Recently the world celebrated International Volunteer Day, the United Nations’ special holiday that remembers and honors the work volunteers do for humanitarian programs.
The official name of the holiday, celebrated around the world on December 5th each year, is “International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development,” and it encompasses the UN’s many humanitarian programs—but it also reflects aspects of the volunteer work undertaken in the free, open-to-all community activities organized by the global Baha’i community.
That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250.
Baha’is believe that socio-economic development goes hand in hand with spiritual development and the development of moral virtues and principles. Without strong moral principles, economic development generates extremes in wealth and poverty. Without a framework of universal love for humanity, social development ends up excluding many groups.
From a Baha’i perspective, neighborhood activities like children’s classes, junior youth groups and prayer gatherings create a spiritual foundation for holistic community development. They bring people together in a spirit of mutual assistance, and focus on the inner, spiritual growth of all. The teachers in Baha’i children’s classes help children identify spiritual virtues with the help of stories and art, and guide children to apply those virtues and character traits in their lives. People who serve as facilitators for junior youth groups—for young people age 11 to 14—lead these groups and help animate deep conversations among them. These “animators” also accompany the youth to start service projects in their communities.
All these activities are possible thanks to the work of tutors, who organize and lead study circles—the Baha’i training program for volunteers. Study circles delve deep into profound spiritual topics and challenge volunteers to see their work with new eyes. The challenge for the volunteer is to generate change in society, but at the same time, generate change in themselves:
These days are very precious; grasp the present opportunity and ignite a candle that shall never be extinguished, and which shall pour out its light eternally illuminating the world of mankind! – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 199.
This shining light of volunteerism the United Nations celebrates is very much alive in the Baha’i community.
So we would like to send our thanks to all the volunteers who freely give their time and energy to serve in these ongoing humanitarian activities. They have invited many people from all walks of life and all religions to participate, helped us grow as individuals, as a family, and also as a community.
Thanks to the experiences of the volunteers in these neighborhood activities, hope for humanity has increased all around the globe. So to those who left their homes behind to help their brothers and sisters from other lands, to the teachers of children’s classes, to the animators of junior youth groups, to the tutors of study circles who train others to serve, to those who take the time to invite us all to participate, to those who prepare the food for our children and other volunteers, to everyone who collaborates according to their capacity and opportunity, thank you all for helping to build unity all over the world.