Tag Archives community building

3 Qualities That Can Improve the World

The Baha’i world is teeming with joy and deliberation after reading and reflecting on the recent 30 December 2021 message of the Universal House of Justice. With its optimism about the future of the world and its emphasis on contributing to social good, people all around the world are consulting and planning on how they can put this vision into action where they live.

There are so many profound points in this message, but I’d like to share my understanding of one excerpt. The Universal House of Justice says:

The enkindled souls being raised up through the processes of the Plan are seeking to gain an ever more profound understanding of Baha’u’llah’s teachings—“the sovereign remedy for every disease”—and to apply them to the needs of their society… They emphasize qualities and attitudes—such as trustworthiness, cooperation, and forbearance—that are building blocks of a stable social order.

The message explicitly mentions three qualities that relate to the betterment of the world so I’d like to reflect on them. The message goes on to describe other qualities and attitudes and each could be deserving of its own article, or more! In this post however, I’d like to focus on trustworthiness, cooperation and forbearance using the metaphor of constructing a house for the society-building work we are engaged in. Continue reading

12 Years of Providing Food for Those in Need on the Gold Coast, Australia

It’s a Wednesday afternoon in the Australian city of the Gold Coast, and Cyrus Mollaian opens the door of his car and starts carrying large containers of food to a nearby table that he and some friends have just set up in a park near a City Council building. He starts lining up takeaway containers of food along the table, while someone else starts stacking secondhand clothing and other goods at the far end of the same large table. A crowd of people start to gather around the table, and Cyrus and his friends greet some of them as if they hadn’t seen each other for a while. Some take their food and sit under a tree to eat alone, while others eat their food while mingling and conversing as you would at an event or function. It’s clear that some of those gathered are less fortunate than others and have been sleeping rough, however the humming of conversations and laughter quickly wash away any obvious signs of this, and a spirit of fellowship and friendship prevails.

Here on the Gold Coast, Cyrus has been setting up tables of food for those in need every fortnight for the last 12 years rain or shine – and he hasn’t missed a beat.

I thought it would be good to talk to Cyrus about this long-standing initiative, so I asked him a few questions about it while I was at one of the Wednesday dinner events. I also chatted with Sally Michaels, one of the regular volunteers who’s been helping out over the last several years, and here’s what they shared: Continue reading

How Visiting Battambang’s Baha’i Temple Strengthened My Faith

Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community

I was born into a Baha’i family in the Philippines, but grew up in the middle of the hot and humid country of Cambodia. I live in Siem Reap where there is little Baha’i activity and only a few Baha’i families and individuals. And if there is a Baha’i activity, it takes place in my house, whether it be a Nineteen Day Feast, Baha’i Holy Days like Ayyam-i-Ha, core activities or Local Spiritual Assembly meetings.

Growing up, I experienced many memorable celebrations and meaningful discussions around the Baha’i Faith; yet it wasn’t the same outside my house. Outside was a mostly Buddhist world, where it seemed as if there wasn’t any trace of the Baha’i Faith to be seen. I knew there were other Baha’is around the world, but I didn’t have access to the internet to know there were around seven million of us, at that time. I’ve seen big communities in my countries of origin (Malaysia and Philippines), but since there weren’t any other Baha’is around my age in Cambodia, I felt isolated.  Continue reading

Reconceptualizing Activism: My Personal Experience as a Junior Youth Animator

Some college student friends and I have been reflecting on a quotation from Baha’u’llah about individual and social transformation:

Is not the object of every Revelation to effect a transformation in the whole character of mankind, a transformation that shall manifest itself, both outwardly and inwardly, that shall affect both its inner life and external conditions? For if the character of mankind be not changed, the futility of God’s universal Manifestation would be apparent.

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Striving to Belong, Be Seen, and Be Heard

Baha’u’llah has charged us with creating unity everywhere in our lives. Sometimes, though, our inner wounds get in the way.

A very young me internalized “I don’t belong” from relatively simple experiences like being excluded from friend’s birthday parties and being sent to my room as a punishment. More deeply I internalized it was better to not belong as closely to my family after my mother almost died and her attention was focused on my younger baby brother. It seems to be a common human experience to have an inner child voice born from reacting to early challenges, especially those that involve rejection, severe criticism, or disconnection.

