Sunday, March 22, 2009

Response to persecutions: Single-minded dedication to the prosecution of the Five Year Plan

May this excerpt from today's momentous message from the Universal House of Justice marking the Anniversary the interment by 'Abdu'l-Baha of the sacred remains of the Bab in their permanent resting place on God's holy mountain, inspire us to still greater sacrifice in fulfilling our sacred responsibilities for our beloved Cause -

"All of us long for the alleviation of [the] trials and tribulations [of the friends in Iran].  What we must realise is that this longing may best be expressed through single-minded dedication to the prosecution of the Five Year Plan.  All of us then should seize the opportunities that present themselves for the advancement of the Cause, confident that the victories won will bring abiding joy to the members of the long-suffering, renowned community in the native land of the Blessed Beauty."

The Universal House of Justice

21 March 2009

To the Baha'is of the World

This Naw-Ruz marks the centenary of one of the outstanding events in the Apostolic Age of the Baha'i Dispensation, the interment by 'Abdu'l-Baha of the sacred remains of the Bab in their permanent resting place on God's holy mountain. In the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha: "The most joyful tidings is this, that the holy, the luminous body of the Bab ... after having for sixty years been transferred from place to place, by reason of the ascendancy of the enemy, and from fear of the malevolent, and having known neither rest nor tranquillity has, through the mercy of the Abha Beauty, been ceremoniously deposited, on the day of Naw-Ruz, within the sacred casket, in the exalted Shrine on Mt. Carmel."

In commemoration of that triumph of the Cause, the members of the Universal House of Justice, accompanied by the members of the International Teaching Centre, have today offered prayers of thanksgiving in the Shrine of the Bab on behalf of the worldwide Baha'i community, expressing gratitude for the unfailing divine protection vouchsafed to the Cause of God. In their solemn contemplation, their hearts were stirred as they recalled the indelible image of the Master left to posterity when, on this day a hundred years ago, having with His own hands laid that peerless Trust in its final place of repose, He rested His head upon the edge of the blessed casket of the Bab, and "sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him". They remembered, too, the manifold obstacles with which He had been confronted in constructing this sacred edifice and His unbounded relief at having accomplished one of the principal objectives of His Ministry.

A century ago, the Faith was emerging from a period of severe crisis during which the incarceration of 'Abdu'l-Baha by His inveterate antagonists in the Ottoman Empire had been renewed, a grievous assault on the unity of the Cause had been launched by the Covenant-breakers, and an upsurge in the persecution of the heroic Persian believers had produced a fresh wave of sacrifice. In the immediate future there lay dazzling victories. The strenuous and fate-laden journeys of 'Abdu'l-Baha to the western world would release incalculable spiritual powers destined to give rise to unprecedented progress of the Faith in the American and European continents He visited. The Tablets of the Divine Plan would set in motion processes designed to bring about, in due course, the spiritual transformation of the planet. The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha would establish the basis for a future world order.

Today the Cause of God is again confronted by cruel and relentless opponents seeking in vain to eradicate it in the land of its birth. However, this is occurring in a world far different from that of a hundred years ago, when the Faith was largely unknown and its defenders were few. From all parts of the world the followers of Baha'u'llah appeal for justice, while providing, in the example of their lives, compelling evidence of the absurdity of the accusations levelled against their Iranian brethren. In this appeal they are joined by fair-minded people of all backgrounds, including thousands of Iranians who express their concern at the denial of the human rights of their Baha'i compatriots.

The sacrifices of the Bab and the dawn-breakers of the Cause are yielding abundant fruit. Energized and confident, the followers of the Greatest Name throughout the world have mobilized their resources in a vast and concerted endeavour to offer the healing balm of Baha'u'llah's Teachings to the multitudes of humanity. The magnificent progress achieved over the past century demonstrates the invincible power with which the Cause is endowed. It is but a portent of the ultimate realization of the oneness of humankind.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

The Art of Teaching Heart-to-Heart: A comment

This edifying comment on the question of the need for those accepting the Faith to sign declaration cards was posted by our experienced teacher-friend Richard to the Yahoo! newsgroup "gnats into Eagles" on 19 March. Used with his kind permission.

The writings state we should deliver the Message in a simple language addressed to the heart. The writings state we should teach in such a manner that "the seeker should SPONTANEOUSLY be IMPELLED to embrace the Faith."

Over the 48 years I have been a Baha'i I have worked at learning to put these factors into a spiritual context of presenting the Faith.

