Bahá’ís and Politics

Confusion often arises as to whether Bahá’ís can be involved in politics or not, and the standard answer is that Bahá’ís are not involved in partisan politics.

Bahá’ís have the blueprint for an ever-advancing civilization, built on unity, justice, and love. They work to develop the foundations of this Divine plan.

Shoghi Effendi wrote that Bahá’ís should “rise above all particularism and partisanship, above the vain disputes, the petty calculations, the transient passions that agitate the face, and engage the attention, of a changing world.”

When we had a screening of the film Light to the World as part of our bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh celebrations, a brief consultation followed during which it was highlighted that the video showed groups from around the world who were not simply soliciting others to create unity, or complaining against those who promoted disunity, but were, rather, actively working to establish unity in their own communities.

In the words of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’ís “will not affiliate themselves with political parties, become entangled in partisan issues, or participate in programmes tied to the divisive agendas of any group or faction.”

When it comes to marches and campaigns, especially in a partisan political world, divisive agendas are often sitting behind behind positive slogans. For example:

“although the cornerstone of Baha’i teachings is the oneness of mankind, the House of Justice has counselled the friends not to participate in demonstrations and protest activities sponsored by anti-apartheid groups. The reason behind this guidance is that since apartheid is identified with the Government of South Africa, such participation could be construed as opposition to that Government, which would be tantamount to involvement in politics. On the other hand, Baha’is can, and indeed should, support groups advocating the abolition of all racial prejudice.” [From a letter dated 22 December 1988, written on behalf of the Universal House of  Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly]

On the other hand, 40 years earlier, in reference to campus demonstrations against racial disunity in the USA, a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi made clear that there was “no objection at all to the students taking part in something so obviously akin to the spirit of our teachings”, even though racial prejudice was enshrined in the laws of many states.

Shoghi Effendi warned the Bahá’ís:

“The friends must, at all times, bear in mind that they are, in a way, like soldiers under attack. The world is at present in an exceedingly dark condition spiritually; hatred and prejudice of every sort are literally tearing it to pieces. We, on the other hand, are the custodians of the opposite forces, the forces of love, of unity, of peace and integration, and we must continually be on our guard, whether as individuals or as an Assembly or Community, lest through us these destructive, negative forces enter into our midst. In other words, we must beware lest the darkness of society become reflected in our acts and attitudes, perhaps all unconsciously. Love for each other, the deep sense that we are a new organism, the dawn-breakers of a new World Order, must constantly animate our Bahá’í lives, and we must pray to be protected from the contamination of society which is so diseased with prejudice.”

(My laptop battery is running flat so I have finished this post hastily. I might extend it soon)

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