December 19, 2018

August 2000: The Millennium World Peace Summit: A Baha'i Perspective, presented by Dr. Albert Lincoln, Secretary-General of the Baha'i­ International Community.

New York - 29 August 2000

Mr. Secretary-General, Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen.

Over a century ago, a venerable religious figure confined in a remote outpost of the Ottoman Empire articulated a vision that may inspire our deliberations at this historic gathering. Addressing one of his followers, Bahá'u'lláh penned these words:

“Our hope is that the world's religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age and the rehabilitation of its fortunes. Let them, after meditating on its needs, take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth”. [1]

Our world is undergoing rapid and far-reaching changes, drawing humanity ever closer together, into what some have called a global village. Cultures and peoples that, for most of history, have lived in isolation from one another are now interacting face-to-face, on a daily basis. Sadly, however, social progress and the growth of wisdom and understanding have not kept pace with material advances, so that our global village is not a happy or a peaceful place. Indeed the time has come for its elders to take counsel together and think of the future.

Our Children are the Future
Looking beyond immediate crises and conflicts, one of the greatest dangers facing mankind comes from a generation of children growing up in a moral vacuum. Our hearts go out to the child-soldiers of Africa, the child-prostitutes of Asia and the desperate scavengers of the world's countless slums and refugee camps, victims of a poverty which is both spiritual and material. But we must not forget the millions of young people growing up in societies whose traditional value systems lie in ruins, or those deprived of spiritual training by generations of dogmatically materialistic education. And lest we oversimplify the causes or the remedies, let us also call to mind the young products of permissive liberalism in the West, some of whom are as well-armed and violence-prone as their age-mates in less prosperous lands.

November 12, 2018

An Italian scientist extols the Báb: – one of the very first documentations made by a European of the episode of the Báb – by Ugo R. Giachery

Among the apostles of modern science and liberty of thought, a prominent place belongs to Michele Lessona, an Italian, whose sincere and courageous words inspired and helped mold the character of at least two generations of Italians.

A scientist, a writer, a philosopher, an explorer and an educator, Professor Lessona stands out - with a stature that towers above that of many a well-known scientist - as one of the foremost thinkers of the nineteenth century.

He was born September 20, 1823, in Venaria Reale, a suburb of Turin. His father, Dr. Carlo Lessona, was at the time the director of the well-known veterinary school of Venaria, and this fact might explain the boy's early interest in scientific study. In 1846 Michele Lessona obtained a degree of medicine and surgery from the Royal University of Turin. Immediately after graduation he went to Egypt and, although rather young, was appointed Chief of the Khan Kah Hospital in Cairo.

In 1849 he returned to Italy and became an instructor in Natural History, first in Asti and then in Turin. In 1854, at the age of 31, he was appointed Professor of Mineralogy and Zoology at the Royal University of Genoa. In 1864, after his return from Persia, he taught first at the University of Bologna and then at the University of Turin. Here he occupied in 1865 the Chairs of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, becoming in 1877 the Rector of that University.

Professor Michele Lessona
During his life Michele Lessona produced a variety of scientific and literary works. Among his classical publications are to be remembered an illustrated treatise on natural history, in several volumes; his masterpiece on ethics, Power and Will; Confessions of a Rector; Memoirs of an Old Professor; and the translation into Italian of the best known works of Darwin, Samuel Smiles, John Lubbock, and many others.

In 1892 King Humbert of Italy made him a Senator for life, a well-deserved recompense for his patriotism, leadership and learning. He passed away, amidst universal sorrow, on July 20, 1894, in his beloved Turin.

October 9, 2018

Brief History of Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in America - by Corinne True

“O people of the world! Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions. Make them as perfect as is possible in the world of being, and adorn them with that which befitteth them, not with images and effigies. Then, with radiance and joy, celebrate therein the praise of your Lord, the Most Compassionate. Verily, by His remembrance the eye is cheered and the heart is filled with light.” (Baha'u'llah, ‘The Kitab-i-Aqdas’)

Having heard enthusiastic reports of the building of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in Ishkabad, Russia, the members of the spiritual committee of the Chicago Assembly were inspired to supplicate to the Center of the Covenant, ‘Abdu'l-Baha, to grant permission for the second Mashriqu’l-Adhkar to be built in America.

