Saturday, May 16, 2009

Video: "Roots Run Deep" by Ellis & Knight

This wonderful video (4 min.) features the meaningful rap music of Ellis & Knight played to both serious and joyful images, and with some remarkable anecdotes, from the 41 worldwide regional conferences. Enjoy!

Music by: Ellis&Knight - Roots Run Deep
More musics, visit:

Regional Conferences of the Five Year Plan
November 2008 - February 2009

The Universal House of Justice, in a letter dated 20 October 2008, announced the convocation of a series of 41 regional conferences over a four-month period. The letter which marked the midway point of a five-year effort to expand activities at the grassroots level indicated that the purpose of the conferences is to celebrate achievements during the first half of the Five Year Plan and to deliberate on the next phase.


"Let your vision be world embracing.." Bahá'u'lláh

The Baháí teachings emphasize that all of us, as creations of one God, are part of one human family.

Baháulláh said, The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.

People of nearly every background, in every nation, have become Baháís.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Video: 41 Conferences Around The World, Remembering Seven Martyrs of Tihran, 1850

A befitting reminder of the spiritual connection that exists between our persecuted Bahá'í brothers and sisters in Iran, and the work that believers in the rest of the world are doing to spread the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.

On 5 March the Universal House of Justice wrote to the believers in the Cradle of the Faith:
"...your fellow believers throughout the world hold you especially in their prayers and, conscious of the spiritual forces released through your courage and sacrifice, are sparing no effort to ensure the advancement of the Cause of God and the promotion of the well-being and prosperity of humankind."
(Read the whole message here)

Video, "41 Conferences Around The World"

The Seven followers of the Báb, in Tihrán who were arrested and executed for their refusal to recant their belief in the Báb (Persia, 1850):

Hájí Mírzá Siyyid `Alí,
Mírzá Qurbán-`Alí Bárfúrúshí,
Hájí Mullá Ismáil Qumí,
Áqá Siyyid Husayn Turshízí,
Hájí Muhammad-Taqí Kirmání,
Áqá Siyyid Mortezá Zanjání,
Áqá Muhammad-Husayn Marághii

Song by Grant Hindin Miller

Photos from the 41 regional conferences over a four-month period -

12 November 2008 Lusaka, Zambia
89 November 2008 Nakuru, Kenya Johannesburg, South Africa
1516 November 2008 Bangui, Central African Republic Bangalore, India Uvira, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2223 November 2008 Quito, Ecuador New Delhi, India Kolkata, India Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2930 November 2008 Antofagasta, Chile Manila, Philippines Yaoundé, Cameroon
67 December 2008 Portland, United States Chicago, United States Atlanta, United States Almaty, Kazakhstan
1314 December 2008 Stamford, United States Dallas, United States Los Angeles, United States
2021 December 2008 Kuching, Malaysia São Paulo, Brazil
2728 December 2008 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
34 January 2009 London, United Kingdom Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
1011 January 2009 Toronto, Canada Guadalajara, Mexico
1718 January 2009 Lae, Papua New Guinea Vancouver, Canada Managua, Nicaragua
2425 January 2009 Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Sydney, Australia Madrid, Spain
31 January1 February 2009 Auckland, New Zealand Battambang, Cambodia
78 February 2009 Frankfurt, Germany Padua, Italy
1415 February 2009 Istanbul, Turkey
2122 February 2009 Baku, Azerbaijan Accra, Ghana
28 February1 March 2009 Kiev, Ukraine

Saturday, March 7, 2009

REPORT from Auckland, NZ conference

This report is from Bahai News Samoa (Issue 5)

UHJ urged us to put aside all misgivings…

In a message to the regional conference held recently in Auckland, New Zealand the Universal House of Justice urged all the believers in our region to put aside all misgivings and undeflected distractions, and to offer our wholehearted support to the accomblishment of our goals during the remaining months of the Five Year Plan. “Sacrifice of time and resources is required for success to be achieved,” the House of Justice said.

Close to 1,700 Baha’is from 10 countries and island groups in the Pacific attended this historic event, one of the 41 regional conferences around the world called for by the Supreme Body in its message of October 20, 2008. Baha’is from New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Hawaii and French Polynesia and Vanuatu gathered at the Pacific Center in Manukau to celebrate their achievements so far and to plan and set goals for the accomplishment of 1,500 intensive programs of growth before the end of the Plan. There were also visitors from Australia, North America, the Phillipines, United Kingdom & Chile.

Representing the House of Justice were two members from the International Teaching Center Mr. Stephen Hall and Mrs. Zenaida Ramirez. Also present were six members of the Continental Board of Counselors of Australasia.

The scene was set on the eve of the official opening when representatives from the local Manurewa Marae offered, on behalf of the Tainui tribe, a formal Maori powhiri –a welcome-on the sacred grounds of their marae/meeting place. Prayers were said for the success of the conference. The reading of a special message from the House of Justice preceded the opening address by Mr. Hall, who stated that Baha’is were urged to intensify their efforts and planning is crucial if we are to achieve our goal of the Plan, set by the Universal House of Justice. “It is imperative to respond to the crying needs of humanity,” he said. “We must raise our efforts and respond to the needs of a desperate society. These are historic times, the circumstances pressing.” He remarked on the unparalleled response worldwide to the regional conferences and praised the outstanding attendance of the Baha’is of the Pacific. The institute process was emphasized as being the engine of growth. “Teaching the Baha’i Faith and multiplying core activities are imperative,” Mr. Hall said. “We must ask o urselves, “What is the purpose of life? What does humanity requires at this time? What are the needs of the Faith at this time? What is wanted of me? How will I respond?”

National and regional overviews of progress to date came from Vanuatu, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii and French Polynesia, Kiribati, New Caledonia, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and New Zealand, with each country outlining its particular strengths, successes and challenges. Vanuatu, for example, reported a dramatic increase in the number of people joining the Baha’i community. Fiji’s strength lay in its devotional meetings. While the small atoll nation of Kiribati reported the progress of their junior youth program.

Participants then broke into workshops to study the 20 October 2008 message from the Universal House of Justice and the message to the Auckland conference.

In the afternoon, Mrs. Ramirez elucidated the central concepts of the Five Year Plan, clarifying some of the fundamental aspects and noting that the chief motivator for action is understanding. “The hope of the Universal House of Justice for the conference is that we, one and all, be enabled to translate what we deliberate and plan in the realm of action,” she said. Interspersed with her comments were stories shared from participants from various countries. One touching story was of a Tongan youth named Mercy (born 16 years ago in the Baha’i month of Rahmat, which means “mercy”) who has been active in the establishment of junior youth programs and study circles. Other highlights included an account of recent joyful productive reflection meetings in New Caledonia that led the Baha’is to schedule for 14 February the launch of an intensive program of growth; experiences, and lessons learned, from a recent teaching project in Auckland; and the story of a young person in Vanuatu who moved to a new era to assist with core activities and other work, helping to prepare the community for an intensive program of growth.

For the cultural program on Saturday evening, artists from throughout the Pacific region performed to a packed house of 2,000 people, including many guests. The exhilarating beat of Polynesian drums electrified the atmosphere and set the tone. The audience was treated to video and photographs of the artists’ home countries, as well as a slide presentation showing photographs of Baha’is around the world engaged in core activities.

Believers from New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands ended their performance by presenting a banner from their junior youth prepared specifically for the conference. The Samoan participants’ contribution was tribute to the late Malietoa Tanumafili II depicting the first meetings between His Highness and the late Hand of the Cause Dr. Ugo Giachery.

