THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE
BAHÁ'Í WORLD CENTRE
Department of the Secretariat
9 September 1991
To all National Spiritual Assemblies
Dear Bahá'í Friends,
To further their understanding of the implications of blazoning the name of Bahá'u'lláh across the globe, the friends at the World Centre invited Mr. Douglas Martin, Director-General of the Office of Public Information, to speak on the subject in a talk which he entitled "Humanity's Coming Encounter with Bahá'u'lláh". His presentation so impressed the audience that Mr. Martin was asked to put down the main points in a brief paper. With the approval of the Universal House of Justice, we send you the enclosed copy of the paper, feeling that the perspective it conveys may well be a means of stimulating your thinking with regard to fostering public awareness of the Name and Mission of Bahá'u'lláh during the forthcoming Holy Year and beyond.
With loving Bahá'í greetings,
For Department of the Secretariat
Humanity's Coming Encounter with Bahá'u'lláh
Anniversaries are an invitation to take stock, to review where we have come from. The hope is
that we can secure a vantage point from which we can better appreciate what lies ahead.
Centenaries are particularly valuable in this respect, because the perspective they provide is
so much longer, and the vantage point, hopefully, correspondingly high.
In reviewing of the unfolding public message of the Cause over the past 100 years it is
important to distinguish this message from the Faith's teaching work. There are as many
teaching methods as there are Bahá'ís: some five million of them at the present count. There are
as many "Bahá'í messages", perhaps, as there are inquirers. Entirely apart from this world-
wide effort of individuals to teach other individuals, the Bahá'í community as a body has pursued
a parallel, century-long -- and remarkably systematic -- program to create an accurate and
favorable image of the Cause in the public mind generally.
There is no one satisfactory term that captures this endeavor. The meaning of the much-used
word "proclamation" has, unfortunately, become steadily more blurred as it has been used for
various group teaching initiatives. What we are talking about are such activities as public
information, government relations, publicity, publishing, media production and public
relations, whose aim is to ensure that the society around us gains a reasonably sound
understanding of the nature and purposes of the Bahá'í Cause.
When one looks back over the past century with this area of our work in mind, a very
interesting realization emerges. It is not only the Bahá'í community that has moved through a
series of stages in its development, but also the presentation of its public message. In a sense the
image of the Cause can be said to have gone through three -- and perhaps four -- major
transformations during these hundred years.
Obviously, the basic message has never changed. We have never stopped presenting one message
in order to switch to an entirely new one. On the contrary, the process has been a cumulative
one, and is much stronger for that reason. Nevertheless, it is clear that the focus has several
times shifted quite sharply, the emphasis has changed and with it the types of public
information activities which have received priority attention.
THE FIRST HUNDRED YEARS
If one examines our public message during the first two
or three decades of the century, one discovers a Bahá'í Faith which was essentially a movement
of peace, of universality and understanding. It took an optimistic and encouraging view of the
possibilities of human nature because it declared humanity to be fundamentally spiritual.
Mankind's hope lay in freeing itself from the limitations and prejudices of the past, and
accepting its fundamental unity.
Inevitably, there were a number of mockers. One American poet referred dismissively to what
he called the "Sweet Bahá'í-and-Bahá'í". At a much later date we still heard warnings about
"terminal niceness". Fundamentally, however, the message had great attractive power: it
planted in the public mind, to the extent that this mind was aware of us, an identification of the
word "Bahá'í" with a spirit of universality and goodwill.
This image was most fully captured in the immensely appealing figure of the Master Himself,
during His epic journeys through the West. The possibilities for its promotion were also most
fully explored by Him in such actions as His address to the Lake Mohonk peace conference, His
participation at an NAACP conference, His defense of the truth of Christianity and Islam at
Temple Emmanu-El in San Francisco, the host of interviews He gave to the press, and in the
unshakable confidence He displayed in the spiritual destiny of the human race.