On Jane 7, 1903, a Tablet was revealed in Acca by ‘Abdu’l-Baha saying "Now the day has arrived in which the edifice of God, the divine sanctuary, the spiritual temple, shall be erected in America."

The following words from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Baha clearly indicate the erection of a material building: "The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, though outwardly a material foundation, is possessed of spiritual effect and causes the union of hearts and the gathering of souls... Praise be to God! The erection of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar has a great effect in all grades (or states). It was tested in the east and so evidently and plainly was it proved good (that) even when in a village a house was called the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, it possessed a different effect. How much more its building and organization."

Furthermore, He says, “The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is the most important matter and the greatest divine institute. Consider how the first institute of His holiness Moses, after His exodus from Egypt was the 'Tent of Martyrdom' which He raised and which was the travelling temple. It was a tent which they pitched in the desert wherever they abode, and worshipped in it. Likewise, after His holiness Christ - may the spirit of the world be a sacrifice to Him - the first institute by the disciples was a Temple. They planned a church in every country. Consider the Gospel (i.e. read it) and the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar will become evident. I hope that all the beloved of God, collectively, on the continent of America, men and women, will strive night and day until the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is erected in the utmost solidity and beauty."

August 5, 2018

A Brief History of the American Development of the Baha’i Movement – by Thornton Chase

Thornton Chase
In the month of June, 1894, a gentleman in Chicago desired to study Sanskrit, in order to further pursue his search into ancient religious teachings. While seeking an instructor he met a Syrian who had come to Chicago from Egypt a short time before, and who told him of the Baha’i Movement.

As the statements of the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah, and his son, Abbas Effendi, the "Greatest Branch," otherwise known as ‘Abdu'l-Baha, accorded with the declarations of numerous sacred prophecies, and with the age long expectations of mankind, it was deemed of value to investigate those claims as far as possible.

Other seekers for truth became attracted to the study of these matters, with the result that five accepted the teachings as true during the year 1894. In 1895 a number of earnest students became interested, classes were formed, and several became "believers," and in 1896, the followers of the Baha’i Cause in Chicago were numbered by hundreds.

A class of Truth Seekers was begun in Kenosha, Wis. another in Milwaukee, and individuals from New York, Cincinnati, Washington and other points, came in touch with the Movement in Chicago, and carried information of it to their friends at home, so that in 1898 many students in eastern cities were eagerly seeking knowledge of God through this channel.

On Nov. 4th, 1900, there arrived in New York, Mirza Assad’u’llah a Persian teacher of authority from Acca, in Palestine, and Haji Hassan Khorassani, a prominent merchant of Cairo, Egypt; with Mirza Hossain Rouhy, and Mirza Buzork, as interpreters. They remained in New York, meeting and teaching large numbers of people, until Nov. 26th, when they visited Johnstown, New York, for two days, and reached Chicago at 4 p. in. Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 29th, where they made their headquarters for a year and a half.

July 7, 2018

Excerpts from a letter by the Greatest Holy Leaf to the American Baha’is in 1924

Let us then, affectionate brothers and sisters, ponder for a while upon the underlying reason that had made God’s divine Messengers prefer a life of torture to one of ease, and those blessed martyrs, so many of them cut off in the springtime and promise of their youth, choose death with faces radiant with joy. What did the Bab sacrifice His promising youth for except out of a burning desire to have mankind live in unity and peace; and what was the spirit that animated those bold and heroic martyrs but love and adoration to a Cause they wished to triumph? What made Baha’u’llah, born and brought up in opulence, fling away all earthly possessions and choose upon Himself unspeakable hardships and deprivation, save for an earnest appeal to the world at large to turn their hatred for one another into genuine love and to make a world seething with blood a peaceful home for God’s children; and why did ‘Abdu’l-Baha who could have chosen a life of ease and comfort, prefer to lead a crusade against the strongholds of human hearts and make a direct appeal to individuals as well as groups that unless we love one another with all our might and with all our heart we are absolutely doomed. He carried a crusade not with a sword of steel but with a sword of love and affection. And if we dare call ourselves Baha’is it simply means that we have to follow in their wake. It means that we must always have the public weal in mind and not give up ourselves wholly to our inclinations and desires, and it means that we must picture before us the perseverance and self-sacrifice of those early volunteers and make a whole-hearted effort to be like unto one of them; and it shall be only in this way that we can safeguard this great Cause of God.

