Future plans discussed at global gathering

January 4, 2011
Members of the Continental Boards of Counsellors - gathered on the steps of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice - with members of the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre. The five Continental Boards of Counsellors have the responsibility of educating, encouraging, and stimulating the development of Baha'i communities throughout the world. The photograph was taken on the first day of their conference, 28 December 2010.

HAIFA, Israel — Senior officers of the Baha'i Faith from around the globe have gathered at the Baha'i World Centre to discuss the future development of the worldwide community and its activities.

The conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors commenced on 28 December. Plenary sessions – which ran until 1 January – are now being followed by further consultations among geographic groups.

79 of the world's 81 Counsellors, from some 58 countries, are in attendance. They were appointed to a five-year term of office by the Universal House of Justice on 26 November 2010. 33 of them are serving as Counsellors for the first time.

The main focus of the Counsellors' deliberations was outlined in a document from the Universal House of Justice, presented at the gathering. The message provided detailed analysis of community-building activities in recent years and clear direction for their future evolution.

Among the developments highlighted was a rise in the capacity of some 350,000 individuals worldwide, as a result of their participation in a training program, "to shape a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character."

Other features of the global process of learning currently under way in the Baha'i world community include regularly held spiritual education classes for the "youngest members of society, close-knit groups for junior youth, and circles of study for youth and adults..." No fewer than half a million people at any given time are now taking part in such activities, the message noted.

This educational process – described by the Universal House of Justice as a "potent instrument for spiritually empowering the masses of humanity to take charge of their own destiny" – contributes to the establishment of a distinctive pattern of community life which, in turn, offers a framework for the spiritual, social and material advancement of society.

The further strengthening of this process was among the major points of discussion at the gathering. During both consultative sessions and informal conversations, the Counsellors shared their experience and insights and explored ways to progress activities further.

In its message, the Universal House of Justice also spoke of the rectitude of conduct, spirituality, and freedom from prejudice that must characterize the life of individuals and their service to society.

Such qualities, which must be constantly cultivated – accompanied by a profound spirit of love and unity among participants – are integral pre-requisites for the success of all Baha'i initiatives.

"The fact remains that prejudices of all kinds – of race, of class, of ethnicity, of gender, of religious belief – continue to hold a strong grip on humanity," the Universal House of Justice stated.

The approaches and methods of the Baha'i community seek "to build capacity in every human group, with no regard for class or religious background, with no concern for ethnicity or race, irrespective of gender or social status, to arise and contribute to the advancement of civilization."

Another topic of discussion at the conference was the relationship between individuals, institutions and community. "Throughout human history, interactions among these three have been fraught with difficulties at every turn," wrote the Universal House of Justice, "with the individual clamouring for freedom, the institution demanding submission, and the community claiming precedence."

"A new conception of each, appropriate for a humanity that has come of age, is emerging," the message said, prompting consultation on how cooperation and reciprocity can increasingly characterize the relationships that bind these three elements of society.

In a further letter addressed to the Baha'is of the World, dated 1 January on the occasion of the closing of the conference, the Universal House of Justice described the Counsellors' deliberations as "insightful and clear visioned, well grounded and confident..."

Following almost ten days of intensive study, reflection and consultation, the Counsellors will return to their countries with a clear mandate to communicate the insights and inspiration they have received to national and local Baha'i communities.