Overjoyed by remarkable achievements of American Bahá’í Community, safeguarding primacy, enhancing prestige, setting magnificent example to sister communities East and West. Assure three Assembly members, also Lofoten valiant pioneer of abiding appreciation, fervent loving prayers.
The American Bahá’í Community, in this, the opening year of the second phase of the World Spiritual Crusade upon which it has embarked, finds itself standing on the threshold of the seventh decade of its existence. It leaves behind it, as it enters the second decade of the second Bahá’í century, sixty years crowded with events and marked by exploits so stirring and momentous that they stand unsurpassed in the annals of any other national Bahá’í community with the sole exception of its venerable sister community in Bahá’u’lláh’s native land.
The first to respond to the call of the New Day in the western world; for many years, in concert with the small band of Canadian believers residing in its immediate neighborhood, the sole champion of the newly proclaimed Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh; foremost in its decisive contribution to the creation of the pattern, the erection of the fabric, the enlargement of the limits, and the consolidation of the institutions of the embryonic World Order, the child of that same Covenant and the harbinger of a still unborn world civilization; singled out by the pen of the Center of that same Covenant for a unique and imperishable bounty as the principal custodian and chief executor of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan; doubly honored in the course of His extensive visit to the shores of its homeland through the distinction conferred by Him on the community’s two leading centers, the one as the site where He laid the cornerstone of the holiest House of Worship in the Bahá’í world, and the other the scene of the proclamation of His Father’s Covenant; the triumphant prosecutor of two successive historic Plans, boldly initiated by its elected national representatives for the propagation of the Faith it has espoused in the land of its birth, in the Dominion of Canada, in Central and South America and in the continent of Europe and for the erection of its own House of Worship, the Mother Temple of the West; outstanding in its role as the defender of the Faith, as the supporter of its down-trodden, long-persecuted sister communities in both the Asiatic and African continents, and as the formulator of the national Bahá’í constitution, embodying the by-laws regulating the internal affairs of the members of the Bahá’í communities; incomparable throughout the Bahá’í world as the dynamic agent responsible for the opening of the vast majority of the over two hundred sovereign states and chief dependencies of the globe to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh; surpassing even its over a hundred-year old sister community in the cradle of that Faith in the number and variety of isolated centers, groups and local assemblies it has succeeded in establishing over the face of the Union stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific seaboards and from Alaska to Mexico; noteworthy in the rapid accumulation and wise expenditure of material resources, often involving a self-abnegation reminiscent of the self-sacrifice of the dawn-breakers of the Apostolic Age of the Faith, for the sole purpose of systematically propagating the Faith it has pledged itself to serve, of enhancing its prestige, of multiplying and perfecting its administrative agencies, of enriching its literature, of erecting its edifices, of launching its manifold enterprises, of succoring the needy among the members of its sister communities, of warding off the dangers confronting it from time to time through the malice of its enemies—the American Bahá’í Community, boasting of such a record of exalted service, can well afford to contemplate the immediate future, with its severe challenge, its complex problems, its hazards, tests and trials, with equanimity and confidence.
For there can be no doubt that the entire community, limited as is its numerical strength and circumscribed as are its meager resources, in comparison with the vastness of the field stretching before it, the prodigious efforts demanded of it, and the complexity of the problems it must resolve, stands at a most critical juncture in its history.
Moreover, the country of which it forms a part is passing through a crisis which, in its spiritual, moral, social and political aspects, is of extreme seriousness—a seriousness which to a superficial observer is liable to be dangerously underestimated.
The steady and alarming deterioration in the standard of morality as exemplified by the appalling increase of crime, by political corruption in ever widening and ever higher circles, by the loosening of the sacred ties of marriage, by the inordinate craving for pleasure and diversion, and by the marked and progressive slackening of parental control, is no doubt the most arresting and distressing aspect of the decline that has set in, and can be clearly perceived, in the fortunes of the entire nation.
Parallel with this, and pervading all departments of life—an evil which the nation, and indeed all those within the capitalist system, though to a lesser degree, share with that state and its satellites regarded as the sworn enemies of that system—is the crass materialism, which lays excessive and ever-increasing emphasis on material well-being, forgetful of those things of the spirit on which alone a sure and stable foundation can be laid for human society. It is this same cancerous materialism, born originally in Europe, carried to excess in the North American continent, contaminating the Asiatic peoples and nations, spreading its ominous tentacles to the borders of Africa, and now invading its very heart, which Bahá’u’lláh in unequivocal and emphatic language denounced in His Writings, comparing it to a devouring flame and regarding it as the chief factor in precipitating the dire ordeals and world-shaking crises that must necessarily involve the burning of cities and the spread of terror and consternation in the hearts of men. Indeed a foretaste of the devastation which this consuming fire will wreak upon the world, and with which it will lay waste the cities of the nations participating in this tragic world-engulfing contest, has been afforded by the last World War, marking the second stage in the global havoc which humanity, forgetful of its God and heedless of the clear warnings uttered by His appointed Messenger for this day, must, alas, inevitably experience. It is this same all-pervasive, pernicious materialism against which the voice of the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant was raised, with pathetic persistence, from platform and pulpit, in His addresses to the heedless multitudes, which, on the morrow of His fateful visit to both Europe and America, found themselves suddenly swept into the vortex of a tempest which in its range and severity was unsurpassed in the world’s history.
Collateral with this ominous laxity in morals, and this progressive stress laid on man’s material pursuits and well-being, is the darkening of the political horizon, as witnessed by the widening of the gulf separating the protagonists of two antagonistic schools of thought which, however divergent in their ideologies, are to be commonly condemned by the upholders of the standard of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh for their materialistic philosophies and their neglect of those spiritual values and eternal verities on which alone a stable and flourishing civilization can be ultimately established. The multiplication, the diversity and the increasing destructive power of armaments to which both sides, in this world contest, caught in a whirlpool of fear, suspicion and hatred, are rapidly contributing; the outbreak of two successive bloody conflicts, entangling still further the American nation in the affairs of a distracted world, entailing a considerable loss in blood and treasure, swelling the national budget and progressively depreciating the currency of the state; the confusion, the vacillation, the suspicions besetting the European and Asiatic nations in their attitude to the American nation; the overwhelming accretion of strength to the arch enemy of the system championed by the American Union in consequence of the re-alignment of the powers in the Asiatic continent and particularly in the Far East—these have, moreover, contributed their share, in recent years, to the deterioration of a situation which, if not remedied, is bound to involve the American nation in a catastrophe of undreamed-of dimensions and of untold consequences to the social structure, the standard and conception of the American people and government.
