Participation in the Discourses of Society: A Series from the Baha’i World News Service

This month we are featuring a series of articles from The Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS) – the official news source of the worldwide Bahá’í community.


Representatives of a number of national Baha’i communities recently gathered at the Baha’i World Centre to reflect on the past several years of experience learning about participation in the discourses of society. The Baha’i World News Service took the opportunity to interview groups of representatives about the experiences and insights they have gained in this area of endeavor.


PART ONE: Contributing to social transformation—reflections on Baha’i participation in discourses

2 December 2018
 
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — In recent years, national Baha’i institutions and regional agencies have been systematically participating in the discourses of society, such as migration and integration, social cohesion, race unity, the role of religion in society, and climate change, to name a few.

The phrase “participation in the discourses of society” is being used more and more to describe the involvement of the Baha’i community in the broad conversations focused on social betterment.

Discourses take place at different levels. Individuals can contribute to discourses in their professions or fields of study. Many individuals and communities are drawn into discourses on issues vital to their neighborhoods and villages. Non-governmental organizations inspired by the Baha’i teachings—for example, in the area of social and economic development—contribute to discourses related to their efforts. The Baha’i community’s formal involvement in discourses related to the well-being and progress of society is facilitated at the national and international levels by offices of external affairs and the Baha’i International Community, respectively.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for January 2019

January 9, 2018

January’s meeting was a discussion on individual selections of books on the theme of stereotypes and the elimination of prejudice, and included sharing personal stories and experiences in this area as well. The conversation moved across the globe from the United States to Japan (where very close attention is paid to blood types when deciding who to marry), to the caste system in India, to the mistreatment of Baha’is in Iran. Participants pointed out that stereotypes and prejudice are not only about color, and there can be social prejudice about intellectuals versus non-intellectuals, and even against non-drinkers of alcohol. Overall, the discussion was lively, thoughtful, and far-reaching, so that time ran out before some of the books members brought could be discussed (Life on the Color Line by Gregory Howard William and The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan). The discussion included presentations by book club members of The Content of Our Character, by Shelby Steele (twin brother of the author of our February selection) and The Nature of Prejudice by Gordon Allport.

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Our Giving Nature

The following article is from bahai.org.

“To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine,” wrote Bahá’u’lláh, “well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.”1

Just as a candle’s purpose is to provide light, the human soul was created to give generously. We fulfil our highest purpose in a life of service, in which we offer our time, energy, knowledge, and financial resources. “[Y]e must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom.”2

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written, “…the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.”3 Of course, striving to serve humanity is full of challenges, and pursuing such a life of service implies that one must at times be willing to accept some hardship. Yet to sacrifice in this way is not a cause of sorrow; rather it is a bearer of joy—it involves accepting a degree of discomfort for the wellbeing and happiness of others, renouncing that which is lower for that which is higher. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated, “dying to the self” enables “the radiance of the living God” to “shine forth”.

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2018 In Review: Progress and Insights


This month we are featuring the article below from The Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS) – the official news source of the worldwide Bahá’í community.


BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — For the Baha’i world, 2018 was marked by a wide range of developments. Through its podcast and written articles, the Baha’i World News Service sought to capture some of these developments and to explore new insights emerging from Baha’i endeavor.

Stories in the past year, which began in the afterglow of the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, covered a diversity of topics.

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Featured Book: Prophet’s Daughter

Prophet’s Daughter – The Life and Legacy of Bahiyyih Khanum, Outstanding Heroine of the Baha’i Faith

