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Having just returned from the dedication of the new continental Baha’i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile, I feel filled with the wonderful spirit of love and unity there.
But before traveling to the dedication, someone asked, “Is there anything else the Baha’i Faith does other than build temples? What are Baha’is doing for orphans around the world, the needy, hungry and homeless? Just asking.”
I responded this way:
Hi, good point, and thank you for asking, as you pose the most important question of all.
The Chilean temple in South America is the last of the continental Baha’i Houses of Worship. Now one exists on each continent in the world. These temples function as important architectural and spiritual symbols of unity and harmony, each designed with nine sides to signify welcome to all and to recognize each major world religion. The purpose of the temples? They’re not just buildings—instead, they aim to create a sacred space for human unity and peace, where everyone of every belief feels warmly welcomed.
Baha’is worldwide mostly meet in homes, community centers, and parks, but eventually local Houses of Worship will be built in every city, and town. Baha’is have a global plan to help create unity as the first step in transforming society.
Structurally, the next phase in the plan will involve the development of learning centers for social service surrounding each House of Worship to benefit the community. So yes, Baha’is do run, contribute to and work in orphanages, programs for the poor and needy, and homelessness service agencies. (I did this type of work as my professional occupation also.)
Baha’is have long taken a very active role in movements for civil and human rights, especially for disadvantaged minority populations. Working alongside many others, Baha’is are committed to rid ourselves and our societies of prejudice and racism. At local, national and international levels, Baha’is advocate for women’s rights, programs to alleviate poverty in the developing world, universal education for our planet’s children, urgent action on global climate change, and forging a path to world peace. Many involved in Baha’i activities have started educational systems and schools in just about every country.
The Baha’is have been fast at work for many years, not only building Houses of Worship but assisting those with needs in the communities and neighborhoods where we live, often just meeting under the shade of a tree. Currently, at the grassroots level, Baha’i communities focus on four main core activities in each locality where they reside: children’s classes, junior youth spiritual empowerment programs, devotional meetings and study circles. These free activities happen all over the world, offered by volunteers and using the same basic materials translated into native languages.
Baha’is do all this because one of the foundational Baha’i teachings is the recognition that a new stage of history has arrived, out of which a global civilization will surface. We want to build, from the ground up, a supportive structure for that new, emerging, divinely-inspired civilization:
…although material civilization is one of the means for the progress of the world of mankind, yet until it becomes combined with Divine civilization, the desired result, which is the felicity of mankind, will not be attained. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 303.
…through the zeal and ardour of the pure of heart, the darkness of hatred and difference will be entirely abolished, and the light of love and unity shall shine; this world shall become a new world; things material shall become the mirror of the divine; human hearts shall meet and embrace each other; the whole world become as a man’s native country and the different races be counted as one race. – Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 38.
Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements. – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 213.
This link will show you a little of the Baha’i social action work:
This link shows the overall Baha’i plan for the betterment of the world:
Baha’is believe that every person, every people, every nation has an important part to play in building a peaceful and prosperous global society. If you’re like me, it’s important to see visually how these lovely words actually translate into action. So here’s a link to a short film, called Frontiers of Learning, about the work Baha’is are currently doing in four cities as examples—in Colombia, Canada, India and the Congo: http://www.bahai.org/frontiers/
I’m so glad you asked this crucial question, because it is a reminder to speak in broader terms about the powerful work the worldwide Baha’i community is actually doing for humanity. Thank you.