Japan, in the Hawaiian Islands, in Tunisia, in Puerto Rico, in Bal˙chistán, in Russia, in Transjordan, in Lebanon, and in Abyssinia such councils, constituting the basis of the rising Order of a long-persecuted Faith, were gradually established. Designated as "Spiritual Assemblies"--an appellation that must in the course of time be replaced by their permanent and more descriptive title of "Houses of Justice," bestowed upon them by the Author of the Bahá'í Revelation; instituted, without any exception, in every city, town and village where nine or more adult believers are resident; annually and directly elected, on the first day of the greatest Bahá'í Festival by all adult believers, men and women alike; invested with an authority rendering them unanswerable for their acts and decisions to those who elect them; solemnly pledged to follow, under all conditions, the dictates of the "Most Great Justice" that can alone usher in the reign of the "Most Great Peace" which Bahá'u'lláh has proclaimed and must ultimately establish; charged with the responsibility of promoting at all times the best interests of the communities within their jurisdiction, of familiarizing them with their plans and activities and of inviting them to offer any recommendations they might wish to make; cognizant of their no less vital task of demonstrating, through association with all liberal and humanitarian movements, the universality and comprehensiveness of their Faith; dissociated entirely from all sectarian organizations, whether religious or secular; assisted by committees annually appointed by, and directly responsible to, them, to each of which a particular branch of Bahá'í activity is assigned for study and action; supported by local funds to which all believers voluntarily contribute; these Assemblies, the representatives and custodians of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, numbering, at the present time, several hundred, and whose membership is drawn from the diversified races, creeds and classes constituting the world-wide Bahá'í community, have, in the course of the last two decades, abundantly demonstrated, by virtue of their achievements, their right to be regarded as the chief sinews of Bahá'í society, as well as the ultimate foundation of its administrative structure.
"The Lord hath ordained," is Bahá'u'lláh's injunction in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, "that in every city a House of Justice be established, wherein shall gather counsellors to the number of Bahá (9), and should it exceed this number, it doth not matter. It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men, and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together, and to have regard
for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly." "These Spiritual Assemblies," is `Abdu'l-Bahá's testimony, in a Tablet addressed to an American believer, "are aided by the Spirit of God. Their defender is `Abdu'l-Bahá. Over them He spreadeth His Wings. What bounty is there greater than this?" "These Spiritual Assemblies," He, in that same Tablet has declared, "are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction. They, indeed, are the potent sources of the progress of man, at all times and under all conditions." Establishing beyond any doubt their God-given authority, He has written: "It is incumbent upon every one not to take any step without consulting the Spiritual Assembly, and all must assuredly obey with heart and soul its bidding, and be submissive unto it, that things may be properly ordered and well arranged." "If after discussion," He, furthermore has written, "a decision be carried unanimously, well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail."
Having established the structure of their local Assemblies--the base of the edifice which the Architect of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had directed them to erect--His disciples, in both the East and the West, unhesitatingly embarked on the next and more difficult stage, of their high enterprise. In countries where the local Bahá'í communities had sufficiently advanced in number and in influence measures were taken for the initiation of National Assemblies, the pivots round which all national undertakings must revolve. Designated by `Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will as the "Secondary Houses of Justice," they constitute the electoral bodies in the formation of the International House of Justice, and are empowered to direct, unify, c÷ordinate and stimulate the activities of individuals as well as local Assemblies within their jurisdiction. Resting on the broad base of organized local communities, themselves pillars sustaining the institution which must be regarded as the apex of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, these Assemblies are elected, according to the principle of proportional representation, by delegates representative of Bahá'í local communities assembled at Convention during the period of the Ridván Festival; are possessed of the necessary authority to enable them to insure the harmonious and efficient development of Bahá'í activity within their respective spheres; are freed from all direct responsibility for their policies and decisions to their electorates; are charged with the
sacred duty of consulting the views, of inviting the recommendations and of securing the confidence and c÷operation of the delegates and of acquainting them with their plans, problems and actions; and are supported by the resources of national funds to which all ranks of the faithful are urged to contribute. Instituted in the United States of America (1925) (the National Assembly superseding in that country the institution of Bahá'í Temple Unity formed during `Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry), in the British Isles (1923), in Germany (1923), in Egypt (1924), in Iraq (1931), in India (1923), in Persia (1934) and in Australia (1934); their election renewed annually by delegates whose number has been fixed, according to national requirements, at 9, 19, 95, or 171 (9 times 19), these national bodies have through their emergence signalized the birth of a new epoch in the Formative Age of the Faith, and marked a further stage in the evolution, the unification and consolidation of a continually expanding community. Aided by national committees responsible to and chosen by them, without discrimination, from among the entire body of the believers within their jurisdiction, and to each of which a particular sphere of Bahá'í service is allocated, these Bahá'í National Assemblies have, as the scope of their activities steadily enlarged, proved themselves, through the spirit of discipline which they have inculcated and through their uncompromising adherence to principles which have enabled them to rise above all prejudices of race, nation, class and color, capable of administering, in a remarkable fashion, the multiplying activities of a newly-consolidated Faith.
