The Bahá’í community’s commitment to social and economic development is rooted in its sacred scriptures, which state that all human beings “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.”
Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.”
Fundamental to Bahá’í belief is the conviction that every person, every people, every nation has a part to play in building a peaceful and prosperous global society.
Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “Take ye counsel together, and let your concern be only for that which profiteth mankind and bettereth the condition thereof . . .”
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Released online today and distributed to delegates at the 12th International Baha’i Convention, a new edition of the publication For the Betterment of the World provides an illustration of the Baha’i community’s ongoing process of learning and action in the field of social and economic development.
The publication, prepared by the Office of Social and Economic Development at the Baha’i World Centre, highlights fundamental concepts that guide Baha’i efforts in social action. Among its core premises are that “[a]ll of the earth’s inhabitants should be able to enjoy the fruits of a materially and spiritually prosperous society” and that “every population has the right and responsibility to mark out the path of its own progress.”
Much of the publication is dedicated to providing practical examples of projects undertaken in diverse parts of the world, irrespective of typical dichotomies—rural and urban, “North” and “South.” It describes a sampling of Baha’i development endeavors across a broad spectrum, ranging from grassroots efforts of limited duration undertaken by individuals or small groups, to sophisticated programs of social and economic development implemented by Baha’i-inspired nongovernmental organizations. The publication also explains how, most often, development endeavors emerge and advance within localities that have a pronounced sense of community and a growing collective consciousness.
Baha’i social and economic development initiatives address various aspects of community life, and For the Betterment of the World explores some of these, such as education, health, agriculture, the economic life of communities, arts and media, and the advancement of women. The publication also explores how knowledge is being captured and systematized by organizations and Baha’i institutions at various levels of society, from the grassroots to the international.
Regardless of the specific nature or scale of an initiative, Baha’i endeavors for social and economic development operate on the principle that populations should be the protagonists of their own material, spiritual, and intellectual advancement, not just recipients of aid or mere participants. All Baha’i-inspired initiatives are motivated by a desire to serve humanity and seek to promote the social and material well-being of all people. Taken together, Baha’i social action efforts represent a growing process of learning that is concerned with applying the teachings of Baha’u’llah, along with knowledge accumulated in different fields of human endeavor, to social reality.
This edition of For the Betterment of the World is the third, following versions published in 2003 and 2008. Copies of the new publication have been made available to the more than 1,300 delegates that have arrived for the International Baha’i Convention, which begins on 29 April 2018. A copy of the new edition can also be accessed on Bahai.org.
Throughout the island of Mauritius, celebrations marking the bicentenary highlighted the profound influence Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings have had on the lives of the people there.
The Prime Minister, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, wrote a special message to the Bahá’í community about the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, noting that, “At the heart of the Bahá’í teachings is the goal of a unified world order that emphasizes the prosperity of all nations, irrespective of races, creeds and classes.”
Bureau des Affaires extérieures de la Foi bahaïe
En ce 21 mars, les Bahá’ís à Maurice et du monde entier célèbrent le Naw-Rùz, le nouvel an Bahá’í. C’est la Journée internationale du bonheur, l’équinoxe du printemps, le commencement du réveil de la Nature, de l’éclosion des bourgeons et des fleurs! Il s’agit également de la nouvelle année pour les Persans qui ont célébré cette fête pendant des milliers d’années. Et c’est le dernier jour du jeûne bahá’í, marquant le Nouvel An, au coucher du soleil, le 20 mars. Naw Ruz, prononcé No(w) Rouz, signifie en Persan « nouveau Jour ».
Dans les Écrits bahá’ís, ce début de printemps présage une promesse spirituelle: « La bonté spirituelle et le printemps de Dieu accélèrent le monde de l’humanité avec une nouvelle animosité et vivification. Toutes les vertus qui ont été déposées et potentielles dans les cœurs humains sont révélées à partir de cette réalité comme des fleurs et des fleurs des jardins divins. C’est un jour de joie, un temps de bonheur, une période de croissance spirituelle. »
Après avoir observé le jeûne (Carême) durant 19 jours, du 2 au 20 mars, Naw-Rùz est célébré ce 21 mars avec faste et bonheur car c’est le début du printemps dans l’hémisphère Nord.
Quant au jeûne de 19 jours, avant de célébrer le Nouvel An, c’est un fleuve de vie. Les enseignements bahaïs ont une recommandation claire pour tout le monde: l’éveil progressif et la nourriture de l’âme à travers une pratique régulière du jeûne, de la méditation et de la prière.
Ce genre de pratique spirituelle quotidienne et systématique a le même effet sur l’âme qu’un exercice quotidien régulier a sur le corps.