With the assumption by the Guardian of the responsibilities placed on him in the Will and
Testament, the focus shifted. For over three decades Shoghi Effendi devoted himself to a task
which he termed "vindicating the independent character of the Faith". Patiently and firmly he
freed the Cause from the cultic milieu which had long veiled its true nature. The Bahá'í Faith
was an independent religion among the religions of the world, he said, and must be recognized as
The legal recognition of Bahá'í marriages and Bahá'í holy days was tenaciously pursued
throughout the world. Bahá'í institutions were incorporated in civil law. The foundations were
laid for a close relationship with the United Nations system as soon as that system came into
At the local and national levels, Bahá'í communities tirelessly organized classes in comparative
religion and sought a place in the emerging interfaith movement. "World Religion Day" was
created to focus media attention on this theme. Especially designed literature explored, with
varying degrees of professional expertise, the concept of Progressive Revelation. (One recalls
one small pamphlet whose cover listed the world's surviving independent religions, beginning
with "Sabeanism" whose origins were imaginatively attributed to one "Enoch".)
MAJOR SHIFT IN FOCUS
With the triumphant completion of the Ten Year Crusade and the
successful establishment of the Universal House of Justice, the image of the Cause again
underwent a major shift in focus. The Bahá'í community had become established throughout the
entire planet. Suddenly it was everywhere and it was everyone. This immensely rich diversity
was given further weight by the dramatic increase in the community's sheer size. Whole Third
World villages became Bahá'í, with profound implications for the operation of the
As the process gained momentum, the community became an increasingly valued collaborator
with UN agencies and other non-governmental organizations. Social and economic development
projects proliferated. Administrative sophistication expanded, as did the professional resources
To use the words of a popular philosopher of the period, Marshall McLuhan, "the medium was
the message". A growing array of public information activities emphasized the fact that the
Bahá'í community was a microcosm of the world. It was at home everywhere. It was as
indigenous to Africa as it was to America; as familiar a voice in Hindi as in Farsi; as reliable a
friend in the South as in the North. It was itself a convincing proof of the validity of the Faith's
This century-long series of efforts has been a stunning success. To the extent that people are
familiar with the Bahá'í Faith, they regard it as an influence for good, promoting those ideals of
global unity and interracial harmony that are increasingly seen as vital to the survival of
humankind. At some point in the past several decades a corner was turned in the vindication of
its character as an independent world religion; however stubborn the resistance to this idea may
be in many parts of the world, crucial agencies that shape public opinion now routinely include
the Faith among the distinct religious systems of mankind.
Equally important is the extraordinary reputation which the community's interaction with
governmental, non-governmental and United Nations bodies has established. The Bahá'í
community is seen as an "honest broker", as genuinely committed to principles of collaboration
and consultation, as an international influence that can be counted on for rationality and
professionalism in the initiatives it undertakes and the advice it gives. It does what it says it
LIKE NEW IMMIGRANTS
The Cause is, in short, becoming a familiar and
respected feature of the international landscape in the concluding decade of this century, and it
is of the utmost importance that we ourselves understand this fact. In a sense we are like new
immigrants getting off a plane in North America. In most parts of the world one may live a
lifetime -- and his children and grandchildren after him -- without becoming "Italians" or
"Japanese" or "Norwegians". But almost the only one who does not assume that the new arrival
in New York is an American is the immigrant himself. In much the same way, we are being
challenged to "take yes for an answer" in many areas of our public information work. We must
not let the limitations in our own minds prevent us from understanding this development and the
opportunities it opens up.
"EMBLAZONING THE NAME OF BAHA'U'LLAH"
Now, the House
of Justice tells us that the moment has come for a dramatic new initiative in the Faith's public
presentation of its message. What has so far been achieved creates a setting in which the central
truth of the Bahá'í Cause may appear in its proper perspective, a stage upon which the Author of
the Cause can Himself address our fellow human beings, their institutions, their information
systems, their centers of learning.
