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In this age of fractious disunity and conflict in our cultures, the Baha’i teachings offer inspiration, principles, and concepts that can help humanity remedy society’s polarization and separatism.
Baha’i communities exist all over the world, in every country and among all classes and types of people. Baha’is come from all walks of life, from every former religion, and from no religious background at all. Baha’is have widely varying levels of education. Baha’is represent every racial group on Earth. As you might imagine, it poses significant challenges to unite those diverse human beings into one coherent, caring community.
But the planet’s Baha’is have succeeded in doing just that.
The worldwide Baha’i community has an uncommonly strong bond of unity, coherence, and resilience. One system of spiritual connection and synergy exists throughout the Baha’i world, with no clergy, sectarianism, or denominations. One administrative structure, democratically elected from the entire body of the believers, serves all Baha’is and their communities. A single global governing body – the Universal House of Justice – guides the entirety of the world’s Baha’is. Baha’is in many places have suffered persecution for their beliefs, and the peaceful, loving approach they take in response to that oppression has inspired millions. Everywhere on the globe, Baha’i communities share the same scripture, principles, and progressive ideals. In many ways, the world’s Baha’is have demonstrated unparalleled unity and resilience.
So it stands to reason that the global Baha’i community can offer some wisdom on the subject of resilience.
How Do Baha’i Communities Build Resilience?
If resilience means the ability of the human spirit to recover from tests and trouble, then how do Baha’i communities in various parts of the world encourage it?
To answer that question, let’s seek help from the most recent guidance we have as a human family – the teachings of Baha’u’llah, who Baha’is regard as the latest divine messenger. In those teachings, we can learn more about what our local community, under the guidance of the Baha’i administrative leadership, can do to assist all under its sheltering protection. Each Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly is charged with not only administering to the needs of the Baha’is in their locality, but is also responsible for the spiritual well-being of the larger community. Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of Baha’u’llah, wrote this description of those duties to an early Baha’i Assembly in Kenosha, Wisconson:
Your spiritual assembly should be a source of joy to the world of humanity and be so illumined with light as to dispel the darkened horizons, withstand the power of tests, remain ﬁrm and constant, be not disturbed by ordeals and feel no diﬃculty in spreading the light of guidance. If ye attain this attitude of ﬁrmness, the conﬁrmation of the Divine will verily penetrate the world through your meeting. … I beg God to illumine the faces of each of you so that they may shine as stars in the high ﬁrmament.”
Baha’is develop resilience by heeding the spiritual guidance of this new revelation and acting on it. Baha’u’llah said “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning,” so Baha’i communities everywhere sponsor and conduct free children’s classes, youth and junior youth activities, and other beneficial social programs intended to help the wider community progress and develop over time. This spectrum of ongoing activities fosters the resilience of the whole community with the assistance of the divine.
The Value of Eﬀort and Aspiration
These community-wide Baha’i efforts in education and selfless service to others, Abdu’l-Baha said more than a century ago, inevitably tend to abolish prejudices and build bonds of friendship, trust, and resilience:
… strive earnestly and put forth your greatest endeavor toward the accomplishment of this fellowship and the cementing of this bond of brotherhood between you. Such an attainment is not possible without will and eﬀort on the part of each; from one, expressions of gratitude and appreciation; from the other kindliness and recognition of equality. Each one should endeavor to develop and assist the other toward mutual advancement. This is possible only by conjoining of eﬀort and inclination. Love and unity will be fostered between you, thereby bringing about the oneness of mankind. … this is the means of the glory of humanity. This is the means of the good-pleasure of God and of eternal bliss in His kingdom. Therefore, I pray in your behalf that you may attain to the fullest degree of love and that the day may come when all diﬀerences between you may disappear.
Baha’is believe that racism and prejudice represent the greatest spiritual illnesses, and thus the greatest challenge that the American people have to overcome. Baha’is firmly believe that with the power of God and His latest revelation, through the application of resilience and persistence, this seemingly intractable blight on our collective spirit can be eliminated. The power of the Baha’i teachings and the strong resilience embedded throughout their mighty and world-changing presence gives hope to a deeply troubled and desperate humanity.