3 Ways to Engage with Changemakers in Our Community

A Baha’i shares the message of Baha’u’llah with her neighbour in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

For many of us, determining our role in the current Five Year Plan can be a major struggle. The Baha’i community is progressing and learning at such a rapid rate that it can seem difficult to keep up. There may also be certain community initiatives that are new to us and make us feel uncomfortable, so we watch others conduct the teaching work as we try and find our place.

In its most recent Ridvan message, the Universal House of Justice praised and encouraged our global teaching efforts and indicated that there is no formula to how we serve the current plan. During each cycle of activity, several methods of teaching can be employed depending on the characteristics of each population. The Supreme Body states:

How pleased we are to note the many insights the believers are gaining from their endeavours. They appreciate, for instance, that the Plan’s gradual unfoldment at the level of the cluster is a dynamic process, one that is necessarily complex and does not lend itself to ready simplification. They see how it moves forward as they increase their ability both to raise up human resources and to coordinate and organize well the actions of those who arise. The friends realize that as these capacities are enhanced, it becomes possible to integrate a wider range of initiatives. Equally, they have come to recognize that when a new feature is introduced it requires special attention for some time, but that this in no way diminishes the significance of other aspects of their community-building endeavours. For they understand that if learning is to be their mode of operation, they must be alert to the potential offered by any instrument of the Plan that proves to be especially suited to a particular point in time and, where called for, invest greater energy in its development; it does not follow, however, that every person must be occupied with the same aspect of the Plan. The friends have also learned that it is not necessary for the principal focus of the expansion phase of every cycle of a programme of growth to be directed towards the same end. Conditions may require that in a given cycle, as an example, attention be primarily aimed at inviting souls to embrace the Faith through intensive teaching efforts, undertaken as individuals or collectively; in another cycle, the focus could be on multiplying a specific core activity.1

This paragraph got me reflecting on the different approaches we could take during any given expansion phase in order to engage with those individuals who are receptive to the idea of making a change in our society. In its Ridvan 2010 letter, the Universal House of Justice states:

…receptivity manifests itself in a willingness to participate in the process of community building set in motion by the core activities.2

So whether we are visiting homes in our neighbourhood, conversing with our colleagues and friends, or interacting with people in various social circles, we are seeking those individuals who are determined to engage in the process of community building using the Institute as their engine for growth.

Here are three ways we can do that:


1. Distinctive Conversations

First and foremost, the conversations we have with people on a daily basis can determine how a process of growth will take place and in what form so I think it is important for us to see every interaction as an opportunity to find those eager to improve their spiritual and material surroundings.

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. A study circle made up of a few friends or colleagues, a class offered for several neighbourhood children, a group formed for junior youth during after-school hours, a devotional gathering hosted for family and friends—any one of these can serve as a stimulus to growth.3


2. Neighbourhood Teaching

Another avenue we can use to engage with those souls who are willing to either participate in community building activities or facilitate them as teachers, animators or tutors, is to visit homes in our neighbourhoods. By interacting with our neighbours and engaging in elevated conversations, we can…

…find those souls longing to shed the lethargy imposed on them by society and work alongside one another in their neighbourhoods and villages to begin a process of collective transformation.4


3. Colleagues and Friends

The Universal House of Justice states:

In every cluster, once a consistent pattern of action is in place, attention needs to be given to extending it more broadly through a network of co-workers and acquaintances, while energies are, at the same time, focused on smaller pockets of the population, each of which should become a centre of intense activity.5

This particular approach seems to work best in our community. We all have friends or colleagues who we are comfortable speaking to about topics on a deeper scale. Through our discussions, it becomes clear which individuals share our passion to work for change in the community and from there we can invite them to work with us, shoulder to shoulder, towards the promotion of the Cause.
 
The Universal House of Justice makes it clear that not every one of us needs be occupied with the same aspect of the Plan and that the focus of our programs of growth need not be directed towards the same end. We all have one goal, one duty, and that is to teach the Faith. How and with whom we do it is up to us.

And even though the rate of progress may vary from place to place depending on the circumstances of various populations, the cycle is characterized by a spirit of unity and a sense of common purpose among the friends throughout the entire cluster. What is important to realize is that such a promising pattern of growth can only be maintained if everyone, in a humble posture of learning, and no matter the extent of his or her activity, offers unqualified support, in deeds and words, to every other soul who labours in the divine vineyard. “All must become as wings to bear one another onward”.6


  1. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2013, para. 4 []
  2. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2010, para. 6 []
  3. The Universal House of Justice, 28 December 2010, para. 4 []
  4. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2010, para. 6 []
  5. The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2010, para. 5 []
  6. The International Teaching Centre, Insights from the Frontiers of Learning, April 2013, p. 3, section 1.1 []

About the Author

Dellaram is a Baha'i, mother, and wife who works as a journalist in her hometown of Ballarat, Australia. She is passionate about all-things community and loves the thrill that comes with op-shopping.

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Discussion 7 Comments

  1. Besides the conversations we have with friends on a daily basis, we can take advantage of interfaith activities in our communities which often focus on core principles of the Baha’i Faith such as racial issues, economic issues, and issues of justice. Such topics can be explored in depth at lectures followed by small group discussions and finishing with group conclusions. From these beginnings, individuals who show interest can carry on continuing dialogue in Ruhi classes if they wish.

    In addition interfaith groups also carry out actions which demonstrate that what we believe is also part of our lives and activities. It’s not merely a theoretical discussion, but also a community building activity.

    1. I completely agree Rich! There are a range of organisations – interfaith networks, rotary clubs – which present an ideal forum for discussion and exploration on ‘deeper’ issues. This is indeed another way we can seek like-minded individuals who are empowered to work towards change. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this!

  2. Thank you Dellaram. There are a lot people who are curious and puzzled as to why the Baha’is want to be change-makers by teaching their Faith. This is what I think, it’s from the new UHJ web site.
    “Bahá’u’lláh conferred authority upon the Universal House of Justice to exert a positive influence on the welfare of humankind, to promote education, peace and global prosperity, and to safeguard human honour and the position of religion. It is charged with applying the Bahá’í teachings to the requirements of an ever-evolving society and is thus empowered to legislate on matters not explicitly covered in the Faith’s Sacred Texts. The guidance provided by the Universal House of Justice ensures unity of thought and action in the Bahá’í community as it learns to translate into reality Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for a spiritually and materially prosperous global civilization.”

  3. Thank you Dellaram. I think your article is quite handy for explaining briefly but clearly ideas of teaching from the guidances of UHJ messages. Secular society sometimes wonders why we want to teach the Baha’i Faith. I think this a good answer:
    “Bahá’u’lláh conferred authority upon the Universal House of Justice to exert a positive influence on the welfare of humankind, to promote education, peace and global prosperity, and to safeguard human honour and the position of religion. It is charged with applying the Bahá’í teachings to the requirements of an ever-evolving society and is thus empowered to legislate on matters not explicitly covered in the Faith’s Sacred Texts. The guidance provided by the Universal House of Justice ensures unity of thought and action in the Bahá’í community as it learns to translate into reality Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for a spiritually and materially prosperous global civilization.” ( from new home page of UHJ)

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you found it useful. All those points mentioned in the above quote are exactly what we are all striving towards. PS. Isn’t that new website amazing?!

  4. What may I ask is the website address (or name alternatively) of this new UHJ website that Dellaram and Hooshnag have been referring to?

    1. Shane, the official website for the Universal House of Justice can be viewed at universalhouseofjustice.bahai.org

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