Contributing to social progress: The U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs

The following content is from the website of The U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs. © 2020 National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States


FORMED IN 1985 and operating under the auspices of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States to represent the American Baha’i community on the national stage, the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs hopes to help evolve America further in the direction of unity and justice by contributing to some of the most urgent and timely discourses of society.

The vision of this institution is articulated on its website:

Society is built on ideas.

Sets of ideas, or discourses, help shape our institutions and communities, and even our individual minds. Although intangible, the discourses of society wield a powerful influence on how society conceives of itself: its strengths, its challenges, and the range and scope of its potential progress.

Our Office contributes to these discourses based on the principles of the Baha’i Faith, drawing from the collective experience of the American Baha’i community to apply these principles in action. These principles include the oneness of humanity, the essential harmony of scientific and religious truth, the need to eliminate the extremes of wealth and poverty, and the need to abolish all forms of prejudice.

Our work leads us into close collaboration with like-minded individuals and groups. With them, we hope to recast the national conversation around urgent social issues, discovering new ways of engaging with them that propel America to greater heights of unity and justice.

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The Mission of the Báb: Retrospective 1844-1994

The following is a portion of an article from bahaiworld.bahai.org.
Content and photo © 2020 Bahá’í International Community


In this article, first published in the 1994–5 edition of The Bahá’í World, Douglas Martin considers the Revelation of the Báb in the context of its impact on the Western writers of the period and its subsequent influence.

The year 1994 marked the 150th anniversary of the declaration of His mission by the Báb (Siyyid ‘Alí-Muhammad, 1819–1850), one of the two Founders of the Bahá’í Faith. The moment invites an attempt to gain an overview of the extraordinary historical consequences that have flowed from an event little noticed at the time outside the confines of the remote and decadent society within which it occurred.

The first half of the 19th century was a period of messianic expectation in the Islamic world, as was the case in many parts of Christendom. In Persia a wave of millenialist enthusiasm had swept many in the religiously educated class of Shí‘ih Muslim society, focused on belief that the fulfillment of prophecies in the Qur’án and the Islamic traditions was at hand. It was to one such ardent seeker that, on the night of 22–23 May 1844, the Báb (a title meaning Gate) announced that He was the Bearer of a Divine Revelation destined not only to transform Islam but to set a new direction for the spiritual life of humankind.

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The Life and Mission of the Báb: Talks by Hooper Dunbar in Sweden 2019

Painter and former member of the International Teaching Center at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa, and then elected to the Universal House of Justice in 1988, Hooper Dunbar continues to teach the Baha’i Faith around the world since his retirement from the UHJ in 2010.

Below is a 3 part series on the Life and Mission of the Báb presented by Mr. Dunbar at the Baha’i Summer School in Eskilstuna, Sweden in July of 2019.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Knowledge and Civilization: Implications for the Community and the Individual

The following is a portion of an article from bahaiworld.bahai.org. © 2020 Bahá’í International Community
Photo by Nabil Sami


Originally published in The Bahá’í World 1997–98, this article, the revised text of a presentation given by Farzam Arbab, explores the relationship between science and religion as two great systems of knowledge that have a vital social role to play in the building of a world civilization.

Throughout history, humanity has depended upon science and religion as the two principal knowledge systems that have propelled the advancement of civilization, guided its development, and channeled its intellectual and moral powers. The methods of science have allowed humanity to construct a coherent understanding of the laws and processes governing physical reality, and, to a certain degree, the workings of society itself, while the insights of religion have provided understanding relating to the deepest questions of human purpose and action.

The social role of knowledge as it relates to the building of a world civilization is of immense importance. In this context, the relation between science and religion, the two great systems of knowledge, assumes vital significance, as do issues surrounding the acquisition of knowledge by the individual, since according to the Bahá’í viewpoint, the highest goal of the individual is to be a source of social good.

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The Pupil of the Eye: Discussions and Resources

In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, recounts:

“Bahá’u’lláh hath said,” writes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “that the various races of humankind lend a composite harmony and beauty of color to the whole. Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side without discord or disagreement between them.” “Bahá’u’lláh,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá moreover has said, “once compared the colored1 people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.”

Below is a collection of links to resources that dive deeply into the meaning of “the pupil of the eye” — a metaphor that Derik Smith says “adamantly centers black life in the figurative body of humanity”.2

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Focus Areas of the Baha’i International Community

The following article is from bic.org. © 2020 Bahá’í International Community


The overarching objective of the Baha’i International Community is to contribute to the construction of a more peaceful and just global order.

We believe that the foundation for such an order is the principle of the oneness of humankind—a principle expressed in the interdependence of the members of the human family. This interdependence, the spirit of which gave rise to the creation of the United Nations, is now struggling to find expression in all arenas of human endeavor—social, intellectual, artistic, and moral, to name but a few.

