13th International Convention: Representatives from 176 countries cast ballots to elect Universal House of Justice
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — After days of spiritual preparation visiting Bahá’í Holy Places, some 1,250 delegates representing 176 countries around the world assembled today in a momentous gathering to reverently cast their ballots for the election of the Universal House of Justice. The total number of ballots cast, including absentee ballots, surpassed 1590.
In her opening remarks, Holly Woodard, a Member of the International Teaching Centre who chaired the proceedings, highlighted the significance of this gathering, stating that it marked “the highest number of Assemblies ever represented and the largest gathering of participants at an International Convention.”
Dr. Woodard pointed to the evolution of the global Bahá’í community over the decades since “288 members of 51 National and Regional Spiritual Assemblies gathered in the main hall of the House of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Haifa” for the first election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.
At the start of the Convention, the Bahá’ís in Iran, who for several decades have been prevented from forming Bahá’í institutions and therefore electing representatives, were remembered by the participants, and their absence was poignantly marked by a beautiful arrangement of 95 red roses.
The casting of ballots this morning was the culmination of a global electoral process in which every adult Bahá’í can participate. Bahá’í elections are distinctive for their lack of nominations and campaigning. The delegates to the International Convention, comprising the membership of all national Bahá’í assemblies, vote by confidential ballot for the nine individuals they believe are best suited for membership on the House of Justice.
The mandate of the Universal House of Justice, which was ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in His book of laws, is to exert a positive influence on the welfare of humankind, promote education, peace and global prosperity, as well as to safeguard human honor, among many other responsibilities.
The House of Justice preserves the unity of the worldwide Bahá’í community, guiding it to develop its capacity to participate in building a prosperous global civilization and to translate Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of world peace into reality.
Later in the day more than 2,000 people—delegates, Counsellors, and other participants representing a cross-section of the human race—celebrated the festival of Riḍván.
This festival commemorates the anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s declaration as a Messenger of God 160 years ago, when He proclaimed the essential spiritual principles that lie at the heart of His teachings—signaling the arrival of a new stage in the evolution of the life of humanity.