On Sunday morning, Counselor Soheyla Bolouri of Tonga spoke on the needs of the Pacific region, stating that the Baha’is should take stock of their strengths, have a clear vision and an ever-strong resolve. People were urged to return to their home countries and share the message of Baha’u’llah, strengthen the institute process and enlarge the pool of human resources.

The presentation of a magnificent bouquet of flowers was made as a token of respect for the Baha’is in Iran. Particular tribute was paid to those believers currently in prison because of their religious belief.

After breaking into workshops for action planning to establish intensive programs of growth, outcomes were shared later in the day, with the plenary session led by the children who had consulted during their own sessions and also made commitments. Participants made pledges to initiate or participate in one or more of the many activities of the Five Year Plan. Mr. Hall stressed the importance of acting immediately and encouraged people to return to the guidance of Universal House of Justice and re-study the messages in light of the learning from the conference. “Fire has been ignited in our hearts and we must ensure it’s not extinguished,” he said. He emphasized the need for unity in this spiritual enterprise.

In her final address Mrs. Ramirez affirmed that the conference had been characterized by an amazing and joyful spirit, boundless energy, enthusiasm and intense jubilation. “Our mission,” she said, “is to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization; to create a new race of men; to build a new world order.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Personalized AV presentation of conference

Click here to view an example of a finely crafted personalized rendition of the conference - many thanks to James for sharing!

First-hand Conference report

A spirited and faithful report from our Conference -

CommuNIqué - Newsletter of the Bahá'í Community in Northern Ireland
Issue 142 - 4 Ayyám-i-Há 165 BE - 1 March 2009 CE


London conference

Regional Conference London 3-4 January 2009.

Eight o'clock on the morning of Saturday 3 January saw 3,200 believers from Northern Europe pour through the doors of the Conference venue expecting to queue for registration. To their delight they were invited by smiling ushers to be seated in the hall. On their seats they found a pack containing copies of two messages from the Universal House of Justice, the 20 October 2008 message which had called us to this conference, and one dated 3 January 2009 addressed to the friends gathered at the Regional Conference in London, a conference badge to be filled in by each participant, and all the information needed to engage fully in the event. From the first "Dear friends. please be seated…" there was a pervading feeling of joyous expectation; no need to wait for the momentum to build in this Conference, perhaps the fact that attendance there was a response to the request of the Universal House of Justice created a unifying dynamic and imparted a sense of purpose. The opening element of the Conference was a devotional piece beautifully sung by the Bahá'í Choir from Northern Ireland.

With what joy the friends welcomed the representatives of the Universal House of Justice, members of the International Teaching Centre Counsellor Urnasaikhan Baatar and Counsellor Stephen Birkland. We were blessed also by the presence of six members of the European Board of Counsellors: Mrs Uta von Both, Mrs Vivien Craig, Dr Shirin Fozdar-Forudi, Mrs Saba Khabipour, Mrs Firouzeh Moghbel-Naderi and Mr Hannu Tapani Olkkonen. Members of the National Spiritual Assemblies and believers attended from the countries of the region: Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the host country the United Kingdom along with friends from other areas of the world.

At the beginning of the programme Counsellor Vivien Craig read the message of the Universal House of Justice dated that day. We were inspired by the words of the Supreme Body and began to relate to the focus of the Conference; to "deliberate on how to move at least 6 more clusters to the stage where the criteria for initiating intensive programmes of growth …. can be met by Ridvan 2009." We heard the call of the Universal House of Justice that "each individual - whatever his or her involvement with the Plan heretofore - shoulder a share of this vital undertaking." The opening address was by Counsellor Stephen Birkland of the International Teaching Centre, he told us wonderful stories from the history of the Faith, which he related in a very meaningful way to the situation in which we find ourselves today.

Counsellor Birkland conveyed the confidence of the Supreme Body in the ability of the Bahá'í community to respond to the needs of this time and inspired everyone to arise and make a contribution to the goals of the Plan. There was a wonderfully inclusive feeling that there is something that absolutely everyone can do and that each and every service offered is valued. He confirmed that our activities in this vast spiritual enterprise do not replace the activities of the past. Now, at the core of the Bahá'í community we have a group of activities essentially spiritual in nature, which connect the hearts and minds of the peoples of the earth with the Word of God. Our other activities support this.

Counsellor Urnasaikhan Baatar, also a representative of the Universal House of Justice, spoke so sweetly, clearly and fluently about the framework for action, in a manner which was explicit for every listener, even those who were new to the process for whatever reason. She explained everything from the core activities to the conditions necessary for sustained accelerated growth with absolute coherence, and shared with us the most recent learning in all areas of the Institute process. Counsellor Baatar stressed the urgency of our situation, and the need for every cluster to engage in a three-month cycle of action, reflection and consultation.

Every time the representatives of the Universal House of Justice spoke, we felt the power and love of the Supreme Body, and were drawn to the graceful, understanding and enthusiastic manner in which their representatives addressed us and shared with us their penetrating and insightful vision of how we should move forward.

Sprinkled across the pattern of the Conference were accounts by believers working within the most advanced of the clusters in our region. These touching, sincere accounts of sacrificial service, home-front pioneering, collective teaching work, work with children and junior youth and the effect that just one or two dedicated souls could have on sizeable numbers of individuals filled the hall with encouragement and the will to engage in this work. Hearts were moved by the evident success of the youth in particular, and their clear vision of the efficacy of service enhanced by training and taken forward through an intensive pattern of action and reflection.

In the course of her presentation of the needs of the Plan, Counsellor Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi referred to the wealth of experience we now have in the advanced clusters of the re gion. Our response to these critical times should be to look at our situation and plan change which will put the Faith central to our lives.

On the Sunday everyone attended cluster-based work-shops to consider in depth their own individual response to the needs of the Plan and to consult on the timing of the launching of intensive programmes of growth in the priority clusters throughout the region. It became crystal clear during this Conference that our first line of action now is to bring our priority clusters to the point of launching intensive programmes of growth as soon as possible, even if it means taking resources from our existing A clusters. As a result of cluster consultations, it was confirmed that 6 priority clusters will launch their intensive programmes of growth by Ridvan 2009, and a further 8 by the Birthday of Bahá'u'lláh in this year. Of these 10 will be in the UK, with one in Northern Ireland. The goal for Seven Valleys is now to launch an intensive programme of growth by 29 May 2009.

Many participants filled in forms making pledges of service bearing in mind the guidance of Counsellor Stephen Birkland that each individual should seek their own path of service, and decide in which specific area or areas they wish to make a contribution. There was a happy realization that there is a wealth of activities to choose from including prayer, home visits, starting one of the core activities, personal or collective teaching, firesides, pioneering and giving to the funds.

Every session of the Conference began with a devotional presented in a beautiful and artistic manner, and there was a cultural programme of music and dance on Saturday evening. As stated by the Universal House of Justice the Conference was "an opportunity for the friends to gather together, as much to celebrate the feats already achieved during the Plan as to deliberate on its current exigencies" both of these objectives were pursued with vigour in London, and were beautifully facilitated by the plans of the National Spiritual Assembly for every aspect of the precious hours we spent together. The bonds formed or strengthened between the believers from all participating communities have given us a new awareness of the relationships between the countries of our region.

