Inviting the wider community
DUBLIN — In an opening address to the annual convention of the Baha'is of Ireland, a local government leader wished delegates "continued success in promoting your ideas of one earth, one country."
In Swords, a town near Dublin, Michael Kennedy, chairman of the Fingal County Council, said the Baha'i Faith expressed a commitment to a global program for moral, spiritual and social progress that represented many of the finest ideals of civilization.
Mr. Kennedy, who is not a Baha'i, said spirituality had always played a vital part in the lives of Irish people but religion was under threat.
"It is important, therefore, that we begin to open ourselves to the concepts and principles espoused by other religions, not just the traditional ones, but independent religions like yours in the Baha'i community, so that we can begin to rebuild our spiritual lives.
"It is an article of your faith to mix with followers of other faiths and I would like to take (this) opportunity to encourage the citizens of Fingal to explore what your religion has to offer them."
During the subsequent consultations at the convention, the delegates discussed how the Baha'i community can continue to actively foster the inclusion of all people in their activities, regardless of religious affiliation or background.
Throughout the world, Baha'is are inviting the public to join with them in study circles aimed at building human capacity, devotional gatherings, and classes to provide spiritual and moral education to children.
At national conventions worldwide, Baha'is consulted on guidance given to them in this regard by the international governing council, the Universal House of Justice, and its advisory body, the International Teaching Centre.
There are 178 National Spiritual Assemblies, the national governing councils. National conventions were held throughout the world between 23 May and 1 June 2003, a month later than usual because of the election of the Universal House of Justice, which takes place every five years.
The main purpose of the annual conventions is to elect the National Spiritual Assemblies. The delegates also consult with each other on matters of national and international importance.
The Baha'i Faith has no clergy. Its affairs are administered by elected councils.
The National Spiritual Assemblies are elected by delegates from local communities. Those delegates are elected by the entire adult membership of their Baha'i communities.
In April, Baha'is throughout the world elected their local administrative bodies, the Local Spiritual Assemblies, which are also elected annually. There are more than 11, 700 worldwide.
Baha'i spokesman Douglas Moore said the Baha'i election process is quite distinctive.
"The elections are conducted by secret ballot -- however, there is no nomination, campaigning or discussion of candidates," said Mr. Moore, Director of the Office of Public Information at the Baha'i World Centre, in Haifa, Israel.
"Rather, each elector, in an atmosphere of prayer and meditation, chooses the names of those individuals he or she feels possess the best qualities to serve," he said.
"Delegates are guided by the criteria based on the writings of the Baha'i Faith, which advise them to vote for individuals with selfless devotion, a well-trained mind, recognized ability, loyalty and mature experience," he said.
Every adult Baha'i, woman and man, is eligible to vote and is also eligible to be elected.