Thursday, June 23, 2011

Upholding the standard of justice

Consider the case of a village with a few thousand residents. In addition to farming activities there may be other cottage industries, a school, a clinic, and other social spaces. It is clear that the community has a collective consciousness, even if not all members share in exactly the same beliefs. There may be a few different religious groups, each advancing their own particular beliefs. It is unfortunate, but it may be a social reality that some of these religious groupings have a history of competition. The Bahá’í community is also a distinct community with its particular beliefs and organizational practices. However it is a long tradition that Baha’is “consort with people of all religions”. In particular the principal social and spiritual activities of the Bahá’í community is designed to include people of all walks of life. There is no contradiction then in a person, for example, attending a church regularly, remaining a devout Christian, and also participating in Bahá’í core activities, which are after all devoid of any rituals or dogmatic beliefs and practices.

The institution of the Local Spiritual Assembly in such a village is concerned with the well being of all people in the village. Just as the community activities are open to all, so is the Assembly accessible to all. If two people have some sort of dispute, they can choose to bring their concerns to the Assembly. If the Assembly has built up a reputation as operating on the principles of unity and justice, and its members are known for upright character, we can imagine that many people in the village would want to take advantage of the existence of this institution. What other element in a village has learned how to “put aside the divisive ways of a partisan mindset, how to find the seeds of unity in even the most perplexing and thorny situations and how to nurture them slowly and lovingly, upholding at all times the standard of justice”?

This last quote is taken from paragraph 23 of the letter of 28 December, 2010, of the Universal House of Justice. The study of this paragraph will open new vistas in the collective mindset of the village, including its Bahá’í community, and its Spiritual Assembly.  The following questions may help in such a study.

1 – How and to what ends should a Spiritual Assembly “properly assess and utilize resources, financial and otherwise”?

2 – At this stage of the development of village communities, why should its physical facilities be essentially modest?
3 – What should an Assembly do if the “energies and talents” of the believers are currently being directed towards a divergent set of activities and priorities?

4 – Describe the function of an Assembly in maintaining the spiritual health and well-being of the community. How far outside of the Bahá’í community should this extend?

Baha’u’llah wrote: “The religion of God and His divine law are the most potent instruments and the surest of all means for the dawning of the light of unity amongst men. The progress of the world, the development of nations, the tranquility of the peoples, and the peace of all who dwell on earth are among the principles and ordinances of God.” [Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 130]

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