If even the soul of man is so ineffable a reality, how can a human being claim to understand or to set forth the nature of the Manifestations of God, of the relationships between Them, or of Their relationship to God, let alone to grasp the nature of God Himself?

140.3 Bahá’u’lláh has explained these mysteries to a degree never before approached, but we must accept that they are realities that cannot be defined in a rigorous manner, as one would attempt to define the terms of mathematics or even of philosophy. This is a realm of knowledge in which poetry, analogy, hyperbole and paradox are to be expected; a realm in which the Manifestations Themselves speak with many voices. Undoubtedly you are familiar with the passage in the Kitáb-i-Íqán in which Bahá’u’lláh elaborates this theme, commenting on Muḥammad's statement: "Some of the Apostles We have caused to excel the others. To some God hath spoken, some He hath raised and exalted. And to Jesus, Son of Mary, We gave manifest signs, and We strengthened Him with the Holy Spirit."[2]

140.3a By virtue of this station, they have claimed for themselves the Voice of Divinity and the like, whilst by virtue of their station of Messengership, they have declared themselves the Messengers of God. In every instance they have voiced an utterance that would conform to the requirements of the occasion, and have ascribed all these declarations to Themselves, declarations ranging from the realm of divine Revelation to the realm of creation, and from the domain of Divinity even unto the domain of earthly existence. Thus it is that whatsoever be their utterance, whether it pertain to the realm of Divinity, Lordship, Prophethood, Messengership, Guardianship, Apostleship or Servitude, all is true, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Therefore, these sayings which We have quoted in support of Our argument must be attentively considered, that the divergent utterances of the Manifestations of the Unseen and Daysprings of Holiness may cease to agitate the soul and perplex the mind.[3]

140.4 The Bahá’ís must study the Kitáb-i-Íqán and the explanations given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and not be misled into thinking that any statement made in the Sacred Texts, in the writings of Shoghi Effendi, or in the letters of the Universal House of Justice is made in ignorance of these fundamental clarifications.

140.5 In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh again and again speaks with the Voice of God, a station that He affirms in this passage from the Súriy-i-Haykal:

140.5a Naught is seen in My temple but the Temple of God, and in My beauty but His Beauty, and in My being but His Being, and in My self but His Self, and in My movement but His Movement, and in My acquiescence but His Acquiescence, and in My pen but His Pen, the Mighty, the All-Praised. There hath not been in My soul but the Truth, and in Myself naught could be seen but God. . . . The Holy Spirit Itself hath been generated through the agency of a single letter revealed by this Most Great Spirit, if ye be of them that comprehend.[4]

At another time, as published in Gleanings L, He wrote:

140.5b And whenever I chose to hold my peace and be still, lo, the voice of the Holy Ghost, standing on my right hand, aroused me, and the Supreme Spirit appeared before my face, and Gabriel overshadowed me, and the Spirit of Glory stirred within my bosom, bidding me arise and break my silence. If your hearing be purged and your ears be attentive, ye will assuredly perceive that every limb of my body, nay all the atoms of my being, proclaim and bear witness to this call: "God, besides Whom is none other God, and He, Whose beauty is now manifest, is the reflection of His glory unto all that are in heaven and on earth."

In Messages to America, on p. 100, we find this illuminating statement:

140.5c It was in such dramatic circumstances, recalling the experience of Moses when face to face with the Burning Bush in the wilderness of Sinai, the successive visions of Zoroaster, the opening of the heavens and the descent of the Dove upon Christ in the Jordan, the cry of Gabriel heard by Muḥammad in the Cave of Hira, and the dream of the Báb, in which the blood of the Imam Ḥusayn touched and sanctified His lips, that Bahá’u’lláh, He "around Whom the Point of the Bayán hath revolved," and the Vehicle of the greatest Revelation the world has yet seen, received the first intimation of His sublime Mission, and that a ministry which, alike in its duration and fecundity, is unsurpassed in the religious history of mankind, was inaugurated. It was on that occasion that the "Most Great Spirit," as designated by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, revealed itself to Him, in the form of a "Maiden," and bade Him "lift up" His "voice between earth and heaven"―that same Spirit which, in the Zoroastrian, the Mosaic, the Christian, and Muḥammadan Dispensations, had been respectively symbolized by the "Sacred Fire," the "Burning Bush," the "Dove," and the "Angel Gabriel."[5]

140.6 On a related subject, the following reply to a question from an individual believer was written on behalf of the Guardian 19 October 1947:

140.6a Bahá’u’lláh is not the Intermediary between other Manifestations and God. Each has His own relation to the Primal Source. But in the sense that Bahá’u’lláh is the greatest Manifestation to yet appear, the One Who consummates the Revelation of Moses, He was the One Moses conversed with in the Burning Bush. In other words Bahá’u’lláh identifies the Glory of the Godhead on that occasion with Himself. No distinction can be made amongst the Prophets in the sense that They all proceed from one source, and are of one essence. But Their stations and functions in this world are different.[6]

140.7 It was with the magnitude of Bahá’u’lláh's Revelation in mind that the Universal House of Justice referred to Him as "the most precious Being ever to have drawn breath on this planet."[7] This is analogous to Bahá’u’lláh's own statement in relation to the Báb: "Behold how great and lofty is His station! His rank excelleth that of all the Prophets and His Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and understanding of all their chosen ones."[8] These are both allusions to that "distinction" which in no way contradicts the essential "unity" of the Manifestations of God, as referred to by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán:

140.7a Conceive accordingly the distinction, variation, and unity characteristic of the various Manifestations of holiness, that thou mayest comprehend the allusions made by the creator of all names and attributes to the mysteries of distinction and unity, and discover the answer to thy question as to why that everlasting Beauty should have, at sundry times, called Himself by different names and titles.[9]

140.8 You may be quite confident that no "new theology" is being created―such a development would be entirely impossible in the Bahá’í Faith. All that is happening is that, in the year of the Centenary of Bahá’u’lláh's Ascension, the Bahá’í world is proclaiming more clearly than ever before the greatness of the event of His appearance in this world, and what it really means to say that we are witnessing the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth.

140.9 It is likely that in dealing with such matters individual friends will go beyond what the teachings of the Faith justify, but such errors will in due course be rectified and should not be permitted to give rise to disputations.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. GWB, nos. 82.1, 82.6.
  2. GWB, no. 22.4.
  3. GWB, no. 22.10.
  4. SH, ¶44
  5. TDH, no. 158.19.
  6. LG, no. 1552.
  7. See no. 90, p. 160-67.
  8. WOB, p. 125.
  9. GWB, no. 13.6.



Responsibilities of Youth in the Bahá’í Community

28 OCTOBER 1992


To two individual Bahá’ís

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

141.1 The Universal House of Justice has considered the concerns expressed in your letter of 15 September 1992 regarding the manner of appealing to the youth and of involving them in Bahá’í activities, particularly with respect to the youth year of service, and we have been directed to convey the following.

141.2 The House of Justice sympathizes with your view that undue pressure should not be put on the youth to induce them to engage in activities of a youth year of service, and it certainly would not be in accord with the purposes of the Faith to require youth to abandon their academic training so as to teach or otherwise serve the Faith. Many factors bear on the various points you have raised; these must be understood by both youth and parents, and of course by members of Bahá’í institutions. For example, every Bahá’í, whether youth or adult, has spiritual duties and obligations in common; among these is the duty prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh to the individual to teach His Faith, a duty which He describes as the "most meritorious of all deeds" and in which He urges us to be "unrestrained as the wind."[1] Even so, the youth must be knowledgeable of the emphasis which Bahá’u’lláh places on education and the acquisition of skills, and they should regard the pursuit of these objectives as a service to God.

