As I survey, after the lapse of a little over three years, the vast range of historic and unforgettable achievements with which the stout-hearted, high-minded and wholly consecrated followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh have, in the course of the operations of a World Spiritual Crusade, enriched, in every continent of the globe and in so many islands of the seven seas, the annals of the Formative Age of His Dispensation, I cannot but acknowledge, with feelings of pride, of joy, and of gratitude, the preponderating share which the American Bahá'í Community, faithful to its traditions, and in keeping with its high standard of stewardship to the Cause of God, has had in the conduct of this world-encircling enterprise and the discharge of its manifold, its pressing and sacred responsibilities. With one or two exceptions, greatly to be deplored, this valiant community has, ever since the inception of this Spiritual Crusade, and in every sphere of Bahá'í activities in which its participators have both individually and collectively been assiduously engaged, set an example of whole-hearted dedication, dogged perseverance, unstinting self-sacrifice and undeviating loyalty worthy of emulation by its sister, as well as its daughter, communities over the entire face of the globe.
The number, the character and the rapidity of the spiritual conquests achieved by its steadfast and intrepid members, in so many sovereign states of the globe, its chief dependencies and widely scattered islands, in the course of the one-year period, constituting the opening phase of a memorable Plan, will no doubt be universally acclaimed as a turning point of unimaginable consequence in Bahá'í history. Such feats, in so many territories, during so short a time, will rank, in the eyes of posterity, as superb and outstanding exploits, immortalizing the fame of the American followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and as epoch-making events unsurpassed since the closing of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation.
AID ACCORDED TO THEIR OPPRESSED BRETHREN IN PERSIA
The reaction, so swift and so energetic, of the members of this same community, now deservedly recognized as the impregnable citadel of the Faith of God, and the cradle of the rising institutions of its World Order, to the sudden onslaught made upon the institutions, the lives and the livelihood of their oppressed brethren, members of the numerically leading and the most venerable national Bahá'í community, by the traditional adversaries of a long-persecuted Faith, has been such as to deepen, to a marked extent, the feelings of genuine admiration and esteem, so strongly felt throughout the Bahá'í world, for the enduring and magnificent services rendered in the course of more than six decades by the American believers to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and its embryonic World Order. The spontaneity with which the rank and file of this community as well as the body of its elected representatives, have contributed to the "Save the Persecuted Fund" established for the succor of the victims of these savage and periodically recurring barbarities; the measure of publicity accorded them in the American press, as well as over the radio; the timely and efficacious intervention of men of prominence, in various walks of life, on behalf of the oppressed and the down-trodden; the repeated and direct appeals addressed by them to the highest authorities in Persia, as well as to their representative in the United States; the immense number of written and cabled appeals, made by the local as well as the national elected representatives of the community, to the chief magistrate of Persia, his ministers and parliament; the numerous messages addressed by the same representatives to the chief executive of the United States, urging his personal intervention, the pleading of the cause of an harassed, sorely-tried community in the course of repeated representations made to the State Department in Washington; the part played in the presentation of the Bahá'í case to the United Nations officials in both Geneva and New York; the allocation of a sizeable sum for the purpose of securing the assistance of an expert publicity agent, in order to reinforce the publicity already being received in the public press--these, as well as other measures which, by their very nature, must of necessity remain confidential-- proclaim, in no uncertain terms, the dynamic and decisive nature of the aid accorded, in a hour of trial and emergency, by the champions of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, raised up in the great republic of the West, at such a crucial hour in the evolution of His Plan, for both His Faith and the world at large, to the vast body of the descendants of the dawn-breakers of the Apostolic Age of that same Faith in the land of its birth.
A NOBLE RECORD OF SERVICE
No less remarkable has been the share of this community, chiefly responsible, on the morrow of `Abdu'l-Bahá's passing, for the fixing of the pattern, the elaboration of the national constitution, and the erection of the basic institutions, of a divinely conceived Administrative Order, in the acquisition and establishment, in the course of two brief years, constituting the second phase of the Ten-Year Plan, of practically all of the future national administrative headquarters--numbering over thirty--of Bahá'í national assemblies in four continents of the globe, involving the expenditure from the National Fund of over a hundred thousand dollars.
An effort, hardly less meritorious and equally efficacious and astonishing, has been exerted by the members of this alert, forward-looking, ceaselessly laboring community, in the course of the same two-year period, for the establishment of national Bahá'í endowments in more than twenty countries of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, entailing the expenditure of over twenty thousand dollars.