There was a powerful sense of the hand of the Universal House of Justice in everything we did. The pervading feeling was one of being guided, supported and encouraged by them to move to intensified service to the needs of the Five Year Plan. Echoing in our hearts are the exhortations so lovingly expressed by the Supreme Body in their message to the Conference " not to be the least overawed by the challenge…… not to be deterred by the convulsions of a world order now in a state of inexorable decline, not to overlook the guarantee of divine assistance promised by Baha'u'llah to every believer who would champion His Cause."


(Photograph: Bahá’í World News Service)

Friday, February 20, 2009

House Message 17 Feb to UK NSA: Friends' positive reactions, pledges noted

In this letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice we are given the word: DEVOTED ENDEAVORS will win us our goals!

17 February 2009

Transmitted by email:

The National Spiritual Assembly of
the Baha'is of the United Kingdom

Dear Baha'i Friends,

Your email letter dated 5 January 2009 reporting on and expressing appreciation for the regional conference held recently in London has been received by the Universal House of Justice, which has asked us to respond as follows.

The House of Justice was delighted to learn of the success of the conference as indicated by the high level of attendance and the focused and constructive consultations that distinguished the proceedings. Undoubtedly, the dedicated and thoughtful manner in which the organizers fulfilled their responsibilities contributed significantly to the dynamic spirit that characterized this historic event. The House of Justice noted with pleasure the positive reaction of the friends gathered there, which was reflected in the numerous pledges made to advance the teaching work, and it has every confidence that the momentum generated by the conference will be
exploited to the fullest.

You may be assured of the prayers of the House of Justice in the Holy Shrines that the devoted endeavours of the communities represented at the London conference may be divinely confirmed and crowned with victory.

With loving Baha'i greetings,

Department of the Secretariat

Photo by Marco Abrar -

Saturday, February 14, 2009

HOUSE MESSAGES to other conferences

Here are selections of House messages to other of the conferences.

“Undeflected by the turmoil and distractions of the world around you, direct your energies to the task at hand with expanded vision and renewed consecration. New achievements invariably bring new challenges. Every steadfast believer is called to a faith and determination, a commitment to unity and sacrifice that will lift the Cause to a new stage in its development. May all find a part to play. May all appreciate the contribution of others. May all pour forth time and resources to support the advancement of your clusters, to foster the capacity of your co-workers, and to quicken the spirit of love and devotion that propels you forward. As you arise to serve, be assured of our ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines that the Blessed Beauty may open every door, remove every barrier, and enable every one of you to offer your utmost to this sacred enterprise.”

(From the letter of the UHJ to the six Regional Conferences in the United States, dated December 6, 2008)

31 January 2009

To the Friends gathered at the Regional Conference in Battambang

With hearts uplifted we greet the followers of Baha'u'llah from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam--veteran and newly enrolled, young and old--who have assembled in Battambang on this historic occasion to mark the midway point of the Five Year Plan. What strides have been made in your region over these past two and a half years! The pace of work that the friends have established in Cambodia is an inspiration to the entire Baha'i world. With a force at once powerful and unassuming, you have systematically spread out over your homeland, standard-bearers of the Cause of God, bringing to your sorely tried people in increasing numbers His life-giving message. Yet the significance of your accomplishments lies not only in their scope but in their quality. In cluster after cluster, you have created a rich pattern of community life, distinguished by its promotion of education for all ages. Can there be any doubt that you have set in motion a process of collective transformation that will continue to bear fruit in the succeeding generations? Those of you from Vietnam bring to the gathering your own unique record of accomplishments. Your many years of steadfastness and patience, during which you were able to demonstrate to your fellow citizens, in both word and deed, the purity of your intentions, have been vindicated by the re-establishment of your National Spiritual Assembly, an event hailed by your government. The friends from Laos and Thailand have their own significant successes to recount. Does not your collective experience, then, bespeak the capacity of the peoples of your region--their indomitable spirit and their inexhaustible energy, their love of beauty and their sense of the sacred? Celebrate, one and all, your accomplishments to date. And look to the future of your region, as we do, with confidence and assurance.

Over these two days, the friends from Cambodia will consolidate plans for adding to the 9 intensive programmes of growth already under way in their country a further 2 by Ridvan. They will also refine their plans for meeting in the remaining years of the Plan the formidable goal they have set for themselves of establishing an additional 15 such programmes by its close. Those from Laos, Thailand and Vietnam will need to consider how they can take advantage of the next two years to apply the learning generated thus far to their own particular circumstances. There is no need to remind any of you of the magnitude of the forces of disintegration that assail society, for your peoples have already proven themselves capable of withstanding their devastating effects. You must all recognize the urgency of the hour and act with boldness and determination. But it is to the many young people among you that we make this special appeal: significant progress will not be achieved without your wholehearted support. Be assured of our prayers in the Holy Shrines for each and every one of you.

[Signed: The Universal House of Justice]

31 January 2009

To the friends gathered at the RegionalConference in Auckland

Our most loving greetings are extended to the followers of the Most Great Name who have assembled at this historic gathering marking the midpoint of the Five Year Plan, those from the farflung islands of the Pacific Ocean—the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, Kiribati, New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu—joining with the dear friends of New Zealand. We are with you in our thoughts and prayers as you celebrate the accomplishments of the first half of the Plan, and prepare yourselves for the strenuous endeavour required in the remaining time. We have been heartened by the increasing awareness in your region of the measures necessary to respond adequately to the opportunities for the growth of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh at this time. In more and more clusters the foundation has been laid for a strong and expanding Bahá’i community: an environment conducive to communal worship is being fostered; spiritual education is being provided to children; the energies of junior youth are being channelled into productive ends; youth and adults, newly enrolled and veteran, are engaging in the study of the Creative Word through the institute process and are joining together to carry out acts of service. You have established intensive programmes of growth in 18, clusters throughout your region and the stage is set for greater progress in the immediate future.

Your goal now, to launch a further 9 intensive programmes of growth by Ridván, is well within your reach if a sustained and determined effort is made in each of the designated clusters. However, your plans must extend beyond this immediate objective and must encompass the achievement of a further 21 intensive programmes of growth before the end of the Plan. We appeal to the devoted servants of the Cause in your region to put aside all misgivings and, undeflected by distractions, to offer wholehearted support to the vital work to which you have been summoned. Sacrifice of time and resources is required for success to be achieved. Be assured of our ardent prayers in the Holy Shrines that every one of you may offer your utmost to this sacred endeavour.

The Universal House of Justice

27 December 2008

To the Friends gathered at the Regional Conference in Kuala Lumpur

It gives us great joy and happiness to greet the friends from Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore assembled at the historic conference in Kuala Lumpur at this midpoint in the Five Year Plan. You have much to celebrate as you contemplate your achievements over the past two and half years, and many challenges to consider as you prepare yourselves for the vital tasks ahead. A strong foundation for your future progress is already in place as a result of assiduous efforts to build capacity in all three participants in the Plan, whose increasingly effective endeavours are being woven together in a pattern of unified action. In particular, great strides have been made in stimulating the initiative, resourcefulness and audacity of individual believers, whether from tribal or urban areas, youth or adults, newly enrolled or more experienced. In launching 25 intensive programmes of growth you have gained valuable insights into the dynamics of sustainable growth and you are now set on a path of learning that will enable you to take advantage of the tremendous opportunities in your region.