141.3 Particular challenges must be met by the youth, parents, and the Bahá’í institutions in relation to their respective responsibilities. For instance:

141.3a ― The youth face the pressing obligation of completing their education so as to acquire a profession or trade while at the same time observing their other spiritual obligations and duties to God.
141.3b ― Parents have the responsibility of ensuring that their children are educated and, to the extent possible, must provide the material support for their academic or vocational training up through their youthful years; parents also continue during this period to offer them moral and practical guidance as befits their parental duties and with respect to the spiritual obligations which they share in common with their Bahá’í children.
141.3c ― The Bahá’í institutions have not only to administer the affairs of the community and protect its interests but also to stimulate and exhort the friends to fulfill their spiritual duties and obligations. These same institutions, while encouraging the friends to teach the Cause of God and to make sacrifices in so doing, also have the clear responsibility laid upon them by Bahá’u’lláh to promote education of the human race, both spiritual and academic.

141.4 So fundamental are these duties and obligations that to some degree all entities―youth, parents, Bahá’í institutions―share in them, acting in accordance with their respective functions and responsibilities. There is a sphere in which each must make independent judgments and take independent action. A youth must decide on what professional training to pursue and keep a balance between such pursuit and his spiritual obligations; the parents must assist the youth, through material support and moral guidance, to achieve his goal, and must also encourage the youth in the observance of his spiritual obligations; the institutions must promote the Cause of God, endeavor to stimulate action on the part of individual believers in the teaching and consolidation of the Faith, with the full realization that if such action is neglected there can be no hope for the peace of mankind and the future growth of civilization. The institutions cannot, therefore, fail to urge the friends to service and to call their attention to the critical situation of the times and to point out the crucial importance of the action of the individual to the fortunes of the Faith and humanity as a whole.

141.5 Along with all these considerations is the factor of the special role which the youth, with their particular qualities of enthusiasm and idealism, play in the development of the Cause. This has been evident from the earliest days of the Faith and is indispensable to its ultimate triumph. A cursory review of Bahá’í history provides many examples of the heroic deeds of youth, and today's Bahá’í youth cannot help but be inspired by such heroism to also play their part in their own time before they become burdened with the cares of adult life.

141.6 In some circumstances, however much a youth may wish to respond to a call―to Bahá’í service of a particular kind, he may not be able to do so because he may be in the midst of important academic training that cannot and should not be postponed, he may be dependent on parents who cannot afford to assist him materially both to take time Out to engage in a year of service and to return to his academic pursuits later on, or there may be other obstacles. Then there are circumstances in which a youth may find that by postponing his academic training for a time, he is better able to determine exactly what to do with his life, if during this time he can make some useful contribution to the Faith or to society. There are numerous examples of such circumstances among Bahá’í youth who have found that by engaging in activities of the youth year of service, they were able not only to make valuable contributions to the teaching of the Faith or to development projects, but were also able to make up their minds about their life's work. There are also many youth who prefer to complete their education before offering special services to the Faith, and this is entirely in order.

141.7 The preeminent point drawn from your letter is the importance of balance in judgment and action. The members of the Bahá’í institutions cannot escape their duty to urge and stimulate the friends, adult and youth, to serve the Cause, especially in the field of teaching, and in this they are inevitably enthusiastic. Of course, individuals differ in their approach and may in some cases be injudicious in their speech; this is to be regretted and dealt with as instances arise. But those who hear such persons, however much they may be stimulated by them, do also have the individual obligation to make judgments based upon their understanding of the Teachings, of the particular challenge at the moment, and of their circumstances, and should make their decisions accordingly.

141.8 As important as it is for parents to exercise their moral authority in assisting the youth not to make unwise decisions, it is also incumbent on the parents as Bahá’ís to give due consideration to the significance of the spiritual impact of the Faith upon the youth and recognize that the youth must have some latitude to respond to the stirrings of their hearts and souls, since they, beginning at the age of 15, must assume serious spiritual obligations and duties and are themselves alone ultimately responsible to God for the progress of their own souls. The capacity for mature thinking on the part of youth differs from one to the other and according to age; some attain this ability earlier than others; for some it is delayed. Parents are generally in a position to judge these matters more acutely than others and must consider them in their attempts to guide the youth in their families, but the parents must strive to do so in such a way as not to stifle their children's sense of spiritual responsibility.

141.9 The House of Justice has written numerous letters to the youth which aim at guiding them to achieve a proper balance in their plans and activities. One of these, which was addressed to the Bahá’í youth in every land on 10 June 1966, may be of particular interest to you and is enclosed herewith.[2]

141.10 With deep empathy for you as parents challenged with the onerous task of raising your children in a world beset with unprecedented problems and difficulties, the House of Justice assures you of its ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines on your behalf.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 128.10, 161.2.
  2. See MUHJ, no. 37



Resignation of Two Members of the Universal House of Justice

11 NOVEMBER 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Beloved Friends,

142.1 Conscious of the increasing burden of advancing years and the effect of this on the services they can render, Mr. Hugh E. Chance and Dr. David S. Ruhe have, after prayerful consideration of the best interests of the Cause of God, requested permission to relinquish their membership on the Universal House of Justice, in accordance with Article V.2.(c) of its Constitution.

142.2 The House of Justice has regretfully accepted the resignation of these beloved members, who have rendered highly valued services in the Holy Land, since 1963 in Mr. Chance's case, and since 1968 in that of Dr. Ruhe. They will thus be able to continue their services to the Cause of God free from the inexorable pressure of work at the World Center. In view, however, of the imminence of the next international election, we have requested them to remain in office until that time, and to this they have readily agreed.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message to the Participants of the First National Congress of the Bahá’ís of Bangladesh

19 NOVEMBER 1992


143.1 At this auspicious time, when Bahá’ís throughout the world are celebrating the Day of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh we hail the participants in the first National Congress of the Bahá’ís of Bangladesh, who have gathered to pay tribute to the life-giving Teachings of our Faith and to enhance their role in the service of their country and the promotion of the unity of mankind.

143.2 The wonderful achievements of your community in recent years have demonstrated that the people of Bangladesh are endowed with great spiritual capacity enabling them to recognize divine truth when it is presented to them. Once enlisted under the banner of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, they become highly motivated and arise in the promotion of the Word of God and the cause of peace in this world. This augurs well for the progress and future prosperity of that nation.

143.3 The Bahá’í community of Bangladesh has already established itself in the annals of the Formative Age of our Faith as a staunch pillar of devotion and selfless endeavor in the service of the Cause, and this has been an inspiration to many. The freedom they enjoy in pursuing their beneficial activities is a credit to the farsightedness of the leaders of that country who are seeking to guide that nation into a brighter future.

143.4 One of the great challenges before the people of Bangladesh, and the Bahá’í community in particular, is to foster better understanding and amity between the various sectors of the population and to promote its social and economic development. The Bahá’ís must show by their actions that the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh not only create harmony and convey deep spiritual insights, but they also offer practical solutions to many problems of this age and are able to effect the much needed spiritual transformation, beginning at the grassroots level and embracing all strata of society.

143.5 You may be assured that prayers will be offered at the Sacred Threshold for the success of this historic gathering, and that we will beseech Bahá’u’lláh to grant success to the people of your country in their struggle for spiritual and material progress.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Message to the Second Bahá’í World Congress

23 NOVEMBER 1992[1]


To the followers of Bahá’u’lláh attending the second Bahá’í World Congress

Dearly loved Friends,

144.1 With eager hopes and thankful hearts, we acclaim the convocation in New York of the second Bahá’í World Congress on the occasion of the worldwide celebration of the centenary of the inauguration of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. That so wide a diversity of the human race as you represent has assembled at this commemorative event is in itself history-making and is, indeed, an impressive demonstration of the potency and potential of the Covenant as the instrument designed by the Lord of the Age for the unification and pacification of the nations and peoples of the earth. We rejoice with exceeding gladness, for your coming together in such variegated array is an affirmation of the efficacy of this sacred legacy―a fresh assurance that, despite recurrent trials and turmoil, its world-redeeming, world-revolutionizing purpose will ultimately be entirely realized.