I have well educated people with good minds just sit and nod in agreement and allow me to enroll them without coments or questions. I felt their mind shut off and they were in a spiritual condition that felt so very right with them.I could see the body language as they leaned forward and some touched my hand. When asked if I could bring them into the Faith they said yes. They never saw the card and when it was present to them for a signature they put their name on it in what seemed such a natural thing to do. Now remember many asked many questions! It happened to different people in different ways.

Our society says, don't trust anyone, don't sign any thing till you ckeck it out with a lawyer.

The Guardian's wife said, she would never sign that enrollment card that stated, "I will obey [the Baha'i] laws and institutions."

Many Baha'i National Spiritual Assemblies have never had an enrollment card to be signed. It is a U.S.-thing. Sign them up!!!!!!!!!

I have had a number of special people who have accepted the Faith turn 180 degrees away from any futher involvement when they were asked to sign up!!!

The signing up changes the dynamic from Heart to Heart to a legalistic or should I wait to learn all about the laws and institution before I sign. It turns into into a "head" [rather than a "heart"] trip.

Now remember I get enrollments each year and with the exception of Natives which you don't have to have a card signed, and I have had to get cards signed all my Baha'i life.

"A spiritual-accepting enrollment-getting Baha'i"

A further of his perceptive comments (of 20 March) which highlights an effective attitude in teaching the Faith:

"I find when I have warm feelings about a situation that I can communicate with whoever it is in a more effective manner. So I resist thinking about anything negative about what is going on. I just look at what I can praise."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flexibility re card signature in declaration process

Useful guidelines from the U.S. National Assembly on the process of registering those declaring their faith in Bahá'u'lláh - as relayed in the Yahoo! group "gnats into Eagles."

The Regional Council [for the Southern States] recently received additional clarification regarding the new "registration cards" and processes for registering a new youth or adult believer.

The National Spiritual Assembly [of the United States] no longer requires the signature of a new believer on the card if he/she has accepted Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God for this age. The teacher of the new believer can
fill out the card for him/her and quickly pass it along to the involved Local Spiritual Assembly. The new believer can sign the card if he wishes to but it is not required.

If the new believer is registering his/her children or junior youth, the parent's signature is still required.

This is a significant change in our processes for teaching and we encourage you to consult on this and relay this information onto your teachers in the field. The Regional Council will also send correspondence to the Local Spiritual Assemblies to this effect.

Loving regards,


Assistant Secretary for Cluster Advancement
Regional Bahá'í Council of the Southeastern States

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Core activites aspect of Baha'i peace education

A concise presentation of the Core Activities

Integrated into the Faith's ongoing community development, and central to the expansion and consolidation of the Faith:

Referred to as the Core Activities of the Baha'i community, they constitute a four-fold process of community development for peace involving small community study circles, devotional gatherings, neighborhood moral and spiritual education classes for children, and gatherings for youth. Learning is facilitated by local community members who complete tutor training programs and subsequently engage the wider community in creative, culturally appropriate applications of development activities. They are described in more detail in Table 1. The Core Activity initiative began in Colombia some 20 years ago and has since spread to over 100 countries in all four continents. Local, regional, national and international statistics and anecdotal summaries on the progress of the Core Activities are gathered every three months from all Baha'i communities around the world. From the local to the international level, statistics and lessons learned are analyzed and used for increased understanding, to stimulate areas of promising growth and to encourage local human resource development. Anecdotal data is compiled thematically into regular international circulars informing the Baha'i community around the world about progress made towards community development for a peaceful world.

Table 1: Core Activities



Ruhi Study Circles

To build communities of learning composed of Baha'is and their friends, colleagues and associates, that promote individual and collective spiritual transformation through study and practical application of thematically grouped sacred texts. Two of the seven units of study are devoted to the spiritual education of children and youth, an understanding of their spiritual destiny in the processes of peace building, and encouragement of all youth and adults in the community to mentor, teach and value children.

Neighborhood children's classes

To engage Baha'i and non-Baha'i children and their parents in moral and spiritual transformation and competency development through service learning.

Junior youth gatherings

To engage adolescents of all or no religious affiliation, between the ages of 11-14, in peer clusters of positive influence and mutual support. Junior youth animators are frequently young adults who work creatively to address issues of identity, moral leadership and build skill in contributing towards solving local problems. The young adults also serve the function of role models for the younger teens and provide them with alternatives to risky behaviors while developing confidence and leadership capacity.

Devotional gatherings

Devotional gatherings. Goal: To provide neighborhood forums for people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, to say prayers together, read from sacred writings and discuss spiritual themes in a collaborative and artistic manner.

Each of these four themes operates in local, regional, national and international settings. They involve a unique blend of structure and agency balancing guidance from Baha’i Sacred Texts, administration and mentorship from Baha’i Institutions who regularly seek dialogue and feedback opportunities to inform decision making, and individual initiatives that are encouraged and supported by the Institutions.