By Janet Khan

As the subtitle states, this book is the biography of Bahiyyih Khanum, the daughter of Baha’u’llah and sister of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. It is also the story of the early days of the Faith, and is told from the perspective of how events both influenced and were influenced by this important Baha’i woman. The book is the first full-length biography of Bahiyyih Khanum, known as the Greatest Holy Leaf. The author’s familiarity with the Faith and its history allows her to draw extensively on Holy Writings and other writings of the time, letters and correspondence from a wide variety of sources including early believers, and general news and world events, to give an in-depth picture of this remarkable figure. Despite a lack of available specifics in many areas, the author is able to present a clear picture of how events transpired, and the role of Bahiyyih Khanum, from earliest childhood through her provision of support and assistance to her father, her brother, and finally her nephew Shoghi Effendi. In addition, the narrative looks at the legacy she created, and how important that was to the Faith in its earlier stages, as well as how it continues to be important today.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for December 2018

December 12, 2018

Last month’s meeting was a reflection/consultation on the previous six months and plans were made for the upcoming six-month period. The group decided to continue the use of themes to organize our schedule (see above). The themes chosen for upcoming months are: stereotypes and the elimination of prejudice, fasting practices, and women who make/made a difference. In addition to the themes (and books) listed above, several ideas were discussed that may be utilized as themes as the book club continues. These included issues from current events, such as immigration, refugees, climate change, gun violence, and the opioid crisis. Another area members are very interested in is faith and religion, including faith traditions, sacred music, art and architecture in various religions, and how different faith traditions approach some of the current issues in society.

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Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World (from BahaiBlog.net)


This month we are featuring the article below from BahaiBlog.net about one of their special ongoing projects.


“Personal Reflections on the Baha’i Faith from Around the World” is a Baha’i Blog initiative in honor of the Bicentenary anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.

In this initiative, we share portraits of Baha’is and their friends from different countries and territories all over the world, and accompanying their photographs are a few of their words about what the Baha’i Faith means to them or how it has touched their lives.

We will be publishing one “personal reflection” per day, so be sure to stay updated by following the “Personal Reflections” social media pages Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. You can also visit the website dedicated to this project: personalreflections.bahaiblog.net

As this year celebrates 200 years since the Birth of Baha’u’llah, we’ve decided to capture at least 200 of these portraits and reflections. Our hope is that by sharing these pictures and excerpts, we will answer the call from the Universal House of Justice to communicate “a sense of what it means for humanity that these two Luminaries [the Bab and Baha’u’llah] rose successively above the horizon of the world.” (from a letter dated 18 May 2016 to all National Spiritual Assemblies)

Here is the tenth collection of images, and we hope you find this project as inspirational as we do!

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for November 2018

November 14, 2018

Our discussion last month was about the poetry of Robert Hayden, an American Baha’i who was the first African-American Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a role now known as poet laureate of the United States). Mr. Hayden was a resident of Ann Arbor, a professor at the University of Michigan, and longtime Ann Arbor Baha’i whose daughter is still a member of our community.

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Twin Birthdays for Twin Manifestations

The following article is from BahaiBlog.net.

For centuries, the peoples of the world have awaited the Promised Day of God, a Day when peace and harmony would be established on earth. The dawn of this new Day witnessed the appearance of not one but two Manifestations of God, the Bab and Baha’u’llah, Whose Revelations released the spiritual forces destined to transform society.

A “Manifestation of God” is a Baha’i concept used to define an intermediary between God and humanity, or what is commonly referred to as a Messenger or Prophet. The term “Twin Manifestations” refers to the unprecedented Revelation of the Bab and Baha’u’llah in rapid succession of one another.

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Circle of Friends Book Club meeting summary for October 2018

October 10, 2018

October’s meeting was a discussion of members’ personal choices in the area of poetry. The first selection was Jesus the Son of Man, by Khalil Gibran. This book is a series of poems and prose selections, written as if those who came in contact with Jesus had set down their impressions and understanding him and his actions. The selections take various points of view and describe different incidents in the life of Jesus, from his birth to his death and after. Some of the “authors” are familiar, such as Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Luke, John the Baptist, and Caiaphas, but others are not named but merely described, as “A Persian Philosopher in Damascus”, or “A Shepherd in South Lebanon”. Taken together, they present a new picture of the Jesus we know from Christianity. Book club members were intrigued by the structure and imagination of this book, and several were interested in pursuing reading it as well.

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