Our inner-child voice operates, often unconsciously, and interferes with connection with others when we are adults, especially if we seem to be experiencing rejection or disrespect from someone. I see it in my work as a relationship educator and coach based in the United States, in friends, and in myself. For some, the inner operating phrase is different: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m invisible”, or “I don’t matter”. But the outcome is the same: disconnection and disunity with people that we really want to be close to. There is hope:

The bright rays of union will obliterate the darkness of limitations, and the splendors of heaven will make the human heart to be even as a mine veined richly with the love of God.

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The Individual, Institutions & the Community: Personal Reflections on the Three Protagonists & Raising Children

The Universal House of Justice, in its 26 November 1999 letter to the Baha’is of the world, defines the principal actors needed to build vibrant and open communities that will advance humanity towards realizing its oneness. These three protagonists are: the individual, the institutions, and the local community (and you can read an introduction to this concept here). Through their collaborations, advancement is possible in all our endeavors.

As a mother with love for the world and concern for the wellbeing of all children, I continually find the need to pause and reflect on what’s happening around us. It is hard to ignore the implications of raising children in this period of history. I wanted to explore this subject as it relates to the three protagonists and how they advance civilization. Continue reading

The Three Protagonists of Social Change: The Individual, Institutions and the Community

Conversations about community building among Baha’is often involve mentioning the “three protagonists”, and so I thought it might be helpful to reflect on what a protagonist is, who the three protagonists are, and some thoughts about the relationships between them. The more I learn about this topic, the more I realize how little I understand and how revolutionary the whole concept is. I hope you find this helpful and will offer your thoughts on the subject in the comments section below. Continue reading

Global to Local: How My Online Learning Enriches My Local Community

I call Prince Edward Island off the east coast of Canada home. Recently my community gathered on Zoom to study the 9 May 2020 message from the Universal House of Justice. The letter contains important guidance about navigating through this difficult time, but one particular point struck a chord with me, and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The section I’m referring to is this:

…while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue.

Like most of us, I have embraced a more insular lifestyle in the interest of protecting myself and the more vulnerable members of my community. As someone who lives alone, over the last few months I have joined a few online communities and participated in a number of virtual events. Some are local initiatives: holy day commemorations, Nineteen Day Feasts, devotional gatherings and opportunities to study messages like the May 9 message from the House of Justice; others have been regional—I even attended a Zoom wedding this spring! But many have been international in scope, and while they enrich my life significantly, they also require a considerable investment of time and energy, which begs the question: is my participation online diluting efforts to nurture a flourishing community at the local level? How can I find ways to take what I am learning virtually and use it to invigorate my role within my own community? In exploring these questions, another arose: what exactly am I learning? Perhaps identifying the skills I am developing in these online communities, and what I find so enriching about participating in them will help me to identify practical ways that I can better support local activities too.  Continue reading

Integrating Arts into Community Life: The Experience of the Baha’is of Ballarat

I’m really excited to share a special arts initiative by the Ballarat Baha’i Community. In honour of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, we have invited renowned Ballarat musicians Geoffrey and George Williams to create a virtual choir using a choral piece based on the Writings of Baha’u’llah. It is a song that they composed for the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017 and now, as a virtual collaboration, my Baha’i community is really hoping the song can foster connection, bind hearts, and induce joy and happiness during a time when feelings of isolation and sadness are rife around the world.

The choral piece is taken from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah:

Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face…Be an ornament to the countenance of truth…a breath of life to the body of mankind.

The end result is bound to be spine-tingling, and my community and my friends are so excited to see the final production. Submissions are encouraged from everyone. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant. Whether you have a lot of experience singing or not is irrelevant. Whether you are Baha’i or not is not the point. One thing is for certain – knowing that people will be coming together to sing words centred around generosity, gratitude, compassion and joy is sure to bring about some much-needed relief amidst a global crisis, not to mention the inspiration we are all bound to gain. For as Baha’u’llah says:

We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may he lifted up unto the realm on high.

I’ve included some details on how to participate in the virtual choir below but before I get to that, I wanted to share how this project came about and what I’ve been reflecting on in the process. Continue reading