- Ayyam-i-Ha is a Baha’i festival that is joyously celebrated in countries and territories all over the world. It is a time of hospitality, generosity, and caring for the needy. This year Ayyam-i-Ha runs from February 26-29.
I recently had a conversation where a friend expressed concern for the future of humanity. ‘Even great statesmen,’ he said, ‘do not appear to have created a lasting social change.’ Gandhi, Mandela, Martin Luther King, Helen Keller and even Emmeline Pankhurst came to mind. We sat back for a minute to ponder their achievements and reflect on the change, or lack thereof, that may be associated with their lives.
This conundrum, did they initiate lasting change or not, can certainly lead to a loss of hope by some. However, as Baha’is we have an abundance of hope. We understand the world’s turmoil is a sign of humanity’s growth.
Of course, the people mentioned above had a profound impact on the immediate society where they lived and on subsequent generations. However, the impact of anyone of these individuals is limited by the context in which they occur. For instance, Franklin Roosevelt was the only US president elected to office four times and who built the New Deal Coalition which defined modern liberalism BUT modern politics and greed has diverted the trajectory of this economic change.
You might say this is the fate of all good works but I would argue that as challenging ideas are studied by subsequent generations, their influence only grows over time. I believe that significant cultural figures, some of whom are listed above, are a pervasive influence contributing to the course of history in profound ways.
How much more significant then are the teachings of Baha’u’llah which convey vital principles and laws, systematic processes and insights into a future world civilization?
The release of spiritual energy, creating change, is met by resistance from the established order but Baha’is see this resistance as an attempt to resist the inevitable. Eventually the old patterns of action become unworkable and even now we are seeing the parallel processes of integration and disintegration.
Certainly a few hours reading the current state of local and international news is enough to create deep concern and sadness. These processes of destruction and disintegration are quite real.
But another equally profound process is unfolding alongside the destructive process; one of constructive integration. Certainly, the latter is less visible but runs parallel to the destructive process. There is a positive process of social change which deeply affects ongoing generations.
I’ll give one simple historical example. In August 1852, 36 year old Tahirih died in Iran for women’s rights: perhaps she was the very first suffragette. Women in many parts of the world continue to be oppressed and the question is: will this continue? No, the spiritual momentum of Tahirih permeates the collective world-thought.
This collective world-thought is seen in the growing strength of NGOs who involve the voice of women while endeavouring to bring about peaceful resolutions to challenges such as climate change, the promotion of collaborative actions among governments and advancing the role of women in the debate of global challenges.
Ensuring women’s economic empowerment and access to and control over resources requires an integrated approach to growth and development, focused on gender-responsive employment promotion and informed by the interdependency between economic and social development.– 2014 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development – Gender Equality and Sustainable Development. Published by the United Nations
Or let us look at the development, over the past 80 years, of international cooperation. On September 1st, 1939, German forces rolled into Poland and World War 2 had begun. I believe that the war in the Ukraine has not developed into World War 3 because of the effective use of sanctions and a limited amount of unity–unity that comes from a world consciousness of the foolishness of war.
The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterise the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities upon which its ultimate development must depend.— Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah
Let me give another example:
The first Baha’i to settle in Zaire was in 1953. Zaire gained its independence from Belgium in 1960 and eventually became known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Both before that, and continuously onwards, the Baha’is have laboured to convey a unifying message from one heart to another.
In a wonderful, practical sense this is reflected with the recent opening of the Baha’i House of Worship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, “dedicated to uniting the worship of God and service to humanity, both vital to the regeneration of the world. […] Open to the followers of all religions, it enables all who inhale the sweet savours of its spirit to become ‘harmoniously attuned one to another.’” 1
The early years of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were marred by social instability yet now the Baha’is have established a national House of Worship. This beacon of light is designed to “cast the light of universal felicity across the entire city of Kinshasa and the whole nation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” 2
Does this fill me with hope for the future of humanity? It certainly does.
Footnotes & Citations
- 25 March 2023 letter from the Universal House of Justice on the occasion of the inauguration of the House of Worship in Kinshas, DRC
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