Read: 2002 Jun 11, First Stage of Distribution - Message to Religious Leaders

The Universal House of Justice

Department of the Secretariat

11 June 2002

To National Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Baha'i Friends,

Reports from around the Baha'i world indicate that the first stage in the distribution of the message of the Universal House of Justice to the world's religious leaders has proceeded with impressive efficiency on the part of National Spiritual Assemblies. A summary of some of the initial developments is being put together by the Baha'i International Community's Office of Public Information and will be distributed shortly. That Office will take advantage of the opportunity to offer, as well, practical suggestions as to how queries from the media on various aspects of the message might be handled.

In response to enquiries from a number of Assemblies and friends, the House of Justice has asked us to provide you with the following further guidance to our letter of 25 March 2002. As the text itself makes clear, the message has to be seen not as a proclamation of Baha'u'llah's mission, but rather as a response on the part of the House of Justice to the obligation laid on it in the Writings to promote the cause of peace among the peoples and nations of the world. Because religious hatreds have become so virulent a source of conflict, the House of Justice believed that the time had come when it must appeal to the leadership of organized religion to address the issue vigorously and decisively.

A major forum in which such discourse will undoubtedly occur is the interfaith activity that is now an established feature of public discourse at local, national and international levels. It will be important for Baha'i participants in these exchanges to bear in mind at all times that the responsibility for analysing current conditions and determining courses of action that may counter the dangers posed by rising forces of religious prejudice rests on society in general, and particularly on all people of belief. Baha'is will be eager to contribute to such discussions in any way they can, but they are not attempting to prescribe solutions for religious groups who have to face social and spiritual problems created by historical circumstance.

Similarly, it will be vital that members of the Faith respect scrupulously the nature and purpose of such organized discussion. To divert it into an occasion for the teaching of the Baha'i Faith would be an abuse of the goodwill of others. Obviously, circumstances may arise in which consultation on the theme of the message leads to requests from other participants for further information about the Faith itself. Baha'i representatives will naturally be happy to provide information of this kind, but will want to keep such remarks within the context of the enquiries made.

National and Local Spiritual Assemblies should, however, give careful thought to steps that will ensure that the initiative taken by the House of Justice and the contents of the message reach as broad a public as possible, particularly through the various information media. The effect will be to greatly amplify discussion of a subject that is of vital importance to the wellbeing of humanity and to increasingly clarify the issues lying at its heart. Baha'i spokespersons can best contribute to this effort to the extent that they focus attention on the overriding social and spiritual challenges facing our world and avoid being drawn into contention over points of theology.

In their personal teaching activities individual Baha'is will, of course, find in the message ideas and perspectives that will be of great help in introducing the Faith itself to friends and contacts, and they should not hesitate to take advantage of such opportunities. Growing numbers of people are becoming deeply alarmed by the appalling consequences of sectarian hatreds, as well as impatient of the theological justifications that have long been advanced to support such destructive behaviour and attitudes. The principles of the oneness of God and the oneness of religion set out in the message can provide concerned seekers with helpful bridges to the study of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah.

The initiative now launched challenges members of the Baha'i community to demonstrate in their personal conduct the ideals animating the Faith. On all occasions, association with the followers of other religions offers an opportunity to give expression to that genuine spirit of fellowship that flows from recognition that all of the great religions have come from the one same Source and that diversity of opinion need not be a cause of conflict. The encouragement that such association affords is itself a public service promoting the cause of peace and goodwill and, indirectly, the advancement of the Faith.

In pursuing the mission laid on it by Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i community has always been called on to maintain a balance between the two parallel tasks involved: on the one hand, to promote the advancement of the Cause through teaching its message to all peoples, and, on the other, to contribute to the well-being of humankind through vindicating the ideals of unity, tolerance and cooperation. When they are properly carried out, these two mandates, although essentially distinct from one another, are mutually reinforcing.

With loving Baha'i greetings,
Department of the Secretariat

cc: The Hands of the Cause of God
International Teaching Centre
Boards of Counsellors

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