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If you’ve ever wondered about why we’re here, the Baha’i teachings clearly proclaim that we human beings have a profound, two-fold purpose in this life:
The purpose for which mortal men have, from utter nothingness, stepped into the realm of being, is that they may work for the betterment of the world and live together in concord and harmony.
Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote that powerful definition of human purpose. Baha’is believe that the revelation of Baha’u’llah – the dawning of a new global Faith – provides the power and the means for the transformation of both humanity’s inner life and social environment. The creation of a new social environment, the atmosphere in which souls can grow spiritually and reflect, in full, the light of the Creator, constitutes one of the unique features of Baha’u’llah’s teachings.
So how does the worldwide Baha’i community plan to accomplish that lofty goal? How could a unified group of a few million people spread around the planet foster the creation of a new social environment for everyone?
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Working for the Betterment of the World
To understand how Baha’is intend to go about creating a new, more spiritual social environment, one where all people might “live together in concord and harmony,” it helps to know that the relationship of the Baha’i community to the surrounding society is undergoing a profound change. Over the past several decades, the Baha’i community has become a highly visible protagonist in society in its own right, one ready to shoulder important responsibilities and intensify its collective process of learning about and bringing about spiritual and material progress.
In a religion without clergy or individual leadership, the global Baha’i community relies on democratically-elected administrative bodies at the local, regional, national, and international levels. The Universal House of Justice, the international leadership body of the Faith, helps guide the body of the believers around the world in their work to build a better and more unified human society. In that role, the Universal House of Justice has formulated, issued, and guided the unfoldment of a series of multi-year plans, which serve as blueprints for action for the world’s Baha’is. Those plans – first written and promulgated in the 1930s by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi – systematically map out and encourage the growth of the Faith and its society-building efforts.
One clear sign of the release of the society-building power of the revelation of Baha’u’llah are the efforts made by a growing global band of believers helping to improve the spiritual character and social conditions of the wider communities where they live. Baha’is everywhere freely and joyously work with others at the grassroots local level to bring about the progressive Baha’i principles – the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, the equality of the sexes, the eradication of prejudice, the education of all children, the spiritual power of prayer and reflection, and the establishment of peace, harmony, and non-violence.
In that regard, one contribution made by Baha’is is the ability of a population to become the protagonists of their own development. Also, as the wider society embraces many aspects of Baha’i community life and imbibes its unifying spirit, the dynamics thus created allow diverse groups to work together.
So Baha’u’llah’s followers welcome all who would like to labor alongside them in learning how to raise up vibrant, outward-looking communities; in learning how to bring about spiritual and material progress; and in learning how to contribute to the discourses that influence the direction of that progress.
These areas of Baha’i endeavor represent ways of awakening the energies latent in the human soul and channeling them towards the betterment of society. Together, this inherent power in the Cause of Baha’u’llah becomes more visible when the fledgling efforts of a Baha’i community and their friends and supporters learn together to serve humanity. Although the peaceful and harmonious global society foreshadowed in Baha’u’llah’s revelation seems far distant, communities all around the world are now earnestly learning to apply the Baha’i teachings to their immediate social reality as they strive for the emergence of a new and more just society.
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Building that society – one that consciously pursues its unified collective future – is the work of this generation and many generations to come. The civilization of today, for all its prowess, has been found wanting, and Baha’u’llah promised that a renewed human society would eventually take its place: “Know ye not that We have rolled up that which the people possessed, and have unfolded a new order in its place?”
The establishment of a divine civilization is the primary mission of the Baha’i Faith. Baha’is seek to build that civilization upon the most foundational qualities, ones for which the world stands in great need: unity, trustworthiness, mutual support, collaboration, altruism, selflessness, commitment to truth, a sense of responsibility, a thirst to learn, and the love of an all-embracing heart. Once built, that society will be sustained by the creation of the social atmosphere in which souls can grow spiritually and reflect, in full, the light of God. Then will we see humanity illumined with the love of its Lord and hear His praise on every tongue.
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