Framework that Shapes the Baha’i Approach to Political Involvement
For decades, the Universal House of Justice has been nurturing the development of the Baha’i community in Iran, guiding them through their persecution and assisting them to recognize the significance of their sacrifice and their opportunities to serve. A few days ago, they sent a letter to the Baha’i of Iran. Below are a few notes, paragraph by paragraph.
1. The message starts by acknowledging that wave after wave of persecution to this sorely tried community has only served to strengthen it. The larger Iranian community, itself oppressed, sees this injustice as destructive, while witnessing the Bahá’í community as a force of construction and calling for its full participation in the life of society.
2. From a political standpoint, the Bahá’í community has historically been cast as either rebels and foreign spies against the current regime or apathetic and withdrawn from social life. The House is providing comments on the Bahá’í attitude and approach towards politics to assist in the understanding of Iranian citizens regarding this subject.
3. Perspective on politics is tied to conception of history; humanity is approaching its threshold of maturity – the unification of the entire human race – and is currently in a period of unprecedented transition characteristic of the struggle to come of age. Latent powers and capacities are coming to light, and accepted conventions and cherished attitudes are being rendered obsolete by evolutionary imperatives.
4. These changes are the result of two interacting processes – one destructive, sweeping away barriers that block progress; one integrative, drawing diverse groups together for opportunities to cooperate. Bahá’ís strive to align themselves with the integrative forces.
5. This view of history underlies every endeavor.
6. The organizing principle of the imminent mature society is the oneness of humanity, though widely accepted today, is still in the early stages of reconceptualizing societal structural relationships – current ill-conceived notions of which are entirely inadequate and dangerous.
7. All peoples and nations will contribute to the transformation envisioned, and as unity will be progressively achieved in different social realms, structures reflecting political unity in diversity will take shape.
8. How can Bahá’ís best contribute to the civilization-building process?
9. Regarding its own growth and development, Bahá’ís are dedicated to a long-term process of learning to establish patterns of activity and structures that embody convictions based on the principle of the oneness of humanity, in which all are invited to participate. Those listed help form the conceptual framework in which Bahá’ís operate.
10. Because this process of learning must address numerous questions that arise (with many examples noted), a mode of operation characterized by action, reflection, consultation, and study of the Writings of the Faith and of patterns unfolding using scientific analysis has been adopted by Bahá’ís.
11. The direction of this process of learning is guided by Plans of the Universal House of Justice, broadly aimed at building capacity in protagonists to strengthen spiritual community life, address social and economic needs, and contribute to discourse, all with coherence.
12. The nature of the relationships of these protagonists – individuals, communities, and institutions — which lies at the heart of this process of learning, is cooperation rather than competition, is universal participation rather than spectators and powerful elite, is collective prosperity rather than irresponsible liberty.
13. The operation of power is involved in the relationships between these protagonists; yet the concept of power as domination and contest is antiquated. Rather, the human race contains a limitless capacity to transform through powers of the human spirit, such as love, unity, humility, purity, that can be released and channeled.
14. The Bahá’í community is not perfect, is not the embodiment of these ideals; it is gaining insights into them. It is not uninterested in social affairs nor unpatriotic, but its endeavor – which can be labeled as “idealistic” by some – is obviously deeply concerned for the good of humanity, hardly an objectionable effort by a group of people.
15. Involvement in society is another dimension to contributing to the advancement of civilization, which naturally must not contradict the first, in terms of principle or practice, in assumptions or action. Bahá’ís endeavor to associate with all people with joy, to promote unity, to serve humanity.
16. With these thoughts, Bahá’ís collaborate with others to promote human welfare, choosing means worthy of noble ends. They don’t impose religious convictions, yet do share lessons learned from their experience.
17. The convictions, beliefs, assumptions, and commitments detailed in the paragraphs above constitute the essential elements of the framework that shapes the Bahá’í approach to politics.
18. Bahá’ís don’t seek political power, won’t affiliate themselves with political parties or divisive agendas, and won’t accept political posts except those purely administrative in nature. However, humanity organizes itself through politics, and thus Bahá’ís vote, observe the laws of the land, and endeavor to uphold the standard of justice through lawful and non-violent means.
19. This approach enables the community to maintain cohesion and integrity and build its capacity to contribute to processes that promote peace and unity.
20. Participating further in the life of society is not without challenges, and the House of Justice prays for assistance from God in conversations regarding the framework articulated in this message, in collaborating with others, and in working towards betterment without compromising identity.