The most significant initial contribution of Local Assemblies to the processes of growth was providing encouragement to the believers. This was particularly effective when an expansion of vision had resulted from the participation of Assembly members in the institute process as well as the study of Five Year Plan documents.
This approach has… done much to assist Local Assemblies to realign their administrative processes and priorities. Beyond these considerations, the leadership role of the Spiritual Assemblies — be they national or local — is of profound importance. It has been observed in many clusters that the processes of growth are greatly enhanced where this leadership role is exercised through the Assemblies’ constant effort to maintain the vision of growth before the believers, allowing for the two essential movements to impact priorities, avoiding unnecessary distractions, providing the necessary resources, and reinforcing the plans and initiatives at the cluster level. Further, the dynamic force of individual example as the members of Assemblies themselves become personally involved in the cluster activities, actively supporting the efforts…
-International Teaching Centre, Impact of Growth on Administration, July 2005
RESIDENT: Patient is a 62y M who presented with shortness of breath, cough, and fever, diagnosed with pneumonia by chest X-ray in the emergency room, and is now, hospital day two, in the intensive care unit on broad-spectrum IV antibiotics for sepsis secondary to pneumonia. Earlier this morning, patient is dong well; overnight, no events. Vital signs are stable. On physical exam…
ATTENDING: What were the vital signs?
In clinical medicine, there are a set of vital signs, including temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, that help a clinician to assess the patient. If the respiratory rate is high, perhaps the asthma exacerbation isn’t getting better; if the pulse is low, perhaps there is an arrhythmia.
The problem with these measurements are that they are a point in time, a static reading of otherwise dynamic process. In the above scenario, unless the vital signs were abnormal, there isn’t much utility in saying that “at 7:38am this morning, for one second, the patient’s pulse was 83.” It could have changed after walking away.
The purpose of measurement is to more and more precisely describe reality. We are still affected by the enlightenment’s static and reductionist worldview; with the accompanied coarseness of mind came a loss of understanding the complexity of existence. With a mechanistic vision of the universe, perceiving the subtleties of change gradually faded from scientific inquiry – reality was forced into boxes and integers and human definitions. Instead of seeing change in all things, the idea of staticism was introduced. Yet, reality begs to differ. When a patient’s pulse is “unchanged” at 75 from one minute to another, it is not a default static state; rather, an extremely complex set of physiobiochemicalneuroendocrine interactions are working to maintain the pulse at that rate. The only thing not changing is the number on the monitor and the frequency of the beeping sound; only our measurement is the same number from second to second. But all things change – it is a law of reality. Movement is an essence of existence. And even stillness is not lack of change, but rather a state of dynamic equilibrium.
Clearly, in order to describe reality more precisely, we need more profound conceptions of measurement, and not simply more measures (as is the response of medicine, for example). Throughout the history of medicine, blood pressure has been one attempt at this. Hundreds of years ago, pressure was measured as a single number – the pulse pressure. This was originally done with inserting a tube into a cut artery; as this proved too dangerous, non-invasive methods were used. Yet, it was still a single number, “pressure”. It was only just around 100 years ago that the concept of systolic and diastolic pressure was introduced, the one we currently use. The value of the maximum and minimum pressure exerted on the artery walls at any given heart beat is vastly more informative that a single number representing arterial pressure. Why is it more informative? Because it’s one step closer towards a more adequate reading of reality.
The measurement of blood pressure as a spectrum is a step towards reflecting the underlying truth of reality that all things are on a continuum. Perhaps pulse can be reported as “between 65 and 72 overnight” or “between 45 and 110, with an average of 82 overnight” (which are two different clinical pictures).
The work of the Bahá’ís and their friends in community-building at the grassroots is based upon a progressively more precise reading of reality. And reality is a dynamic continuum. The mode of functioning, at the same time, of this community-building work is systematic – which involves quantitative (and qualitative) measurement. The Baha’i community has been learning about placing its descriptions of reality on a ever-more-rich continuum. This helps avoid two pitfalls – both manifestations of the same underlying tendency to reduce reality – which have plagued society for years: collapsing all individuals into one middle group (such as in the case with school systems) or collapsing all individuals into one of two bi-polar groups (such as in the case with political systems). The reality, instead, is that there is a continuum.
