- 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.
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from one of my local city council representatives. The council had recently launched a podcast in order to cast the spotlight on how people were adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, and they were wondering if I would speak on the topic of gratitude from the perspective of a person of faith.
It was the perfect chance for me to explore and (strive to) articulate exactly why I was grateful to be a Baha’i, particularly during a time of crisis. The most obvious source of gratitude is that the Baha’i Faith provides me with the guidance, strength and perspective I need to carry forward amidst times of intense difficulty – guidance to seek happiness in the happiness of others, to serve others, and to care for others. It is this outward focus that I truly believe gets us through trying times. It gives us purpose and brings us real joy. As Shoghi Effendi says:
The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life. 1
The last few months have been testing, to say the least. I don’t believe anybody has been immune to the impact of the coronavirus and we have all been affected by its wrath (for lack of a better word) either directly or indirectly. Lives are being lost, people are increasingly unsure of where to turn for solace and guidance, communities have been forced into isolation, and feelings of despair are rife within our society. But as we are told in the Baha’i Writings, with every crisis there comes a victory, and if there is one sure example of a silver lining, it has been how the world has rallied together in a spirit of oneness during this pandemic.
Indeed in my hometown of Ballarat, Australia I have felt a deep surge of gratitude during this time because I have witnessed how the Baha’i community has continued its endeavours to build communities and promote oneness, even if this is done in physical isolation. The Universal House of Justice in its May 9 message wrote:
The world is caught in the grip of a fast-spreading virus that has claimed many thousands of lives and severely disrupted a large share of humanity’s social and economic activity. Yet the Baha’i community has remained composed and has acted swiftly to meet the immediate demands that confronted it. It has found ways to ensure the continuity of community life, while also striving to play its part in meeting spiritual and material needs in society more widely—a fitting response to an emergency situation. 2
The House of Justice then continues to say:
Much, then, has been accomplished, and this is a clear indicator of the strength and confidence of the Baha’i community. But, as you already appreciate, the current crisis has altered the context in which the Plan is being pursued. We have been impressed by how many communities have taken great strides in adapting to this new reality. Far from viewing the present period as simply a hiatus to be endured with patience, they have recognized that the state of the world has made the need to render meaningful service to humanity more urgent. 2
The entire mandate of the Baha’i Faith is based around service to humanity, and if we make this the pivot of our life, we will be able to come out the other end of any crisis feeling stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. During the COVID-19 lockdown, I personally found directing my energy towards building community – albeit through digital means – helped me stay positive and purposeful and I think this can be said for most people. The strong evidences of the world coming together, acknowledging its interdependence and working towards oneness, has been astounding. A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi states:
When such a crisis sweeps over the world no person should hope to remain intact. We belong to an organic unit and when one part of the organism suffers all the rest of the body will feel its consequence. This is in fact the reason why Baha’u’llah calls our attention to the unity of mankind. But as Baha’is we should not let such hardship weaken our hope in the future… 3
It is hard to tell how long we will be suffering through this crisis. According to the Universal House of Justice, “the global health crisis will have a direct impact on Baha’i activities, to a greater or lesser degree, for months or even years, and the task of adapting to the situation cannot be postponed.” 4 But we can take comfort in the fact that there is always work that can be done to bring light to other people’s lives. What greater bounty can be imagined? The Supreme Body states:
When society is in such difficulty and distress, the responsibility of the Baha’is to make a constructive contribution to human affairs becomes more pronounced. This is a moment when distinct but interrelated lines of action converge upon a single point, when the call to service rings aloud. The individual, the community, and the institutions of the Faith—inseparable protagonists in the advancement of civilization—are in a position to demonstrate the distinctive features of the Baha’i way of life, characterized by increased maturity in the discharge of their responsibilities and in their relationships with each other. They are summoned to a fuller expression of the Faith’s society-building powers. 5
As Baha’is, we are given the direction to lead us through this, to contribute towards a better world and to create a community life animated by the spirit of unity. If there’s one thing to be grateful for right now, then this is most certainly it.
Footnotes & Citations
- From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 18, 1954
- The Universal House of Justice, Message to the National Spiritual Assemblies, May 9 2020, p. 1
- From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Baha’i family, April 14, 1932
- The Universal House of Justice, Message to the National Spiritual Assemblies, May 9 2020, p. 2
- The Universal House of Justice, Message to the National Spiritual Assemblies, May 9 2020, p. 3
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