All of us have yearned for this day. It will bring together two aspects of our work on which a
perceptive public relations specialist remarked two years ago. In an entirely friendly but
objective manner he expressed the view that there seemed in fact to be "two Bahá'í Faiths: the
one that you share with the public and the private one, the one that motivates what you do. The
difference between these two Faiths is Bahá'u'lláh".
Setting aside the circumstances that have made this distinction a wise and considered strategy,
it is clear that these "two Faiths" are now converging. What are some of the principal
implications of their doing so? In considering them, we would be well advised to keep in mind
that wonderful sentence of the Guardian on the necessary limits on our ability to peer very far
into the future:
"All that we can reasonably venture to attempt is to strive to obtain a glimpse of the first
streaks of that promised Dawn which must, in the fullness of time, chase away the gloom that
has encircled humanity."
With this caution in mind, let us try to identify some of the broad lines which an attempt to
proclaim the name and mission of Bahá'u'lláh to humankind may seek to pursue. Fundamentally,
the summons of the House of Justice requires that we re-examine everything we do in
presenting the message of the Cause to the public. Every media interview, every submission to a
United Nations conference, every public event we organize, every audio-visual presentation we
create, every piece of music composed, every academic paper, any contribution to the drafting
of a national constitution -- in all these activities, we must pose ourselves the question, "How
can this be reformulated so as to point to its source in Bahá'u'lláh?"
BROAD ARRAY OF
Our task is to set in motion a broad array of initiatives that can establish
Bahá'u'lláh's name as a familiar and authoritative voice in human affairs. The goal in the decades
ahead is to reach the point the point where no responsible scholar will undertake work in fields
as diverse as social anthropology, systems research, political and economic science,
administrative theory, psychological methodology -- without consulting Bahá'u'lláh's teachings
and the models He has constructed:
- Where the media will routinely ask, "What does Bahá'u'lláh have to say about X,
Y or Z?"
- Where public agencies will have begun to include citations from Bahá'u'lláh's works in
support of proposals being advanced or analyses made.
- Where the masses of mankind will have begun to know who Bahá'u'lláh is and the nature of the
mission He has undertaken.
Before anything else we need to determine how we are to speak of Bahá'u'lláh
Himself. A beginning has been made in the Statement on Bahá'u'lláh prepared, at the request of
the House of Justice, by the Office of Public Information. Its numerous citations from the
Writings of Bahá'u'lláh suggest a number of ways in which our public information work can
profitably make a start.
As the statement points out, Bahá'u'lláh was the first Manifestation of God to set foot in the
West. This simple fact of history and geography points up one of the great distinctions between
His mission and those of the Messengers of God who preceded Him. Bahá'u'lláh is the Prophet of
civilization. The greater part of His life was spent not in the Galilean countryside nor among the
desert tribes of Arabia, but in the great cities of His world. He did not reject the world as
Buddha did; his mission was to transform and revitalize it. While refusing government
appointments, He moved freely in government circles. Those whom He influenced were not only
the common people, but the ministers, scholars, diplomats and literary figures who eagerly
sought Him out, often traveling long distances for the purpose.
His mastery of both the Persian and Arabic languages and the literary traditions of each
matched the ease with which His writings dealt with the great issues of social and political
organization. He was the Head of a large household, including family, dependents and servants,
and He was able to create around Him an order that defied the privations to which He was
subjected. Even to Ali Pasha, the Turkish prime minister who was to treat Him with such
injustice, He was "a man of great distinction, exemplary conduct, great moderation" whose
doctrine "is worthy of high esteem" and whose influence might help overcome the religious
conflict which was undermining Ottoman society. He was seen as a teacher, a saint, a
philosopher, a reformer. He was the Master of His world, even when it imprisoned Him. He was
neither a recluse nor a fugitive. He did not accept to be a victim.
Second to a realistic presentation of the Person of Bahá'u'lláh, the new stage opening before us
requires a fundamental rethinking of our presentation of His teachings. The shift that is called
for, however simple in nature, is a radical one. We are challenged to move beyond our current
discussion of "Bahá'í principle" to an exposition of what Bahá'u'lláh said, what Bahá'u'lláh
wrote, what Bahá'u'lláh called for, what He explained, foresaw, cautioned against, proposed,
envisioned. We need to share with others how Bahá'u'lláh suggested we look at this or that issue,
how He advised us to approach this or that problem.