You now have before you the immediate task of launching 6 intensive programmes of growth by Ridvan 2009, a goal that is eminently attainable. As you consult together on the next steps to be taken, in an atmosphere of joyful optimism and firm determination, have no doubt of the receptivity of your fellow citizens, from every segment of society, to the Message of Baha’u'llah or of your own capacity to guide them to the refuge of His mighty Cause. Arise then, undeterred by the storms and trials through which the world is now passing, and consecrate yourselves to this spiritual enterprise, confident that the Blessed Beauty will reinforce your every effort in His Name. We shall pray fervently in the Holy Shrines that He will crown your devoted endeavours with success.

The Universal House of Justice

Photo by Marco Abrar -

Friday, February 13, 2009

NOTES from Counselor Birkland's talk

The following inspiring and valuable notes from Mr. Birkland's talk in FRANKFURT were originally posted on Sabby's blog.

So here's a tidbit of Mr. Birkland's speech (To make it readable better, I won't insert "he said" again and again; instead, please note that everything is *paraphrased* from his words and not my personal comment! Of course, as it is my paraphrasing and even written out of memory only, as I was able to note only a few key words, there's *no* guarantee for this and I apologize for any optional misunderstanding!):

In every Faith, there is the concept of ransom. It is connected to "Crisis and Victory".

In the Baha'i-Faith, the greatest ransom was offered by Mirza Mihdi, the Purest Branch. In Akka, when he fell from the roof and lay deathbound, Baha'u'llah offered him healing. Mirza Mihdi asked his exalted father to allow him to die, offering his life as a ransom for the Faith. Especially, he asked for this sacrifice to be the ransom in exchange for the prison (rather carcel) doors to open for Baha'u'llah, his family and the friends. Baha'u'llah accepted this ransom, Mirza Mihdi passed away and within few months the prison doors opened!

So this is an exalted example for all of us. Baha'u'llah told us that
*to every success belongs sacrifice* ! Crisis and victory. Pay the price, and you win.

Now - what does this mean for the Five-Year-Plan? The Plan is carried out by Baha'is - who are human. There will be hurts. Someone will not acknowledge your efforts properly, someone will do something unwise, someone will ignore your input, someone will attack you, someone will backbite or let you down or just be a pain in the neck. So what? Remember Shoghi Effendi saying "forgive and forget"! And, to help you and the Faith at the same time - you can offer your hurt as a ransom for the success of the Plan! Clear your heart from revengeful attitudes, focus on purity, and with the right motivation, if you truly do it out of love of God, turn to Baha'u'llah and ask Him to accept your hurt as a ransom. Thus the Plan can progress even faster!

Or - if you haven't been hurt, but are in any kind of emotional or physical pain - you can offer this pain just as well! Think of the wonderful examples in Baha'i-history, of the heroes who were ill, disabled, had lost family or whatever, and who sacrificed their pains for the Victory of the Faith! For example, Hand of the Cause Amelia Collins with her severe diseases ...

... talking of Amelia Collins - even if you don't have any hurt or pain to offer as a ransom, you surely can offer something. When there was the call for donations for the construction of the Mother Temple of the West, the House of Worship in Wilmette, there was this lady who literally had nothing. Nothing but a huge stone ... You probably know the story. For those who don't, just briefly: Amelia Collins was in charge of collecting funds for the project. This poor lady came to her and offered the stone. Maybe someone else would have sent her away. Amelia Collins understood the sincerity in this offer immediately and accepted it and even more - as the stone was huge and heavy, she brought a child's pram to put it in and, together with the lady, bring it to the construction site. There, the pram crashed and the stone remained lieing there. When 'Abdu'l-Baha came, he saw it - and destined it to be *the cornerstone of the Mother Temple of the West* !

So - *every single humble person* owes at least something which is valuable or precious enough to be offered - as a ransom for the progress of the Divine Plan!

Counselor Stephen Birkland addressing the Conference

Entire video footage available online

Here is the joyful message from the UK Baha'i secretariat:

National Spiritual Assembly

13 February 2009

Dearly loved Friends

The National Spiritual Assembly is thrilled to announce that video footage of the entire mainstage proceedings of the Five Year Plan Regional Conference in London, 3-4 January 2009, is now available online.

The videos are indexed chronologically but can be viewed in any order. They may also be downloaded for use on DVD players and computers. The coverage includes all the presentations made by the representatives of the Universal House of Justice, by participating countries, and by representatives of advanced clusters, as well as devotional programmes and cultural contributions.

The videos can be accessed by visiting and entering the password "Ridvan" (Remember to CAPITALIZE the "R"! - Alex).

The National Assembly hopes that full use and effective use will be made of these videos. They may be shared with those believers and other friends who were not able to attend the conference, used in appropriate gatherings and viewed over and again to assist our understanding of the vital processes of the Five Year Plan.

With loving Baha'i greetings

National Spiritual Assembly

Kishan Manocha

Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, Kishan Manocha, addressing the Conference

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

NOTES from Counselors' talks

The following was shared by John on his blog, notes used with kind permission of the author, Jim Styan.

...a quick report of the Vancouver Regional Baha'i Conference which I just attended this past weekend.

More than 2500 Baha'is gathered at the Vancouver conference, Jan. 17-18, 2009. Here we were all invited by the Supreme Body to this celebration and workshop in an inspiring, uplifting and loving Baha'i atmosphere.

The two representatives of the Universal House of Justice, Uransaikhan Baatar of Mongolia and Stephen Birkland of the United States, really gave us what we needed most: a feeling of joy and great privilege in what we are doing to serve the Cause of God at this time in Baha'i history.
Counsellor Uransaikhan Baatar inspired us gently, sweetly, and dynamically with a vision of what the House of Justice wants us to do at this time.

Counsellor Stephen Birkland told this story (as I recall it):

Well-known Baha'i, Mr. Azizi, whose resting-place is Vancouver had once told a story about his grandfather, who had a thriving business and a shop in Akka during the time that Baha'u'llah was in prison. One day 'Abdu'l-Baha came and told him that Baha'u'llah wanted him to go on a mission to Morocco. Mr. Azizi, said yes he would go, but requested first to go into Baha'u'llah's presence to receive His blessing. 'Abdu'l-Baha said that there was no time for that and that he should gather up whatever money he had and go right away. Being obedient, Mr. Azizi did what 'Abdu'l-Baha told him to do, and it wasn't till he was well into his trip that he realized that he hadn't even asked 'Abdu'l-Baha what his mission was. He worried and prayed fervently all the ay there that he be guided to know what he was supposed to do when he got to Morocco. When he got there he found that a well-known Baha'i had just been released from many years in prison and right away he knew that his mission was to bring him back to 'Abdu'l-Baha.
(end of story)

So Mr. Birkland said that it is often like that that we Baha'is have no idea what we are doing before we do it, but being obedient to Baha'u'llah and the Universal House of Justice, we start out on this new enterprise of intensive teaching, and it becomes more clear as we study, act and reflect.