No less serious is the stress and strain imposed on the fabric of American society through the fundamental and persistent neglect, by the governed and governors alike, of the supreme, the inescapable and urgent duty—so repeatedly and graphically represented and stressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His arraignment of the basic weaknesses in the social fabric of the nation—of remedying, while there is yet time, through a revolutionary change in the concept and attitude of the average white American toward his Negro fellow citizen, a situation which, if allowed to drift, will, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, cause the streets of American cities to run with blood, aggravating thereby the havoc which the fearful weapons of destruction, raining from the air, and amassed by a ruthless, a vigilant, a powerful and inveterate enemy, will wreak upon those same cities.
The American nation, of which the community of the Most Great Name forms as yet a negligible and infinitesimal part, stands, indeed, from whichever angle one observes its immediate fortunes, in grave peril. The woes and tribulations which threaten it are partly avoidable, but mostly inevitable and God-sent, for by reason of them a government and people clinging tenaciously to the obsolescent doctrine of absolute sovereignty and upholding a political system, manifestly at variance with the needs of a world already contracted into a neighborhood and crying out for unity, will find itself purged of its anachronistic conceptions, and prepared to play a preponderating role, as foretold by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in the hoisting of the standard of the Lesser Peace, in the unification of mankind, and in the establishment of a world federal government on this planet. These same fiery tribulations will not only firmly weld the American nation to its sister nations in both hemispheres, but will through their cleansing effect, purge it thoroughly of the accumulated dross which ingrained racial prejudice, rampant materialism, widespread ungodliness and moral laxity have combined, in the course of successive generations, to produce, and which have prevented her thus far from assuming the role of world spiritual leadership forecast by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unerring pen—a role which she is bound to fulfill through travail and sorrow.
The American Bahá’í Community, the leaven destined to leaven the whole, cannot hope, at this critical juncture in the fortunes of a struggling, perilously situated, spiritually moribund nation, to either escape the trials with which this nation is confronted, nor claim to be wholly immune from the evils that stain its character.
At so critical a period, at so challenging an hour, the members of a community, invested by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with a primacy which can, through neglect and apathy, be allowed to lose its vital power and driving force, are immersed in a task, and are faced with responsibilities, which a World Spiritual Crusade, the third and greatest collective enterprise embarked upon in American Bahá’í history, has thrust upon them before the eyes of their admiring and expectant sister communities throughout the world. They now stand at the crossroads, unable to relax for a moment, or hesitate as to which road they should tread, or to allow any decline in the high standard they have, for no less than six decades, undeviatingly upheld. Nay, if this primacy is to be safeguarded and enhanced, a consecration, not only on the part of a chosen few, to every single objective of the Ten-Year Plan to which they are now pledged, and a pouring out of substance, not only by those of limited means, but by the richest and wealthiest, in a degree involving the truest sacrifice, for the purpose of insuring the attainment of the aims and purposes of the Plan in its present phase of development, are imperative and can brook no delay.
The mighty and laudable effort exerted, by a considerable number of pioneers, in the course of the opening phase of this world-encircling Crusade, in the virgin territories of the globe, must, if this primacy is to remain unimpaired, be increased, doubled, nay trebled, and must manifest itself not only in foreign fields where the prizes so laboriously won during the last twelve months must, at whatever sacrifice, be meticulously preserved, but throughout the entire length and breadth of the American Union, and particularly in the goal cities, where hitherto the work has stagnated, and which must, in the year now entered, become the scene of the finest exploits which the home front has yet seen. A veritable exodus from the large cities where a considerable number of believers have, over a period of years, congregated, both on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, as well as in the heart of the country, and where, owing to the tempo and the distractions of city life, the progress of the Faith has been retarded, must signalize the inauguration of this most intensive and challenging phase of the Crusade on the home front. Most certainly and emphatically must the lead be given by the two focal centers of Bahá’í activity which rank among the oldest of and occupy the most honored position among, the cities throughout the American Union, the one as the mother city of the North American continent, the other named by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the City of the Covenant. Indeed, so grave are the exigencies of the present hour, and so critical the political position of the country, that were a bare fifteen adult Bahá’ís to be left in each of these cities, over which unsuspected dangers are hanging, it would still be regarded as adequate for the maintenance of their local spiritual assemblies.
While this vital process of multiplication of Bahá’í isolated centers, groups and local assemblies is being accelerated, through a rapid and unprecedented dispersion of believers, and as the result of the initiation of vigorous teaching activities, through individuals as well as administrative agencies, the incorporation of full-fledged local assemblies—a process which has been noticeably slackening in recent years—must be given immediate attention by the community’s elected national representatives, reinforcing, thereby, the foundations of local Bahá’í communities, and paving the way for the establishment, in a not too distant future, of local Bahá’í endowments.
The inauguration of the first dependency of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the first link to be forged destined to bind the Community of the Most Great Name to the general public, expectant to witness the first evidences of direct Bahá’í service to humanity as a complement to Bahá’í worship, is yet another task which must be conscientiously tackled and fulfilled in the course of the second phase of this Ten-Year Plan. The consummation of this project must synchronize with the termination of the landscaping of the area surrounding the Temple—a double achievement that will mark yet another stage in the materialization of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s often expressed and cherished hopes for this holiest House of Worship in the Bahá’í world.