Programs of public information must focus, for example, on the implications of Bahá'u'lláh's
searching critique of political organization. Interested segments of public opinion must be made
aware of His application of the principles of scientific method to all aspects of human
consciousness, including those that are "spiritual". Discussions of the developmental and
environmental challenges facing humanity must be related to Bahá'u'lláh's uncompromising
assertion that "women and men are and always have been equal". We will find a wide and
enthusiastic audience for a presentation of the approach to group decision-making that He
conceived and for which the present-day Bahá'í administration presents an early working
model. In short, questions of faith entirely aside, we are challenged to introduce leaders of
thought and the public generally to the Author of a body of writings that propose radically new
approaches to the central issues of life.
Third, Bahá'u'lláh's writings contain an instrument whose impact on the exposition of the
Faith's public message cannot yet be dimly imagined. Underlying the body of His principles and
concepts, Bahá'u'lláh has created a unified, coherent world view, a universal theory of history,
if you like; a comprehensive vision of the nature of man and society. The potentialities of the
unique endowment of the Cause are suggested by an examination of the central role which such
systems of thought have played in humanity's past. "Where there is no vision", the Bible says
simply, "the people perish." There has never been a human society on Earth that has not been
founded on a system of belief that gave meaning and purpose to life. When such systems of belief
fail, the members of those societies cease to make the required sacrifices to maintain essential
social relationships. When this happens a society loses the cohesive power that sustains it, and
disintegration sets in.
"ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE"
This is the universal condition of
our present-day world. A particularly dramatic example is Marxism, both in its political form
as the governing authority in certain blocs of nations, and in its intellectual form as an
aggressive and dogmatic materialism which, for decades, has imposed itself on academic life
everywhere. Its fate was well summed up in a large banner carried through Moscow's Red
Square on last year's May Day: "Seventy-three years on the road to nowhere!" The statement is
not merely a political one; it reflects an appalled awareness that the foundations of social and
intellectual certainty have collapsed. Masses of humanity have awakened to the fact that the
fundamental values and concepts of their society, values that demanded decades of heartbreaking
sacrifice -- and on which were reared an array of imposing political, academic, social and
economic institutions -- were not merely fundamentally wrong, but were largely nonsense.
Speaking of this day, the Qur'an says that "the mountains will pass away like the passing of a
vapor in the desert".
UNIVERSAL LOSS OF FAITH
The loss of faith in the great world
views on which the social systems of our world are founded is not confined to one part of that
world; it is universal. Whether those systems of thought are pseudo-scientific like Marxism, or
purely pragmatic like capitalism, or humanistic like Liberal Democracy, or quite pathological
like Nazism and Fascism, they have lost their hold on the minds of those who once worshipped at
In the words addressed by the Voice of God to Bahá'u'lláh:
"Canst thou discover anyone but Me, O Pen, in this Day? . . . Lo, the entire creation hath passed
away! Nothing remaineth except My Face . . . We have, then, called into being a new creation, as
a token of our grace unto men."
As we explore the public information field thus open to us, we will find that what makes
Bahá'u'lláh's world view unique is that it is truly universal. Unlike all the systems that
preceded it, it embraces not only the entire diversity of the human race, but the entirety of
human experience. Nothing that is truly human is alien to it.
As we ourselves come to understand this resource more clearly, we will be able to communicate
its message to society in general, a society whose search for such a vision will become ever
more urgent. The expectation is not that Bahá'u'lláh's vision will become readily adopted. The
expectation is that it will begin to engage serious minds everywhere and, in popular forms of
expression, the attention of the general public. Once this process begins, the eventual outcome is
as certain as tomorrow's sun.