Take the example of a group of junior youth engaged with the junior youth spiritual empowerment programme. One can describe them by saying, “The group has around 12 junior youth, and the group has completed one of the texts so far, and 7 of them were at the first service project”. One can also – more precisely – describe the group by saying: “The group has 22 junior youth that are associated with the group – 6 form the core and have completed every lesson, 9 come sometimes and have done more than half the lessons, and another 7 have come at least once or twice and the animator and junior youth are in contact with them. 7 were at the first service project, yet another 4 were at the planning meeting, and 2 lent supplies; a participation total of 13.” What a more befitting way to describe the reality! These activities are living and moving and changing – they are dynamic. The pulse pressure is not a static 12, but a dynamic 22 over 6…
As we sharpen our perception, we will learn to recognize and measure social and spiritual dynamism in both movement and stillness in order to build vibrant community life.
“In clusters at an early stage of development, it is possible to work with a core group of believers—say five to ten—and by giving them a vision of the framework, assisting them to make plans, and accompanying them in teaching and other acts of service, set in motion a process that will lead to sustained growth. One should never underestimate what a handful of capable tutors can do and how effectively they can respond to growth and raise up new human resources. The vital component of such an incipient growth program is an emphasis on teaching, which needs to be present from the start. Again, this is a key element of learning from clusters with intensive programs of growth. Those that have attained a healthy, sustainable growth pattern are characterized by a focus on teaching, in particular direct teaching, and not just on extending invitations to core activities. Where intensive programs of growth have stalled at a plateau of low numbers of enrollments, the dimension missing from the framework for action is direct, collective teaching.”
“Yet, although many admire your dynamism and ideals, the true significance of these endeavours is less apparent to the world at large. You, however, are aware of your part in a mighty, transforming process that will yield, in time, a global civilization reflecting the oneness of humankind. You know well that the habits of mind and spirit that you are nurturing in yourselves and others will endure, influencing decisions of consequence that relate to marriage, family, study, work, even where to live. Consciousness of this broad context helps to shatter the distorting looking glass in which everyday tests, difficulties, setbacks, and misunderstandings can seem insurmountable. And in the struggles that are common to each individual’s spiritual growth, the will required to make progress is more easily summoned when one’s energies are being channelled towards a higher goal—the more so when one belongs to a community that is united in that goal.”
“It is important to note that, as a programme of growth is being brought into existence, an emergent community spirit begins to exert its influence on the course of events. Whether activities are scattered across the cluster or concentrated in one village or neighbourhood, a sense of common purpose characterizes the endeavours of the friends. Whatever level of organization served to channel the early manifestations of this spirit, the systematic, coordinated multiplication of core activities necessitates that higher levels soon be attained. Through various measures, greater structure is lent to activity, and initiative, shaped largely by individual volition before, is now given collective expression. A complement of coordinators appointed by the institute moves into place—those for study circles, for junior youth groups, and for children’s classes. Any order of appointment is potentially valid. Nothing less than an acute awareness of circumstances on the ground should make this determination, for what is at stake is not compliance with a set of procedures but the unfoldment of an educational process that has begun to show its potential to bring about the spiritual empowerment of large numbers.”
Click Here to download a word document of the Houston Neighborhood Reflection Gathering Agenda.
Compiled by youth serving in three focus neighborhoods around Harris cluster, the agenda represents the questions that arise from experience by those laboring shoulder to shoulder, not in the abstract, with animators and junior youth in the field of service. Please reflect on these agenda items as a teaching team, prepare responses on the basis of your shared experience since the last reflection gathering, and divvy up the topics amongst your team members to encourage universal participation. Thoughtful reflections, stumbling blocks and how they became stepping stones, beautiful pictures and audiovisual presentations are all welcome! Looking forward to seeing you!
Harris County Cluster
Neighborhood Reflection Gathering
18:00, 8 Sultan 170 B.E.
