To the friends gathered at Unit Conventions 175 B.E.
10 February 2019
4 Mulk 175
To the friends gathered at Unit Conventions
Dearly loved friends
In the past three months, from 9 November 2018, the Bahá’ís of the World have received from the Supreme Institution, God’s mouthpiece on earth, our beloved Universal House of Justice, no fewer than three magnificent messages directed to each and every believer around the globe. What bountiful nourishment! The National Spiritual Assembly’s message to your Unit Convention can do no better than to direct your eyes, hearts and minds towards an in-depth, wholehearted study of each of these messages at this critical time in history. You are encouraged to make plans at your Convention or soon thereafter, for gathering in groups such as families, teaching teams, neighbourhoods or sectors to study, reflect and act on the guidance contained in these messages.
On 9 November 2018, on the sacred occasion of the Festivals of the Twin Birthdays, the message was about the evolution of applying Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to unite material and spiritual progress, and made an announcement about the formation of a significant new Institution, the Bahá’í International Development Organisation.
On 26 November 2018, in the “season from the Day of the Covenant to the commemoration of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”, the message was about calling ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to mind as we head towards the centenary of his passing in November 2021. The message urged us all, individually and collectively, to honour ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by making extra efforts to embody his counsels in the remaining three years of the first century of the Formative Age of the Faith.
On 18 January 2019, the centenary of the day the Paris Peace Conference opened following the First World War, the message of the House of Justice sets out the progression towards world peace that has occurred during the past century, along with the set-backs. The message reminds us that universal peace is inevitable as it is the destiny of humanity, but that it may be tortuous, because there are certain prerequisites for universal peace that must be in place, most notably the unreserved acceptance of the oneness of mankind. The House of Justice even links what you are engaged in today in your Unit Convention as a contribution, because the House mentions that the Bahá’í electoral process is itself an expression of peace.
You will have noted that the Universal House of Justice has released each of the three messages on days of significance, not only to the Bahá’í world, but also, as the most recent message demonstrates, of significance to the wider world. This practice reminds us that Holy Days are not to be taken lightly, that they are days of remembrance, a remembrance that can best be reflected when we pause in our daily lives and take time off from our routines of work or study. These special days provide us with opportunities to make meaningful contributions of one kind or another, in the way that the House of Justice has modelled for us. With this year’s Twin Holy Birthdays on 29 and 30 October celebrating the bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb, let us use each of the precious Holy Days leading up to that time to reach out widely to others and engage them in decentralised holy day activities that can greatly expand the numbers involved, and give us much learning for ensuring magnificent celebrations for the bicentenary later this year.
These preparations for the Twin Holy Birthdays will also contribute to ensuring that "a steady stream of friends is proceeding through the courses of the training institute and engaging in the corresponding activities...”
For the purpose of stimulating your consultation at this Convention, should you wish to utilise them, we offer below a short passage from each of the three messages, with some reflection questions for your consideration.
The National Spiritual Assembly sends its affectionate greetings to each dear soul who has conscientiously honoured the divine system of the Bahá’í electoral and consultative process by being present at your Unit Convention. We extend our very best wishes for an enriching and action-oriented consultation.
With warmest love,
National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of New Zealand
As the process of the disintegration of a lamentably defective world order gathers momentum in all parts of the planet, engendering hopelessness, confusion, hostility, and insecurity, the hearts of the friends everywhere must be assured, their eyes clear-sighted, their feet firm, as they work patiently and sacrificially to raise a new order in its stead. The guidance of Bahá’u’lláh is the foundation upon which you build. His instruction is clear: “This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavor and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions and to quicken the dead with the living waters of wisdom and utterance, by virtue of the love he cherisheth for God, the One, the Peerless, the Almighty, the Beneficent.” His divine remedy has been prescribed: “God, the True One, beareth Me witness, and every atom in existence is moved to testify that such means as lead to the elevation, the advancement, the education, the protection and the regeneration of the peoples of the earth have been clearly set forth by Us and are revealed in the Holy Books and Tablets by the Pen of Glory.” And His assurance is engraved on every faithful heart: “The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct.”
(First paragraph of the message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, dated 9 November 2018)
How can friends best channel their creative energy into the plans prepared by the institutions?
How can one’s day-to-day interactions with the people around them be infused with the spirit of teaching?
How can “every seed so lovingly sown at the first” bicentenary be “nurtured patiently towards fruition”?
How best can the institutions encourage believers to arrange their financial affairs so that their material and spiritual lives are coherent and they have a systematic approach of making sacrificial, generous and regular contributions to the Funds of the Faith - the lifeblood of the Cause?
Three brief years remain until the centenary of the Master’s passing, when Bahá’ís the world over will gather and take account of the distance traversed over the first century of the Formative Age. May His loved ones, individually and collectively, little by little and day by day, increasingly embody His counsels: to be united in the Cause and firm in the Covenant; to avoid calumny and never speak ill of others; to see no strangers but regard all as members of one family; to set aside divergent theories and conflicting views and pursue a single purpose and common goal; to ensure that the love of Bahá’u’lláh has so mastered every organ, part, and limb as to leave no effect from the promptings of the human world; to arise with heart and soul and in one accord to teach the Cause; to march in serried lines, pressed together, each supporting the others; to cultivate good character, perseverance, strength, and determination; to know the value of this precious Faith, obey its teachings, walk in this road that is drawn straight, and show this way to the people.
That you may fulfill His highest expectations, we pray for each of you.
(Last half of the message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, dated 26 November 2018)
The stirrings of the “society-building power of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh” become discernible when transformation is “visible in the individual and collective lives of peoples”. Do we see these signs developing in our area and how can we enhance the process?
How is the spiritual health of our community, bearing in mind that spiritual well-being is more than just the absence of disunity?
What can be done to build an even greater collaborative spirit and loving engagement, with increased trust and respect, amongst the three protagonists (individuals, community and institutions)?
What more can institutions do to cultivate conditions in the community that “conduce to the release of powerful spiritual forces”?
A heart that has embraced love for the whole of humanity will certainly be pained when confronted by the suffering that so many endure because of disunity. But the friends of God cannot shut themselves off from the increasing turmoil of the society that surrounds them; they must guard themselves, too, from becoming enmeshed in its conflicts or falling into its adversarial methods. No matter how bleak conditions may appear at any given time, no matter how dismal the immediate prospects for bringing about unity, there is no cause for despair. The distressing state of the world can only spur us to redouble our commitment to constructive action. “These are not days of prosperity and triumph” cautions Bahá’u’lláh. “The whole of mankind is in the grip of manifold ills. Strive, therefore, to save its life through the wholesome medicine which the almighty hand of the unerring Physician hath prepared.”
(Extract from the message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, dated 18 January 2019)
Are we enhancing the devotional character of our community so that we are “laying the spiritual foundations of future Houses of Worship”?
What do the institutions need to do to ensure they “maintain the community’s focus on the requirements of the Plan and call the ever-widening circle of friends to higher and higher levels of unity”?
Is there more that can be done in our area to enhance our collective ability to have a disciplined approach to reflection on action and learning from experience?