The forthcoming publication of the Kitab-i-Aqdas points us to a fourth area in which the
historic encounter between Bahá'u'lláh and humankind will take place. It is not merely the
prevailing systems of thought that have broken down, but human values themselves. We live in a
world that has entirely lost its moral moorings, in which all of the ethical reference points of
the past have been entirely swept away. The effect on the masses of humanity, leaders and led
alike, has been to create the deepest anxiety of which human beings are capable.
In a famous passage of his writings, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats described our age as one in which
"the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity". Questions
that touch the human heart most deeply, that cry out for reflection and a spirit of consultation,
are transformed by battling groups of extremists into rigid formulae and cookie-cutter tests of
human decency. In such a world, the majority of society's members withdraw into helplessness
and increasingly desperate silence.
Merely to mention this prevailing climate is to make it clear how vital it is that we Bahá'ís not
"get in the way", so to speak, but rather help our fellow human beings to find their own
relationship with Bahá'u'lláh and the prescriptions He has brought. He is the Physician of the
soul, not we. He knows human nature as intimately as He knew the palm of His own hand. He
knows the pattern of habits and attitudes that constitutes true human development, and He
understands the inner disciplines and social restraints that conduce to this development.
It is in this context, surely, that we must seek to help the institutions of society and the public
generally to understand the nature and purpose of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. The Aqdas is not,
Bahá'u'lláh explains, "a mere code of laws", a list of do's and don'ts. It is, in His words, "the
choice wine of reunion" with God. And it is through reunion that human minds can ascend to "the
station conferred upon their inmost beings, the station of the knowledge of their own selves".
THE COVENANT OF BAHA'U'LLAH
Finally, because we live in an age which seeks
objective evidence -- and which has every support in Bahá'u'lláh's writings to do so -- we need
to acquaint society with the real implications of the work which Bahá'u'lláh has done. This work
includes the global community He has brought into being. Those around us will be able to
appreciate this extraordinary achievement to the degree that they see its relevance to the fate of
humanity as a whole.
The key to this understanding is the Covenant. The coming-of-age of the human race has made
possible, Bahá'u'lláh says, an entirely new relationship between God and man. As the peoples of
the world gradually turn to God and begin to conform their lives to the pattern of human society
contained in His Revelation for this day, "a new race of men" will result. The unification of
human consciousness will produce a people free of the limitations that created and perpetuated
the problems now facing the planet.
This process is irresistible, and its manifestations can be seen in every aspect of contemporary
history. It provides the context in which Bahá'u'lláh's creation of the Bahá'í community assumes
its proper significance. For Bahá'u'lláh has not merely outlined a theory of social evolution; nor
has He contented Himself with the creation of a model. The Bahá'í community, with all its
limitations and shortcomings, is itself the nucleus of the emerging "race of men". To the degree
that we understand this dimension of the Revelation, to that extent will we be able, in the words
of the House of Justice, to "celebrate the achievements of the Covenant, and proclaim its aims
and unifying power".
"O people of Baha," Bahá'u'lláh urges, "be not careless of the virtues with which ye have been
endowed . . ." The Bahá'í community, even at its present embryonic stage of development,
possesses features that are unique, features that will one day characterize the humanity of our
What are they?
The first and most fundamental of them is unity. Unity is the mainspring of humanity's future.
Except for the Bahá'í community, there is no association of human beings on the planet,
religious, political, racial or social -- nor has there ever been one -- that possesses this
attribute. Ultimately, it alone will exert a compelling power of attraction on a world which is
daily coming to realize that disunity is the ultimate source of its dangers and suffer ing. "So
powerful is the light of unity", Bahá'u'lláh asserts, "that it can illumine the whole earth."
Second only to its unity is the universality of the community that Bahá'u'lláh has created. No
one is left out, no one takes second place. There is no corner of the earth where the pattern of
life taught by Bahá'u'lláh has not taken root; no culture, no people which does not play its full
A NEW SYSTEM OF VALUES
Third, the emerging human race must be imbued
with an entirely new system of values, a new ethos. It must be guided by an inner ethical
orientation relevant to the challenges of the next stage in human development. Such a
transformation cannot come from legislation and education alone. "Is it within human power . . .