Yet another task, of extreme urgency and of great spiritual significance, is the selection and purchase of the site of the future Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in Sweden, as well as the appropriation of sufficient funds during the coming two years, for the establishment, on however modest a scale, of a national Hazíratu’l-Quds in Anchorage, Alaska, in Panama City and in the capital of Peru, in Suva, in Tokyo and in Johannesburg, and the lending of financial assistance to the Italo-Swiss National Assembly, the proud daughter of the American Bahá’í Community, for the erection of a similar national center in the Italian and Swiss capitals.
Of no less importance, though involving a smaller outlay of funds, is the establishment of token national endowments in the aforementioned cities, in anticipation of the formation of an independent national spiritual assembly in each of them, at a later stage in the execution of this stupendous Plan.
The translation and publication of Bahá’í literature in the European and American Indian languages, allocated to your Assembly and its European Teaching Committee under the provisions of the Ten-Year Plan, is yet another objective of this second phase of this World Crusade, a task that must be resolutely pursued and speedily consummated in order to facilitate the intensive teaching activity which, at a later stage, must be conducted for the purpose of converting a considerable number of the minority races in both Europe and America to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
The all-important teaching enterprises in France and Finland, designed to broaden the basis of the infant Administrative Order in both countries, and extend the ramifications of the Faith to their chief towns and cities, is yet another responsibility which should be promptly discharged, as an indispensable preliminary to the establishment in each of these two countries of an independent national assembly.
Finally, the establishment of a Bahá’í Publishing Trust, similar in its essentials to the institution already functioning in the British Isles, and which must serve as a model for other national assemblies in both the East and the West, is a matter to which prompt and earnest attention must be directed in the course of the second phase of the Plan, and which will require full and speedy consultation with the national elected representatives of the British Bahá’í Community.
The American Bahá’í Community—the champion-builders of an Order which posterity will hail as the harbinger of a civilization to be regarded as the fairest fruit of the Revelation proclaimed by Bahá’u’lláh; the principal trustees of a Plan which future generations will acclaim as one of the two greatest legacies left by the Center of His Covenant; marching in the van of a Crusade which history will recognize as the most momentous spiritual enterprise launched in modern times; beset by the same anxieties and perils by which the nation of which it forms a part finds itself, to an unprecedented degree, afflicted and surrounded—such a community is, at this hour, experiencing the impact of a challenge unique in its sixty years of existence.
In its meteoric career its fortunes have risen so swiftly, its exploits have so greatly multiplied, its spirit in times of emergency has swelled and risen so high, it has earned on such occasions the applause and excited the admiration of its sister communities throughout both hemispheres to such a degree, that it cannot, at this critical hour in its destinies, suffer this golden opportunity to slip from its grasp, or this priceless privilege to be irretrievably forfeited.
This challenge, so severe and insistent, and yet so glorious, faces no doubt primarily the individual believer on whom, in the last resort, depends the fate of the entire community. He it is who constitutes the warp and woof on which the quality and pattern of the whole fabric must depend. He it is who acts as one of the countless links in the mighty chain that now girdles the globe. He it is who serves as one of the multitude of bricks which support the structure and insure the stability of the administrative edifice now being raised in every part of the world. Without his support, at once whole-hearted, continuous and generous, every measure adopted, and every plan formulated, by the body which acts as the national representative of the community to which he belongs, is foredoomed to failure. The World Center of the Faith itself is paralyzed if such a support on the part of the rank and file of the community is denied it. The Author of the Divine Plan Himself is impeded in His purpose if the proper instruments for the execution of His design are lacking. The sustaining strength of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, the Founder of the Faith, will be withheld from every and each individual who fails in the long run to arise and play his part.
The administrative agencies of a divinely conceived Administrative Order at long last erected and relatively perfected stand in dire need of the individual believer to come forward and utilize them with undeviating purpose, serene confidence and exemplary dedication. The heart of the Guardian cannot but leap with joy, and his mind derive fresh inspiration, at every evidence testifying to the response of the individual to his allotted task. The unseen legions, standing rank upon rank, and eager to pour forth from the Kingdom on high the full measure of their celestial strength on the individual participants of this incomparably glorious Crusade, are powerless unless and until each potential crusader decides for himself, and perseveres in his determination, to rush into the arena of service ready to sacrifice his all for the Cause he is called upon to champion.
It is therefore imperative for the individual American believer, and particularly for the affluent, the independent, the comfort-loving and those obsessed by material pursuits, to step forward, and dedicate their resources, their time, their very lives to a Cause of such transcendence that no human eye can even dimly perceive its glory. Let them resolve, instantly and unhesitatingly, to place, each according to his circumstances, his share on the altar of Bahá’í sacrifice, lest, on a sudden, unforeseen calamities rob them of a considerable portion of the earthly things they have amassed.
Now if ever is the time to tread the path which the dawn-breakers of a previous age have so magnificently trodden. Now is the time to carry out, in the spirit and in the letter, the fervent wish so pathetically voiced by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who longed, as attested in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to “travel though on foot and in the utmost poverty” and raise “in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans” “the call of Yá-Bahá’u’l-Abhá!”
Then, and only then, can the members of this community hasten the advent of the day when, as prophesied by His pen, “heavenly illumination” will “stream” from their country “to all the peoples of the world.” Then, and only then will they find themselves “securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion.”
That the members of this community, of either sex and of every age, of whatever race or background, however limited in experience, capacity and knowledge, may arise as one man, and seize with both hands the God-given opportunities now presented to them through the dispensations of an all-loving, ever-watchful, ever-sustaining Providence, and lend thereby a tremendous impetus to the propelling forces mysteriously guiding the operations of this newly launched, unspeakably potent, world-encompassing Crusade, is one of the dearest wishes which a loving and longing heart holds for them at this great turning point in the fortunes of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the American continent.
Owing to aggravation of the situation, the hacking to pieces of the bodies of seven believers in the vicinity of Yazd, and the likelihood of worse massacre in the approaching months, advise all groups and assemblies in the United States to address telegraphically President Eisenhower, appealing for his intervention for protection from further massacres of our offenseless, law-abiding co-religionists in Írán and the safeguard of their human rights. Include brief reference to the worst atrocities. National Assembly should address him similar message both in writing and telegraphically. Include list of atrocities in accompanying memorandum…
A crisis in the fortunes of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, of exceptional severity, extensive in its ramifications, unpredictable in its immediate consequences, directly involving the overwhelming majority of His followers in the land of His birth, and confronting with a major challenge Bahá’í communities in both hemispheres, has plunged the Bahá’í world, whilst engaged in the prosecution of a world-wide spiritual crusade, into intense sorrow and profound anxiety.