Attendees: ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ __________ __________
(Agenda derived from consultation with indigenous and visiting youth who are serving at the grassroots in focus neighborhoods)
Each team please present an update on your experience and learnings since the last reflection gathering. Please share your team’s prepared responses to the questions below, having divided the questions up amongst the group members.
“O people of Justice! Be as brilliant as the light, and as splendid as the fire that blazed in the Burning Bush. The brightness of the fire of your love will no doubt fuse and unify the contending peoples and kindreds of the earth…”
Humanity is a whole, single organism, and may be likened unto the body of a human being, also a whole and single organism. Likewise, the embryological processes that led to the development of the human being are therefore the same processes in the body of humankind. What are these processes?
Humanity was not always a whole and single organism in its social, outward form. Of course, on an ontological level, humanity is one – has always been, and always will be. The last thousands of years have been the gradual manifestation into reality of this latent truth. However, there have been stages: “History has thus far recorded principally the experience of tribes, cultures, classes, and nations. With the physical unification of the planet in this century and acknowledgement of the interdependence of all who live on it, the history of humanity as one people is now beginning.”
We may say, then, that we are witnessing humanity’s embryological phase. Roughly a century old, compared to the hundreds of millennia during which Homo sapiens existed, and the tens of millennia of civilization, humanity as one organism is very much an embryo.
What are the main embryological processes? Immediately, the processes of cell division and growth and of differentiation and specialization come to mind. This is how the organism increases in size and complexity, and other fundamental processes of gastrulation, somitogenesis, and organogenesis result from these first two foundational processes.
There is a third process, less discussed and yet now recognized as equally important, that it makes up the third of the three main processes of embryology: apoptosis. A highly ordered and natural process, apoptosis is a series of biochemical events that leads to cell death. WIthout apoptosis, for instance, fingers and toes wouldn’t be formed, as the hands and feet are massive paws until the cells in-between fingers and toes apoptose. Similarly, organs are sculpted to their desired structure through apoptosis. The chambers of the heart hollow out as structure responds to anticipated function. The nervous system forms first as an overproduced mass of cells with potential, and those through which synaptic connections don’t arise aren’t chemically confirmed, and simply apoptose to allow for a well-functioning, descriptive neural network based on interactions that happened; and not a prescribed or predetermined system. Apoptosis is not a passive processes, but active and highly-regulated, necessary for organic health and to maintain homeostasis – ironically, some degenerative diseases result from ineffective apoptosis.
This is not the only way cells die. There is also the biological phenomenon of necrosis, which is the death of cells due to damage, toxins, trauma, infection, lack of blood flow or oxygen, a poisonous chemical environment – factors all extrinsic to the cell itself. Necrosis is an unnatural and unhealthy occurrence, while apoptosis is a natural and healthy process. And the differences are clinically perceptible; apoptosis is completely unnoticeable while necrosis results in pain, redness, heat, swelling, etc.
So what parallels can be drawn between the three processes of proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis?
– These processes are analogous to the dialectic through which civilization advances – crisis and victory. The victory is often in terms of growth and decentralization – two movements that are inseparable. They are both in terms of numbers and complexity, quantity and quality. The crisis comes in the form of apoptosis – a decline in numbers, momentary set-backs and breaches in bonds, decreased efficacy when new complexities occur.
– Crisis is not a result of failure on the part of the protagonists, nor is it a passive occurrence; rather, it is an active and healthy phenomenon, necessary to provide organic conditions for new victories. As progress is dynamic, so are the processes involved.
– It is important to distinguish between natural and healthy crisis and disruptive crisis. Two factors predominate – perspective and the environment. As apoptosis is a result of inner conditions, whereas necrosis is a result of external environmental factors, we must be alert to extraneous complications that result from the environment, and are not intrinsic to the process itself. Crisis can be a smooth, seamless, and non-disruptive process when occurring in an environment imbued with love, patience, forbearance, and enthusiasm, one in which a humble posture of learning is the mode of operation. Furthermore, if one has a negative perspective on events, then likely it will be seen as a crisis in negative connotation of the word; whereas if one perceives the same events as natural, it can be seen as an opportunity for progress. How can we prevent unhealthy crisis – necrosis – before it becomes clinically manifest, and create environments and facilitate perspectives toward apoptosis, or healthy crisis?
