The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Whether it’s the climate crisis or income inequality, as things in our society heat up it seems almost impossible to avoid talking about widespread issues. We can’t hide from discussing the hard problems our generation faces.
I recently noticed a pattern in how a lot of these conversations go. Usually someone brings up a topic, we analyze its nuances, and then we touch on what needs to happen. Most of the time we all agree that those who have the most political power or money need to change to solve the problem.
The Baha’i writings speak to the importance of world leaders creating change. The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, elaborated on Baha’u’llah’s vision for the key role that political leaders and economically advantaged people should play in the world’s problems—and how that vision could resolve our present situation:
Is it not a fact … the fundamental cause of this world unrest is attributable, not so much to the consequences of what must sooner or later come to be regarded as a transitory dislocation in the affairs of a continually changing world, but rather to the failure of those into whose hands the immediate destinies of peoples and nations have been committed, to adjust their system of economic and political institutions to the imperative needs of a rapidly evolving age? Are not these intermittent crises that convulse present-day society due primarily to the lamentable inability of the world’s recognized leaders to read aright the signs of the times, to rid themselves once for all of their preconceived ideas and fettering creeds, and to reshape the machinery of their respective governments according to those standards that are implicit in Baha’u’llah’s supreme declaration of the Oneness of Mankind—the chief and distinguishing feature of the Faith He proclaimed? – Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah
While this is clear, Baha’is try to approach the world’s problems through community building. This approach intends to transform society and contribute to creating a better world by starting at the grassroots. Small groups of people come together and address the issues in their communities by enriching their spiritual life. Whether it be through prayer, classes for children, middle-school-aged youth, older teens, or adults, Baha’is believe that there is power in a group of people coming together and drawing on spiritual power to try to better their community, both spiritually and materially.
While acknowledging how important it is for people who happen to have power and certain liberties to create change in our society, the Baha’i Faith prioritizes the need for universal participation in the process of bettering the world. In describing Baha’i social action efforts, the international governing body for the Baha’i community stated:
Access to knowledge is the right of every human being, and participation in its generation, application and diffusion a responsibility that all must shoulder in the great enterprise of building a prosperous world civilization—each individual according to his or her talents and abilities. Justice demands universal participation. Thus, while social action may involve the provision of goods and services in some form, its primary concern must be to build capacity within a given population to participate in creating a better world. – The Universal House of Justice, Message to the Baha’is of the world, 2010
In the spirit of improving my mental health, and trying to take ownership of the power each one of us has, I am challenging myself to try and bring up the action steps I can take when I talk about what is going on in our world with others. For example, my goal of trying to love the people around me as best I can. When we fear each other or become separated by hatred, it becomes difficult to involve more people in a group effort to address the issues in our communities. Love is essential to finding solidarity in this process of building community:
The real secret of universal participation lies in… that the friends should love each other, constantly encourage each other, work together, be as one soul in one body, and in so doing become a true, organic, healthy body animated and illumined by the spirit. – The Universal House of Justice, Message to the Baha’is of the world, 1964