At this time our work revolves around six themes: the equality of women and men, human rights and well-being of humankind, development and community building, youth as protagonists of constructive change, the role of religion in society, and the situation of the Baha’is in Iran. Below are six areas that constitute the focus of our work at this time. We see each of them as intimately connected to one another—progress in one supports progress in the others. And together, they advance the overarching goal of peace.

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Living the Principle of Oneness

The following article is from bahai.org.


Today, the human race is passing through a period of turbulent adolescence, moving towards the next stage in its life—a stage of maturity characterized by the emergence of a united, global civilization. Our well-being, our peace and security are all dependent upon the firm establishment of unity.

To create this new world, many patterns of behaviour that characterized earlier phases of our existence must be put aside. “We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man,” wrote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station.”1

[W]e must all strive with heart and soul until we have the reality of unity in our midst.”2

The fundamental principle of the oneness of humankind requires a profound development in our thinking: “If you desire with all your heart, friendship with every race on earth, your thought, spiritual and positive, will spread; it will become the desire of others, growing stronger and stronger, until it reaches the minds of all men.”3

Noble thoughts in themselves, however, are not enough. They must be translated into action. The truth that humanity is one must today be constantly asserted and taught to all.

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2019 in review – A year of historic developments

The following article is from The Bahá’í World News Service. Photo copyright © Bahá’í World News Service


December 31, 2019

The Baha’i World News Service, reflecting on 2019, provides a brief overview of stories in the past year about developments in the global Baha’i community and a glimpse of the extraordinary worldwide celebrations that took place in honor of the second historic bicentenary.

200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab

October 2019 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Báb, as the forerunner and herald of the Baha’i Faith, whose dramatic ministry paved the way for the appearance of Baha’u’llah. The bicentenary was celebrated worldwide at every level, from the grassroots to the international.

In villages and neighborhoods across the globe, bicentenary preparations began months in advance, prompting an unprecedented intensification of community building activities and an outpouring of artistic works to mark the occasion, reflect on its significance, and recall the momentous life of the Bab. In the lead-up to the anniversary, the News Service reported on these preparations and celebrations in each continent: Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia, and Europe. Based on what had been learned in 2017, the celebrations were much more broadly based on this occasion at the grassroots of society.

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National bicentenary gatherings shine light on social themes

The following article is from The Bahá’í World News Service. Photo above: The celebration held in New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings included a presentation about this artistic Tapa cloth made in honor of the bicentenary that depicts the Shrine of the Bab amid 19 terraces on Mount Carmel. Photo copyright © Bahá’í World News Service


November 29, 2019 from WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Recent bicentenary commemorations for societal leaders were celebratory occasions as well as moments of reflection on the challenges of our time.

In some communities, leaders were moved to express their appreciation of the Baha’i community’s contributions to society during this special period. For example in Wellington, New Zealand, Member of Parliament Priyanca Radhakrishnan hosted a bicentenary celebration in the country’s Parliament Buildings. “I can see that the work that you do in Aotearoa is rooted in the values and beliefs of the Faith,” MP Radhakrishnan said, “for example inculcating values of love, unity, and kindness amongst children, encouraging young people to be constructive agents of change, and contributing to discussions across New Zealand on some of the challenges that face us as a nation.”

A conference organized last month in Kyiv, Ukraine, brought together religious scholars, representatives of different Faith communities, students, and others to explore how the common underlying values of religion can contribute to societal progress.

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Development of the Bahá’í Community Since 1963

The following article is from bahai.org.Photo of Delegates to the first International Bahá’í Convention in Haifa, in front of the International Archives Building, May 1963 © 2019 Bahá’í International Community


In April 1963, the centenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s public declaration was marked by two auspicious events: the first election of the Universal House of Justice—the highest institution of Bahá’u’lláh’s Administrative Order; and, a few days afterward, the holding of the first Bahá’í World Congress in London, at which its 7,000 participants demonstrated by their very presence just how dramatically the Bahá’í world community had grown during the preceding decade.

The community that the Universal House of Justice inherited had expanded rapidly as a result of Shoghi Effendi’s first global plan for the growth and consolidation of the Bahá’í Faith. Bahá’ís now resided in more than 14,000 localities in some 259 sovereign states, dependencies and major islands. Some 56 countries had National Spiritual Assemblies. Though still relatively small, the Bahá’í Faith was assuming the characteristics of a world religion. The cultural adaptability of the Faith and its potential to attract a wide diversity of peoples were increasingly visible; its collective life was also beginning to manifest some of the society-building potentialities enshrined in Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation.

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