Nous savons tous que pratiquer un sport ou s’entraîner au gymnase, faire une marche rapide ou encore soulever des poids ne sont pas très utiles si on ne le fait qu’une fois de temps à autre – mais dans le cadre d’un programme de conditionnement physique régulier, ces choses peuvent opérer une différence significative sur notre santé et notre sens du bien-être. De la même manière, un engagement régulier au jeûne annuel accompagné de méditation et de prières quotidiennes a le meilleur avantage possible pour notre âme.
« Par la faculté de méditation et de prières, l’homme se prépare pour la vie éternelle de son âme; à travers elle, il reçoit le souffle du Saint-Esprit – l’effusion de l’Esprit est donnée dans la réflexion et la méditation. »
La méditation et le jeûne ensemble peuvent aider chacun de nous à atteindre cet état transcendant où nous pouvons attirer les bienfaits de l’amour de Dieu.
Les amis bahá’ís à Maurice vont célébrer ensemble dans la joie ce Nouvel An au bord de la mer pour toute une journée.
Bonne Fête à Tous!
There’s a famous saying that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. In other words, ideas have a greater impact, when written down and read, than when they’re spread by force.
Those words were coined by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. He was an exact contemporary of the Persian nobleman Bahá’u’lláh, Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, the bicentenary of whose birth is currently being celebrated around the world.
The importance of the written word for Bahá’u’lláh was established in the earliest moments of his religion. During his first spiritual revelation, he heard these words, ‘Verily, We shall render Thee victorious by Thyself and by Thy Pen.’ This was to be a message of peace offered, as a gift to people, only through words and the positive acts of those who believed them.
Here is one of the original pens used by Bahá’u’lláh.
It’s hard to imagine today, when we have the ability literally at our fingertips to share ideas in an instant across the planet, that it was through pens such as this that Bahá’u’lláh set out his vision for one, united human race, in more than 100 volumes of writings. Despite the limitations of the technology, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings spread, giving rise to a community that now numbers in the millions, established in virtually every country on the planet.
The power of the ‘Word’ has been central to all the world’s great faiths. It has inspired human beings to discover their noblest qualities and create new patterns of life, giving rise to great civilisations. In the case of older religions, it was the spoken sayings of their founders that were heard and passed down by others, captured in texts that have become sacred scripture. For Muslims, the Qur’an was verbally revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The revelation that Bahá’u’lláh received, for some 40 years, was immediately written down, authenticated by him, and shared far and wide. For all of that time, because of his teachings, Bahá’u’lláh endured torture, imprisonment and a series of exiles from his homeland.
Eyewitnesses left accounts of the extraordinary manner by which Bahá’u’lláh’s writings came into being. Firstly, his secretary, Mírzá Áqá Ján, would have ready a number of reed pens – also on display in the bicentenary display – and stacks of large sheets of paper.
The verses would then seem to flow from Bahá’u’lláh, who spoke rapidly or chanted them aloud. Such was the speed with which his verses had to be captured on the paper that they were only readable by the scribe himself. Seeing this page of ‘revelation writing’ by Mírzá Áqá Ján, it looks almost like a sketch by a 20th-century Abstract Expressionist artist. But these are Bahá’u’lláh’s words, hurriedly captured by his scribe.
Later, Mírzá Áqá Ján would copy out his marks in legible handwriting. Sometimes he could not even read his own writing and he had to ask Bahá’u’lláh to help him decipher what was dictated. Then Bahá’u’lláh would give his seal of approval to the clean copy.
Other followers would then take this version, and write it out again, sometimes bind the verses into books like this one, so they could be transported and shared with people throughout the Middle East, and even as far afield as India, Burma (Myanmar) or China.
The Hidden Words
Bahá’u’lláh himself was also a skilled calligrapher, often transcribing his writings in his own beautiful handwriting that was later illuminated on the page.
Two beautiful examples are also on display of Bahá’u’lláh’s best-known and well-loved collection of writings, The Hidden Words, verses that present the ethical heart of his message and distil the spiritual guidance of all religions of the past. Among the principles conveyed in this example is the teaching of the oneness and the equality of the human race: ‘O Children of Men!’ he writes, ‘Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other.’
Imagine if the handwriting of Jesus Christ were to be discovered, how extraordinary it would be for a Christian today to be able to actually see it! For members of the Baha’i Faith like myself, it’s a very special privilege to be able to experience alongside others, the original handwriting of Bahá’u’lláh. Usually such items are only on display for pilgrims who have made a special visit to see them in the Holy Land. Most of the pieces in the display have been lent specifically from the International Baha’i Archives in Haifa, part of modern-day Israel, close to where Bahá’u’lláh passed away in 1892. The house where he lived for the final years of his life, outside the former Ottoman prison city of Akka, is where a professor from the University of Cambridge, Edward G Browne (1862–1926), went to visit him in 1890.