This in brief, is what our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, is patiently and eagerly expecting from every single one of us. This, he says, should mark us from all other men and this should differentiate us from those to whom religion is something to believe in and not to inspire to action. ...

April 18, 2018

Centenary of the Tablets of Divine Plan - a talk by Paul Lample, Member of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í House of Worship, Chicago, May 20, 2016

[Please note: some headings were added to the transcript to further encourage readership]

Friends, it's such a pleasure to be here with you this evening, and especially at such an auspicious time.

You know from the two wonderful letters that the Universal House of Justice sent out on the 26th of March that this is the occasion of the centenary of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. In those letters, there's a testimony to the tremendous sacrifices and efforts that Bahá’ís have made―both the heroes of the Faith, but also the rank and file―over a century to try to translate whatever ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said in the Tablets of the Divine Plan into reality and action. Of course, those letters also capture the unique role that your community [the Bahá’í community of the United States] and its spiritual forebears have played in this process both directly and in the way that it contributed to raising up [Bahá’í] communities in so many parts of the world.

This centenary is an occasion, I think, to pause and reflect a little bit about who we are and what we're doing, so I wanted to share some thoughts along those lines with you.

Condition of the world around us
As we look around the world and review the news, on almost a daily basis we see a cacophony of problems that hit us in the face every day―these problems and habits of humanity that reflect a breakdown of the world around us, of the fabric of the society. I don't know about you, but I have to confess to my own shortcoming here: Whenever I get up in the morning and start looking at the news, my blood starts to boil! I can’t imagine how people can do this, how this guy can say this, and so on. Then I have to pause and calm myself down and remind myself, “Well, Paul, the old world order is winning all of its goals!” It's disintegrating at quite a rapid pace, so I should take heart and not be so upset.

When we look around us, we see, for example, the effects of corruption ― especially political corruption; of moral laxity and an ingrained prejudice. We see all of these things especially in the United States. These are the things you [find] in the conversations that are really at the heart of this disintegrative process. These were the evil tendencies that Shoghi Effendi identified in The Advent of Divine Justice. He might as well have been reading the headlines today. Now everywhere we look we see these [evils] in various manifestations, these elements [that] are eating away at the fabric of our society. This behavior is a reflection of the way human beings think. “The reality of man is his thought,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said. The world we see around us reflects the thought and actions of the peoples of the world. You think this way, and then you behave this way, and this is the world you get. If you don't like this world, if there's a problem with it, then you have to learn how to think in a different way and act in a different way.

January 17, 2018

The Life and Service of the Greatest Holy Leaf - by Dr. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

(Adapted from the address of Dr. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani to the Baha’i International Conference, Montreal, Quebec, 3 September 1982)

Across the world, from East to West, thousands of Baha’is have turned their hearts this year towards one single woman called the ‘Maid of Baha’. In conferences they have stood before multitudes to speak of the ‘Scion of Baha’, the ‘Remnant of Baha’. In solitude they have all found themselves speechless to describe adequately this ‘archetype of the people of Baha’. ‘Abdu’l-Baha Himself refers to her in a way that recalls all that cannot be said: ‘I dare make no mention’, He wrote, ‘of the feelings which separation from her have aroused in my heart. ...’ ‘I do not know’, He continues, ‘in what words I could describe my longing for my honoured sister.’

Shoghi Effendi, writing about his great-aunt after her passing in July 1932 also acknowledged that words could not adequately convey all that she was: ‘Not even a droplet of all thine endless love can I aspire to fathom, nor can I adequately praise and tell of even the most trifling out of all the events of thy precious life.’

How can we hope to encompass anything of her nature, therefore, when those who give us the words remind us that they will not suffice? How can we contain her when all our lives put together cannot comprehend the least trifling of the events she witnessed, the suffering she endured? It must be with feelings of awe that we approach this subject and with a sense of wonder that we ask: who was this ‘Maid’, this ‘Scion’, this ‘Remnant of Baha’ who must remain for all of time our ‘archetype’.