15 August 2011
To the Bahá’ís in the United Kingdom and their friends
Dearly loved friends
With the events of recent days in the cities and streets of England, the National Spiritual Assembly wishes to join with each and every one of you in reflecting on this further manifestation of a breakdown in the social order. The scenes witnessed have caused profound distress for countless souls of every background, no matter what their age, gender, ethnicity or faith. The loss of life, the innumerable injuries, the utter disregard of human values, the violence, theft and destruction visited on the property and livelihoods of fellow citizens are shocking, not only in that they are taking place in a country that is regarded as a standard bearer of “development” and “civilisation", but also in that they represent the degradation of the nobility of man; a nobility that defines man’s humanity and enables it to describe itself as the highest creation of God.
What we are seeing on the streets is the outcome of a society that has, in essence, rejected its spiritual reality, and this is just one of the symptoms from the resulting disease. Religion is no longer seen as the potent force that it is; instead it has been supplanted by false gods, such as materialism, which claim the hearts and minds of people. But, Bahá’u’lláh warns “[s]hould the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue…” There are many other symptoms of such a diseased society including, Shoghi Effendi tells us, “the increasing evidences of selfishness, of suspicion, of fear and of fraud; the spread of terrorism, of lawlessness, of drunkenness and of crime; the unquenchable thirst for, and the feverish pursuit after, earthly vanities, riches and pleasures; the weakening of family solidarity; the laxity in parental control; the lapse into luxurious indulgence; the irresponsible attitude towards marriage and the consequent rising tide of divorce; the degeneracy of art and music, the infection of literature, and the corruption of the press …”
When such situations arise, society looks for someone to blame; it refuses to see the cause, but rather dwells on the symptoms. Those who strive to understand the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and to apply it to their lives and their communities can take this opportunity to engage in distinctive and meaningful spiritual conversations in every social space where they engage, in a manner that throws light upon the root cause of the nightmare that terrorized so many streets of our cities. As Bahá’ís we can discern the cause of this affliction. “What ‘oppression’ is more grievous", Bahá’u’lláh asks, “than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?"
It is to the Universal House of Justice, which is described by the Guardian as “a House which posterity will regard as the last refuge of a tottering civilization", that we must turn if we are to understand the pressing needs of our times and how to apply the healing remedy that is contained within the Revelation. In its Ridvan message of this year, it was encouraging to read that “the Bahá’í community worldwide has consciously absorbed in a few months what it needs to propel it into a confident start to the coming decade”. It was also reassuring to understand that we can see the constructive processes that are associated with the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh “… in the outpouring of feeling, especially from the young, that springs from a longing to contribute to societal development. It is a bounty accorded to the followers of the Ancient Beauty", the House of Justice continues, “that this longing, which wells up inexorably from the human spirit in every land, is able to find such eloquent expression in the work of the Bahá’í community…"
We must remain attentive and resolute, conscious of how and where to direct our energies, focussed on principle, avoiding the tendency to be partisan, striving to be distinguished in our contributions, engaging with all and empowering others to make their contribution to the betterment of the world and to the processes of profound spiritual and social transformation that are necessary for the building of a new civilization.
Society is witnessing the destruction of communities. Our study circles, devotional gatherings, children’s classes and junior-youth activities, by contrast, are activities that build communities. At this time, we can do no better than to revisit Book 2 of the Ruhi Institute, which helps us to develop the skills and capacity to share the insights we gain from the Writings and view the occurrences of the world through the light of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. A revisiting of Unit 3 of Book 2 would undoubtedly serve as an aid to each of us, alone or in small groups, to practice our skills and prepare more confidently for meaningful and distinctive dialogue.
At this most special time in human history, we are reminded of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, our Exemplar, our Master, and beseech the Almighty to make Him our instinctive guide in our teaching efforts:
"To all without distinction - officials, scientists, workers, children, parents, exiles, activists, clerics, sceptics - He imparted love, wisdom, comfort, whatever the particular need. Uncompromising in defence of the truth, yet infinitely gentle in manner, He brought the universal divine principles to bear on the exigencies of the age…While elevating their souls, He challenged their assumptions, reoriented their perspectives, expanded their consciousness, and focused their energies."