Community and administration

Entries about Baha'i community life, about Baha'i administration, and about how the two intersect.

The 'Ethics of Leadership' - through serving Universal Participation on Baha'i Institutions

I have updated something I wrote some years ago in the belief that it might be useful to some people;

The 'Ethics of Leadership' - through serving Universal Participation

a ‘1-page’ Development Programme for LSAs & other Baha'i Institutions - to release the power for success

There are two sources for guiding principles in this programme:-

  1. The principles of Universal Participation, transformation & effective planning - called for by The Universal House of Justice
  2. The principle enshrined in this statement by the Guardian on leadership;

“The first quality of leadership both among individuals & assemblies is the capacity to use the energy & competence that exists in the rank and file of its followers. Otherwise the more competent members of the group will go at a tangent & try to find elsewhere a field of work & where they could use their energy.”

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Groups and individuals help each other in striving toward maturity. We might therefore also add this interesting statement by Carl Rogers in his book On Becoming a Person:

“The degree to which I can create relationships which facilitate the growth of others is a measure of the growth I have achieved myself.”

(RP- surely this = THE central ethic for relationships between individuals & within groups. 'Do everything possible to create an environment in which those with whom you have relationship - from friends to humanity as a whole - have the best possible environment in which to become their best and fullest selves'. 'Conversely do as little as possible that impedes the progress of others.

Leadership here then, for Baha'is and their institutions, is seen as gathering & directing (gently) everyone’s energy and competence, via creating & authorizing ways to participate. This starts with listening, then asking, then encouraging then enabling. This is closer to the loving parent image than the thou shalt/shall not’ aspect of a court of law. The elements of this programme are, it is suggested, some of the characteristics of successful LSAs.

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Letter from UHJ on Bahai Academics Commenting on Socio-Political Issues