– These three processes, growth, decentralization, and crisis, are all necessary for healthy progress, and they exist in a dynamic equilibrium. An excess of any one becomes unhealthy. Growth by itself leads to a congregation of functionless cells, losing touch with the purpose of increasing numbers; decentralization by itself is a premature distancing from the community, resulting in unsustainable activities or complacent stance; and crisis by itself is usually an indicator that focus is not on the process as a whole, but instead is on certain cells (individuals).
There is, of course, much more insight that can be drawn from how a human being embryologically develops and its application to the processes by which humanity advances. It is important to always keep in mind that all these multiple interacting processes are fundamentally organic in nature.
In its 28 December message, the Universal House of Justice states that the first milestone, signifying the emergence of a programme of growth, is marked by an initial flow of human resources into the field of action, where “junior youth groups are being maintained by those progressing through the sequence of institute courses and committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.”
Our teaching team has started the study of Ruhi Book 1, Reflections on the life of the Spirit, with 2 youth from the neighborhood (ages 15 and 16) who are accompanying us in animating junior youth groups. Although the study of the text is challenging, we are developing the capacity to focus and appreciate profound concepts in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting, that allows for mutual support and universal participation. This “initial flow” we pray, is the precursor to torrential outpourings in the teaching process in Houston.
“Throughout the world, across all classes and social groups, there has been a ready response from youth who are invited to examine the forces shaping their society and their role in contributing to its constructive transformation through service as animators of junior youth groups. Time and again it has been seen that consideration of, and reflection upon, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute release the deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess. Engaging their fertile minds in an exploration of such ideas gives rise to profound conversations that leave their mark and find expression in action. Those who are inclined to establish a junior youth group are assisted to do so, and in this way, the program’s reach in a town or neighborhood is expanded in a relatively short period, even if there are only a limited number of human resources available within the Bahá’í community.” – 14 November 2012, The Universal House of Justice
Forces – spiritual, social, intellectual, and physical – are irresistibly moving humanity. Towards what direction? Who are the protagonists of this movement? How can humanity’s inherent capacities be harnessed?
In the young people of the world lies a reservoir of capacity to transform society waiting to be tapped. How are these deep reservoirs of commitment to significant social change that young people possess released?
Look at the verbs: examine, consider, reflect upon, explore – what do they mean and how are they used? Look at the ideas: the forces shaping society, a youth’s role in contributing to society’s constructive transformation, the profound concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute. Look at the outcome: a sense of two-fold purpose, to develop their inherent potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society – through service as animators of junior youth groups. What are the means? Conversations and mutual assistance.
What are some forces shaping our society? Some, constructive and positive, include love for truth, thirst for knowledge, attraction to beauty, and unity. Some, destructive and negative, include materialism, self-centeredness, prejudice, and ignorance.
What are some of the concepts addressed in Book 5 of the Ruhi Institute? In addition to addressing the forces shaping society and a youth’s role in society’s constructive transformation, some other concepts include: coherence, two-fold moral purpose, the age of junior youth, spiritual perception, the dual-nature of self, language, the power of expression, hope, service, and empowerment.
Any serious attempt at civilization-building cannot ignore the role of young people in working with those younger than themselves, analyzing these forces, understanding these concepts, and taking on the identity of a life-long servant of humanity.
90 days after the completion of the Houston leg of the Historic 95 + 19 youth conferences around the world, a reflection gathering for youth was held in Houston (Harris County) cluster to reflect on experience gained through action based on plans drawn at the conference. One member of our teaching team shared the following powerpoint presentation summarizing features of the process, our experience, and some salient insights. Click on the presentation below, entitled “The Process of Growth” to follow along in your own cluster with what was done in Harris County to start a neighborhood movement with no prior indigenous contacts and no prior experience.
