As Baha’i’s around the world continue to celebrate the 12 days of Ridvan, and local Baha’i communities in cities, towns and villages elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies, an important event, which only takes place once every five years is currently underway in Haifa, Israel: The election of the Universal House of Justice.
The Universal House of Justice is the supreme administrative body for the Baha’i international community. In reference to the role of the Universal House of Justice, Baha’u’llah stated:
The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries… Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the Ministers of the House of Justice that they may act according to the needs and requirements of the time.1
The first election of the Universal House of Justice was 50 years ago in 1963, and it coincided with the centenary of the declaration of Baha’u’llah which took place in the Ridvan Gardens in Baghdad in 1863. Since its inception, the Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by members of National Spiritual Assemblies worldwide, and these members gather together at what is called the International Baha’i Convention. The electoral process is carried out by these attendees (or ‘delegates’ as they are also known) in a spiritual atmosphere of prayer and reverence. All delegates cast their votes via a secret ballot, and, as in all Baha’i elections, any form of nominating or electioneering for candidates is strictly forbidden in the Baha’i Writings. Those who cannot attend the International Baha’i Convention in person must cast their ballot via mail.
The election of the Universal House of Justice was ordained by Baha’u’llah in The Most Holy Book (Kitab-i-Aqdas), and delegates are able to vote for any nine males over the age of 21 from around the Baha’i world. The fact that the election is based on ‘male members’ of the community has often been a point of much discussion in light of the explicit Baha’i belief that men and women are equal (and perhaps this can be looked at in more depth in a future article); but Baha’is view positions on Baha’i institutions as roles of service rather than power, and Abdu’l-Baha clearly states that the reason for this law “will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.”2
In Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, He writes that members elected to serve on the Universal House of Justice…
…must be manifestations of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and understanding, must be steadfast in God’s faith and the well-wishers of all mankind.3
As mentioned, much emphasis is placed on delegates approaching the election process in a prayerful attitude, and the team here at Baha’i Blog hopes that you will join us in keeping the delegates during this very special event in our thoughts and prayers.