Letter from UHJ on Bahai Academics Commenting on Socio-Political Issues

23 December 2008 Transmitted by email Mr. … … Dear Bahá’í Friend, Your email letter dated 26 June 2008, in which you inquire about the extent to which a Bahá’í, particularly one who is a social scientist or academic, may speak publicly on sociopolitical issues, has been received by the Universal House of Justice. We have been asked to convey the following reply. You are, of course, well aware of the principle of noninvolvement in politics enunciated by Shoghi Effendi. Bahá’ís are to “refrain from associating themselves, whether by word or by deed, with the political pursuits of their respective nations, with the policies of their governments and the schemes and programs of parties and factions.” They “assign no blame, take no side, further no design, and identify themselves with no system prejudicial to the best interests” of the Faith and eschew “the entanglements and bickerings inseparable from the pursuits of the politician”. They are to “rise above all particularism and partisanship, above the vain disputes, the petty calculations, the transient passions that agitate the face, and engage the attention, of a changing world”. This principle, which demands strict avoidance of any type of partisan political activity, must be scrupulously upheld. However, as society and its political processes evolve and as the Faith grows, the interaction between the two becomes increasingly complex. The House of Justice will provide the necessary guidance over time to apply this principle to existing circumstances. The term “politics” can have a broad meaning, and therefore it is important to distinguish between partisan political activity and the discourse and action intended to bring about constructive social change. While the former is proscribed, the latter is enjoined; indeed, a central purpose of the Bahá’í community is social transformation. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s treatise The Secret of Divine Civilization amply demonstrates the Faith’s commitment to promoting social change without entering into the arena of partisan politics. So too, innumerable passages in the Bahá’í Writings encourage the believers to contribute to the betterment of the world. “Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in,” Bahá’u’lláh states, “and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá urges the friends to “become distinguished in all the virtues of the human world—for faithfulness and sincerity, for justice and fidelity, for firmness and steadfastness, for philanthropic deeds and service to the human world, for love toward every human being, for unity and accord with all people, for removing prejudices and promoting international peace.” Further, in a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi explains that “much as the friends must guard against in any way seeming to identify themselves or the Cause with any political party, they must also guard against the other extreme of never taking part, with other progressive groups, in Mr. … 23 December 2008 Page 2 conferences or committees designed to promote some activity in entire accord with our teachings”. In another letter written on his behalf in 1948, when racial inequality was enshrined in the laws of many states in the United States, he indicates that there is “no objection at all to the students taking part in something so obviously akin to the spirit of our teachings as a campus demonstration against race prejudice.” Bahá’ís must, therefore, be tireless in addressing, through word and deed, a range of social issues. When the Bahá’í community was small, its contribution to social well-being was naturally limited. In 1983 the House of Justice announced that the growth of the Faith had given rise to the need for a greater involvement in the life of society. Bahá’ís began to engage more systematically in the work of social and economic development through activities of varying degrees of complexity. Efforts to contribute to social transformation also include participation in the public discourse on issues of concern to humanity, such as peace, the elimination of prejudices of all kinds, the spiritual and moral empowerment of youth, and the promotion of justice. These two types of activity have steadily increased over the past twenty-five years and will grow in scope and influence in the future. The organized endeavors of the Bahá’í community in these areas are reinforced by the diverse initiatives of individual believers working in various fields—as volunteers, professionals, and experts—to contribute to social change. The distinctive nature of their approach is to avoid conflict and the contest for power while striving to unite people in the search for underlying moral and spiritual principles and for practical measures that can lead to the just resolution of the problems afflicting society. Bahá’ís perceive humanity as a single body. All are inseparably bound to one another. A social order structured to meet the needs of one group at the expense of another results in injustice and oppression. Instead, the best interest of each component part is achieved by considering its needs in the context of the well-being of the whole. Involvement in social discourse and action will at times require that Bahá’ís become associated with the development of public policy. In this regard, the term “policy,” like the term “politics,” has a broad meaning. While refraining from discussion of policies pertaining to political relations between nations or partisan political affairs within a country, Bahá’ís will no doubt contribute to the formulation and implementation of policies that address certain social concerns. Examples of such concerns are safeguarding the rights of women, extending effective education to all children, curbing the spread of infectious disease, protecting the environment, and eliminating the extremes of wealth and poverty. It is evident, then, that as a Bahá’í who is a political scientist you have a great deal of latitude to comment on social issues. Yet it is also possible to participate in the generation and application of knowledge in your field by dealing with topics that are more directly political in nature. You are no doubt aware of the general advice, written on behalf of the Guardian, that one way to criticize the social and political order of the day without siding with or opposing an existing regime is to offer a deeper analysis on the level of political theory rather than practical politics. Another approach would be to contribute to scientific inquiry and shed light on differing viewpoints to seek common understanding and effective solutions without succumbing to partisan advocacy and obfuscation. Bahá’u’lláh states that “every matter related to state affairs which ye raise for discussion falls under the shadow of one of the words sent down from the heaven of His glorious and exalted utterance.” You have the opportunity to mine the gems of His Revelation and to prepare and present them in a manner that is attractive to those seeking new insights. You will Mr. … 23 December 2008 Page 3 have to learn over time how to find a balance between the principles and concepts you hold as true that come from the Teachings of the Faith and from your discipline. Challenges will inevitably arise. For example, you may find that an issue pertaining to social action has been co-opted by the political debate among competing factions, and wisdom will be required to determine whether to adjust your approach or let the matter rest for a time. In some cases it may be necessary to forgo opportunities that would thrust you into political debate or criticism of partisan policies of governments. In other instances there may be special sensitivities, such as topics related to countries where the Bahá’í community faces hardship or oppression, when comments could create the impression that the friends are engaged in political activity against the interests of a particular government. These same considerations arise when evaluating invitations from the media to comment or engage in discussion on the political affairs of the day. Your National Spiritual Assembly is available to assist you in clarifying particular questions should the need arise. Be assured of the prayers of the House of Justice at the Sacred Threshold that your efforts to reflect the principles of the Faith in your professional activities may attract the blessings and confirmations of the Ancient Beauty. With loving Bahá’í greetings, Department of the Secretariat cc: …

Soccer training goes beyond the pitch

Budapest, Hungary — All the soccer players were young – between 10 and 14 years of age – but at a recent match, the opposing team was fierce in its verbal taunting of the Black Stars Juniors Football Club.