144.2 Our emotions are deeply stirred as we reflect on the remarkable circumstances which heralded the birth of Bahá’u’lláh's Covenant. Melancholy and hopeful images alternatingly flash upon our mental screen: the tragic May night a century ago of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, the Supreme Manifestation of God; the soul-crushing scenes of the grief-stricken many who converged on Bahjí to pay their respects to His memory; the atmosphere of abject desolation caused by the loss of One Who had been Father and incomparable Friend to all. But the setting of the Sun of Bahá gave rise to the appearance of the Orb of the Covenant. Thus the majestic Figure of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá came to impress itself indelibly upon the consciousness of the faithful, consoling their spirits and brightening their outlook, because in Bahá’u’lláh's Book of the Covenant, the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd, this beloved Son was appointed His Successor and the Center of the Covenant. Thus was set in motion on the morrow of Bahá’u’lláh's ascension the divine process that will, during the course of the Bahá’í Dispensation, guarantee the fulfillment of His principal purpose for humankind, namely, the realization of its oneness.

144.3 The initial momentum of this process was to gather particular force in the West as the acts of the beloved Master dramatically revealed. It was during His epic journey to North America that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, recently released from imprisonment, impressed upon the early occidental believers the pivotal importance of the new Covenant; and it was in New York City that He chose to disclose to His disciples the special characteristics of that Covenant and His true station as its appointed Center. The occasion won for this leading city of the western hemisphere the surname, City of the Covenant. Where else, then, but this signally blessed metropolis could serve as the fitting venue for the commemoration which has so marvelously brought you together?

144.4 This Congress is the major occasion during the Holy Year for the evocation of a memory which enables us all to appreciate how, through the dynamic person and peerless office of the Center of the Covenant, the will of both the Abhá Beauty and His Herald has been translated into viable means for actualizing the unity of mankind and building a world civilization. Consider, for instance, how on the very night in May 1844 when He declared His prophetic mission, the Báb addressed a summons to the peoples of the West that they issue forth from their cities to teach the Cause of God. Has that summons not thoroughly been fused with the world-embracing purpose of Bahá’u’lláh, becoming a shining reality within the framework of the Administrative Order, the child of the Covenant―an Order which the Báb anticipated and extolled in His Writings? You have come to New York to reflect on such triumphant realities with due solemnity and spiritual joy.

144.5 How heartwarming and noteworthy that the proceedings of this momentous gathering will be enhanced by the presence of the three Hands of the Cause of God, tried and true upholders of the Covenant chosen by Shoghi Effendi under his authority as the Guardian of the Faith appointed in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! We can never forget that by their selfless adherence to duty during the period of their custodianship following the sudden passing of Shoghi Effendi, the Hands of the Cause preserved the wholeness of the Community of Bahá, while at the same time guiding the members of that expanding community to the victorious conclusion of the Guardian's Ten Year Global Plan. Nor can we cease to appreciate their continuing, tireless services in the propagation and protection of our glorious Faith. We are particularly pleased that our representative to the Congress is one of these high-ranking officers, the consort and helpmate of our beloved Guardian who herself attained the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

144.6 It was Shoghi Effendi who called for the first World Congress which jubilantly marked the one hundredth anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh's declaration of His divine mission. With admirable resourcefulness the Hands of the Cause planned and executed it. That unforgettable occasion in London some three decades ago, coming at the end of the Ten Year Crusade, affirmed for the Bahá’ís themselves that the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had truly emerged as a world religion with a world community. Now at this moment, throughout the Bahá’í world, we are engaged in another centennial observance for the purpose not only of celebrating the unique history of the Covenant, but also of proclaiming abroad its aims and unifying power. The second World Congress now convened is the mainspring in the launching of worldwide commemorative activities which will promulgate the Covenant as the axis of unity for all humankind and broadcast its qualities for reforming human society. Moreover, through these activities and other extended measures, the community at all levels―local, national, continental and international―will exert immense effort to spread across the planet the Name of the World Reformer, Bahá’u’lláh, that hearts may be attracted and minds illumined.

144.7 But we speak of a proclamation which has more to do with deeds than words; and in this regard, we must, everywhere in our world community, attain a new awareness of the urgency of the times and of our sacred duties toward the Promised One of All Ages. A special expectation is therefore invested in you who are attending this focal event in the City of the Covenant. For these four special days of commemoration, may you all strive as never before to appreciate more adequately the life-transforming character and unific spirit of the Covenant, and to immediately demonstrate this heightened appreciation in the spiritual attitude you show among yourselves. May you do this with the resolve that what you practice towards each other during these few days will henceforth be sustained in your relations with all others elsewhere. Such active resolution will endow the second World Congress with the radiant power to impress upon the public the incontrovertible fact that the Bahá’í Faith is a world religion worthy of its claims and, hence, of public recognition.

144.8 In a Tablet to the Bahá’ís in New York, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expressed a hope which it is propitious to recall on this opportune occasion: "I eagerly anticipate the day," He wrote, "when New York will become a blessed spot from which the call to steadfastness in the Covenant and Testament of God will go forth to every part of the world. . . ." Surely, through the auspicious circumstances afforded by this Congress, you will attempt thus to gratify His Spirit in the Abhá Realm, so that from His retreats on high you may receive the benediction of His abiding good pleasure and strengthening grace.

144.9 In our supplications at His blessed Shrine we shall entreat Him graciously to secure and in abundance vouchsafe to the entire community of His dedicated lovers the favors and confirmations of the Lord of the Covenant.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. This Message was delivered via satellite during final day of the second Pan World Congress, held in New York City, 23-26 November 1992.



Message on the Centennial of the Day of the Covenant

26 NOVEMBER 1992


To the Bahá’ís of the World

145.1 A full century has gone by since the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh was established and set in motion. And we extend to the members of His community our loving greetings as they are assembled today at the World Congress in New York and at auxiliary conferences on all continents, or as they otherwise participate in the observance of this centennial occasion.

145.2 We are particularly pleased that we have been afforded a special opportunity to pause for a moment, together with our fellow-believers, to gather our thoughts, to see how we have fared since 1892, and to consider where we are now headed. This enables us to engage in a symbolic act which by its very nature exemplifies the purpose of the Covenant―a Covenant intended by its divine Author to unite the races and nations of the earth.

145.3 Sublime emotions surge in our hearts as we survey the dramatic history and amazing progress of these one hundred years. At the time of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, the Bahá’í community was contained within the borders of no more than fifteen countries, the vast majority of its members living in His native Iran. The community now embraces the entire planet. We rejoice at the spirit of unity which is evident in its steady consolidation through the workings of the Administrative Order to which the Covenant has given birth. Our cumulated experience has clearly demonstrated the efficacy of the Covenant. The genuine unity it induces greatly encourages our expectation that all of humanity can and will be united.

145.4 We have toiled to build a community at a period when the world has witnessed startling changes which have profoundly altered the character of society and plunged it into an unprecedented state of worry and confusion. Indeed, the world in its current condition has lost its bearings through the operation of forces it neither understands nor can control. It is a period in which great dynasties and empires have collapsed in rapid succession, in which powerful ideologies have captured the hearts of millions only to expire in infamy, in which two world wars wreaked havoc on civilized life as it was known at the beginning of the twentieth century.