Another similar example is told by Mr. Birkland in another story (in my own words):
A friend of Hand of the Cause, Mr. Khadem, accompanied him once to see the Guardian Shoghi Effendi in Haifa, Israel. The Guardian asked Mr. Khadem to go to Egypt to "spread the glad-tidings". As Mr. Khadem and his friend were on their way to Egypt, one of them said to the other, "What did Shoghi Effendi mean by 'glad-tidings'?" The other answered by saying, "I don't know. I thought that you knew." So they prayed fervently all the way there and when they got there, Mr. Khadem was asked to speak to the Baha'is. When he got up to speak he felt immediately inspired to say what was needed. (end of story) (In London, he said that what he had been inspired to relate in Egypt was the story of his visit to some Baha'is in imprisoned in Yazd, for which he had been sent by Shoghi Effendi. Among the prisoners had been the renowned, aged Haji Muhammad Tahir Mālmīrī who, upon hearing by whom Mr. Khadem was sent, arose to dance and sing in celebration among the prisoners. Due to the danger of this fact being made known, he was admonished by his companions to keep silent, as he was exposing himself death! The Haji replied that it would be his honor to die for this. - Alex)

So Mr. Birkland again emphasized that we Baha'is often don't know what we are doing at first, but out of obedience we do it and then it all becomes clear. This is true today more than ever. These stories brought a lot of laughter, as all related to being in this clueless state before we embark on carrying out the Plan of God for this day. I felt more than ever that it is clear that all we have to do is begin making the four core activities of the Plan the central focus of our actions and then persevere as we learn from each other's experiences.

Again, Mr. Birkland brought up the example of Martha Root, who had no idea what she would achieve as she embarked on her first travel-teaching trip overseas. She just knew that she had to be obedient to the Tablets of the Divine Plan that were just shared (about 1916) at an American Baha'i Convention. We are encouraged to follow her example as regards this new Plan (since 1996) of raising up human resources "to make giant strides towards" the "major aim of advancing the process of entry by troops".

As stated in other regional Baha'i conferences:

"Ms. Baatar's address focused on the importance of the Institute as an engine of growth, and how crucial it is to continually raise capacity in order to sustain activities. She encouraged participants to choose one path of service as a focus."

"Mr. Birkland stressed the importance of not being distracted and dismayed by the situation of the world as well as the importance of taking action despite feelings of inadequacy."

This was a great historical Baha'i conference one would not ever want to miss, or ever forget.

Courtesy of Joe Woods, here are the quotes that the UHJ representative and Counselor, Mr. Birkland, made use of in his presentation; or at least the one he gave in Toronto.

"If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God's all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one's cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets. They should strictly avoid sedition, and refrain from treading the path of dissension and strife. They should champion their one true God, exalted be He, through the hosts of forbearance, of submission, of an upright character, of goodly deeds, and of the choicest and most refined words."
(Baha'u'llah, Fire and Light, p. 10)

"Even or odd, thou shalt win the wager." The friends of God shall win and profit under all conditions, and shall attain true wealth. In fire they remain cold, and from water they emerge dry. Their affairs are at variance with the affairs of men. Gain is their lot, whatever the deal. To this testifieth every wise one with a discerning eye, and every fair-minded one with a hearing ear.
(Baha'u'llah: Crisis and Victory, p 154)

"One cannot obtain the full force of the sunlight when it is cast on a flat mirror, but once the sun shineth upon a concave mirror, or on a lens that is convex, all its heat will be concentrated on a single point, and that one point will burn the hottest. Thus is it necessary to focus one's thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections, 111)

"Regarding your own condition: He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá'u'lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea!"
(Shoghi Effendi, 13 October, 1947, Unfolding Destiny, 447)

"The champion builders of Bahá'u'lláh's rising World Order must scale nobler heights of heroism as humanity plunges into greater depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress. Let them forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions and the supreme opportunity for their greatest exploits must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes."
(Shoghi Effendi, November 3, 1948, Citadel of Faith, 58)

"Putting on the armor of His love, firmly buckling on the shield of His mighty Covenant, mounted on the steed of steadfastness, holding aloft the lance of the Word of the Lord of Hosts, and with unquestioning reliance on His promises as the best provision for their journey, let them set their faces towards those fields that still remain unexplored and direct their steps to those goals that are as yet unattained, assured that He Who has led them to achieve such triumphs, and to store up such prizes in His Kingdom, will continue to assist them in enriching their spiritual birthright to a degree that no finite mind can imagine or human heart perceive."
(Shoghi Effendi, From a letter dated April 1956; Messages to the Baha'i World, p. 102)

Counselor Stephen Birkland at the London conference

Monday, February 2, 2009

Follow-up reports after the Conference

(This post will be augmented as more news trickles in. Keep it coming!)

National Spiritual Assembly (through the UK BAHA'I NEWS EMAIL SERVICE)

1 February 2009

Dearly loved Friends

It is with great joy that the National Spiritual Assembly informs you that conditions for launching an intensive programme of growth in the North East Scotland cluster have now been met. North East Scotland becomes the 15th cluster in the United Kingdom to launch a growth programme. It was one of the 4 clusters identified at the regional conference in London to launch an intensive programme of growth by this Ridvan.

May the Blessed Beauty abundantly confirm the devoted efforts of the friends in North East Scotland to bring about the sustained, accelerated growth of the Faith.

With loving Baha'i greetings

National Spiritual Assembly

From Post-London Regional Baha'i conference blog

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ridván 2008 Message of the House of Justice

The Universal House of Justice
Bahá'i World Centre

Ridván 2008

To the Baha'is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

Thousands upon thousands, embracing the diversity of the entire human family, are engaged in systematic study of the Creative Word in an environment that is at once serious and uplifting. As they strive to apply through a process of action, reflection and consultation the insights thus gained, they see their capacity to serve the Cause rise to new levels. Responding to the inmost longing of every heart to commune with its Maker, they carry out acts of collective worship in diverse settings, uniting with others in prayer, awakening spiritual susceptibilities, and shaping a pattern of life distinguished for its devotional character. As they call on one another in their homes and pay visits to families, friends and acquaintances, they enter into purposeful discussion on themes of spiritual import, deepen their knowledge of the Faith, share Baha'u'llah's message, and welcome increasing numbers to join them in a mighty spiritual enterprise. Aware of the aspirations of the children of the world and their need for spiritual education, they extend their efforts widely to involve ever-growing contingents of participants in classes that become centres of attraction for the young and strengthen the roots of the Faith in society. They assist junior youth to navigate through a crucial stage of their lives and to become empowered to direct their energies toward the advancement of civilization. And with the advantage of a greater abundance of human resources, an increasing number of them are able to express their faith through a rising tide of endeavours that address the needs of humanity in both their spiritual and material dimensions. Such is the panorama before us as we pause this Ridvan to observe the progress of the worldwide Baha'i community.

On several occasions we have indicated that the aim of the series of global Plans that will carry the Baha'i world to the celebration of the centenary of the Faith's Formative Age in 2021 will be achieved through marked progress in the activity and development of the individual believer, of the institutions, and of the community. At this, the midway point of what will be a quarter of a century of consistent, focused exertion, the evidences of increased capacity are everywhere apparent. Of particular significance is the widening impact of the dynamism flowing from the interactions between the three participants in the Plan. Institutions, from the national to the local level, see with ever greater clarity how to create conditions conducive to the expression of the spiritual energies of a growing number of believers in pursuit of a common goal. The community is serving more and more as that environment in which individual effort and collective action, mediated by the institute, can complement each other in order to achieve progress. The vibrancy it manifests and the unity of purpose that animates its endeavours are drawing into its swelling ranks those from every walk of life eager to dedicate their time and energies to the welfare of humanity. That the doors of the community are more widely open for any receptive soul to enter and receive sustenance from Baha'u'llah's Revelation is clear. No greater testament is there to the efficacy of the interactions among the Plan's three participants than the dramatic acceleration in the tempo of teaching that was witnessed this past year. The advance made in the process of entry by troops was significant indeed.