Hopefully some approaches, methods, and instruments employed will be helpful to others striving to implement the provisions of the Five Year plan in localities around the world. Amongst such helpful topics may have been: a systematic survey of residential areas near members of the teaching team’s homes or workplaces, the use of online resources such as google maps and city-data.org for surveying large expanses of population demographics quickly from behind a computer desk, tenacity in trying numerous neighborhoods before committing to one long term for junior youth program development, structured cycles of weekly action-reflection-consultation/study-planning is highly conducive to increasing teaching team intensity.
We also found it helpful to meditate on such phrases as this,
“Invariably, opportunities afforded by the personal circumstances of the believers initially involved—or perhaps a single homefront pioneer—to enter into meaningful and distinctive conversation with local residents dictate how the process of growth begins in a cluster.” ~Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010
“To follow a path of service, whatever form one’s activity assumes, requires faith and tenacity. In this connection, the benefit of walking that path in the company of others is immense. Loving fellowship, mutual encouragement, and willingness to learn together are natural properties of any group of youth sincerely striving for the same ends…” ~Universal House of Justice, 1 July 2013
Reflection on Junior Youth Group and Children’s Class 11/9/2013
After our expansion phase, which consisted of scouting 6 different neighborhoods in the Houston medical center area, and gauging the receptivity of indigenous populations to participating in the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, our teaching efforts advanced more rapidly in one neighborhood that exemplified certain characteristics we have come to associate with receptivity. Our neighborhood accurately represents the reality of a large majority of the world’s population. It is a humble place. The inhabitants are predominantly Spanish-speaking, 1st generation immigrant families, that have resisted urban decay and cultural disintegration in a modernizing world. It consists mainly of apartment complexes that are higher in density than a suburb. It is near downtown and the medical center where a number of young professionals are employed and can commute or home-front pioneer conveniently. The socioeconomic status is best described as working-class. Online census data helped in assessing transiency rates and, importantly, the density per capita of eleven-to-fifteen year olds.
We have established a Junior Youth group and Children’s Class in our neighborhood with a measure of consistency. Mindful that being systematic and process-oriented conduces to community building, our teaching team prefers humble efforts that are undertaken frequently, multiple times per week. Our process consists of weekly cycles of study, planning, action, and reflection. We have studied Messages from the Universal House of Justice, December 28 and Ridvan 2010. Since the burst of expansion, which strained every nerve and tested the resolve of our team, we have become more comfortable with a heightened level of intensity.
Our plans are to fortify the increase in ranks which we experienced as a result of the expansion phase. From the perspective of the educational process, this will entail the completion of our study of the workbook ‘Glimmerings of Hope’ with our Junior Youth group and the Lessons of Ruhi Book 3 for Grade 1 with our Children’s Class. Beyond curricula, insightful service opportunities are hoped to draw us further into the life of our neighborhood. Reading our reality, the identification of suitable venues for home-front pioneers to relocate and the recruitment of full-time youth year-of-service volunteers remains a significant landmark on our horizon. Multiplying the number of Junior Youth groups and core activities to include study circles and devotional gatherings from among parents and older siblings will raise indigenous human resources that can ensure the sustainability of the system. Empowering the masses to take ownership of their own material and spiritual destiny is the result of grass-roots capacity-building nurtured by a rhythm of community life proportional to an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order.
