Shahin Sobhani and a team of friends have put together a fantastic website for anyone who would like to study One Common Faith, a document released by the Universal House of Justice about unity and the role of religion in today’s societies.
It’s always useful and exciting when study materials are created to help us study Writings, guidance and letters from the Universal House of Justice (here is a short list of other materials you can find online to help you in your studies of the Baha’i Faith). Shahin and his friends took the initiative to create a website, onecommonfaith.net, dedicated to this profound document and I was eager to learn more about it. Here’s what Shahin shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: What is “One Common Faith”, and can you tell us a little bit about the initiative and its significance?
It’s a document that was released by the Universal House of Justice in 2005. The title comes from a quote in Baha’u’llah Writings which is published in Gleanings, it is:
“That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith.”
I became very interested in this document as it gave the Baha’i’s around the world insight to what is “Faith” and its difference to religion. It’s Faith that the world needs, the same Faith that all the great Manifestations brought.
Interesting to note, this document was a response to a call that the Universal House of Justice posed the religious leaders of the world. In April 2002 (seven months after 9-11 in the United States when the world was talking about religion, just a little trivia), the Universal House of Justice sent a letter “To the World’s Religious Leaders” where it asked that world religious leaders consider what their role is in bringing unity to the human race. It asked for a dialogue among their adherents on the topic and it ended the letter with a clear instruction and warning from Baha’u’llah; “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”
In 2005, the Universal House of Justice acted on its own request in the letter “To the World’s Religious Leaders”, namely, they published One Common Faith to the Baha’is of the world to start this dialogue.
With this inspiration, a team of us started the journey of studying the document and bringing it to an on-line learning platform for people to study around the world. The site OneCommonFaith.net has the entire document available, an audio version of the document, and a two-hour e-learning course with an outline and glossary. The objective of the e-learning course was to go in-depth and bring together other resources that support our understanding of One Common Faith.
Baha’i Blog: Why was it important for you and those involved to make the site and share it?
I really think we are asking the wrong question for the greatest challenge of our generation, we ask “What is the role of religion in today’s society?”, but we should be asking “What is the role of Faith in today’s society?” This may seem like the same question, but as you study One Common Faith you realize it is not. Religion has become a set of doctrines with most of it being man-made interpretations. Religion’s purpose is to unite, and it is doing exactly the opposite. Hence, countless numbers are turning away from religion.
Faith is the pure essence that comes directly from the Manifestations of God and, as stated by Baha’u’llah “This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.” Therefore, it was important for us to have a platform to go in-depth on this topic and the initiative OneCommonFaith.net is an attempt to do that.
Baha’i Blog: Why is this such a significant document?
As stated before, the Universal House of Justice asked religious leaders to consider the role religion plays in bringing about unity. The Universal House of Justice has given us the blueprint from a Baha’i perspective on the topic. Interestingly, the Universal House of Justice near the end of the document states that the world wide Baha’i community is an example of unity in the community and it puts us up for the world to examine. That is a big test and honor for all Baha’is, therefore, it is good for us to understand how the world will see us as an example of unity, and the document gives that answer.
Baha’i Blog: How do people use the site?
We have seen two uses of the site. The clear one is self-study, where a learner at their own pace can read or listen to the document and then take the e-learning course. The second case study, which really excites us, was study groups are starting to form to go through the document paragraph by paragraph and using the e-learning course as a guide when needed.
Three years ago, friends in Iran decided that they wanted a Persian version of the site, and we of course accepted, and gave them access to the back end of the site and they created what you see today, an English and Persian version.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for sharing this with us!
If you’d like to study One Common Faith, here is Shahin and his friends’ website: onecommonfaith.net