Within the sphere of these enhanced interactions, individual initiative is becoming increasingly effective. In previous messages we have referred to the impetus that the institute process imparts to the exercise of initiative by the individual believer. The friends in every continent are engaged in study of the Writings for the explicit purpose of learning to apply the teachings to the growth of the Faith. Remarkable numbers are now shouldering responsibility for the spiritual vitality of their communities; energetically, they are carrying out those acts of service befitting a healthy pattern of growth. As they have persevered in the field of service to the Cause, maintaining a humble posture of learning, their courage and wisdom, zeal and acuity, fervour and circumspection, determination and trust in God have combined all the more to reinforce one another. In their presentation of the message of Baha'u'llah and the exposition of its verities, they have taken to heart the words of Shoghi Effendi that they must neither "hesitate" nor "falter", neither "overstress" nor "whittle down" the truth which they champion. Neither are they "fanatical" nor "excessively liberal". Through their constancy in teaching, they have increased their ability to determine whether the receptivity of their listener requires them to be "wary" or "bold", to "act swiftly" or to "mark time", to be "direct" or "indirect" in the methods they employ.

What we continue to find encouraging is how well disciplined is this individual initiative. Communities everywhere are gradually internalizing the lessons being learned from systematization, and the framework defined by the current series of Plans lends consistency and flexibility to the endeavours of the friends. Far from restricting them, this framework enables them to seize opportunities, to build relationships, and to translate into reality a vision of systematic growth. In a word, it gives shape to their collective powers.

As we survey what has been accomplished around the world, our hearts are filled with particular admiration for the believers in Iran, who, under the most arduous conditions, have arisen boldly to serve their country and are bending their energies toward its revitalization, though the avenues open to them are limited. And given the restrictions placed on the administration of the Faith, they have set out on an individual basis to acquaint their fellow citizens with the teachings of Baha'u'llah, directly engaging them in conversations about His redeeming message. Not only have they received unprecedented support from enlightened souls as they have begun to do so, but they have encountered a receptivity far beyond anything they would have imagined possible.

Every follower of Baha'u'llah conscious of the forces of integration and disintegration operating in society today sees the relationship between the rise in receptivity to the Faith in all parts of the globe and the failings of the world's systems. That such receptivity will increase as the agonies of humanity deepen is certain. Let there be no mistake: The capacity building that has been set in motion to respond to mounting receptivity is still in its earliest stages. The magnitude of the demands of a world in disarray will test this capacity to its limits in the years ahead. Humanity is battered by forces of oppression, whether generated from the depths of religious prejudice or the pinnacles of rampant materialism. Baha'is are able to discern the causes of this affliction. "What 'oppression' is more grievous", Baha'u'llah asks, "than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?" There is no time to lose. Continued progress must be achieved in the activity and development of the three participants in the Plan.

'Abdu'l-Baha has extolled "two calls" to "success and prosperity" that can be heard from the "heights of the happiness of mankind". One is the call of "civilization", of "progress of the material world". It comprises the "laws", "regulations", "arts and sciences" through which humanity develops. The other is the "soul-stirring call of God", on which depends the eternal happiness of humanity. "This second call", the Master has explained, "is founded upon the instructions and exhortations of the Lord and the admonitions and altruistic emotions belonging to the realm of morality which, like unto a brilliant light, brighten and illumine the lamp of the realities of mankind. Its penetrative power is the Word of God." As you continue to labour in your clusters, you will be drawn further and further into the life of the society around you and will be challenged to extend the process of systematic learning in which you are engaged to encompass a growing range of human endeavours. In the approaches you take, the methods you adopt, and the instruments you employ, you will need to achieve the same degree of coherence that characterizes the pattern of growth presently under way.

Sustaining growth in cluster after cluster will depend on the qualities that distinguish your service to the peoples of the world. So free must be your thoughts and actions of any trace of prejudice--racial, religious, economic, national, tribal, class, or cultural--that even the stranger sees in you loving friends. So high must be your standard of excellence and so pure and chaste your lives that the moral influence you exert penetrates the consciousness of the wider community. Only if you demonstrate the rectitude of conduct to which the writings of the Faith call every soul will you be able to struggle against the myriad forms of corruption, overt and subtle, eating at the vitals of society. Only if you perceive honour and nobility in every human being--this independent of wealth or poverty--will you be able to champion the cause of justice. And to the extent that administrative processes of your institutions are governed by the principles of Baha'i consultation will the great masses of humanity be able to take refuge in the Baha'i community.

As you press ahead, be confident that the Concourse on high is marshalling its forces and stands ready to come to your aid. Our continued prayers will surround you.

* * * * * *

The Message also available here.
(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Song text: "Five Years" - "...our recent culture, of studying the Word in groups"

This is the text of the song "Five Years" which was sung on the second day of the conference to the tune of "Fever." Hear it performed in the two embedded videos below!

Five Years

( - 8 bars - )

The Universal House of Justice

Has written all Bahá’ís a note

They say we have to up the auntie

More a paraphrase than direct quote

They gave us five years

Clock is tickin’

More than half way through to date

Five years

The goal in clusters

Is IPG’s in all 28

Let us not forget the children

Nor forget the junior youth

We stand up and we boldly proclaim

That “Humanity is one” is the truth

They gave us five years

No time for resting

Capacity has got to keep pace

Five years

But we’ll be strengthened

Strengthened by His unfailing grace

Everybody’s just got five years

This is something we all know

Five years isn’t such a long plan

It started nearly 3 years ago

( - 4 bars - )

There’s no mistaking our true purpose

We shouldn’t fail to realise

These simple little acts of service

Are a global enterprise

They gave us five years

For us to reach it

Five years to accomplish the goals

Five years

And they beseech Him

Bahá’u’lláh illumine our souls

( - 4 bars - )

Walk straight upon the path of learning

Ignore the trivial pursuit

Appreciate our recent culture

Of studying the Word in groups

They gave us five years

No time for resting

Capacity has got to keep pace

Five years

But we’ll be strengthened

Strengthened by His unfailing grace

Let us now rejoice at one thing

Establishing a rhythm of growth

Consolidation and expansion

Now we need to try to do both

They gave us five years

To build resources

Fives years for our Faith to grow

Five years

To use the framework

Now we need to get up and go

Now we need to get up and go

Now we need to get up and go

Now we need to get up and go

(Written by Dicky Fusco. He has allowed it to be freely shared.)

Performed at the London conference (see other, related clips here):

Performed in Sweden:

Five Years from Ann-Sofie Wensbo on Vimeo.

This is a cover of the song Fever, originally performed by Peggy Lee, now with new words by Dicky Fusco, about the Five Year Plan. This was originally performed by Dicky himself and friends at the Regional Conference in London on the 3-4th of January 2009. This recording though, is from the Swedish follow up conference in Uppsala the weekend after, the 10-11th of January, here performed by Darrel, Sylvia, Ann-Sofie and Leyli. Only just put together that afternoon.... ;-) Enjoy!

Performing "Five Years" at the London conference

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thrilling video of worldwide conferences held thus far

This is a camera recording of a masterly music video presentation shown at the outset of the conference (3 Jan.) surveying the worldwide Regional Baha'i conferences held by then.

(One can only recommend it be used in MODERATION so as to preserve its affective value!)