11/9/2013 – Gathering Our Community
11/9/2013 – Junior Youth Group: ‘Glimmerings of Hope’ Lesson Two: Ethnic Cleansing in Kibomi’s Village
11/9/2013 – Junior Youth Group: Consultation: Ground Rules
11/9/2013 – Ground Rules Contract with Signatures
11/9/2013 – Children’s Class: Coloring
11/9/2013 – Children’s Class: Story
11/9/2013 – Coloring and Prayer
11/9/2013 – Team Huddle
11/9/2013 – Sports: Boys Playing Football
11/9/2013 – Parents Supporting on the Sidelines
11/9/2013 – Sports: Dodge ball
11/9/2013 – Walking to Class – David, Anahi, Leisha
11/9/2013 – Nicholas
11/9/2013 – Beto & Anthony
In the Junior Youth Workbooks the protagonists of the story provide an archetypal character to which every junior youth participant who studies the story can relate–they see themselves occupying a similar physical stage of development and social status, enjoying the same recreational and educational activities, and expressing the same life-goals and aspirations. They see inner tendencies of their own mind articulated openly for the first time and explored. It teaches them implicitly to care for and value the environment in which they live by extolling the natural beauty and divine handiwork manifest in the landscape and environs surrounding them. It paints an archetypal picture of partisanship or special interests that corresponds to the various oppressions people experience around world in their own society–whether it be through political corruption, social and economic injustice, racial prejudice (institutional or personal), or tribal war. It teaches them about economic patterns that may characterize certain types of jobs being filled by members of a single racial group–that find parallels in the migrant worker population in the US. The text teaches them, nevertheless, to see the nobility in all people, and to recognize the simple, profound, and beautiful dignity inherent in acts of hospitality, and a culture that has resisted urban decay in the modern era. In this, it teaches junior youth to look beyond the employment and economic status of an individual or community to find its worth or identity. The workbooks also draw attention to injustice of a systemic nature, that oppresses the people. It focuses attention on the elitism of privilege and the inequalities of opportunity and access to resources that are written into law and institutional policy. It then brings this description down to a personal level by focusing the junior youth’s attention on the familial and psychological consequences on the home-life and cultural integrity of a community.
The questions after the story highlight the pattern of similar interests, dreams, partisan conflict, passive involvement in its consequences, and the first-hand effects at home–that characterize the experience of junior youth living around the world.
The prayer that follows draws upon this description of the reality of junior youth and introduces the concept of supplication before God for protection–protection from those forces and injustices that so vividly plagued the world of Kibomi, and find parallel in our own lives, in all our countries. In conjunction with protection from external forces of evil, we must also be aware and protect against the evil that comes from within. In a literal sense–the germs and bacteria that invade the body and can cause disease as well as in a spiritual sense–the ethical decisions our soul and heart make on a daily basis to ingest or avoid alcoholic beverages or fill our brains with knowledge instead of ignorance and prejudice. In response to each topic the question can be asked, did Dr. Joseph Lister’s discovery of germ theory save us all from a fate of chronic infection by advising us to wash our hands before eating? And does the presence of an exploitative fast food restaurant on every street corner imply that we cannot plant local farms or pursue healthier alternatives for our nourishment? Do emotional sentiments such as rage or intense jealously, so common in popular media, have a biological consequence on our organ function and health? Is a scientific approach to understanding the causes of public health diseases conducive to a cure?
With regard to the ease and prevalence of alcoholic drinking culture , the Junior Youth should be encouraged to think critically. Is abstinence from both experimenting with alcohol and from places and people who are drinking a reliable method of protection? Is knowledge and continual remembrance of the pathologies, both biological and social, directly linked to alcohol consumption an effective internal instrument for our own motivation–pathologies such as liver failure and encephalopathy, malnutrition and poor dentition, drunkenness and violence, adultery and rape, and DUI and vehicular manslaughter? Is understanding the exploitative financial incentives of brewing companies and entertainment marketers behind the misrepresentations of commercial advertisements a source of empowerment?
With regard to the esotericization of knowledge behind university walls and credentials of false-merit–a control over a narrow form of knowledge that allows elites to justify pacification and neglect of the masses–the junior youth are encouraged to question and not blindly follow custom. Does an inquisitive mind that pursues the reasons for things open new possibilities for achievement that could not have been known otherwise? Does a humble posture of learning or an egocentric habit of assertion conduce more to prosperity? Does education, especially in these primary years, serve a fundamental purpose of which the Junior Youth should be active and appreciative protagonists? Is a competitive culture that shames a student who asks questions conducive to learning, or a collaborative spirit in which inquiry is the method of mutual discovery?
Multiplying Core Activities
After our teaching team formed a group for the moral and intellectual empowerment of junior youth we realized that too many children were distracting the endeavors of the Animators and Junior Youth. The spectacle of the Junior Youth having fun was attracting their younger siblings to the site of the activities. This obstacle was transformed into a stepping stone. The children were separated into another group and formed a children’s class not far from where the Junior Youth were working. We understood that the Junior Youth group could serve as a stimulus to growth of a larger movement, however, what happened followed no predetermined course. One core activity was given precedence, multiplying at a rate faster than the others, and naturally attracted children from the community into another core activity. In this way, the multiplication of core activities was achieved, organically.