145.5 In the wake of such horrendous disruptions, there have been unexampled advances in the realms of science, technology and social organization; a veritable explosion of knowledge; and an even more remarkable burgeoning in the awakening and rise of masses of humanity which were previously presumed to be dormant. These masses are claiming their rightful places within the community of nations which has greatly expanded. With the simultaneous development of communications at the speed of light and transportation at the speed of sound, the world has contracted into a mere neighborhood in which people are instantly aware of each other's affairs and have immediate access to each other. And yet, even with such miraculous advances, with the emergence of international organizations, and with valiant attempts and brilliant successes at international cooperation, nations are at woeful odds with one another, people are convulsed by economic upheavals, races feel more alienated than before and are filled with mistrust, humiliation and fear.

145.6 Collateral with these changes has been the breakdown of institutions, religious and political, which traditionally functioned as the guideposts for the stability of society. Even the most resilient of these seem to be losing their credibility as they have become preoccupied with their own internal disorder. This calls attention to the emptiness of the moral landscape and the feeling of futility deranging personal life. Thoughtful commentators write apprehensively about the fall of culture and the consequent disappearance of values, the loss of the fullness of the inner life, a technological civilization facing an increasingly serious crisis. They write, moreover, of the human species as being at the end with its wisdom and being unable to control itself, of the need for divine wisdom and foresight, and of the human psyche as being far removed from recognizing this need.

145.7 These ominous comments reflect the universal consequences of a failed understanding as to the purpose of God for humankind. It is in this particular respect that the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh sheds new light; it refreshes our thoughts; it clarifies and expands our conceptions. His Teachings imbue us with the abundance of God's love for His creatures; they impress upon us the indispensability of justice in human relations and emphasize the importance of adhering to principle in all matters; they inform us that human beings have been created "to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization" and that the virtues that befit the dignity of every person are: "forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth."[1]

145.8 As the members of our community have pursued their plan for teaching His Faith, they have grown to appreciate more adequately the purpose of the multifarious processes of change which have been at work during the course of the century. "Such simultaneous processes of rise and fall, of integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos, with their continuous and reciprocal reactions on each other, are," our Teachings tell us, "but aspects of a greater Plan, one and indivisible, whose Source is God, whose author is Bahá’u’lláh, the theatre of whose operations is the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of the human race and the peace of all mankind."[2]

145.9 Disunity is the crux of the problems which so severely afflict the planet. It permeates attitudes in all departments of life. It is at the heart of all major conflicts between nations and peoples. More serious still, disunity is common in the relations between religions and within religions, vitiating the very spiritual and moral influence which it is their primary purpose to exert. "Should the lamp of religion be obscured," Bahá’u’lláh asserts, "chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness, of justice, of tranquility and peace cease to shine."[3]

145.10 In an elaboration of these dreadful consequences, our Teachings state that "when, as a result of human perversity, the light of religion is quenched in men's hearts . . . a deplorable decline in the fortunes of humanity immediately sets in, bringing in its wake all the evils which a wayward soul is capable of revealing. The perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and dissolution of human institutions, reveal themselves, under such circumstances, in their worst and most revolting aspects. Human character is debased, confidence is shaken, the nerves of discipline are relaxed, the voice of human conscience is stilled, the sense of decency and shame is obscured, conceptions of duty, of solidarity, of reciprocity and loyalty are distorted, and the very feeling of peacefulness, of joy and of hope is gradually extinguished."[4]

145.11 Such, unfortunately, is the state to which institutions and individuals have come in our time. Against this background the requirements of the Covenant assume even more critical importance than before. There can be no doubt that if our community is to cope with the situation, it must advance rapidly towards the next phase in its evolution. It will be a phase in which the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh must of necessity anticipate a deep encounter with the forces operating with such bewildering ferocity throughout the world. Let us, therefore, take this propitious occasion to review the covenantal arrangement which generates and sustains our actions.

145.12 The foundation of our belief rests on our recognition of the sovereignty of God, the Unknowable Essence, the Supreme Creator, and on our submission to His will as revealed for this age by Bahá’u’lláh. To accept the Messenger of God in His Day and to abide by His bidding are the two essential, inseparable duties which each soul was created to fulfill. One exercises these twin duties by one's own choice, and by so doing performs an act which may be regarded as the highest expression of free will with which every human being is endowed by an all-loving Creator. The vehicle in this resplendent age for the practical fulfillment of these duties is the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. It is the instrument by which belief in Him is translated into constructive deeds.

145.13 The oneness of humankind is the pivotal principle and ultimate goal of His mission. This principle means far more than the reawakening of the spirit of brotherhood and goodwill among people: "It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced."[5] The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh embodies the spirit, instrumentality and method to attain this essential goal. In addition to laying down, in His Book of Laws, the fundamentals for a new World Order, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, confirmed the appointment of His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the interpreter of His Word and the Center of His Covenant. As the interpreter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá became the living mouth of the Book, the expounder of the Word; as the Center of the Covenant, He became the incorruptible medium for applying the Word to practical measures for the raising up of a new civilization. The Covenant is, therefore, unique as a divine phenomenon, in that Bahá’u’lláh, further to conferring upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the necessary authority to fulfill the requirements of His singular office, vested in Him the virtues of perfection in personal and social behavior, that humanity may have an enduring model to emulate. In no annals of the past is there recorded such an arrangement for ensuring the realization of the purpose of the Manifestation of God.

145.14 This Covenant is the guarantee against schism; that is why those who occasionally attempt to create a cleavage in the community utterly fail in the long run. Similarly, the incessant persecution the community has been forced to endure for more than a century in the land of Bahá’u’lláh's birth has not succeeded in destroying its identity or undermining its organic unity. The glorious, ultimate effect of this arrangement will be to ensure the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, as promised in the Holy Books of old and as proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh Himself.

145.15 "The Day of the Promise is come," He clearly announces, "and He Who is the Promised One loudly proclaimeth before all who are in heaven and all who are on earth: 'Verily there is none other God but He, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting!' I swear by God! That which had been enshrined from eternity in the knowledge of God, the Knower of the seen and unseen, is revealed. Happy is the eye that seeth, and the face that turneth towards, the Countenance of God, the Lord of all being."[6]

145.16 Indeed, the coming of Bahá’u’lláh ushered the world into a new age, making possible the beginning of a wholly new relationship between humanity and its Supreme Creator. The characteristics of this relationship are summed up in the Covenant inaugurated upon His passing a century ago. Its spiritual dynamic and cohesive power, its unifying principles and practical institutional provisions are a pattern for the healing of the ills afflicting our fractured societies and defective social systems. The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh gives new meaning to humanity's checkered history; it imparts a fresh impulse to human striving. "Like unto the artery," ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states, it "beats and pulsates in the body of the world." The pervasive influence it exerts is at the heart of the derangement of human affairs; it drives the accelerating transition from the old order to the new World Order envisaged by Bahá’u’lláh. "Soon," He writes, "will the present day Order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." And He explains: "The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this Most Great, this new World Order. Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System, the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed."[7]

145.17 Let those seriously concerned about the state and fate of the world give due attention to the claims of Bahá’u’lláh. Let them realize that the storms battering at the foundations of society will not be stilled unless and until spiritual principles are actively engaged in the search for solutions to social problems. Let us, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, redouble our effort in the exercise of our sacred duty to acquaint all humanity with the animating purpose of the worldwide Law of Bahá’u’lláh. Let them discover that, "Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the needs of an ever-changing world." Let us, with patience and humility, respond to challenging or skeptical questions while unfolding the purposes of this Law. Let them know that it "can conflict with no legitimate allegiances, nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men's hearts, nor to abolish the system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization are to be avoided."[8]

145.18 Let us by word and example show that "it does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world." Finally, let them appreciate that "it calls for a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human race"; that "it insists upon the subordination of national impulses and interests to the imperative claims of a unified world"; that "it repudiates excessive centralization on one hand, and disclaims all attempts at uniformity on the other"; that "its watchword is unity in diversity."[9]

145.19 It is especially noteworthy that coincidental with this Bahá’í Holy Year are the commemorations of other world-shaking occurrences which, centuries ago, commenced processes destined to attain their glorious consummation in the Promised Day of God. The ultimate resolution of the profound issues to which they gave rise, and which have ripened with the passage of time, is discernible in the eventual realization of the world-embracing System of Bahá’u’lláh.