“Most of the time when children play football, they swear a lot,” explains Nabil Switzer, 15, a player in a different league who helps mentor the Black Stars. “It’s very normal.”

But in some ways the Black Stars are not “normal.” For one thing, other than playing all the harder, they didn’t respond to the goading at the recent match. Not a word. Afterwards, some of the parents of the opposing players were heard scolding their sons for mouthing such abusive words.

Gabor Karagich, the 31-year-old Black Stars coach, was pleased with his boys’ behavior but said it is what he expected of them. His goal, he says, is “nurturing good human beings, not only good soccer players.”

{josquote}Coach Karagich says that at the beginning, some of the parents seemed suspicious of the motives – both his and that of the Unity in Diversity Foundation.{/josquote}

That he is serious about this is reflected in the dual nature of his program – football practice twice a week, a Saturday class twice a month.

The boys – there are about 20 of them – have named the class the Forro Csoki Klub (Hot Chocolate Club), and while there they do talk about football. But that’s not all.

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Republished here...

Baha'i World News Service slideshow

News 25/8 - Bahai-run social development project hit by scandal

Photo: Mischa Christians

Basler Zeitung (approximate English translation), 24 August

A Swiss man employed by the Hungarian Bahai Foundation as a junior football coach for marginalised children had a previous history, in Switzerland, of the sexual abuse of children. It appears that a Swiss newspaper made this connection, on 18 August (approximate English translation) after the project was described and the trainer’s name reported on the Hungarian National Spiritual Assembly’s web site. The report today (by the same newspaper, getting two stories out of one event) adds only that the man has now been dismissed by the Bahai Foundation. He is described as a Bahai-trained youth leader.

Source...

Addressing Critisism (sic) of the Baha'i Faith

The administrator at "Baha'i Coherence" has requested that the material from its site not be reposted onto Bahaisonline.net

I have a twitter account which I regularly check for mentions of "Bahai". Most of the mentions are from Baha'i's posting inspiration quotes and links to blog posts, or updates regarding the situation in Iran. Some however are from skeptical onlookers who take a negative view of the Faith. One tweeter in particular seemed to have special vitriol for the Baha'i Faith, which he mentioned as being hypocritical, especially regarding gender equality and homosexuality. I went to his blog and read through his posts, one of which can be found here. While reading through them, I thought of two things.

  1. much of his argument against the Baha'i Faith is based on an incomplete understanding of the teachings and history of both the Baha'i Faith and other faiths.
  2. however, based on the intellectual standards of post-modern liberal democracies, some of his arguments are rational and fair. And, I suspect, they will become more and more common as the Baha'i Faith makes its way into the public consciousness.

As Baha'is we will have to be especially careful not to think about and argue the merits of our faith based upon a dichotomous worldview. Paul Lample, a member of the Universal House of Justice, describes it this way in his excellent new book "Revelation and Social Reality".

{josquote}All views are welcome save those that persist in extremes of orthodoxy or irresponsible freedom, since these extremes are in themselves threats to the process of free investigation...{/josquote} "Observers may seek to impose a liberal-fundamentalist dichotomy (or relativist-foundationalist) when assessing the development of the Baha'i Faith. So too, without caution, the tension between liberal and fundamentalist influences can enter the Baha'i community, shaping attitudes and understanding, and ensnaring Baha'i's in competing claims made about the nature of Revelation, of knowledge, and of truth. Legitimate questions, posed out of context, create the illusion of irreconcilable differences

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