Since the inception of the Bahá’í Faith in the Nineteenth Century, a growing number of people have found in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh a compelling vision of a better world. Many have drawn insights from these teachings—the oneness of humanity, the equality of women and men, the elimination of prejudice, the harmony of science and religion—and have sought to apply Bahá’í principles to their lives and work.
Inspired by the principle of the oneness of humankind, Bahá’ís believe that the advancement of a materially and spiritually coherent world civilization will require the contributions of countless high-minded individuals, groups, and organizations, for generations to come. The efforts of the Bahá’í community to contribute to this movement are finding expression today in localities all around the world and are open to all.
At the heart of Bahá’í endeavours is a long-term process of community building that seeks to develop patterns of life and social structures founded on the oneness of humanity. One component of these efforts is an educational process that has developed organically in rural and urban settings around the world. Spaces are created for children, youth, and adults to explore spiritual concepts and gain capacity to apply them to their own social environments. Every soul is invited to contribute regardless of race, gender, or creed. As thousands upon thousands participate, they draw insights from both science and the world’s spiritual heritage and contribute to the development of new knowledge. Over time, capacities for service are being cultivated in diverse settings around the world and are giving rise to individual initiatives and increasingly complex collective action for the betterment of society. Transformation of the individual and transformation of the community unfold simultaneously.
In some communities, there have emerged Bahá’í Houses of Worship, places for all to pray and contemplate on spiritual reality and the foundational questions of life. These sacred structures exist in 10 communities around the world, and more are in development. Bahá’í Temples wed two inseparable aspects of life: worship and service. This union is reflected in the long-term process of community building in which, as the Universal House of Justice has written, “the burgeoning of a devotional spirit finds expression in gatherings for prayer and an educational process that builds capacity for service to humanity.”
Beyond efforts to learn about community building at the grassroots, Bahá’ís engage in various forms of social action, through which they strive to apply spiritual principles to efforts to further material progress in diverse settings.
The broad range of current activities spans efforts from villages and neighborhoods to regions and nations, addressing an array of challenges, including education from preschool to university, literacy, health, the environment, support for refugees, advancement of women, empowerment of junior youth, elimination of racial prejudice, agriculture, local economies, and village development.
The Universal House of Justice
Bahá’í institutions and agencies, as well as individuals and organizations, also participate in the prevalent discourses of their societies in diverse spaces, from academic and professional settings, to national and international forums, all with the aim of contributing to the betterment of society. These contributions articulate insights from the study of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation and draw on the experience of the global Bahá’í community. At the national level, communities are contributing to such meaningful discourses as the equality of women and men, migration and integration, the role of youth in social transformation, and religious coexistence, among others. And individual Bahá’ís, the House of Justice has written, “of all ages and backgrounds are making valued contributions to particular discourses, bringing to the attention of those around them a principled perspective shaped by Bahá’u’lláh’s vast Revelation.”
As they carry out this work, Bahá’ís are conscious that to uphold high ideals is not the same as embodying them. The Bahá’í community recognizes that many challenges lie ahead as it works shoulder to shoulder with others for unity and justice. It is committed to the long-term process of learning through action that this task entails, with the conviction that religion has a vital role to play in society and a unique power to release the potential of individuals, communities, and institutions.