Nor have the national committees themselves been less energetic and devoted in the discharge of their respective functions. In the defense of the Faith's vital interests, in the exposition of its doctrine; in the dissemination of its literature; in the consolidation of its finances; in the organization of its teaching force; in the furtherance of the solidarity of its component parts; in the purchase of its historic sites; in the preservation of its sacred records, treasures and relics; in its contacts with the various institutions of the society of which it forms a part; in the education of its youth; in the training of its children; in the improvement of the status of its women adherents in the East; the members of these diversified agencies, operating under the aegis of the elected national representatives of the Bahá'í community, have amply demonstrated their capacity to promote effectively its vital and manifold interests. The mere enumeration of the national committees which, originating mostly in the West and functioning with exemplary efficiency in the United States and Canada,
now carry on their activities with a vigor and a unity of purpose which sharply contrast with the effete institutions of a moribund civilization, would suffice to reveal the scope of these auxiliary institutions which an evolving Administrative Order, still in the secondary stage of its development, has set in motion: The Teaching Committee, the Regional Teaching Committees; the Inter-America Committee; the Publishing Committee; the Race Unity Committee; the Youth Committee; the Reviewing Committee; The Temple Maintenance Committee; the Temple Program Committee; the Temple Guides Committee; the Temple Librarian and Sales Committee; the Boys' and Girls' Service Committees; the Child Education Committee; the Women's Progress, Teaching, and Program Committees; the Legal Committee; the Archives and History Committee; the Census Committee; the Bahá'í Exhibits Committee; the Bahá'í News Committee; the Bahá'í News Service Committee; the Braille Transcriptions Committee; the Contacts Committee; the Service Committee; the Editorial Committee; the Index Committee; the Library Committee; the Radio Committee; the Accountant Committee; the Annual Souvenir Committee; the Bahá'í World Editorial Committee; the Study Outline Committee; the International Auxiliary Language Committee; the Institute of Bahá'í Education Committee; the World Order Magazine Committee; the Bahá'í Public Relations Committee; the Bahá'í Schools Committee; the Summer Schools Committee; the International School Committee; the Pamphlet Literature Committee; the Bahá'í Cemetery Committee; the Hazíratu'l-Quds Committee; the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár Committee; the Assembly Development Committee; the National History Committee; the Miscellaneous Materials Committee; the Free Literature Committee; the Translation Committee; the Cataloguing Tablets Committee; the Editing Tablets Committee; the Properties Committee; the Adjustments Committee; the Publicity Committee; the East and West Committee; the Welfare Committee; the Transcription of Tablets Committee; the Traveling Teachers Committee; the Bahá'í Education Committee; the Holy Sites Committee; the Children's Savings Bank Committee.
The establishment of local and national Assemblies and the subsequent formation of local and national committees, acting as necessary adjuncts to the elected representatives of Bahá'í communities in both the East and the West, however remarkable in themselves, were but a prelude to a series of undertakings on the part of the newly formed National Assemblies, which have contributed in no small measure to the unification of the Bahá'í world community and the consolidation
of its Administrative Order. The initial step taken in that direction was the drafting and adoption of a Bahá'í National constitution, first framed and promulgated by the elected representatives of the American Bahá'í Community in 1927, the text of which has since, with slight variations suited to national requirements, been translated into Arabic, German and Persian, and constitutes, at the present time, the charter of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, of the British Isles, of Germany, of Persia, of Iraq, of India and Burma, of Egypt and the S˙dán and of Australia and New Zealand. Heralding the formulation of the constitution of the future Bahá'í World Community; submitted for the consideration of all local Assemblies and ratified by the entire body of the recognized believers in countries possessing national Assemblies, this national constitution has been supplemented by a similar document, containing the by-laws of Bahá'í local assemblies, first drafted by the New York Bahá'í community in November, 1931, and accepted as a pattern for all local Bahá'í constitutions. The text of this national constitution comprises a Declaration of Trust, whose articles set forth the character and objects of the national Bahá'í community, establish the functions, designate the central office, and describe the official seal, of the body of its elected representatives, as well as a set of by-laws which define the status, the mode of election, the powers and duties of both local and national Assemblies, describe the relation of the National Assembly to the International House of Justice as well as to local Assemblies and individual believers, outline the rights and obligations of the National Convention and its relation to the National Assembly, disclose the character of Bahá'í elections, and lay down the requirements of voting membership in all Bahá'í communities.
The framing of these constitutions, both local and national, identical to all intents and purposes in their provisions, provided the necessary foundation for the legal incorporation of these administrative institutions in accordance with civil statutes controlling religious or commercial bodies. Giving these Assemblies a legal standing, this incorporation greatly consolidated their power and enlarged their capacity, and in this regard the achievement of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada and the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of New York again set an example worthy of emulation by their sister Assemblies in both the East and the West. The incorporation of the American National Spiritual Assembly as a voluntary Trust, a species of corporation recognized under the common law, enabling it to enter into contract, hold property and
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