BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — With the celebration of the 12th day of Ridvan on the hallowed grounds around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji May 3, the extraordinary period of the 12th International Baha’i Convention came to a close.
Following the election of the Universal House of Justice on the first morning of the Convention, the delegates spent the next three days consulting on how the teachings of Baha’u’llah are finding concrete expression in their communities and societies. They also explored how insights from this process can be offered to those in the world who are interested in building unity and peace.
“It’s so beautiful to see the world come together to consult—men and women from different backgrounds and a wide array of ages, working shoulder to shoulder to build a new world,” said Yevgeniya Poluektova, chairperson of the last session, in her closing remarks.
Many delegates attributed the growing opportunities before their communities to the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, which was accompanied by an upwelling of support from public figures and dignitaries, as well as from countless neighbors, friends, and coworkers who attended the festivities.
As members of the elected national councils that guide the affairs of the Baha’i communities in their respective countries, the delegates also reflected on how the institutions on which they serve can increasingly nurture environments in which individuals and communities are empowered and grow in capacity to take action for the betterment of the world.
Delegates spent the final morning in a rich consultation about the involvement of Baha’i communities in the life of their societies. In particular, they discussed their communities’ experience with social and economic development endeavors as well as their participation in forums and settings where contemporary issues of concern to their societies are being considered by government and civil society organizations.
Ouawi Tchompaare, from Chad, talked about the decade-long experience of a Baha’i-inspired development organization in the country supporting dozens of community schools in rural and urban settings. “We focus on two lines of action at this time: a health program, which focuses on prevention and hygiene, and an agriculture program about crops and fields.
“Among the children in these schools, we have seen a dramatic change in hygiene and cleanliness standards, which has in turn inspired families to adopt new patterns in their homes,” Mr. Tchompaare said.
“In Kazakhstan, there is a widespread concern about the disenchantment of youth with the state of the world. The Baha’i community is participating in a discourse concerned with the spiritual aspirations of youth. What we are finding is that this offers them hope and a path for constructive change,” said Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, a delegate from Kazakhstan.
Describing efforts being made in Spain, delegate Sergio Garcia shared: “We understand that our work with different discourses in our country is a long term endeavor. Ultimately, we are working for peace in the world, but we also realize that the path is long and that we need to learn together what the next steps are, for example how to prevent and stop conflict between peoples and how to foster cohesion among diverse populations in our country.”
The delegates’ deliberations were framed by a message from the Universal House of Justice surveying the progress of the worldwide Baha’i community and outlining the needs and questions faced by the community at this time. Many of the themes discussed over the days of the Convention were highlighted in the practical examples presented in the documentary A Widening Embrace, which is now available online.