In other spheres of Bahá'í activity, related to the prosecution of the Ten-Year Plan, all of vital importance to the teaching work initiated under that same Plan, and to the enlargement and consolidation of the administrative structure of the institutions to be erected in the future, the accomplishments of the members of this community, during the first two phases of this world Crusade, have been no less significant. The establishment of the Bahá'í Publishing Trust; the translation of Bahá'í literature into more than fifteen languages, both within the scope of the Ten-Year Plan and outside it, spoken in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the North American continent; the purchase of the site of the first dependency of the Mother Temple of the West; the practical completion of the landscaping of its gardens; the provision of a considerable part of the material resources required for the purchase of the sites of future Bahá'í Temples in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, as well as for the construction of the two projected &Mashriqu'l-Adhkars in the European and African continents; the guidance given and the aid extended to newly elected national assemblies, for the efficient conduct of Bahá'í administrative activities and the prosecution of Bahá'í national plans; the initial visits made by Bahá'í teachers to countries within the Soviet orbit, foreshadowing the launching of systematic teaching enterprises in both Europe and Asia; the assistance given, through financial help as well as through the dispatch of Bahá'í pioneers, to various Bahá'í communities for the enlargement of the limits of the Faith and the consolidation of its institutions; and, last but not least, the purchase of the sacred site of the Siyáh-Chál of Tihrán, the scene of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh's Prophetic Mission, by a member of that community of Persian descent--these stand out as further evidences of the enormous share the firmly knit, highly organized, swiftly advancing, fully dedicated American Bahá'í Community has had in the prosecution and triumphant progress of the three year old Ten-Year Plan, and augur well for a no less splendid contribution to be made, in the years immediately ahead, for the attainment of its remaining objectives.
FRUITFUL EFFORTS OF HANDS OF THE CAUSE
Supplementing this noble record of service have been the constant and fruitful efforts exerted by the Hands of the Cause, nominated from among the members of that community, in both the United States and the Holy Land, efforts that have lent a considerable impetus to the expansion and consolidation of the far-reaching enterprises initiated at the World Center of the Faith, and which have, particularly through the instrumentality of the recently appointed American Auxiliary Board, stimulated, to a noticeable extent the progress of the teaching work and the advancement of the Plan itself.
STUPENDOUS WORK ACHIEVED BY MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL Bahá'í COUNCIL
Particular tribute should, I feel, at this juncture, be paid to the stupendous work achieved, since the launching of the World Crusade, by the representatives of this highly privileged community, in their capacity as members of the International Bahá'í Council, in connection with the prosecution of a variety of enterprises embarked upon in recent years, aiming at the expansion and consolidation of the international institutions of the Faith, the enhancement of its prestige, the embellishment of the surroundings of its Shrines, the efficient conduct of its internal affairs, and the forging of fresh links binding it still more closely to the civil authorities in the Holy Land. The erection of the International Archives in the close neighborhood of the Báb's holy Sepulcher; the extension of the international Bahá'í endowments on the slopes of Mt. Carmel; the formation of several Israel Branches of Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies; the embellishment of the precincts of the resting-place of both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh; the purchase of the site of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the Holy Land; the preparation of the designs for the International Bahá'í Archives on Mt. Carmel; and of the Mother Temples of Persia and of Africa; the inauguration of the preliminary steps for the eventual construction of Bahá'u'lláh's holy Sepulcher; the measures adopted, with the assistance of various officials of the State of Israel, for the eviction of the covenant-breakers from the immediate precincts of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and the elimination of any influence they still exercise, after the lapse of over sixty years, in the close vicinity of that Most Holy Spot--in these, as well as in other various subsidiary activities, constantly increasing in number as well as in diversity at the spiritual and administrative center of the Bahá'í world, have the members of the little band, assiduously laboring under the shadow of the Holy Shrines, and befittingly representing the American Bahá'í Community, conspicuously participated, and through their dedicated services, added fresh luster to the annals of the community to which they belong.
