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(UK, 30 April 2012)

The newly elected National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom write in a spirited report to the Baha’is of the UK after their National Convention:–

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At the Convention, the National Spiritual Assembly shared some reflections that emerged from its consultation at its first meeting, held together with Counsellor Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi… The Assembly conveyed its heartfelt wish that the efforts of each and every believer exerted towards the growth and development of the Faith is recognised, cherished and valued.  In their 28 December 2010 message, the Universal House of Justice give a very clear description of how “to generate a movement” of a population “towards the goal of a New World Order”.  They envisaged this movement as a “continuum” which starts with a simple conversation with someone about the Faith with the object of creating within that soul a desire to serve Bahá’u’lláh and humanity and to build their capacity to do so. This continuum eventually leads to a more complex “programme of growth”.  It is a beautiful and profound path that begins with a meaningful conversation.  We are all striving to walk the path of service as described by the Universal House of Justice.  Our unique circumstances bring us to this path in different ways and reflection on our personal circumstances and our actions – alone and with others – enables us to progress along this path towards the stupendous vision before us. In this effort we, the Bahá’ís, need to love each other, support each other, cherish and value each other, as much as we do our community of interest.

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Counsellor Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi continued this theme in her subsequent address…  She reminded us that the process of growth needed simple steps and that we need to ask ourselves: “How do we link the steps we are taking to enable those that we are working with to connect to the process of spiritual transformation?”  It is Bahá’u’lláh who is the Divine Physician, the Counsellor reflected, and it is He Who has “His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy.”  Each of us, in whatever situation we find ourselves, can reflect on how we can offer the Divine remedy in light of the guidance of the Universal House of Justice in their 28 December message.  In doing so, we should turn to the institutions of the Faith for help; likewise, the institutions of the Faith need to ask for the help of the friends.  Both sides need to learn to reach out. This is a demonstration of love.

In concluding, the Counsellor left us with these beautiful words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Master, whose spirit imbued the entire proceedings of Convention given the special Centenary period we are celebrating:

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Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation, the manifestation of the All-Merciful, the fountain of spiritual outpourings.

Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul.

Love is the cause of God’s revelation unto man, the vital bond inherent, in accordance with the divine creation, in the realities of things.

Love is the one means that ensureth true felicity both in this world and the next.

Love is the light that guideth in darkness, the living link that uniteth God with man, that assureth the progress of every illumined soul.

Love is the most great law that ruleth this mighty and heavenly cycle, the unique power that bindeth together the divers elements of this material world, the supreme magnetic force that directeth the movements of the spheres in the celestial realms.

Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe.

Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world, and the shedder of imperishable glory upon every high-aiming race and nation.

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– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, SWA 27-28

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(Emphasis has been added.)

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(UK, 13 December 2011)

A categorical and purposeful message from the Baha’i Council for England to the friends in the region regarding the implementation of the provisions for the Five Year Plan (2011-2016) in the various clusters.

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Baha’i Council for England

13 December 2011

To all believers in England

Dearly loved Friends,

Your newly elected Baha’i Council for England held its first meeting on 26-27 November 2011….

The Council reviewed and consulted upon the goals of the Five Year Plan set by the National Spiritual Assembly [of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom] and commended by the Universal House of Justice. At this stage of the plan the goals for England are:

– To establish in all clusters in England a programme of growth

– To enable clusters where a programme of growth is established, to progress towards a stage whereby hundreds are facilitating the participation of thousands in this spiritual enterprise.

To achieve this we will have to make constant reference to the letters of the Universal House of Justice, in particular the 28 December 2010 and Ridvan 2010 messages, to better understand how this can be achieved. At present eleven clusters must work towards the former goal, and twenty-one towards the latter.

The Council is keen to create spaces for Area Teaching Committees, members of cluster agencies and individuals to reflect, consult, act and plan – thereby helping to foster environments where we can learn how to progress and derive inspiration and support from each other. To this end, the Council is in the process of planning various gatherings. Gatherings for Area Teaching Committees to reflect upon their role, and gatherings for the friends in clusters where programmes of growth have not yet been established to reflect upon how they can survey their possibilities and learn how to initiate the process in their own neighbourhood….

During our meeting we were able to consult with Counsellor Fozdar-Foroudi on the use of statistics at the cluster and regional levels and the ways in which the Council can help the development of capacity in this area. In light of this we are pleased to announce that we now have a regional statistics officer and that ………………….. has accepted to take on this new role. We look forward to learning with her.

Last but not least, such ambitious goals could never be achieved without the financial support of the friends and institutions alike. Over six decades ago, the beloved Guardian wrote that “Now is the time to pour out ones substance as copiously and as readily, as the Dawn breakers of the Heroic Age of the Faith have shed their life blood in the path of this most precious Cause.” If you have questions about donating to the Funds, please contact …………………….. .