More grievous than any of the intermittent crises which have more or less acutely afflicted the Faith since the inception, over thirty years ago, of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation, such as a seizure of the keys of the foremost Shrine of the Bahá’í world by the covenant-breakers residing in the Holy Land; the occupation of the House of Bahá’u’lláh by His traditional enemies in Baghdád; the expropriation of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Bahá’í world in Turkistán and the virtual extinction of the Ishqábád Bahá’í Community; the disabilities suffered by the Egyptian Bahá’í Community as a result of the verdict of the Egyptian ecclesiastical court and the historic pronouncements of the highest dignitaries of Sunní Islám in Egypt; the defection of the members of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s family and the machinations and eventual deviation of various recognized yet highly ambitious leaders, teachers, as well as administrators, in Persia, Egypt, Germany and the United States—more grievous than any of these, this latest manifestation of the implacable hatred, and relentless opposition, of the as yet firmly entrenched, politically influential avowed adversaries of God’s infant Faith, threatens to become more uncontrollable with every passing day.
Indeed in many of its aspects this crisis bears a striking resemblance to the wave of persecutions which periodically swept the cradle of the Faith in the course of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ministry, and is tragically reminiscent of the tribulations experienced by the dawn-breakers of the Heroic Age of the Faith at the hour of its birth in that sorely tried, long-agitated land.
With dramatic suddenness, a situation, which had been slowly and secretly developing, came to a head, as the result of the ceaseless intrigue of the fanatical and determined ecclesiastical opponents of the Faith, ever ready to seize their chance, in times of confusion, and to strike mercilessly, at an opportune hour, at the very root of that Faith and of its swiftly developing, steadily consolidating administrative institutions.
The launching of the Crusade itself, with the celebrations and ceremonials which accompanied it; the repercussions of the widely reported proceedings of four successive Intercontinental Teaching Conferences, which heralded its inauguration; the public dedication of the Mother Temple of the West in Wilmette; the systematic intensification of teaching activities in the Arabian Peninsula, enshrining the Qiblih of the entire Islamic world; and, in particular, the opening to the Faith of the twin holy cities of Mecca and Medina—all these may be said to have precipitated this crisis, and alarmed the jealous exponents and guardians of an antiquated religious orthodoxy in the strongholds of both Shí’ah and Sunní Islám.
This premeditated campaign was heralded by violent and repeated public denunciations of the Faith over the air, from the pulpit, and through the press, defaming its holy Founders, distorting its distinctive features, ridiculing its aims and purposes, and perverting its history. It was formally launched by the government’s official pronouncement in the Majlis outlawing the Faith and banning its activities throughout the land. It was soon followed by the senseless and uncivilized demolition of the imposing dome of the Bahá’í Central Administrative Headquarters in the capital. It assumed serious proportions through the seizure and occupation of all Bahá’í administrative headquarters throughout the provinces.
This drastic action taken by the representatives of the central authorities in cities, towns and villages was the signal for the loosing of a flood of abuse, accompanied by a series of atrocities simultaneously and shamelessly perpetrated in most of the provinces, bringing in its wake desolation to Bahá’í homes, economic ruin to Bahá’í families, and staining still further the records of Shí’ah Islám in that troubled land.
In Shíráz, in the province of Fárs, the cradle of the Faith, the House of the Báb, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh in His Most Holy Book as the foremost place of pilgrimage in the land of His birth, was twice desecrated, its walls severely damaged, its windows broken and its furniture partly destroyed and carried away. The neighboring house of the Báb’s maternal uncle was razed to the ground. Bahá’u’lláh’s ancestral home in Tákúr, in the province of Mázindarán, the scene of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s early childhood, was occupied. Shops and farms, constituting, in most cases, the sole source of livelihood to peaceful Bahá’í families, were plundered. Crops and livestock, assets patiently acquired by often poor, but always peace-loving, law-abiding farmers, were wantonly destroyed. Bodies in various cemeteries were first disinterred and then viciously mutilated. The homes of rich and poor alike were forcibly entered and ruthlessly looted. Both adults and children were publicly set upon, reviled, beaten and ridiculed. Young women were abducted, and compelled, against their parents’ wishes and their own, to marry Muslims. Boys and girls were mobbed at school, mocked and expelled. A boycott, in many cases, was imposed by butchers and bakers, who refused to sell to the adherents of the Faith the barest necessities of life. A girl in her teens was shamelessly raped, whilst an eleven-month-old baby was heartlessly trampled underfoot. Pressure was brought to bear upon the believers to recant their faith and to renounce allegiance to the Cause they had espoused.
Nor was this all. Emboldened by the general applause accorded by the populace to the savage perpetrators of these crimes, a mob of many hundreds marched upon the hamlet of Hurmuzak, to the beating of drums and the sounding of trumpets, and, armed with spades and axes, fell upon a family of seven, the oldest eighty, the youngest nineteen, and, in an orgy of unrestrained fanaticism, literally hacked them to pieces.
Following closely upon this heinous crime, the like of which has not been witnessed since the close of the Heroic Age of the Faith, an official order has been issued by the Prime Minister’s office in Ṭihrán, placing an interdiction against the employment of any Bahá’ís in government service, and ordering the instant dismissal of all who insist on adhering to their faith.