", Bahá'u'lláh asks, "to effect . . . so complete a transformation . . . ?" Yet, the evidences of just
such a fundamental change are already apparent in the ethos which Bahá'u'lláh has fused into the
worldwide Bahá'u'lláh community, not as an imposed code, but as a pattern of spontaneous moral
Fourth, if it is to assume responsibility for its own destiny, the human race must achieve
collective consciousness. It must be able to think and decide collectively. The Administrative
Order conceived by Bahá'u'lláh endows the community of His followers with this unique faculty.
It exists nowhere else in our world, and is a feature of the Cause that has evoked particularly
warn appreciation from our collaborators and well-wishers. From the grassroots level in the
most remote corners of the globe, up to the central organ of decision-making which the
community has raised up on the slopes of Mount Carmel, a unified pattern of consultation
provides an early glimmer of what Bahá'u'lláh intended when He spoke of God cherishing in His
heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as "one soul in one body".
The problems confronting the human race highlight the crucial importance of yet another
power with which it must somehow become endowed. Nothing has so daunted contemporary
efforts to heal and protect our tortured planet than the awareness of the enormity of the
exercise of human will that such efforts will require. To realize this is to gain a new
appreciation of the significance of the systematic prosecution of the Divine Plan to which the
Bahá'í community has devoted itself. For decades, tens of thousands of ordinary people willingly
accepted every type of sacrifice, solely out of love for Bahá'u'lláh. Struggling young institutions
diverted their best resources to pursuing distant goals which had no immediate relevance to
their own needs. That a community of five million people has today become the most widespread
religion on earth, second only to Christianity, is a feat of sheer will unparalleled in human
history. No body of people has ever set itself such staggering goals and then systematically
achieved them, stage after stage, plan after plan.
Nor is it only obstacles and challenges which lie ahead of a united humanity. As contemporary
events show all too clearly, there are in the human ego impulses of perversity and selfishness
that will resist to the utmost every effort of the race to change course. The religious literature
of all peoples is filled with warnings of the titanic struggle between the forces of Light and
Darkness that will result. In such a perspective, the Bahá'í community may well reflect deeply
on the power of endurance with which it has met recurrent waves of persecution and suffering.
The experience of the Iranian friends over the past 11 years provides a glimpse into the
community's spiritual reserves in this respect. One thinks of the summer of 1983 when the
persecution was reaching its peak. In June of that summer the Iranian authorities paraded the
entire national leadership of the Tudeh (communist) party on national television. The prisoners
willingly confessed to every crime charged against them, and begged for their lives. During that
same eventful month 10 Bahá'í women and girls were subjected to similar physical and mental
abuse in an effort to force them to recant their Faith. Their persecutors did not dare to put them
on television because these brutalities produced not a vestige of compliance. One thinks of
Bahá'u'lláh's ringing assurance:
"All praise be to God Who hath adorned the world with an ornament, and arrayed it with a
vesture, of which it can be despoiled by no earthly power . . . Say: the springs that sustain the
life of these birds are not of this world. Their source is far above the reach and the ken of human
apprehension. Who is there that can put out the light which the snow-white Hand of God hath
GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND
There are several other features of the present-
day Bahá'í community that are relevant to humanity's future, but one of gaining particular
respect among our friends. The greatest gift of God to mankind, Bahá'u'lláh says, is reason.
Whatever force and faith may have achieved in the earlier stages in the advancement of
civilization, rationality is the key to humanity's future. Bahá'ís have reason to feel proud of the
informed and balanced contributions that their community is making in international forums
everywhere. The development of the faculty is a feature of the growing maturation of the Faith's
institutions, a development which the beloved Guardian foresaw as coinciding, in the closing
years of this century, with the emergence of the Lesser Peace and the completion of the complex
of the structures that constitute the World Center of the Faith.
