The (20th) Century of Light writes great hope for the future.

Seat of the Universal house of Justice 2007
Seat of the Universal house of Justice 2007

The Universal House of Justice is the world leadership of the Baha’i Faith. In a world administrative system designed by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, it took a massive undertaking by 2 successive individual leaders: Baha’ullah’s son, Abdu’l-Baha, and great grandson, Shoghi Effendi, amidst great constraints placed on them by the political machines of the founding places of the Faith (Persia, Ottoman Empire, Palestine), and two world wars, to build the foundations for the first election of the Universal House of Justice (1963). Since 1963 the Universal House of Justice, that is re-elected every five years, has guided the mission of Baha’u’llah throughout the world. Re-reading it’s 2001 reflection on the Baha’i Mission during the 20th century, “Century of Light”, I came across these two paragraphs (p90) which jumped out at me as a concise answer to the question, “What is the purpose of the Baha’i Faith?”

The first paragraph summarises the destructive effect of materialist philosophy on the world of humanity: “Whether as world-view or simple appetite, materialism’s effect is to leach out of human motivation — and even interest — the spiritual impulses that distinguish the rational soul. “For self-love,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, “is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.” In the absence of conviction about the spiritual nature of reality and the fulfilment it alone offers, it is not surprising to find at the very heart of the current crisis of civilization a cult of individualism that increasingly admits of no restraint and that elevates acquisition and personal advancement to the status of major cultural values. The resulting atomization of society has marked a new stage in the process of disintegration about which the writings of Shoghi Effendi speak so urgently.”

The next paragraph challenges leaders of thought to be accountable for their evaluation of the causes of the crisis that, not coincidentally, has more severely afflicted humanity over the 10 years since the publication of this commentary. “To accept willingly the rupture of one after another strand of the moral fabric that guides and disciplines individual life in any social system, is a self-defeating approach to reality. If leaders of thought were to be candid in their assessment of the evidence readily available, it is here that one would find the root cause of such apparently unrelated problems as the pollution of the environment, economic dislocation, ethnic violence, spreading public apathy, the massive increase in crime, and epidemics that ravage whole populations. However important the application of legal, sociological or technological expertise to such issues undoubtedly is, it would be unrealistic to imagine that efforts of this kind will produce any significant recovery without a fundamental change of moral consciousness and behaviour.

The Baha’i Faith, from impoverished and threatened roots, has, through its faith in a re-newed covenant with God, kept to a course that has often seemed to be out of step with the revolutions of the 20th Century world. Today, we can look back at that course and recognise, through the failure of all those revolutions, that, indeed, the Baha’i mission is inspired far above the arguments of the world’s most esteemed philosophers. Humanity of the 21st century is given the same opportunity that Baha’u’llah gave the kings and rulers of the 19th century, to opt in to build the Most Great Peace. This can happen rapidly, with the assent of leaders to produce a great consensus with Baha’u’llah’s analysis of the causes and solutions to the global crisis; or it will happen as that agreement is won slowly among the meek across the planet. For those who believe it cannot be done, the ‘Century of Light’ should assure you that a seed that was planted in the 19th century, and was nurtured into a sapling during the 20th century, is, in this century a, yet young but sturdy tree that has no equal on the planet, and will grow exponentially, the sheltering branches and fruit required by humanity. Nonetheless, it will take your effort.

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