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