REVITALIZATION OF THE HOME FRONT So splendid a record of service, rendered within the brief span of a little over three years, extending over so vast an area of the globe, so highly diversified, so pregnant with promise, in the face of such formidable obstacles, and by so limited a number of participants, has, much to my deepest regret, been marred by a progressive devitalization of the home front, constituting so momentous an aspect of the Ten-Year Plan, and upon which its continued and effective prosecution by the American Bahá'í Community, in the course of the present and third phase of the World Spiritual Crusade, so largely depends. Constituting as it does the base of the multiple operations now being conducted to ensure the success of the North American, the Latin American, the African, the European and Asiatic campaigns of a global crusade, no sacrifice can be deemed too great for its revitalization and the broadening and consolidation of its foundations. The manpower of the community, so essential to the further deployment of its forces must, rapidly and at all costs, increase. The material resources, now at its disposal, which are so bountifully poured forth and so generously distributed to the four corners of the globe, must be correspondingly augmented to meet the pressing and ever-swelling demands of a constantly and irresistibly advancing Crusade. A far greater proportion of the avowed supporters of the Faith must arise, ere the Crusade suffers any setback, for the fourfold purpose of winning over an infinitely greater number of recruits to the army of Bahá'u'lláh fighting on the home front, of swelling to an unprecedented degree the isolated centers now scattered within its confines, of converting an increasing number of them into firmly founded groups, and of accelerating the formation of local assemblies, while safeguarding those already in existence.
THE INDIVIDUAL Bahá'í MUST ARISE
There can be no doubt whatever that to achieve this fourfold purpose is the most strenuous, the least spectacular, and the most challenging of the tasks now confronting the American Bahá'í Community. It is primarily a task that concerns the individual believer, wherever he may be, and whatever his calling, his resources, his race, or his age. Neither the local nor national representatives of the community, no matter how elaborate their plans, or persistent their appeals, or sagacious their counsels, nor even the Guardian himself, however much he may yearn for this consummation, can decide where the duty of the individual lies, or supplant him in the discharge of that task. The individual alone must assess its character, consult his conscience, prayerfully consider all its aspects, manfully struggle against the natural inertia that weighs him down in his effort to arise, shed, heroically and irrevocably, the trivial and superfluous attachments which hold him back, empty himself of every thought that may tend to obstruct his path, mix, in obedience to the counsels of the Author of His Faith, and in imitation of the One Who is its true Exemplar, with men and women, in all walks of life, seek to touch their hearts, through the distinction which characterizes his thoughts, his words and his acts, and win them over tactfully, lovingly, prayerfully and persistently, to the Faith he himself has espoused.
The gross materialism that engulfs the entire nation at the present hour; the attachment to worldly things that enshrouds the souls of men; the fears and anxieties that distract their minds; the pleasure and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties--these are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every would-be warrior in the service of Bahá'u'lláh, obstacles which he must battle against and surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen.
To the degree that the home front crusader is himself cleansed of these impurities, liberated from these petty preoccupations and gnawing anxieties, delivered from these prejudices and antagonisms, emptied of self, and filled by the healing and the sustaining power of God, will he be able to combat the forces arrayed against him, magnetize the souls of those whom he seeks to convert, and win their unreserved, their enthusiastic and enduring allegiance to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
Delicate and strenuous though the task may be, however arduous and prolonged the effort required, whatsoever the nature of the perils and pitfalls that beset the path of whoever arises to revive the fortunes of a Faith struggling against the rising forces of materialism, nationalism, secularism, racialism, ecclesiasticism, the all-conquering potency of the grace of God, vouchsafed through the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, will, undoubtedly, mysteriously and surprisingly, enable whosoever arises to champion His Cause to win complete and total victory.
The history of a century-old Faith eloquently bears witness to similar unnumbered successes won, in both the Apostolic and Formative Ages of the Bahá'í Dispensation, in circumstances even more challenging than those in which the American Bahá'í Community now finds itself.
So magnificent a victory, won collectively, at such a time, in a country so vitally affecting the immediate destinies of mankind, singled out to play so predominant a role in the unification and spiritualization of the entire human race, by a community which in every other field can boast a brilliant and unbroken record of victories, will, no doubt, exert not only a profound influence on the ultimate destinies of an entire nation and people, but will galvanize, through its repercussions, the entire Bahá'í world. "A PRAYER WHICH I NEVER CEASE TO UTTER"
The prizes within the reach of this community are truly inestimable. Much will depend on the reaction of the rank and file of the believers to the plea now addressed to them with all the fervor of my soul.
To act, and act promptly and decisively, is the need of the present hour and their inescapable duty. That the American Bahá'í Community may, in this one remaining field, where so much is at stake, and where the needs of the Faith are so acute, cover itself with a glory that will outshine the splendor of its past exploits in the far-flung territories of the globe, is a prayer which I never cease to utter in my continual supplications to Bahá'u'lláh.
[July 19, 1956]