145.20 Our thoughts turn to the history of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's epic journey to the West and particularly to North America where, in New York, He disclosed to His western disciples the implications of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. It was, in a sense, an act of renewal, prospective of the consolidation of the union of the Old and New Worlds into one global entity. Surnamed by Him "City of the Covenant," New York resonates with the effects of that experience of eighty years ago.[10] Then it was still the major entryway to the "Land of Promise" for millions of people seeking new horizons. Now it is recognized as a gathering place for the leaders of nations, an international venue for efforts at achieving unity in the political realm. Its very atmosphere vibrates with the hopes of a world seeking to set its affairs in order. Today, the hearts of the Bahá’ís throughout the earth are focused on this City of the Covenant wherein many thousands of their fellow-believers, from all parts of the planet, have assembled in the second Bahá’í World Congress. The presence there of such a widely varied representation of the human race is an affirmation of the unific power of the Covenant which the event was convened to celebrate.

145.21 In this season of beginnings and of the commemorations of beginnings, we Bahá’ís set for ourselves a new measure of effort, one more daring and persistent than before. May our words proclaim, and our deeds demonstrate, that there is only one God, only one religion, only one race. And few though we be, may we thus fulfill our duty towards Bahá’u’lláh, towards His Covenant, and, indeed, towards all humankind.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. GWB, no. 109.2.
  2. ADJ, ¶101.
  3. TB, p. 125.
  4. WOB, p. 187.
  5. WOB, p. 43.
  6. ADJ, ¶108.
  7. GWB, nos. 4.2, 70.1.
  8. WOB, p. 41.
  9. WOB, p. 41.
  10. GPB, p. 288.



Success of the Second Bahá’í World Congress

3 DECEMBER 1992


To the Bahá’ís of the World

146.1 The Bahá’í World Congress held in New York, the second major event of the Holy Year, ended on the Day of the Covenant in a blaze of celestial gbry. Far exceeding the brightest expectation anyone might have entertained, it was a triumph of the spirit in which, on all continents, the friends in their magnificent diversity witnessed a solidarity of the Bahá’í world community at a level new to their experience. Our hearts have not the capacity to contain, nor our minds the language to express, our joy and gratitude at the conspicuous outpouring of divine confirmations which made possible such a spectacular celebration and proclamation of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh.

146.2 The unity engendered among the 27,000 multifarious participants from almost 180 countries evinced a new dynamic, which signifies a stage of evolvement of the Faith which was not evident before. We noted with immense gratification the magnetic and transformative effects of this manifestation of unity arising from a quality of personal conduct which, on such a vast, collective scale as was realized at the World Congress, certainly indicated the new stature of a people becoming seasoned in the truths and virtues of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh; and in this we recognize one of the enduring gifts of the Holy Year.

146.3 As for those who devoted their specialized talents and expertise towards meeting the programmatic and logistical challenges of this conglomerate occasion, and the thousands of eager volunteers who staffed the event, our admiration and loving appreciation know no bounds.

146.4 Vitalized by such evidences of the potency of the Covenant as the Congress displayed, may the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, wherever they reside and whatever their personal circumstances, derive fresh courage and demonstrate new determination in carrying forward the momentum so magnificently reinforced by the astounding success of the proclamation raised in the City of the Covenant.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Establishment of an Office for the Advancement of Women

10 DECEMBER 1992


To all National Spiritual Assemblies Dear Bahá’í Friends,

147.1 We take much pleasure in announcing the decision to establish an Office for the Advancement of Women, which, as an agency of the Bahá’í International Community, will promote the principles of the Faith through its interaction with international entities concerned with matters affecting the rights, status and well-being of women. It will also advise National Spiritual Assemblies regarding programs and projects in which the involvement of the community can encourage efforts towards the realization of the equality of men and women.

147.2 The establishment of this Office now is largely a consequence of two gratifying developments, namely: the great extent to which the work of our United Nations Office concerning women's issues has expanded in recent years; and the rising stature for the Bahá’í community which this work has achieved in international circles. We are delighted that, for instance, the Bahá’í International Community has been serving since 1988 as the convener of Advocates for African Food Security, a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies and intergovernmental bodies formed in 1986 to raise awareness of women as producers of most of the domestic food in Africa; that our United Nations representative who specializes in women's issues is a member of the Steering Committee which is planning the Non-Governmental Organizations' Forum to be held in Beijing in 1995 at the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women; and that she chairs the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, New York, a position of great prestige in the UN/NGO community. Furthermore, the relations of the Bahá’í International Community with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have fostered a mutual confidence that has encouraged UNIFEM to collaborate with the Bahá’í International Community in the launching in three countries of projects aimed at promoting change in attitudes between men and women. All three projects involve the Bahá’í community at international, national and local levels.

147.3 The inauguration of the Office for the Advancement of Women, as a companion of the other offices of the Bahá’í International Community in New York, is a further significant step in the administration of the external affairs of the Faith and, of course, provides our community with a visible instrument for the practical application of one of the cardinal principles of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Initiation of Third Phase of Mount Carmel Projects

17 DECEMBER 1992


To the Bahá’ís of the World

148.1 DELIGHTED ANNOUNCE INITIATION PHASE THREE MOUNT CARMEL PROJECTS.

148.2 FOLLOWING PROTRACTED NEGOTIATIONS WITH HAIFA MUNICIPAL AUTHORITIES NECESSARY PERMITS FOR EXCAVATION SITE INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER AND FOR COMMENCEMENT UPPER TERRACES WERE OBTAINED IN SEPTEMBER 1992. FURTHER CONTRACTS AMOUNTING TO FIVE AND A HALF MILLION DOLLARS HAVE BEEN AWARDED AND EARTHWORK ON BOTH SITES HAS BEGUN ON 9 DECEMBER 1992.

148.3 CONFIDENT FOLLOWERS BLESSED BEAUTY THROUGHOUT BAHÁ’Í WORLD WILL CONTINUE THEIR UNSTINTING SUPPORT THESE HISTORIC PROJECTS THUS ENSURING UNINTERRUPTED PROGRESS CONSTRUCTION.

148.4 ARDENTLY SUPPLICATING SACRED THRESHOLD CONFIRMATIONS SPEEDY EXECUTION MAJOR UNDERTAKING ESTABLISHMENT SEATS INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS FAITH ON GOD'S HOLY MOUNTAIN.

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Importance of Nonviolence in Families

24 JANUARY 1993


Dear Bahá’í Friend,

149.1 Further to our letter of 14 November 1991, the Universal House of Justice has now completed its consideration of your letter of 21 September 1991, in which you raised a number of questions pertaining to violence and to the sexual abuse of women and children. We have been instructed to provide the following response to your questions.

149.2 As you know, the principle of the oneness of mankind is described in the Bahá’í Writings as the pivot round which all the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve. It has widespread implications which affect and remold all dimensions of human activity. It calls for a fundamental change in the manner in which people relate to each other, and the eradication of those age-old practices which deny the intrinsic human right of every individual to be treated with consideration and respect.

149.3 Within the family setting, the rights of all members must be respected. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated:

149.3a The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother―none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved. . . .[1]

149.4 The use of force by the physically strong against the weak, as a means of imposing one's will and fulfilling one's desires, is a flagrant transgression of the Bahá’í Teachings. There can be no justification for anyone compelling another, through the use of force or through the threat of violence, to do that to which the other person is not inclined. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written, "O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned."[2] Let those who, driven by their passions or by their inability to exercise discipline in the control of their anger, might be tempted to inflict violence on another human being be mindful of the condemnation of such disgraceful behavior by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh.