These tragic, swiftly succeeding events have stirred the Bahá’í world to its foundations. Counter measures were immediately taken, and more than a thousand appeals were addressed by national and local assemblies as well as groups in all continents of the globe to the highest authorities in Persia, including the Sháh, in the hope of stemming the tide of persecution threatening to engulf the entire Persian Bahá’í Community. Furthermore, a wide-spread campaign of publicity was initiated in expectation that its repercussions would exert a restraining influence on the perpetrators of these monstrous acts. An appeal was moreover lodged with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the President of the Social and Economic Council, copies of which were delivered to the representatives of the member nations of the Council, to the Director of the Human Rights Division, as well as to non-governmental organizations with consultative status. More recently, President Eisenhower, who, as reported in the press, was the first to make mention of the attacks launched against the Faith, was appealed to by the American National Spiritual Assembly as well as by all groups and local assemblies throughout the United States, to intervene on behalf of the victims of these persecutions.
Faced with this organized and vicious onslaught on the followers, the fundamental verities, the shrines and administrative institutions of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in the land of His birth, the American Bahá’í Community cannot at this hour relax for a moment in the discharge of the multiple and sacred responsibilities it has pledged itself to fulfill under the Ten-Year Plan and must indeed display a still greater degree of consecration and a nobler spirit of self-sacrifice in the pursuit of the goals it has set itself to achieve.
A wider dispersal throughout the length and breadth of its homeland; a more strenuous effort to consolidate the superb achievements in the newly opened virgin territories in various continents and islands of the globe; a still greater exertion to expedite the translation and publication of Bahá’í literature into the European and American Indian languages assigned to it under the Plan; a more determined thrust towards the vital objectives of acquiring the site of the future Mother Temple of Sweden and of purchasing the remaining national Hazíratu’l-Quds in the goal countries of Europe, as well as in Central and South America; a concerted endeavor to establish national Bahá’í endowments in these European and Latin American countries; a ceaseless concentration of attention on the incorporation of firmly established local spiritual assemblies throughout the United States and in the goal countries of Europe, and a closer collaboration with the administrative agencies functioning in Europe, Latin America, Africa, Japan and Alaska for the forthcoming formation of the European, Latin American, Southwest African, Japanese and Alaskan national spiritual assemblies; a more intensive campaign to win over to the Faith representatives of American Indian tribes and of the Basque and Gypsy races—above all, a concerted, wholly dedicated, inflexible resolve to win the allegiance of a far greater number of adherents to the Faith it has espoused and to insure a spectacular multiplication of groups, isolated centers and local assemblies in the vast area assigned to its care—through these, more than through anything else, can the American Bahá’í Community—the recognized champion of the persecuted and the down-trodden, and the standard-bearer of the embryonic World Order of Bahá’u’lláh—offset, to a marked degree, the severe losses the Faith has sustained in the land of its birth, and bring an abiding and much needed consolation to the countless hearts that bleed, in this hour of test and trial, throughout the length and breadth of that bitterly troubled land.
Not only through its superlative achievements in these diversified and vital spheres of Bahá’í activity, but also through the support given by its members to the “Save the Persecuted Fund” recently established for the succor of the orphaned, the widowed and the dispossessed, and to which the entire Bahá’í world has been invited to contribute, can this stout-hearted, vigilant, self-sacrificing community which on similar past occasions has so nobly discharged its responsibilities, proclaim to an unbelieving and skeptical world, and particularly to its redoubtable, implacable adversaries, the unconquerable spirit which animates it, the inflexible resolve which spurs it on, in the hour of trial, in the service of a Faith to which it stands wholly dedicated.
Over and above such meritorious accomplishments, the members of this community are called upon to demonstrate their solidarity with their sister communities in East and West, and indeed to assert their divinely conferred primacy, through assuming a leading role in providing for the erection of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár to be raised in the heart of the African continent—a continent which by virtue of the innumerable exploits which, throughout its length and breadth, colored and white, individuals as well as assemblies, have achieved in recent years, and which, with the sole exception of Australasia, is the only continent deprived of the blessings of such an institution, fully deserves to possess its own independent House of Worship—a House that will gather within its walls members of communities whose prowess has, in the opening years of the second epoch of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation, eclipsed the feats performed in both the southern part of the Western Hemisphere and the European continent, and conferred such luster on the annals of our Faith.
Africa, long dormant and neglected, and now stirring in its potential spiritual strength, is, at this very hour, under the eyes of the clamorous multitudes of the adversaries of the Faith pressing for its extirpation in the land of its birth, being called upon to redress the scales so weighed down through the ferocious and ignoble acts of bloodthirsty ecclesiastical oppressors. The erection of such an institution, at such a time, through the combined efforts of the undismayed, undeflected and undefeatable upholders of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in both the East and the West, posterity will regard as a worthy answer to the challenge flung down by its bitterest, most powerful and inveterate enemies. Let them give heed to the warnings and admonitions uttered, at an hour of similar danger, by the Founder of the Faith Himself, on the morrow of His third banishment, and addressed in clear and unmistakable language to the “Minister of the Sháh” in Constantinople: “Dost thou believe thou hast the power to frustrate His will, to hinder Him from executing His judgment, or to deter Him from exercising His sovereignty? Pretendest thou that aught in the heavens or in the earth can resist His Faith? No, by Him Who is the eternal Truth! Nothing whatsoever in the whole of creation can thwart His purpose.… Know thou, moreover, that He it is Who hath by His own behest, created all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. How can, then, the thing that hath been created at His bidding prevail against Him?”
Indeed this fresh ordeal that has, in pursuance of the mysterious dispensations of Providence, afflicted the Faith, at this unexpected hour, far from dealing a fatal blow to its institutions or existence, should be regarded as a blessing in disguise, not a “calamity” but a “providence” of God, not a devastating flood but a “gentle rain” on a “green pasture,” a “wick” and “oil” unto the “lamp” of His Faith, a “nurture” for His Cause, “water for that which has been planted in the hearts of men,” a “crown set on the head” of His Messenger for this Day.
Whatever its outcome, this sudden commotion that has seized the Bahá’í world, that has revived the hopes and emboldened the host of the adversaries of the Faith intent on quenching its light and obliterating it from the face of the earth, has served as a trumpet call in the sounding of which the press of the world, the cries of its vociferous enemies, the public remonstrances of both men of good will and those in authority have joined, proclaiming far and wide its existence, publicizing its history, defending its verities, unveiling its truths, demonstrating the character of its institutions and advertising its aims and purposes.