Please keep the Council in your prayers, as you are all in ours. The next meeting of the Council for England is on …………………. .

With loving Baha’i greetings,
Baha’i Council for England

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Propelled by forces generated both within and outside the Baha’i community, the peoples of the earth can be seen to be moving from divergent directions, closer and closer to one another, towards what will be a world civilization so stupendous in character that it would be futile for us to attempt to imagine it today.  As this centripetal movement of populations accelerates across the globe, some elements in every culture, not in accord with the teachings of the Faith, will gradually fall away, while others will be reinforced.  By the same token, new elements of culture will evolve over time as people hailing from every human group, inspired by the Revelation of Baha’u’llah, give expression to patterns of thought and action engendered by His teachings, in part through artistic and literary works.  It is with such considerations in mind that we welcome the decision of the Ruhi Institute, in formulating its courses, to leave for the friends to address locally issues related to artistic activity.  What we ask at this stage, then, when energies are to be invested in the extension of children’s classes and junior youth groups, is that the multiplication of supplementary items for this purpose be allowed to occur naturally, as an outgrowth of the process of community building gathering momentum in villages and neighbourhoods.  We long to see, for instance, the emergence of captivating songs from every part of the world, in every language, that will impress upon the consciousness of the young the profound concepts enshrined in the Baha’i teachings.  Yet such an efflorescence of creative thought will fail to materialize, should the friends fall, however inadvertently, into patterns prevalent in the world that give licence to those with financial resources to impose their cultural perspective on others, inundating them with materials and products aggressively promoted. …

– The Universal House of Justice, 12 December 2011 message, 3rd from last §

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(Source: UK Baha’i News Email Service. Emphasis has been added.) 

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(UK, 15 August)

A poignant letter from the NSA of the UK regarding the special opportunity for sharing the Message that the recent manifestation of social unrest in the country has opened up to the believers.

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                                                                .

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom
nsa@bahai.org.uk

                                        15 August 2011

To the Baha’is in the United Kingdom and their friends

Dearly loved friends,

With the events of recent days in the cities and streets of England, the National Spiritual Assembly wishes to join with each and every one of you in reflecting on this further manifestation of a breakdown in the social order.  The scenes witnessed have caused profound distress for countless souls of every background, no matter what their age, gender, ethnicity or faith.  The loss of life, the innumerable injuries, the utter disregard of human values, the violence, theft and destruction visited on the property and livelihoods of fellow citizens are shocking, not only in that they are taking place in a country that is regarded as a standard bearer of “development” and “civilisation”, but also in that they represent the degradation of the nobility of man; a nobility that defines man’s humanity and enables it to describe itself as the highest creation of God.

What we are seeing on the streets is the outcome of a society that has, in essence, rejected its spiritual reality, and this is just one of the symptoms from the resulting disease. Religion is no longer seen as the potent force that it is; instead it has been supplanted by false gods, such as materialism, which claim the hearts and minds of people.  But, Baha’u’llah warns “[s]hould the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue…”  There are many other symptoms of such a diseased society including, Shoghi Effendi tells us, “the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press …”

When such situations arise, society looks for someone to blame; it refuses to see the cause, but rather dwells on the symptoms.  Those who strive to understand the Revelation of Baha’u’llah and to apply it to their lives and their communities can take this opportunity to engage in distinctive and meaningful spiritual conversations in every social space where they engage, in a manner that throws light upon the root cause of the nightmare that terrorized so many streets of our cities.  As Baha’is we can discern the cause of this affliction.  “What ‘oppression’ is more grievous”, Baha’u’llah asks, “than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?”

It is to the Universal House of Justice, which is described by the Guardian as “a House which posterity will regard as the last refuge of a tottering civilization”, that we must turn if we are to understand the pressing needs of our times and how to apply the healing remedy that is contained within the Revelation.  In its Ridvan message of this year, it was encouraging to read that “the Baha’i community worldwide has consciously absorbed in a few months what it needs to propel it into a confident start to the coming decade”.  It was also reassuring to understand that we can see the constructive processes that are associated with the Faith of Baha’u’llah “… in the outpouring of feeling, especially from the young, that springs from a longing to contribute to societal development.  It is a bounty accorded to the followers of the Ancient Beauty”, the House of Justice continues, “that this longing, which wells up inexorably from the human spirit in every land, is able to find such eloquent expression in the work of the Baha’i community…”

We must remain attentive and resolute, conscious of how and where to direct our energies, focussed on principle, avoiding the tendency to be partisan, striving to be distinguished in our contributions, engaging with all and empowering others to make their contribution to the betterment of the world and to the processes of profound spiritual and social transformation that are necessary for the building of a new civilization.