149.5 Among the signs of moral downfall in the declining social order are the high incidence of violence within the family, the increase in degrading and cruel treatment of spouses and children, and the spread of sexual abuse. It is essential that the members of the community of the Greatest Name take utmost care not to be drawn into acceptance of such practices because of their prevalence. They must be ever mindful of their obligation to exemplify a new way of life distinguished by its respect for the dignity and rights of all people, by its exalted moral tone, and by its freedom from oppression and from all forms of abuse.

149.6 Consultation has been ordained by Bahá’u’lláh as the means by which agreement is to be reached and a collective course of action defined. It is applicable to the marriage partners and within the family, and indeed, in all areas where believers participate in mutual decision making. It requires all participants to express their opinions with absolute freedom and without apprehension that they will be censured or their views belittled; these prerequisites for success are unattainable if the fear of violence or abuse is present.

149.7 A number of your questions pertain to the treatment of women, and are best considered in light of the principle of the equality of the sexes which is set forth in the Bahá’í Teachings. This principle is far more than the enunciation of admirable ideals; it has profound implications in all aspects of human relations and must be an integral element of Bahá’í domestic and community life. The application of this principle gives rise to changes in habits and practices which have prevailed for many centuries. An example of this is found in the response provided on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a question whether the traditional practice whereby the man proposes marriage to the woman is altered by the Bahá’í Teachings to permit the woman to issue a marriage proposal to the man; the response is, "The Guardian wishes to state that there is absolute equality between the two, and that no distinction or preference is permitted. . . ." With the passage of time, during which Bahá’í men and women endeavor to apply more fully the principle of the equality of the sexes, will come a deeper understanding of the far-reaching ramifications of this vital principle. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated, "Until the reality of equality between man and woman is fully established and attained, the highest social development of mankind is not possible."[3]

149.8 The Universal House of Justice has in recent years urged that encouragement be given to Bahá’í women and girls to participate in greater measure in the social, spiritual and administrative activities of their communities, and has appealed to Bahá’í women to arise and demonstrate the importance of their role in all fields of service to the Faith.

149.9 For a man to use force to impose his will on a woman is a serious transgression of the Bahá’í Teachings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that:

149.9a The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy.[4]

Bahá’í men have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world around them a new approach to the relationship between the sexes, where aggression and the use of force are eliminated and replaced by cooperation and consultation. The Universal House of Justice has pointed out in response to questions addressed to it that, in a marriage relationship, neither husband nor wife should ever unjustly dominate the other, and that there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other, if agreement cannot be reached through consultation; each couple should determine exactly under what circumstances such deference is to take place.

149.10 From the Pen of Bahá’u’lláh Himself has come the following statement on the subject of the treatment of women:

149.10a The friends of God must be adorned with the ornament of justice, equity, kindness and love. As they do not allow themselves to be the object of cruelty and transgression, in like manner they should not allow such tyranny to visit the handmaidens of God. He, verily, speaketh the truth and commandeth that which benefiteth His servants and handmaidens. He is the Protector of all in this world and the next.[5]

No Bahá’í husband should ever beat his wife, or subject her to any form of cruel treatment; to do so would be an unacceptable abuse of the marriage relationship and contrary to the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

149.11 The lack of spiritual values in society leads to a debasement of the attitudes which should govern the relationship between the sexes, with women being treated as no more than objects for sexual gratification and being denied the respect and courtesy to which all human beings are entitled. Bahá’u’lláh has warned: "They that follow their lusts and corrupt inclinations, have erred and dissipated their efforts. They, indeed, are of the lost." Believers might well ponder the exalted standard of conduct to which they are encouraged to aspire in the statement of Bahá’u’lláh concerning His "true follower," that: "And if he met the fairest and most comely of women, he would not feel his heart seduced by the least shadow of desire for her beauty. Such an one, indeed, is the creation of spotless chastity. Thus instructeth you the Pen of the Ancient of Days, as bidden by your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful."[6]

149.12 One of the most heinous of sexual offenses is the crime of rape. When a believer is a victim, she is entitled to the loving aid and support of the members of her community, and she is free to initiate action against the perpetrator under the law of the land should she wish to do so. If she becomes pregnant as a consequence of this assault, no pressure should be brought upon her by the Bahá’í institutions to marry. As to whether she should continue or terminate the pregnancy, it is for her to decide on the course of action she should follow, taking into consideration medical and other relevant factors, and in the light of the Bahá’í Teachings. If she gives birth to a child as a result of the rape, it is left to her discretion whether to seek financial support for the maintenance of the child from the father; however, his claim to any parental rights would, under Bahá’í law, be called into question, in view of the circumstances.

149.13 The Guardian has clarified, in letters written on his behalf, that "The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse," and that "The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established."[7] In this aspect of the marital relationship, as in all others, mutual consideration and respect should apply. If a Bahá’í woman suffers abuse or is subjected to rape by her husband, she has the right to turn to the Spiritual Assembly for assistance and counsel, or to seek legal protection. Such abuse would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy.

149.14 You have raised several questions about the treatment of children. It is clear from the Bahá’í Writings that a vital component of the education of children is the exercise of discipline. Shoghi Effendi has stated, in a letter written on his behalf about the education of children, that:

149.14a Discipline of some sort, whether physical, moral or intellectual is indeed indispensable, and no training can be said to be complete and fruitful if it disregards this element. The child when born is far from being perfect. It is not only helpless, but actually is imperfect, and even is naturally inclined towards evil. He should be trained, his natural inclinations harmonized, adjusted and controlled, and if necessary suppressed or regulated, so as to ensure his healthy physical and moral development. Bahá’í parents cannot simply adopt an attitude of nonresistance towards their children, particularly those who are unruly and violent by nature. It is not even sufficient that they should pray on their behalf. Rather they should endeavor to inculcate, gently and patiently, into their youthful minds such principles of moral conduct and initiate them into the principles and teachings of the Cause with such tactful and loving care as would enable them to become "true sons of God" and develop into loyal and intelligent citizens of His Kingdom. . . .[8]

149.15 While the physical discipline of children is an acceptable part of their education and training, such actions are to be carried out "gently and patiently" and with "loving care," far removed from the anger and violence with which children are beaten and abused in some parts of the world. To treat children in such an abhorrent manner is a denial of their human rights, and a betrayal of the trust which the weak should have in the strong in a Bahá’í community.

149.16 It is difficult to imagine a more reprehensible perversion of human conduct than the sexual abuse of children, which finds its most debased form in incest. At a time in the fortunes of humanity when, in the words of the Guardian, "The perversion of human nature, the degradation of human conduct, the corruption and dissolution of human institutions, reveal themselves . . . in their worst and most revolting aspects," and when "the voice of human conscience is stilled," when "the sense of decency and shame is obscured,"[9] the Bahá’í institutions must be uncompromising and vigilant in their commitment to the protection of the children entrusted to their care, and must not allow either threats or appeals to expediency to divert them from their duty. A parent who is aware that the marriage partner is subjecting a child to such sexual abuse should not remain silent, but must take all necessary measures, with the assistance of the Spiritual Assembly or civil authorities if necessary, to bring about an immediate cessation of such grossly immoral behavior, and to promote healing and therapy.

149.17 Bahá’u’lláh has placed great emphasis on the duties of parents toward their children, and He has urged children to have gratitude in their hearts for their parents, whose good pleasure they should strive to win as a means of pleasing God Himself. However, He has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. It has decided for the present that all cases should be referred to it in which the conduct or character of a parent appears to render him unworthy of having such parental rights as that of giving consent to marriage. Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as a consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse.