Seldom, if at any time since its inception, has such a widespread publicity been accorded the infant Faith of God, now at long last emerging from an obscurity which has so long and so grievously oppressed it. Not even the dramatic execution of its Herald, nor the blood-bath which, in circumstances of fiendish cruelty followed quickly in its wake in the city of Ṭihrán, nor even the widely advertised travels of the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant in the West, succeeded in focusing the attention of the world and in inviting the notice of those in high places as has this latest manifestation of God’s inscrutable will, this marvelous demonstration of His invincible power, this latest move in His Own Major Plan, using both the mighty and lowly as pawns in His world-shaping game, for the fulfillment of His immediate purpose and the eventual establishment of His Kingdom on earth.
For though the newly launched World Spiritual Crusade, constituting at best only the Minor Plan in the execution of the Almighty’s design for the redemption of mankind—has, as a result of this turmoil, paralyzing temporarily the vast majority of the organized followers of Bahá’u’lláh within His birthplace, suffered a severe setback—yet the over-all Plan of God, moving mysteriously and in contrast to the orderly and well-known processes of a clearly devised Plan, has received an impetus the force of which only posterity can adequately assess.
A Faith, which, for a quarter of a century, has, in strict accordance with the provisions of the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, been building its Administrative Order—the embryonic World Order of Bahá’u’lláh—through the laborious erection of its local and national administrative institutions; which set out, in the opening years of the second epoch of this Formative Age, through the launching of a series of national Plans as well as a World Crusade, to utilize the machinery of its institutions, created patiently and unobtrusively in the course of the first epoch of that Age, for the systematic propagation of its teachings in all the continents and chief islands of the globe—such a Faith finds itself, whilst in the midst of discharging its second and vital task, thrust into the limelight of an unprecedented publicity—a publicity which its followers never anticipated, which will involve them in fresh and inescapable responsibilities, and which will, no doubt, reinforce the tasks which they have undertaken, in recent years, to discharge.
To the intensification of such a publicity in which non-Bahá’í agencies and even the avowed adversaries of the Faith are playing so active a part, the members of the American Bahá’í Community, the outstanding defenders of the Faith, blessed with a freedom so cruelly denied the vast majority of their brethren, and equipped with the means and instruments needed to make that publicity effective, must fully and decisively contribute. The echoes of the mighty trumpet blast, now so providentially sounded, awakening a multitude of the ignorant and the skeptical, both high and low, to the existence and significance of the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, must under no circumstances, and at such a propitious hour, be allowed to die out. Nay, their reverberations must be followed up by further calls designed to proclaim, in still more resounding tones, the aims and tenets of this glorious Cause, and to expose, whilst avoiding any attack on the ruling authorities, even more convincingly than before, the barbarous ferocity of the acts which have been perpetrated, as well as the odious fanaticism which has inspired such conduct.
Strenuous and urgent as is the task falling to the lot of a community already so over-burdened with a multiplicity of unavoidable obligations, the possibilities involved in the assumption of this supplementary responsibility are truly tremendous, the benefits that are destined to accrue from its proper discharge are immense, and the reward inestimably rich.
Let them remember, as they pursue diligently this sacred task, that such a publicity, following closely upon such dire tribulations, afflicting so large a number of their brethren, in so sacred a land, cannot but prove to be a prelude, however slow the process involved, to the emancipation of these same valiant sufferers from the galling fetters of an antiquated religious orthodoxy, which, great as has been its decline in the course of over a century, still wields considerable power and exercises a widespread influence in high circles as well as among the masses. Such an emancipation, which cannot be confined to Bahá’u’lláh’s native land, will, in varying measure, have its repercussions in Islamic countries, or may be even preceded by a similar phenomenon in neighboring territories, hastening and adding fresh impetus to the bursting of the bonds that fetter the freedom of the followers of God’s infant Faith.
Such a consummation will, in its turn, pave the way for the recognition of that Faith as an independent religion established on a basis of absolute equality with its sister religions, enjoying the unqualified protection of the civil authorities for its followers and its institutions, and fully empowered, in all matters related to personal status, to apply without any reservations the laws and ordinances ordained in the Most Holy Book.
That the members of the American Bahá’í Community—the outstanding protagonists of the Cause of God; the stout-hearted defenders of its integrity, its claims and its rights, the champion-builders of its Administrative Order; the standard-bearers of its crusading hosts; the torchbearers of its embryonic civilization; the chief succorers of the down-trodden, the needy and the fettered among its followers—that the members of such a community, may, whilst discharging, fully and unflinchingly, their specific tasks in accordance with the provisions of the Ten-Year Plan, seize the present God-sent opportunity, and hasten, through a proper discharge of this supplementary task, the consummation of such ardent hopes for so signal a victory, is a prayer constantly in my heart, and a wish which I treasure above all others.
Urge intensification of efforts to revitalize entire community and expedite attainment of plans and objectives, particularly as related to purchase of Hazírás and endowments in America and Europe; translation into remaining languages; incorporation of assemblies; multiplication of centers and assemblies on home front; opening of Iceland, Spitzbergen, Anticosti and remaining islands of Pacific and Atlantic. Fervently supplicating for immediate signal victories.
Deplore situation on home front. Praying ardently for rededication of entire community for greater consecration to pressing tasks. Approve all suggestions in recent letter. Urge that you redouble efforts, supplicate for unprecedented blessings.
As I survey, after the lapse of a little over three years, the vast range of historic and unforgettable achievements with which the stout-hearted, high-minded and wholly consecrated followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh have, in the course of the operations of a World Spiritual Crusade, enriched, in every continent of the globe and in so many islands of the seven seas, the annals of the Formative Age of His Dispensation, I cannot but acknowledge, with feelings of pride, of joy, and of gratitude, the preponderating share which the American Bahá’í Community, faithful to its traditions, and in keeping with its high standard of stewardship to the Cause of God, has had in the conduct of this world-encircling enterprise and the discharge of its manifold, its pressing and sacred responsibilities. With one or two exceptions, greatly to be deplored, this valiant community has, ever since the inception of this Spiritual Crusade, and in every sphere of Bahá’í activities in which its participators have both individually and collectively been assiduously engaged, set an example of whole-hearted dedication, dogged perseverance, unstinting self-sacrifice and undeviating loyalty worthy of emulation by its sister, as well as its daughter, communities over the entire face of the globe.
