'Baha'i World' volume focuses on key issues

29 March 2004

HAIFA, Israel — The need for religious tolerance, the role of the individual in building society, and HIV/AIDS are among the topics addressed in the newly released volume of "The Baha'i World".

"The Baha'i World 2002-2003" is the 11th volume in an annual series aimed both at Baha'i readers and the general public. Its pages describe the aims and activities of local and national Baha'i communities around the world.

"If people want to understand the forces that cause the Baha'i community to act and the results of those actions, then this volume is the place to look," said Ann Boyles, the book's senior editor.

"The articles in the book provide striking evidence of the Baha'i community's involvement in issues of serious and global importance," said Dr. Boyles.

For example, said Dr. Boyles, the volume reprints the full text of the recent message of the Universal House of Justice to the world's religious leaders. That message called for decisive action to eradicate religious intolerance and fanaticism, warning that with "every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable."

The full text of the message of the Universal House of Justice is published in the volume, as is a report of the distribution of the message to religious leaders by Baha'i communities around the world.

Other major articles include "Facing the Growing HIV/AIDS Epidemic: A Baha'i Perspective," by Dawn Smith, "Obligation and Responsibility in Constructing a World Civilization," by Hoda Mahmoudi, and a "World Watch" essay by Dr. Boyles on the role of the individual in building society.

Dr. Smith's article says Baha'is have taken a different tack in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Not only have Baha'is begun to apply the distinctive spiritual principles of their Faith on an individual level, they have also launched a number of small scale educational projects to address the epidemic's root causes, she writes.

The overarching approach is one of unity, she says. "Too often members and representatives of the world's religions have used the HIV/AIDS epidemic to promote discord, insisting that it is solely a problem of the irreligious or that this illness is a punishment from God, meted out to 'sinners' or the 'unfaithful,'" she says.

"'Abdu'l-Baha emphasized the role of religion in promoting unity and in working in harmony with science," she says.

"HIV-related stigma and discrimination are not only unjust and unkind at the individual level, they are themselves a contributor to new infections."

Dr. Mahmoudi's article examines the nature of a spiritualized society founded on altruism and reciprocity, based on the principles in the Baha'i sacred writings.

"The Baha'i teachings recognize that the transformation of individuals into altruistic persons cannot take place outside the social context, which must provide a matrix for that transformation," she says.

Other reports featured in the book include an account of the Baha'i participation at the World Summit on Sustainable Development, the annual "Year in Review" survey, and an update on the situation of the Baha'i communities in Iran and Egypt.

Also printed in the book are a selection of major statements by the Baha'i International Community and a statement on social cohesion by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United Kingdom.

This 320-page book is prepared by the Baha'i International Community's Office of Public Information. It contains numerous color photographs, and is available for US$18.00. It can be ordered from World Centre Publications through the United States Baha'i Distribution Service, 4703 Fulton Industrial Boulevard Atlanta, GA 30336-2017, USA (telephone: (800) 999-9019; e-mail: bds@usbnc.org).