149.18 As humanity passes through the age of transition in its evolution to a world civilization which will be illuminated by spiritual values and will be distinguished by its justice and its unity, the role of the Bahá’í community is clear: it must accomplish a spiritual transformation of its members, and must offer to the world a model of the society destined to come into being through the power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. Membership in the Bahá’í community is open to all who accept Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God, and who thereupon embark on the process of changing their conduct and refining their character. It is inevitable that this community will, at times, be subject to delinquent behavior of members whose actions do not conform to the standards of the Teachings. At such times, the institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness in full confidence that this Divine Law is the means for the true happiness of all concerned.

149.19 However, it should be recognized that the ultimate solution to the problems of humanity lies not in penalties and punishments, but rather in spiritual education and illumination. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written:

149.19a It is incumbent upon human society to expend all its forces on the education of the people, and to copiously water men's hearts with the sacred streams that pour down from the Realm of the All-Merciful, and to teach them the manners of Heaven and spiritual ways of life, until every member of the community of man will be schooled, refined, and exalted to such a degree of perfection that the very committing of a shameful act will seem in itself the direst infliction and most agonizing of punishments, and man will fly in terror and seek refuge in his God from the very idea of crime, as something far harsher and more grievous than the punishment assigned to it.

It is toward this goal that the community of the Greatest Name is striving, aided and reinforced by the limitless power of the Holy Spirit.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. PUP, pp. 232-33.
  2. SWAB, no. 129.11.
  3. PUP, p. 105.
  4. LG, no. 2079.
  5. CC 2:2145.
  6. GWB, nos. 136.6, 60.3.
  7. LG, no. 1156.
  8. LG, no. 510.
  9. WOB, p. 187.


Publication of English Translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

5 MARCH 1993


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

150.1 The Kitáb-i-Aqdas―the Book described in such exalted terms by the Guardian of the Cause of God as "that priceless treasury enshrining for all time the brightest emanations of the mind of Bahá’u’lláh, the Charter of His World Order, the chief repository of His laws, the Harbinger of His Covenant, the Pivotal Work containing some of His noblest exhortations, weightiest pronouncements, and portentous prophecies, and revealed during the full tide of His tribulations, at a time when the rulers of the earth had definitely forsaken Him"[1]―this Most Holy Book, we have the honor to announce, will, in a copiously annotated English translation, be released to the Community of Bahá at Naw-Rúz.

150.2 Bahá’u’lláh's own designations of the Book―the "Unerring Balance," the "Straight Path," the "quickener of mankind," the "source of true felicity"―indicate its phenomenal importance, an importance which staggers the mind when viewed in light of the realization that this Book is, in the words of Shoghi Effendi, the "principal repository of that Law which the Prophet Isaiah had anticipated, and which the writer of the Apocalypse had described as the 'new heaven' and the 'new earth,' as 'the Tabernacle of God,' as the 'Holy City,' as the 'Bride,' the 'New Jerusalem coming down from God.'"[2] Such metaphors of hope have been recited from sacred scriptures down the ages, have fired the imagination and excited the expectations of unnumbered generations, and now, at long last, in this new Dispensation, have been given tangible form by the Promised One of All Ages in this Mother Book of His Revelation.

150.3 The publication of the Book in English satisfies a major goal of the Six Year Plan. But even beyond this, it initiates the fulfillment of a prospect voiced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who anticipated its publication in various languages; it realizes an intention cherished by Shoghi Effendi, who had himself translated substantial portions of it into English which he diffused through his letters and in his compilations of Bahá’u’lláh's Writings, and who had also, "as an essential prelude to the eventual translation and publication of its entire text," initiated steps in 1955 for the preparation of a Synopsis and Codification of the Laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. This was a task on which he made considerable progress and which was completed by the Universal House of Justice in 1973, on the hundredth anniversary of the revelation of the Book which occurred, as Shoghi Effendi confirmed, "soon after Bahá’u’lláh had been transferred to the house of ‘Údí Khammár (circa 1873), at a time when He was still encompassed by the tribulations that had afflicted Him, through the acts committed by His enemies and the professed adherents of His Faith."[3]

150.4 The accessibility to Western readers of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in full authorized text, for the first time in one of their major languages, enormously extends the sphere of its influence, opening wider the door to a vast process of individual and community development which must certainly exert an increasingly powerful, transformative effect on peoples and nations as the Book is translated further into other languages. That the English edition of this highly treasured and incalculably potent work should appear now amid the welter of a world at odds with itself is a demonstration of confidence in the ultimate emergence of a peaceful, civilized, global society. That it should be published during the period of the centenary of both the Ascension of its divine Author and the inauguration of His Covenant amplifies the striking impact, already felt, of the Holy Year which marks so important an anniversary.

150.5 A Book of such indescribable holiness is itself a symbol of the incomparable greatness of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and is, indeed, a potent reminder of the high respect which is due to all that has flowed from His prodigious, truth-bearing pen. May the friends of God ever be mindful of its exalted rank among the sacred texts of the Faith; treasure it as the bread of life; regard possession of it as a sacred honor, as a priceless legacy from the Pen of the Most High, as a source of God's greatest bounty to His creatures; place their whole trust in its provisions; recite its verses; study its contents; adhere to its exhortations; and thus transform their lives in accordance with the divine standard.

150.6 Let us rejoice. Let us be filled with the felicitous spirit evoked in the Blessed Beauty’s own announcement of the Mother Book of His Dispensation when He said: "We announce unto everyone the joyful tidings concerning that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book―a Book from above whose horizon the day-star of My commandments shineth upon every observer and every observed one." May we be such upholders of its laws and principles as to deserve His gloriously promised benediction: "Blessed those who peruse it. Blessed those who apprehend it. Blessed those who meditate upon it. Blessed those who ponder its meaning. So vast is its range that it hath encompassed all men ere their recognition of it. Ere long will its sovereign power, its pervasive influence and the greatness of its might be manifested on earth. Verily, thy God is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed."[4]

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


Notes

  1. PDIC, ¶51.
  2. GPB, p. 213.
  3. MBW, p. 78; GPB, p. 213.
  4. TB, pp. 267, 200.



Election of the Universal House of Justice-Riḍván 1993

30 APRIL 1993


To All National Spiritual Assemblies

152.1 ANNOUNCE NEWLY ELECTED MEMBERS UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE ‘ALÍ NAKHJAVÁNÍ, GLENFORD MITCHELL, ADIB TAHERZADEH, IAN SEMPLE, PETER KHAN, HUSHMAND FATHEAZAM, HOOPER DUNBAR, FARZAM ARBAB, DOUGLAS MARTIN.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Applicability of the Laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

9 MAY 1993


To all National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

153.1 In the introduction to the English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas it is stated that its publication does not increase the number of laws which are binding on Bahá’ís. As an assistance to those friends who may not have a clear understanding of the matter, the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to send you the attached copy of a letter which it wrote to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Iceland, on 9 June 1974, to identify those laws which were not then universally applicable.[1] The law of Ḥuqúqu’lláh was applied universally at Riḍván 1992. In due course, the Universal House of Justice will announce further applications of the laws when the friends have had the opportunity of familiarizing themselves with the Most Holy Book and when it is propitious to do so.

153.2 National Spiritual Assemblies are asked to share this letter and its enclosure with the friends under their jurisdiction.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT


Notes

  1. See MUHJ, no. 147.



Appointment of International Teaching Center Members

13 MAY 1993


To All National Spiritual Assemblies

154.1 WITH JOYFUL HEARTS WE ANNOUNCE APPOINTMENT COUNSELOR MEMBERS INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER FOR FIVE-YEAR TERM BEGINNING 23 MAY 1993: MR. KISER BARNES, MR. HARTMUT GROSSMANN, MRS. LAUPETTA KING, MRS. JOAN LINCOLN, MR. SHAPOOR MONADJEM, MR. DONALD ROGERS, MR. FRED SCHECHTER, MRS. IGMIKO SCHWERIN, MRS. JOY STEVENSON. PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL MR. MAS’ÚD KHAMSÍ AND MR. PETER VUYIYA FOR ILLUSTRIOUS RECORD YEARS DEVOTED LABORS IN DEVELOPMENT WORLDWIDE OPERATION THIS VITAL INSTITUTION.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Confiscation of Bahá’í Properties in Iran

20 MAY 1993


To selected National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

155.1 This is in reference to our circular letter dated 30 September 1992 concerning the confiscation of Bahá’í properties in various cities of Iran. A copy of that letter is being forwarded herewith to all National Spiritual Assemblies marked with an asterisk, as they have not previously received it.