Videos of stellar final performances: narration, music, song

These beautiful, rare performance-clips (from 4 Jan.) were shared by Nadim Rohani. Many thanks to you, Nadim! He writes:

Feel free to share the link of the video or embed it on your site... We have been given the permission but please use discretion. Due to YouTube time constraints the arrangement had to be broken into four parts (therefore some video bits are repeated in order to relay the atmosphere). It is suggested to see the videos [sequentially] so as to get a better understanding of the piece... (Thanks to D. Morisco for recording).

Part 1 of 4: The Story of Siyah-Chal.

Part 2 of 4: 'God is Sufficient' and 'Allah-u-Abha'.

Part 3 of 4: 'Fever' now has new lyrics: 'Five years'.

Part 4 of 4: Drumming-Clapping Workshop. Credits of contributors. View it here.

(Photo is courtesy of Geoff Collins from his online album Used with permission)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Keep the spirit alive!

(The following was messaged to members of the Facebook group 'I attended London Regional Baha'i conference')

Dear Friends,

Consider this the final call for submissions, if you would be willing, of your impressions and/or action plans (individual or collective), which may be sent to the group Administrator directly for ANONYMOUS reposting to this blog.

Remember that by sharing you could inspire the rest, and that it opens for the opportunity to PRAY for each others' projects and goals (and who doesn't need that?)! 'Abdu'l-Baha has said:

"Concern yourselves with one another. Help along one another's projects and plans. Grieve over one another. Let none in the whole country go in need. Befriend one another until ye become as a single body, one and all..."

(Consultation, #19)

You are invited to reply to any of these questions:
  1. What made the strongest impression on you from the conference?
  2. What new (concrete) pledges of service to the current Plan did you or your community make?
  3. What new (concrete) goals did you or your community set?
(Please indicate your approximate LOCATION (country, region or town) as well.)

One member of the (Facebook) group posted this thought:

Keep the spirit alive!

This conference is a little like pilgrimage, if you don't nurture the spirit it will die quickly.. so to keep motivated:

Pray some more!
Go and serve
Teach some more
Pray some more!
Let the friends in your area know how amazing it was! Write, paint, sing, create!
Teach some more!

Cycle, rinse and repeat :)

With every gratitude and respect,

"There is no time to lose. There is no room left for vacillation. Multitudes hunger for the Bread of Life. The stage is set. The firm and irrevocable Promise is given. God’s own Plan has been set in motion. It is gathering momentum with every passing day. The powers of heaven and earth mysteriously assist in its execution. Such an opportunity is irreplaceable. Let the doubter arise, and himself verify the truth of such assertions. To try, to persevere, is to insure ultimate and complete victory."

- Shoghi Effendi

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

(The verses of "Keep the spirit alive!" were composed by Maryam DiMauro and posted 7 January to the Facebook group 'I attended London Regional Baha'i conference')

What new GOALS have I or the community set?

The following are concrete replies given to the question (in the "Discussion Board" section of the related Facebook group "I attended London..."), "What new goals...?
(Post will be expanded as answers come in.)

- To start a children and junior youth class.
(Youth, U.K.)

- To start devotional meetings at my office!
(Youth, Oslo)

- I have planned to pray every morning for my own progress and that of our cluster, and every evening for the goal cluster. I am taking Ruhi 1 again and I am going to attend Ruhi 4 as well, and maybe I will go to England during Easter holidays to take Ruhi 7.
(Youth, Oslo)

(Photo courtesy of Ronnie Yousefzadeh from his online album Used with permission)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

New PLEDGES of service made at the conference

The following are replies given on the Facebook group "I attended London Regional Baha'i conference" to the question (in the "Discussion Board" section), "What new pledges of service to the current Plan did the believers make at the conference?"
(Post will be expanded with new answers.)

- We are gonna start a junior youth class with my sisters friends, and ask some of the children in the village parents about starting a childrens class.
(United Kingdom)

- Devotional at my house (we have no Baha'is near us), a study circle of book two with two non Baha'is, and a fireside. Also a book one because on Monday I met two people who are Latino and they know about the Faith, and also a girl I met on the train to London who happens to know the Faith very well too.
And then other stuff like helping out in outreach projects for junior youth and children's classes in some communities in my cluster and other places... And then some travel teaching, not sure where yet...have been going to some different communities since August but I now think I am going to have to be more systematic about it.
Still haven't fleshed some things out.

(Image reproduced with permission of the Bahá’í International Community)

Post-conference summary by U.K. National Assembly

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom

5 January 2009

Dearly loved Friends

Some 3,200 Bahá'ís and close friends of the Faith drawn from Denmark, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom and lands beyond came together to celebrate the achievements of the Plan thus far and to contemplate the immediate needs of the region.
Their understanding of the processes of growth and of the role that each and every one of them can play in advancing the work of the Cause at this time were incalculably enhanced by the wealth of guidance and penetrating insights shared by the representatives of the Universal House of Justice to the conference, members of the International Teaching Centre Ms Uransaikhan Baatar and Mr Stephen Birkland. In addition, six members of the European Board of Counsellors were also in attendance: Mrs Uta von Both, Mrs Vivien Craig, Dr Shirin Fozdar-Foroudi, Mrs Saba Khabirpour, Mrs Firouzeh Moghbel-Naderi and Mr Hannu Tapani Olkkonen.

Stirred by the call raised in the House of Justice's message to the conference to launch at least 6 intensive programmes of growth by Ridván 2009, the friends in attendance were assisted in planning how to achieve this goal by the lessons shared by representatives of some of the most advanced clusters in the region.

The fruit of the planning process, conducted in a spirit of joy and characterised by a striking unity of thought and purpose, was a keen determination by the friends in 6 clusters to launch intensive programmes of growth by Ridván 2009 and a further 8 by the Birth of Bahá'u'lláh this year. Of these, 10 are in the United Kingdom, and 1 each in Denmark, Finland, Norway and the Republic of Ireland. At the time of writing when not all the pledges from those in attendance have been counted, some 19 believers in the region offered to homefront pioneer and, in addition, some 126 friends from seedbed clusters have offered their services as mobile tutors and 144 as travel teachers so that the identified clusters may launch their intensive programmes of growth. Those who could not do even this said they would help by offering regular prayers and financial support.

The friends attending this unprecedented gathering have risen to new levels of understanding of their sacred mission and confidence in what they can achieve for the Cause. Countless participants expressed how humbled and deeply moved they felt for having been extended an invitation by the Head of their Faith to this extraordinary gathering. There was a spirit of inclusiveness and a very real sense of unity tangible throughout the sweet moments of this blessed event.

To the Universal House of Justice then goes our eternal gratitude for allowing us to be part of an experience that we shall never forget.

With loving Baha'i greetings


Kishan Manocha


(Posted to subscribers of the UK BAHA'I NEWS EMAIL SERVICE. Emphasis added.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Poem by Maryam DiMauro: Slumbered heart

This moving poem in reminiscence of the conference, with the photos, was written and posted by Maryam in her Facebook Notes on 7 January.