The number, the character and the rapidity of the spiritual conquests achieved by its steadfast and intrepid members, in so many sovereign states of the globe, its chief dependencies and widely scattered islands, in the course of the one-year period, constituting the opening phase of a memorable Plan, will no doubt be universally acclaimed as a turning point of unimaginable consequence in Bahá’í history. Such feats, in so many territories, during so short a time, will rank, in the eyes of posterity, as superb and outstanding exploits, immortalizing the fame of the American followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and as epoch-making events unsurpassed since the closing of the Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.
The reaction, so swift and so energetic, of the members of this same community, now deservedly recognized as the impregnable citadel of the Faith of God, and the cradle of the rising institutions of its World Order, to the sudden onslaught made upon the institutions, the lives and the livelihood of their oppressed brethren, members of the numerically leading and the most venerable national Bahá’í community, by the traditional adversaries of a long-persecuted Faith, has been such as to deepen, to a marked extent, the feelings of genuine admiration and esteem, so strongly felt throughout the Bahá’í world, for the enduring and magnificent services rendered in the course of more than six decades by the American believers to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh and its embryonic World Order. The spontaneity with which the rank and file of this community as well as the body of its elected representatives, have contributed to the “Save the Persecuted Fund” established for the succor of the victims of these savage and periodically recurring barbarities; the measure of publicity accorded them in the American press, as well as over the radio; the timely and efficacious intervention of men of prominence, in various walks of life, on behalf of the oppressed and the down-trodden; the repeated and direct appeals addressed by them to the highest authorities in Persia, as well as to their representative in the United States; the immense number of written and cabled appeals, made by the local as well as the national elected representatives of the community, to the chief magistrate of Persia, his ministers and parliament; the numerous messages addressed by the same representatives to the chief executive of the United States, urging his personal intervention, the pleading of the cause of an harassed, sorely-tried community in the course of repeated representations made to the State Department in Washington; the part played in the presentation of the Bahá’í case to the United Nations officials in both Geneva and New York; the allocation of a sizeable sum for the purpose of securing the assistance of an expert publicity agent, in order to reinforce the publicity already being received in the public press—these, as well as other measures which, by their very nature, must of necessity remain confidential—proclaim, in no uncertain terms, the dynamic and decisive nature of the aid accorded, in a hour of trial and emergency, by the champions of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, raised up in the great republic of the West, at such a crucial hour in the evolution of His Plan, for both His Faith and the world at large, to the vast body of the descendants of the dawn-breakers of the Apostolic Age of that same Faith in the land of its birth.
No less remarkable has been the share of this community, chiefly responsible, on the morrow of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, for the fixing of the pattern, the elaboration of the national constitution, and the erection of the basic institutions, of a divinely conceived Administrative Order, in the acquisition and establishment, in the course of two brief years, constituting the second phase of the Ten-Year Plan, of practically all of the future national administrative headquarters—numbering over thirty—of Bahá’í national assemblies in four continents of the globe, involving the expenditure from the National Fund of over a hundred thousand dollars.
An effort, hardly less meritorious and equally efficacious and astonishing, has been exerted by the members of this alert, forward-looking, ceaselessly laboring community, in the course of the same two-year period, for the establishment of national Bahá’í endowments in more than twenty countries of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, entailing the expenditure of over twenty thousand dollars.
In other spheres of Bahá’í activity, related to the prosecution of the Ten-Year Plan, all of vital importance to the teaching work initiated under that same Plan, and to the enlargement and consolidation of the administrative structure of the institutions to be erected in the future, the accomplishments of the members of this community, during the first two phases of this world Crusade, have been no less significant. The establishment of the Bahá’í Publishing Trust; the translation of Bahá’í literature into more than fifteen languages, both within the scope of the Ten-Year Plan and outside it, spoken in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the North American continent; the purchase of the site of the first dependency of the Mother Temple of the West; the practical completion of the landscaping of its gardens; the provision of a considerable part of the material resources required for the purchase of the sites of future Bahá’í Temples in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, as well as for the construction of the two projected Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs in the European and African continents; the guidance given and the aid extended to newly elected national assemblies, for the efficient conduct of Bahá’í administrative activities and the prosecution of Bahá’í national plans; the initial visits made by Bahá’í teachers to countries within the Soviet orbit, foreshadowing the launching of systematic teaching enterprises in both Europe and Asia; the assistance given, through financial help as well as through the dispatch of Bahá’í pioneers, to various Bahá’í communities for the enlargement of the limits of the Faith and the consolidation of its institutions; and, last but not least, the purchase of the sacred site of the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán, the scene of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh’s Prophetic Mission, by a member of that community of Persian descent—these stand out as further evidences of the enormous share the firmly knit, highly organized, swiftly advancing, fully dedicated American Bahá’í Community has had in the prosecution and triumphant progress of the three year old Ten-Year Plan, and augur well for a no less splendid contribution to be made, in the years immediately ahead, for the attainment of its remaining objectives.
Supplementing this noble record of service have been the constant and fruitful efforts exerted by the Hands of the Cause, nominated from among the members of that community, in both the United States and the Holy Land, efforts that have lent a considerable impetus to the expansion and consolidation of the far-reaching enterprises initiated at the World Center of the Faith, and which have, particularly through the instrumentality of the recently appointed American Auxiliary Board, stimulated, to a noticeable extent the progress of the teaching work and the advancement of the Plan itself.