These capacities do not arise out of any virtue of the constituent elements of the Bahá'í
community, much less its individual members. They are purely and simply endowments of
Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant. We manifest them to the extent that we ourselves are within the
Covenant, but the Covenant does not belong to us. It is Bahá'u'lláh's legacy to the whole of
humankind: "O people of Baha! That there are none to rival you is a sign of mercy . . ."
But, as the work of the Covenant, the community of Bahá'u'lláh represents nothing less than the
arrowhead of the evolution of consciousness. One thinks of similar fundamental changes at
earlier stages in the evolutionary process. How feeble, how insignificant was the first
manifestation of sensate life on this planet. And yet it was the future and everything else had
meaning because of it. It was where evolution was going; the trees and mountains, however
beautiful and imposing, represented where evolution had come from.
The Bahá'í community, with all it signifies, is Bahá'u'lláh's achievement, the result of His
vision, His leadership, His teachings. He is its Creator and Sustainer.
Embarking on the task of "emblazoning the name of Bahá'u'lláh across the planet"
will open up opportunities in each of the areas touched on in the foregoing. In all of them we will
face a common challenge. Through a century of patient effort on our part, an image of the Cause
has emerged as a body of people committed to principles of peace and brotherhood, rational and
trustworthy in their undertakings, and working with other people of goodwill in programs for
the improvement of the life of humankind. This image is an accurate representation of the Cause
and one of which we can be justly proud. Now we are about to share with the society around us
the motivating power of this phenomenon. But Bahá'u'lláh is not merely a Teacher or Reformer.
He is, in the unforgettable words of the Guardian, "the Judge, the Lawgiver, the Redeemer of all
How do we put this together for our friends? For us, it is all one. Bahá'u'lláh is the Source of
all the expressions of the Cause, and there is no discontinuity in the historical, intellectual or
spiritual processes by which they have emerged. But others will not have this background of
understanding. How will our public information programs bridge the resulting gap in the public
The answers are as many as the questions. Essentially, however, our challenge is to begin
energetically to interpret Bahá'u'lláh's mission in the vocabulary and concerns of those around
us. Certainly there will be the indisposed. We have already had some experience of the storms of
opposition that the proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh's mission will provoke. But a growing majority
of those to whom our message is addressed will be people who want to understand, however
skeptical, critical or reluctant they may appear.
The challenge is particularly acute for those Bahá'ís who enjoy the advantages of education,
opportunity and association. They are called on to relate Bahá'u'lláh's teachings to the concerns
of their colleagues; to communicate His vision to leaders of thought; to focus their skills on
building bridges between the insights of their disciplines, on the one hand, and the relevant
truths in Bahá'u'lláh's writings, on the other.
PREOCCUPATION WITH "CONVERSION"
So far, our efforts in the field of public information have not been able to escape a certain
connotation of exclusivity that inevitably arises from our parallel efforts at teaching. Given the
history of religion, any effort to present a new Faith raises a preoccupation with the issue of
"conversion". To discuss a community and its goals similarly tends to focus attention on
membership. We should not be surprised if, in the minds of others, a certain sense of "us and
To realize this is to understand why we must now make an heroic effort to shed all of our
parochial views. It has been essential to establish the credentials of the Faith as an independent
religious system. But the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh goes far beyond anything that humanity
understands by the word "religion". If the ecclesiastical systems of our world are religion, then
the Cause is not; if it is religion, then they really are not. It does a disservice to the mission of
Bahá'u'lláh, to the World Order which He has come to establish, to focus our public message in
As the Prophet of global civilization, Bahá'u'lláh addresses all of
humankind. The principles in His writings, the vision of civilization He
propounds, His prescriptions for the moral reformation of society and
human nature are a universal legacy, without conditions, without prior
commitment. The new Covenant between God and man which He proclaims is not
an organization nor an ideology, but a universal reality operating within
every soul and between all souls. It is readily accessible to independent
investigation and discovery, "the axis of the oneness of the world of
humanity". It is reality. Ultimately it will engage the minds and spirits
of all people, because the nature of reality is to do so.