Slumbered heart

A heart, awakened from slumber,
Beats in continous rhythm
A heart, beating cautiously
Becomes like a river flowing through
A heart, like a river
Become roughened angels and earth shattering tremble
A heart flowers into a garden
and pours forth and awakens celestial armies

These rhythms, these voices
these hearts
Oceans and bodies
Madness , rising like feverish phoenixes
Their feathers rising from the ground

These hearts,
Souls in enchantment
Carried out in heaven
Yet given tools for the earth

Farmers, sowing the lusty earth
Filling the cracked dust
With their blood

There is no time for waste.
The heart beats ever faster
My soul becomes frenetic
My tears fill the earth
Yet it is never enough
I cannot be still in this feverish haze
The world rocks, the souls cry

As the hearts,
They embark into the sea the Ark of the Covenant
Sets sails upon us
We are of one infant body
and one sunrise soul
Yet our hearts, unique

This time this place.
My words
Escape me.
Till there is nothingness,
Just this heart
Which beats
It must never stop
It must never flee
It must never excuse
It must never lose time
It is, it exists, It is.
All for Thee.

(Used with the kind permission of the author)

Posts on "The Wall" in Facebook group

Here follow posts on "The Wall" section of the Facebook group "I attended London Regional Baha'i conference"
(Post will be regularly updated as postings to the Wall are made)

- Recalling this unique, consecrated, systematic and spiritually charged event just brings tears to my eyes.

- Personally still stunned by it. Really. It was everything people said and more!

(Photo courtesy of Ronnie Yousefzadeh from his online album Used with permission)

What made the strongest IMPRESSION on you from the conference?

The following are replies given on the Facebook group "I attended London Regional Baha'i conference" to the question (in the "Discussion Board" section), "What made the biggest impression on you from the conference?"
(Post will be expanded with new answers.)

- The idea of the Faith being the Remedy for the ills of the world.
(Itinerant believer)

- The snow ball effect - how one simple activity had led to the creation of numerous others.
Randomly meeting old friends :)
(Youth, Oslo-Akershus cluster)

- The strongest impression was that of UNITY. The enthusiasm, love and encouragement from our representatives of the Universal House of Justice in the body of the International Counsellors was most special and touching.
The spirit was resolute!
(Surrey cluster)

- The strongest impression from the conference was its systematic organization, which reminded me of the need to be systematic in teaching as well. The talks were very inspiring.
(Youth, Oslo)

- I am living in Sweden in a C-cluster, but we have one A-cluster, Stockholm, and two B-clusters. We had many representatives from the whole country attend in London from all these clusters.
The Conference was well organised and everything was perfect, with a beautiful venue and program. A lot of hard work had gone into it, and it was well done. I give thanks.
The program of the first day was very very inspiring, the highlight of the Conference being the representatives of the Universal House of Justice. The other speakers like the UK's NSA representative and Counselor Shirin Fozdar were excellent. The cultural programs were super, the program well balanced.
The three Swedish workshops were succssful, with many participants contributing enthusiastically their services to the cluster activities.
We had a follow-up reflection conference here in Uppsala this weekend with more than 150 participants that filled the friends with renewed strength and exhilaration.

- I was totally inspired regarding the teaching work. We had our Cluster reflection meeting the week after and it was so different to previous meetings. I am sure that the unified vision we achieved at the conference helped create this and that as a community we can carry this forward.
(Swindon, Wiltshire cluster)

Bouquet onstage

(Photo is courtesy of Geoff Collins from online album Used with permission)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

House Message to Baha'is of the World 20 October 2008

The Universal House of Justice

20 October 2008

To the Baha'is of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

Today, the anniversary of the Birth of the Bab, marks the midway point of the five-year enterprise that will engage the Baha'i world until Ridvan 2011. We bow our heads in humble gratitude to Baha'u'llah for the favours and confirmations He has vouchsafed unto those labouring so diligently and sacrificially in the forefront of the teaching work. Since the conclusion of the Tenth International Baha'i Convention a few months ago, there has been a rise in awareness of the efficacy of the framework governing the operation of the Five Year Plan as insights gained by the delegates have been widely diffused throughout the Baha'i community. Scores of clusters around the globe are being primed for systematic expansion, and we expect to see a wave of intensive programmes of growth launched in the months leading up to Ridvan next year. The challenge facing the friends in these and all clusters continues to be twofold in character. While learning to identify receptive segments of society and share with responsive souls the message of the Faith--an aspiration generally not difficult to fulfil--they are striving to understand in practice how the diverse elements of a healthy pattern of growth, particularly the development of human resources, are to be integrated into a cohesive whole. How heartening it is to see that the moment the friends in a cluster begin to meet this dual challenge, immediate progress is achieved; the goal of launching an intensive programme of growth becomes imminently attainable. That the continued strengthening of the community should be matched by a further decline in the old world order comes as no surprise. Indeed, the friends should be on their guard, lest the development of capacity in the community not keep pace with the rise in receptivity of a disillusioned humanity. Behold how even in the short span of time since we raised this warning in our Ridvan message, financial structures once thought to be impregnable have tottered and world leaders have shown their inability to devise more than temporary solutions, a failing to which they increasingly confess. Whatever expedient measures are adopted, confidence has been shaken and a sense of security lost. Surely such developments have caused the believers in every land to reflect on the lamentable condition of the present order and have reinforced in them the conviction that material and spiritual civilization must be advanced together.

It is with these thoughts in mind that we turn our hearts in frequent prayer to Baha'u'llah and beseech Him to strengthen His followers through His unfailing grace. In such moments, we implore Him to illumine their souls with the light of knowledge and faith. Let them not underestimate the power inherent in the system they are putting in place for the propagation of His Faith, nor mistake the true purpose of the global enterprise on which they have embarked. Let them not deviate from the path of learning on which they are set, nor be distracted by the ephemeral pursuits of a bewildered society. Let them not fail to appreciate the value of the culture now taken root in the community that promotes the systematic study of the Creative Word in small groups in order to build capacity for service. Let them never forget the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. Let them come to realize the full significance of their efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities. And let them rejoice at having learned through consistent, systematic action how to establish a rhythm of growth that pays due attention to the essential elements of expansion, consolidation, reflection and planning. May they one and all be endowed with constancy and fidelity and be granted the courage to make whatever sacrifices are needed to ensure the resounding success of the Plan. By the rectitude of their conduct, the sincerity of their love for their fellow human beings, and the ardour of their desire to serve the peoples of the world, may they vindicate the truth proclaimed by Baha'u'llah that humanity is one. May they be diligent in their efforts to establish ties of friendship that show no regard for prevalent social barriers and ceaselessly endeavour to bind hearts together in the love of God. That they may recognize the profound implications of their mission is our fervent hope. That they may not falter in accomplishing their ambitious goals, no matter how severe the crises engulfing the world around them, is our most heartfelt prayer at the Sacred Threshold.

To provide the opportunity for the friends to gather together, as much to celebrate the feats already achieved during the Plan as to deliberate on its current exigencies, we announce the convocation of a series of regional conferences, forty-one in number, to be held in the following cities between November and March: Abidjan, Accra, Almaty, Antofagasta, Atlanta, Auckland, Baku, Bangalore, Bangui, Battambang, Bologna, Bukavu, Chicago, Dallas, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Kiev, Kolkata, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Lae, London, Los Angeles, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, Madrid, Managua, Manila, Nakuru, New Delhi, Portland, Quito, Sao Paulo, Stamford, Sydney, Toronto, Ulaanbaatar, Vancouver, Yaounde. To each of these conferences, two members of the International Teaching Centre will be sent as our representatives. National Spiritual Assemblies in hosting countries will have further details available regarding participation. We urge the believers, both those fully engaged in executing the provisions of the Plan and those whose circumstances have prevented them from fulfilling their desire to do so until now, to avail themselves of this opportunity and attend the conference to be held in their area.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]