Particular tribute should, I feel, at this juncture, be paid to the stupendous work achieved, since the launching of the World Crusade, by the representatives of this highly privileged community, in their capacity as members of the International Bahá’í Council, in connection with the prosecution of a variety of enterprises embarked upon in recent years, aiming at the expansion and consolidation of the international institutions of the Faith, the enhancement of its prestige, the embellishment of the surroundings of its Shrines, the efficient conduct of its internal affairs, and the forging of fresh links binding it still more closely to the civil authorities in the Holy Land. The erection of the International Archives in the close neighborhood of the Báb’s holy Sepulcher; the extension of the international Bahá’í endowments on the slopes of Mt. Carmel; the formation of several Israel Branches of Bahá’í National Spiritual Assemblies; the embellishment of the precincts of the resting-place of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh; the purchase of the site of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Holy Land; the preparation of the designs for the International Bahá’í Archives on Mt. Carmel; and of the Mother Temples of Persia and of Africa; the inauguration of the preliminary steps for the eventual construction of Bahá’u’lláh’s holy Sepulcher; the measures adopted, with the assistance of various officials of the State of Israel, for the eviction of the covenant-breakers from the immediate precincts of the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and the elimination of any influence they still exercise, after the lapse of over sixty years, in the close vicinity of that Most Holy Spot—in these, as well as in other various subsidiary activities, constantly increasing in number as well as in diversity at the spiritual and administrative center of the Bahá’í world, have the members of the little band, assiduously laboring under the shadow of the Holy Shrines, and befittingly representing the American Bahá’í Community, conspicuously participated, and through their dedicated services, added fresh luster to the annals of the community to which they belong.
So splendid a record of service, rendered within the brief span of a little over three years, extending over so vast an area of the globe, so highly diversified, so pregnant with promise, in the face of such formidable obstacles, and by so limited a number of participants, has, much to my deepest regret, been marred by a progressive devitalization of the home front, constituting so momentous an aspect of the Ten-Year Plan, and upon which its continued and effective prosecution by the American Bahá’í Community, in the course of the present and third phase of the World Spiritual Crusade, so largely depends.
Constituting as it does the base of the multiple operations now being conducted to ensure the success of the North American, the Latin American, the African, the European and Asiatic campaigns of a global crusade, no sacrifice can be deemed too great for its revitalization and the broadening and consolidation of its foundations. The manpower of the community, so essential to the further deployment of its forces must, rapidly and at all costs, increase. The material resources, now at its disposal, which are so bountifully poured forth and so generously distributed to the four corners of the globe, must be correspondingly augmented to meet the pressing and ever-swelling demands of a constantly and irresistibly advancing Crusade. A far greater proportion of the avowed supporters of the Faith must arise, ere the Crusade suffers any setback, for the fourfold purpose of winning over an infinitely greater number of recruits to the army of Bahá’u’lláh fighting on the home front, of swelling to an unprecedented degree the isolated centers now scattered within its confines, of converting an increasing number of them into firmly founded groups, and of accelerating the formation of local assemblies, while safeguarding those already in existence.
There can be no doubt whatever that to achieve this fourfold purpose is the most strenuous, the least spectacular, and the most challenging of the tasks now confronting the American Bahá’í Community. It is primarily a task that concerns the individual believer, wherever he may be, and whatever his calling, his resources, his race, or his age. Neither the local nor national representatives of the community, no matter how elaborate their plans, or persistent their appeals, or sagacious their counsels, nor even the Guardian himself, however much he may yearn for this consummation, can decide where the duty of the individual lies, or supplant him in the discharge of that task. The individual alone must assess its character, consult his conscience, prayerfully consider all its aspects, manfully struggle against the natural inertia that weighs him down in his effort to arise, shed, heroically and irrevocably, the trivial and superfluous attachments which hold him back, empty himself of every thought that may tend to obstruct his path, mix, in obedience to the counsels of the Author of His Faith, and in imitation of the One Who is its true Exemplar, with men and women, in all walks of life, seek to touch their hearts, through the distinction which characterizes his thoughts, his words and his acts, and win them over tactfully, lovingly, prayerfully and persistently, to the Faith he himself has espoused.
The gross materialism that engulfs the entire nation at the present hour; the attachment to worldly things that enshrouds the souls of men; the fears and anxieties that distract their minds; the pleasure and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties—these are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every would-be warrior in the service of Bahá’u’lláh, obstacles which he must battle against and surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen.
To the degree that the home front crusader is himself cleansed of these impurities, liberated from these petty preoccupations and gnawing anxieties, delivered from these prejudices and antagonisms, emptied of self, and filled by the healing and the sustaining power of God, will he be able to combat the forces arrayed against him, magnetize the souls of those whom he seeks to convert, and win their unreserved, their enthusiastic and enduring allegiance to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
Delicate and strenuous though the task may be, however arduous and prolonged the effort required, whatsoever the nature of the perils and pitfalls that beset the path of whoever arises to revive the fortunes of a Faith struggling against the rising forces of materialism, nationalism, secularism, racialism, ecclesiasticism, the all-conquering potency of the grace of God, vouchsafed through the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, will, undoubtedly, mysteriously and surprisingly, enable whosoever arises to champion His Cause to win complete and total victory.
The history of a century-old Faith eloquently bears witness to similar unnumbered successes won, in both the Apostolic and Formative Ages of the Bahá’í Dispensation, in circumstances even more challenging than those in which the American Bahá’í Community now finds itself.
So magnificent a victory, won collectively, at such a time, in a country so vitally affecting the immediate destinies of mankind, singled out to play so predominant a role in the unification and spiritualization of the entire human race, by a community which in every other field can boast a brilliant and unbroken record of victories, will, no doubt, exert not only a profound influence on the ultimate destinies of an entire nation and people, but will galvanize, through its repercussions, the entire Bahá’í world.
The prizes within the reach of this community are truly inestimable. Much will depend on the reaction of the rank and file of the believers to the plea now addressed to them with all the fervor of my soul.
To act, and act promptly and decisively, is the need of the present hour and their inescapable duty. That the American Bahá’í Community may, in this one remaining field, where so much is at stake, and where the needs of the Faith are so acute, cover itself with a glory that will outshine the splendor of its past exploits in the far-flung territories of the globe, is a prayer which I never cease to utter in my continual supplications to Bahá’u’lláh.