Society is witnessing the destruction of communities.  Our study circles, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior-youth activities, by contrast, are activities that build communities.  At this time, we can do no better than to revisit Book 2 of the Ruhi Institute, which helps us to develop the skills and capacity to share the insights we gain from the Writings and view the occurrences of the world through the light of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah. A revisiting of Unit 3 of Book 2 would undoubtedly serve as an aid to each of us, alone or in small groups, to practice our skills and prepare more confidently for meaningful and distinctive dialogue.

At this most special time in human history, we are reminded of Abdu’l-Baha, our Exemplar, our Master, and beseech the Almighty to make Him our instinctive guide in our teaching efforts:

“To all without distinction – officials, scientists, workers, children, parents, exiles, activists, clerics, sceptics – He imparted love, wisdom, comfort, whatever the particular need.  Uncompromising in defence of the truth, yet infinitely gentle in manner, He brought the universal divine principles to bear on the exigencies of the age…While elevating their souls, He challenged their assumptions, reoriented their perspectives, expanded their consciousness, and focused their energies.”

With loving greetings,

National Spiritual Assembly

Patrick O’Mara
Secretary

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(Emphasis has been added. Shared through the UK Baha’i news email service. Disclaimer: Messages posted on the list are for the information and, where appropriate, action by the Baha’is in the United Kingdom. Other subscribers should be guided by their own Baha’i institutions.)

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(United Kingdom, 27 May)

“…by sticking to the path of learning that has been set,
by remaining obedient to the Will of the Universal House of Justice…
answers [to the many and varied challenges ahead] will come.”

This report is from the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom after their spirited national Convention:

Some 270 friends, including 84 delegates, attended National Convention from 24-26 May. Inspired by the Ridvan and 13 May messages of the Universal House of Justice…the delegates consulted on the exciting possibilities that now lie ahead for accelerating the teaching work and the progress of clusters.

Drawing on the learning about the intensive programmes of growth so beautifully and vividly captured in [the publication] “Attaining the Dynamics of Growth: Glimpses from five continents”, prepared by the International Teaching Centre [which can now be downloaded from the US website or purchased], delegates came forward to share their experiences and offer reflections on themes at the heart of the Five Year Plan — expansion, consolidation, reflection, planning and administration, and the acceleration of learning. The consultations were mature, focused and greatly enriched by the delegates’ own experiences of the teaching work, particularly in the field of direct, collective teaching…

…a most moving devotional for the believers in the Cradle of the Faith [was held], whose example of courage, fortitude and selfless obedience to the Universal House of Justice stirred Convention to its very depths…

Excellent children’s and junior youth and youth programmes ran concurrently with the main Convention programme, and Convention received a most impressive and spirited presentation from the youth in attendance…

The near future will, of course, bring its many and varied challenges and these will need to be addressed with faith, consecration and courage. Many of these dominated the proceedings at Convention:

What do we have to do to raise the number of effective teachers and teaching teams?

How do we involve more believers in the teaching work? How do we create a sense of movement and purpose in those less developed “B” and “C” clusters?

How can we transform a much higher proportion of our existing trained resources into active, audacious and tenacious teachers of the Cause?

How can we accelerate the learning about growth and transfer the relevant learning to clusters at a formative stage of development?

How do we work with receptive populations?

It is clear that it may take some time before we have the answers to these and other questions. What is equally clear, however, is that by sticking to the path of learning that has been set, by remaining obedient to the Will of the Universal House of Justice, those answers will come.

— National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom

‘Abdu’l-Bahá toured Europe for three months in 1911 and visited a second time in 1913. He is shown here at Clifton Guest House, Bristol, United Kingdom, in September 1911.

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We are striving with heart and soul, resting neither day nor night, seeking not a moment’s ease, to make this world of man the mirror of the unity of God. Then how much more must the beloved of the Lord reflect that unity? And this cherished hope, this yearning wish of ours will be visibly fulfilled only on the day when the true friends of God arise to carry out the Teachings of the Abhá Beauty—may my life be a ransom for His lovers!

One amongst His Teachings is this, that love and good faith must so dominate the human heart that men will regard the stranger as a familiar friend, the malefactor as one of their own, the alien even as a loved one, the enemy as a companion dear and close. Who killeth them, him will they call a bestower of life; who turneth away from them, him will they regard as turning towards them; who denieth their message, him will they consider as one acknowledging its truth. The meaning is that they must treat all humankind even as they treat their sympathizers, their fellow-believers, their loved ones and familiar friends.

– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá SWA 84
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(From “UK BAHA’I NEWS EMAIL SERVICE”)
(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

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