Visiting teams are being called upon to teach the children’s classes on the basis of the Ruhi Book 3 Curriculum, and add impetus to the fledgling set of activities emerging in the neighborhood. Irrespective of the specifics, the outcome will be the same. Within this neighborhood plans are being made to invite participants to study circles and devotionals from amongst the youth and adults. Ultimately, the level of cohesion achieved among the core activities must be such that in their totality, a nascent program for the sustained expansion and consolidation of the Faith is perceived. Envisioning the First Milestone: accompanying Indigenous inhabitants of the neighborhood through the sequence of institute courses and into the field of service as animators, children’s class teachers, and hosts of devotional gatherings–committed to the vision of individual and collective transformation they foster.
Junior Youth Group: Anthony Volunteers to Answer the Question, “What problems does Alcohol bring?”
Children’s Class: Memorizing “O God, guide me, protect me,…”
Empowerment of Girls: Areseli and Liesha explain why knowledge and education protect us from ignorance.
Collective Gathering: After playing Dodgeball the group gathers to divide into Junior Youth Group and Children’s Class
Reflection: In a humble attitude of learning, confident in the unfailing grace of the Almighty, joining hands to accompany each another in service to His Cause.
For the majority of the world’s inhabitant’s, living with injustice is a reality of daily life. Living with inferior opportunities, inadequate resources, and systematic prejudice doesn’t stop at the front door of people’s homes. It finds expression in the domestic violence of financially frustrated husbands, it manifests in the disrespect of youth towards their parents who cannot thrive in an english-speaking workforce. The signs of prejudice are apparent in the values of the race-specific conception of beauty inculcated in what is called the “white aesthetic” that foists caucasian (or caucasian-featured) models onto billboards and magazine covers. This parallels a rise in plastic surgeries that modify noses and eyes making them pointier and less “asian”. Is it possible for immigrant children not to doubt that they are beautiful when globalization projects the white aesthetic into their living rooms and schools on TV’s and billboards the world over? Locating liquor stores strategically in low-income neighborhoods is an exploitative intention that respects no boundaries of a family’s home or a child’s playground. The effect popularizing a culture of drinking is to generate profits for brewing corporations, at the expense of creating domestic violence, drunken disorderliness, adultery, and workplace hazards. The frustration of families unable to make ends meet due to low corporate wages ironically drives people to escapism and solace at the bottom of a bottle. The system of oppression reinforces itself, squeezing the working class of its financial and biological strength. The economic recovery in the US since the financial collapse of 2008 has generated wealth in the pockets of only the wealthiest one tenth of 1% of Americans, not the workers upon whose backs the labor and increased GDP depends.
Every 12 to 15 year-old, when asked the right questions, can identify injustices like these. Injustices that touch them or their families personally. Kibomi stands for an archetypal construct of our own struggles with racism, greed, partisanship, political corruption, violence, exploitation, and selfishness–and the effect of injustice on us personally. Kibomi represents the internal choice of each one of us, that we make in response to injustice. For the masses of humankind, who live on less than $1 a day and enjoy none of the privileges of western urban elites, responding to injustice is a daily choice. Kibomi lives in all of us. No one is free from the choice, because no one is free from injustice.
In the (true) story of Kibomi, Kibomi is a boy who witnesses the murder of his parents and destruction of his village by a racial group fighting for political dominance and economic self-interest. They terrorize and enslave a weaker and less privileged ethnic minority. He overcomes injustice by developing intellectual skills to analyze what he perceives, understand reasons for what caused it, and articulate spiritual principles to counteract those forces. Through spiritual transcendence he overcomes this injustice and with the weapons of understanding, the sword of utterance, and the force of spiritual ideals and righteous deeds he ventures to reverse the tide of injustice that has overtaken his nation. The story of his transformation is told in the workbook, “Glimmerings of Hope”.
Will Junior Youth in our nation resolve to become emblems of overcoming injustice and minarets of the transformation of our social order?