From the document Baha'i Faith and Peace Education, by Marie Gervais, University of Alberta Canada

[DOC] Baha'i Faith and Peace Education chapter

What are Core activities? What are Baha'i Core activities?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Children's education - enthusiastic response to a crying need

This story is from Chantelle's blog. One ordinary girl doing an extraordinary service (in China) - check out her reporting!
More on moral education:

Sunday, February 22, 2009

lane lives

Amazing experience yesterday. A Chinese friend and I went around the lane I live down asking parents if they would like to come over to my place to hear a presentation on character education for their children, a free service we are offering in the neighbourhood once a week. We had an overwhelmingly positive response. So great! It was such an interesting process to even discover where and how my neighbours live, in such a contrast to my comforts. Peter, my little 7 year old friend I met when I was locked out of my flat a few months ago, took my friend and I to each home he had friends at, running ahead, winding down dark dark hallways and up the steepest wooden stairs with absolutely no light, to find a family of three in a room about 4 by 5 meters big, kitchen, toilet, double bed, cupboard, table, stick figure crayon drawings on the wall from the little girl, all smack bang next to each other, sitting eating lunch and watching tv together. My friend told them what we were offering and the grandmother was very interested and happy and said she'd come along. A lot of them could not understand that it was free, we had to repeat that over and over again! The next kid…peter ran ahead weaving in and out of the alleyways, taking us again what seemed like going through someone's house but it was the communal hallway, people brushing their teeth in cups, or hanging their socks out on the communal line, or cooking lunch in the shared kitchen, what a sight. We knocked on the door of this tiny room/house to find a little girl about 6 years old cuddled up in her blankets in her bunk bed alone, her parents don't live in Shanghai she told us so she lives with her grandma who was out working. Peter kept talking to her about the class with lots of enthusiasm and she gave us her grandma's number to call. The sight of a tiny girl in this room/house with only a bunk bed (the top bunk bed was used as the cupboard full with clothes, food supplies, toilet paper, you name it) and a single bed for her grandma, was just so shocking and yet so beautifully simple how they live. Considering I live next door to them and live like a queen, I felt guilty...but it's all relative I guess, well more like it's all learning, and we all have different capacities, especially when it comes to living conditions! I am definitely the 'spoilt westerner' whose comfort levels differ somewhat!
We met another 5 parents, some in the middle of their work, dry-cleaning clothes in a steamy tiny space with a child sitting on the bench, all so excited about this programme, and they came into my flat looking around the place in awe and amazement, I felt ashamed in a way to live like this after seeing how they live but they were so sweet and open. A couple of kids came along to and I fed them popcorn, they took one bite and spat it out! They had never had salty popcorn before, in china it's always sweet (I had gotten this packet from the western supermarket!) so cute, but also a small reminder 'when in china be like the chinese'.
My friend and I were initially so nervous, worrying how the parents may re-act to this but they were so positive. A young mother kept saying 'thank you, thank you, thank you. All our kids do when they come home is play, its good for them to have this.' A lot of the parents could not read, we discovered as we gave the power point presentation, but that did not matter. We shared the quotation from Baha'u'llah that 'Man is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can alone cause it to reveal it's treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.' We asked them what is a mine? How is a human being like a mine? What do we need to develop? And discussed the importance of parents and mothers especially as they are the first educators of children. We even touched on the dual nature of man, the three different types of education Abdul Baha spoke of - material, human and spiritual. How they are all very important but we seem to lack spiritual education in our current school systems and how it is really the most important one of the three.
"Material education is concerned with the development of the body. Human education is about civilization and progress. It deals with government, administration, charitable works, trades, arts and handicrafts, sciences, great inventions and discoveries. Spiritual education consists in acquiring divine perfections. This is true education, for by its aid the spiritual, the higher nature of the human being is developed."

I was just so happy to have them in my house and to be having this kind of conversation with people that had just passed me on the street, said 'Ni hao' and that was about it! Yet again China blows me away, the purity of their hearts and openness of their minds.
On a different note one mother pointed out she makes the slippers that I had offered people to wear! Those details just hit it home to me, and a friend reminded me that 'the meek and humble shall inherit the earth', and seeing their responses to our neighbourhood children's class, you can sense that. And for all the extremes of wealth and poverty that are smacked in your face here in Shanghai, knowing that these gorgeous people have such a high spiritual destiny, puts my heart at peace.

So next Saturday, here go… 7 kids coming to my place for Baha'i inspired children's classes!! My Chinese friend will run it and I'll assist! Soooo excited!!