155.2 We are instructed to draw your attention to the fact that the confiscations of the properties of the Bahá’ís in Yazd are of a different nature than those taking place elsewhere in the country. In Yazd, they are based on a religious edict issued by the late Áyatu’lláh Ṣadúqí, former Imam of Yazd. This edict is now being invoked by the authorities in Yazd to justify their decision that no Bahá’í in that city may possess any property or engage in any transactions involving properties.

155.3 The confiscation of properties and the prohibition of Bahá’ís to be engaged in any property transactions clearly constitute religious persecution, as the individuals concerned are not being punished for any wrongdoing, but are deprived of their properties on the basis of belonging to a particular religious community.

155.4 In the meantime, the Bahá’ís of Saysán and Ílkhchí have reported confiscations of their properties on the grounds that they are members of the Bahá’í community. . . .

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
DEPARTMENT OF THE SECRETARIAT




Appointment of Four New Continental Counselors

16 JUNE 1993


To All National Spiritual Assemblies

156.1 JOYFULLY ANNOUNCE APPOINTMENT FOLLOWING CONTINENTAL COUNSELORS TO FILL VACANCIES CREATED BY RECENT APPOINTMENTS TO INTERNATIONAL TEACHING CENTER: IN AFRICA KOBINA FYNN, IN THE AMERICAS STEPHEN BIRKLAND AND FARHAD SHAYANI, IN ASIA NOBUKO IWAKURA.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Consultations between the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Center

24 JUNE 1993


To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

157.1 Following fast upon the inspiring events of the seventh International Bahá’í Convention and the subsequent Counselors' Conference, the opening weeks of the Three Year Plan have been marked with yet another highly significant event. On the morning of Saturday 5 June, the Hands of the Cause of God ‘Alí Akbar Furútan and ‘Alí-Muḥammad Varqá, with all nine Counselor members of the International Teaching Center, joined the members of the Universal House of Justice in Bahjí and proceeded to the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh for prayer as the initial act of the newly appointed Teaching Center. All then held a first meeting in the room used by Shoghi Effendi in the Mansion of Bahjí, recalling the many historic associations of that blessed spot.

157.2 Joint consultations continued on the afternoon of that same day in the Council Chamber of the Universal House of Justice, exploring the tasks now facing the International Teaching Center as the world advances through the climacteric years at the close of the twentieth century.

157.3 During the five years since May 1988, when far-reaching decisions were made on the functioning of the International Teaching Center and, for the first time, the number of its Counselor members was raised to nine, that institution has abundandy demonstrated its capacity and eagerness to assume the wide range of responsibilities conferred upon it.

157.4 The clarification of various approaches to the teaching work which the Teaching Center has issued, its indication of potentially fruitful methods and fields of endeavor, and the collaboration of the Counselors with the National Spiritual Assemblies in the formulation of their goals for the Three Year Plan have contributed immeasurably to the deepening of the understanding of the individual believers; the teaching, enrollment and inspiriting of children and youth; the consolidation of growing communities; the strengthening of their institutions; and unflagging pursuit of the expansion of the Cause.

157.5 The Teaching Center's former duties relating to the formulation of plans for our approval have undergone a change as a result of the devolution of planning upon National Spiritual Assemblies which was a mark of the opening of the Fourth Epoch of the Formative Age. We have been most favorably impressed by the guidance it has given to the Continental Counselors to promote consultation at the local and national levels, among institutions and believers, leading to the initiation and sustaining of processes of growth in the Bahá’í community, and we look forward to the perpetuation and expansion of this collaboration.

157.6 The responsibility of the Continental Boards of Counselors to protect the Faith, under the guidance of the International Teaching Center, will undoubtedly gain greater importance in the years ahead. They will encourage and assist the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies, not only to deal with questions on the Faith raised by interested non-Bahá’ís, but also to counter attacks launched by external opponents.

157.7 Study of the Faith itself is a vital element in the soundness of the growth of Bahá’í communities, their consolidation and their protection. This should include systematic study of the Writings of the Faith, its history, its relationship to various systems of thought, and the application of its Teachings to the spiritual and material life of society. The International Teaching Center will contribute significantly to the advancement of such study.

157.8 In the production and dissemination of Bahá’í literature, which is fundamental to both the expansion and consolidation of the Cause, the support given by the Counselors to National Assemblies through the Literature Subvention Fund and especially the Teaching Center's promotion of the core literature concept have resulted in an admirable surge forward, and we are confident that this effort will be augmented in the years ahead.

157.9 The flow of pioneers and traveling teachers has been notably increased through the development of the Continental Pioneer Committees under the aegis of the International Teaching Center, as well as by the actions of the Continental Counselors and National Assemblies. It has become apparent that, with the growth of the Bahá’í world and the increased mobility of the friends, new methods are required for advising and routing pioneers. The pioneering call for the Three Year Plan therefore assumes a character different from that to which the friends have been accustomed and will, we confidently expect, permit a far more fruitful use of the energies and devotion of the friends.

157.10 All the above matters were among the subjects of consultation between the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Center at their meetings on 5 June, and during a subsequent meeting towards the close of the intensive consultations carried on by the Teaching Center itself. The five members who are still resident abroad are now preparing to move to the Holy Land.

157.11 It is our fervent prayer at the Sacred Threshold that these developments will impart a yet greater impetus to the activities of the individual believers and their institutions throughout the world and accelerate the work already so eagerly launched for the achievement of the Three Year Plan.

With loving Bahá’í greetings,
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Visit to the Bahá’í World Center of Deputy Prune Minister of Papua New Guinea

25 JUNE 1993


To All National Spiritual Assemblies

158.1 DELIGHTED INFORM FRIENDS VISIT BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTER 12 JUNE 1993 SIR JULIUS CHAN, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER PAPUA NEW GUINEA, ACCOMPANIED BY LADY CHAN DURING COURSE OFFICIAL VISIT ISRAEL. HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT THAT UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE MET WITH SIR JULIUS CHAN IN RESPONSE HIS REQUEST FOR CONSULTATION ON FUTURE ROLE PAPUA NEW GUINEA AS EMERGING NATION AND ON DESTINY PACIFIC REGION. MEETING HELD COUNCIL CHAMBER FOCUSSED POTENTIAL PACIFIC NATIONS SET EXAMPLE UNITY, MUTUAL COOPERATION. SIR JULIUS EXPRESSED APPRECIATION ACHIEVEMENTS BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY AND ADMIRATION BAHÁ’Í APPROACH PERSONAL, SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION. MEETING WITH SIR JULIUS CHAN, FOLLOWING EARLIER MEETINGS PRIME MINISTER COOK ISLANDS AND PRESIDENT MARSHALL ISLANDS, FURTHER EVIDENCE REMARKABLE RESPONSE PACIFIC LEADERS PRINCIPLES BAHÁ’Í FAITH, HARBINGER FUTURE APPLICATION BY WORLD STATESMEN PRESCRIPTION DIVINE PHYSICIAN HEALING MANIFOLD ILLS HUMANITY.

UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE




Four Categories of Pioneers for the Three Year Plan

27 JUNE 1993