We pray, “O Lord! Make this youth radiant, and confer Thy bounty upon this poor creature. Bestow upon him knowledge, grant him added strength at the break of every morn and guard him within the shelter of Thy protection so that he may be freed from error, may devote himself to the service of Thy Cause, may guide the wayward, lead the hapless, free the captives and awaken the heedless, that all may be blessed with Thy remembrance and praise. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.”
Image: [Iron Youngsta’s, Houston Junior Youth Group.]
A rhythm of community life gradually emerges commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order. As a program of growth is being brought into existence, an emergent community spirit begins to exert its influence on the course of events. A sense of common purpose characterizes the endeavors of the friends. Out of the occasional meetings of a few believers emerge the regular deliberations of an expanding core group of friends concerned with channeling into the field of service an increasing store of energy. The operation of spiritual forces in the arena of service becomes increasingly apparent, and bonds of friendship, so vital to a healthy pattern of growth, are continuously reinforced. The sequence of Ruhi and Junior Youth courses, which facilitate so effectively the process of transformation under way, are designed to create an environment conducive at once to universal participation and mutual support and assistance. The nature of relationships among individuals in this environment, all of whom consider themselves as treading a common path of service produces a fully fledged scheme embodying the inherent capacity needed to facilitate the efficient flow of guidance, funds, and information. The process of growth in the neighborhood conforms to the rhythm established by pronounced cycles of expansion and consolidation, punctuated every three months by a meeting for reflection and planning, and unfolding without interruption. The rise in the capacity of the friends to converse on spiritual matters and to speak with ease about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh and His Revelation testifies that they have understood well that teaching is a basic requirement of a life of generous giving. The discharge of this fundamental spiritual obligation by the individual believer propels the steady increase in the tempo of teaching across the globe.
Since the time that the call was raised, 1996, a year that has come to be regarded as ‘Turning Point’, the Baha’i community has re-organized itself along a path being defined by a process of systematic learning based on an accumulating body of global experience in teaching work designed to open before humanity Baha’u’llah’s vision of a New World Order.
Guided by the unfailing hand of the Universal House of Justice, the community grappled with what seemed to be a torrential outpouring of correspondence from the Baha’i World Center (1996-2012), unmatched in volume heretofore, and as challenging intellectually as it was controversial within the traditional culture and beliefs that were long-held in the community. Whenever change occurs, and by the law of mutability it always does, it can be painful for a community with firmly established ways of doing things, and with inward-looking values that have guided their prosperity for generations.
After nearly two decades of perseverance and tenacity the Baha’i community can proudly conclude that it has embodied by and large the transformation enshrined in its supreme Body’s injunctions. The community has well in hand the understanding and practice of its expansion and consolidation. Few remain who are currently shaken by the swiftly changing landscape to which the Infallible Guidance and the onward march of history has subjected the community.
One may go as far to say that the old orthodoxy is the new heterodoxy, where outmoded ways of doing things are universally regarded by a generality of the population (who possess the language to articulate their differences) as having been replaced by a new prevailing paradigm–and this in less than 2 decades since Turning Point. Historically speaking, whole civilizations have shown less agility over millenia in adapting to changes of an evolving social milieu than the Baha’i community has done in 17 years. For example, the catholic church is experiencing its first stages of evolution in response to pressures from a modernizing society and an ever-advancing civilization. Without the infallible hand of the Universal House of Justice, it seems difficult to avoid utter disintegration of a community’s beliefs, scripture, and spiritual identity.
What more can the community of the Greatest Name ask this joyous teaching cycle? We bow our heads in gratitude before God. That the process is reproducible in locality after locality without direct exportation of relationships or personnel, that souls arising to serve do so spontaneously by the tens, attracted by the prospect of selfless sacrifice, and that the dialectic of crisis and victory characterizes ubiquitously the experience of every endeavor, melding hearts in love and bonds of friendship whose resulting unity is the very basis of success in teaching endeavors–this demonstrates time and again to every participant the divine origin of the process. Faith in God translates into faith in the guidance of the Universal House of Justice.