An English professor meets Bahá’u’lláh
Browne was fascinated by the evolution and rise of the Baha’i religion in his own time. In a unique pen-portrait, he left this description of Bahá’u’lláh:
The face of Him on Whom I gazed I can never forget, though I cannot describe it. Those piercing eyes seemed to read one’s very soul; power and authority sat on that ample brow… No need to ask in whose presence I stood, as I bowed myself before one who is the object of a devotion and love which kings might envy and emperors sigh for in vain.
During those meetings, Bahá’u’lláh expressed to Browne the hope that:
all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled… Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.
A year later, Bahá’u’lláh sent Browne a pair of reading glasses, originally a gift from a follower in Hong Kong. With them Bahá’u’lláh enclosed a message:
We should like to send them to our true friend. Though by God’s grace, he is endowed with outward and inward vision and has no need of them yet the object in view is a mention of us with him.
These glasses are also a rare and fascinating item in the display.
Today several million Baha’is around the world are working with their friends and neighbours for the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. But, as this display reminds us, it all started with the markings of a pen on paper.
LONDON — The British Museum is showing rarely-seen original handwriting of Baha’u’llah, as well as other archival items associated with His life, in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of His birth, which was celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October.
The exhibition opened on Monday 6 November during a reception, attracting over 100 people and bringing together representatives from academia, the arts, and the media.
One of the central themes of the exhibition is the power of the Word, which refers to divine revelation, a concept fundamental to the origins of all the world’s great faiths.
Reflected in His many writings, Baha’u’llah’s revelation addresses a vast array of subjects, ranging from the ethical and moral dimensions of the life of the individual to the societal principles and practices that can enable humanity to transition to the next stage of its collective development—the emergence of world civilization.
The exhibition’s introductory panel reads, “Baha’u’llah (‘Glory of God’) wrote over 100 volumes of text setting out his vision for humanity: to build a world of peace and justice. Baha’u’llah taught that the ‘Word,’ as revealed to the founders of all the great faiths, could inspire humans to transform society and establish great civilisations.”
In His lifetime, Baha’u’llah’s writings were recorded as they were revealed. In some instances, Baha’u’llah, in masterful calligraphy, wrote with His own hand some of the sacred verses that constitute His vast body of writings.
“It is quite remarkable to think that such a simple instrument as the reed pen of Baha’u’llah…was the means through which He set out His vision for a united humanity.”
– Representative of the UK Baha’i community
Often, Baha’u’llah would recite verses aloud, and these would be transcribed by secretaries. Eyewitness accounts of individuals who observed the manner by which Baha’u’llah’s writings were revealed shed light on the extraordinary nature of these works. To keep up with the large volume of verses, secretaries would rapidly transcribe His words in an often illegible handwriting that only they could read, referred to as “Revelation Writing.” The exhibition includes an example of these original texts.
Later, these texts would be rewritten, at times requiring Baha’u’llah to decipher them, before a final copy was ready to be shared. Baha’u’llah’s writings spread far and wide across the Ottoman and Persian lands and further afield, reaching to the Far East.
The display in the British Museum’s John Addis Gallery will be open to the public until 22 January 2018. During a period of worldwide celebrations honoring the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the British Museum exhibition opens another window into His extraordinary life and works and the immeasurable influence that His Word has had on the world.
A student of the modern methods of the higher criticism asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if he would do well to continue in the church with which he had been associated all his life, and whose language was full of meaning to him. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered: “You must not dissociate yourself from it. Know this; 98 the Kingdom of God is not in any Society; some seekers go through many Societies as a traveller goes through many cities till he reach his destination. If you belong to a Society already do not forsake your brothers.
You can be a Bahá’í-Christian, a Bahá’í-Freemason, a Bahá’í-Jew, a Bahá’í-Muḥammadán. The number nine contains eight, and seven, and all the other numbers, and does not deny any of them. Do not distress or deny anyone by saying ‘He is not a Bahá’í!’ He will be known by his deeds. There are no secrets among Bahá’ís; a Bahá’í does not hide anything.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London
‘Je n’ai jamais entendu parler de Baha’u’llah’, dit un jeune homme. ‘Je n’ai que récemment lu sur ce mouvement, mais je reconnais la mission de ‘Abdu’l-Baha et je désire être un disciple. J’ai toujours cru que la fraternité humaine était l’ultime solution de toutes nos difficultés nationales et internationales’.
“Cela ne fait aucune différence que vous ayez ou non entendu parler de Baha’u’llah”, répondit ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “l’homme qui vit la vie en accord avec les enseignements de Baha’u’llah est déjà un baha’i. D’un autre côté un homme peut se dire baha’i pendant cinquante ans, s’il ne vit pas la vie baha’ie il n’est pas un baha’i. Un homme laid peut se dire beau, mais il ne trompe personne, et un homme noir peut se dire blanc, là encore il ne trompe personne: même pas lui-même!”
Abdu’l-Baha à Londres