Election of Universal House of Justice under way

April 29, 2003

HAIFA, Israel — The members of the Baha'i Faith's national governing councils in 178 countries are participating by postal ballot in the election of their international administrative body.

These National Spiritual Assemblies are voting to elect the nine who will serve on the Universal House of Justice, a task they consider to be a sacred privilege. The Universal House of Justice, an institution called for by Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Faith, was first elected in 1963.

Owing to current world conditions, the International Convention at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel, which is the normal setting for the election, will not be held.

The ballots will be tallied on 29 April 2003 at the Baha'i World Centre here.

"Baha'i elections are distinctive," said Mr. Douglas Moore, director of the Baha'i Office of Public Information in Haifa. "They take place without campaigning or nominations."

"This election is the only one in the world where the governing body of a major independent world religion is elected directly by delegates chosen by their respective national communities," Mr. Moore said.

Elections of the Universal House of Justice occur every five years. The Faith, which has no clergy, is governed by democratically elected councils at the international, national and local levels.

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The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, located on Mount Carmel, is the home of the Baha'i Faith's international governing body, which will be elected in April by postal ballot by electors in 178 countries.

Delegates are guided by the Faith's teachings, which advise them to choose "the names of those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience."

There are about five million Baha'is worldwide. Established in virtually every country, the Baha'i Faith is the second-most widespread independent world religion after Christianity, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Baha'i World Centre in the Acre/Haifa area of Israel has been both the spiritual and administrative center of the Baha'i Faith since Baha'u'llah was exiled there in 1868. The holiest Shrines in the Baha'i world are located in the area.