A few days ago National Spiritual Assembly members from around the world gathered in Haifa at the 11th International Baha’i Convention to elect the members of the Universal House of Justice. The occassion also marked the 50th anniversary of the first election of the institution in 1963.
The new members of the Universal House of Justice are (in order of votes):
Paul Lample, Firaydoun Javaheri, Payman Mohajer, Gustavo Correa, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Birkland, Stephen Hall, Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani.
The two vacancies made available due to the retirement of Dr. Farzam Arbab and Kiser Barnes were filled by Chuungu Malitonga and Ayman Rouhani. Not surprisingly, the new kids on the block were International Teaching Center Counsellors and they got the least votes. The other seven incumbents were easily re-elected as has been the trend since the creation of the institution.
See below for an updated historical membership infographic for the Universal House of Justice.
Chuungu Malitonga Previously Mr. Malitonga was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Zambia. He served on the NSA until November 2008 when he was appointed a Continental Counsellor and subsequently promoted on March 2010 to the ITC. He was appointed to the International Teaching Center (along with Praveen Mallik from India) to replace the vacancies created in that institution by the election of Stephan Birkland and Stephen Hall to the UHJ in the 2010 by-election.
Ayman Rouhani Previously Dr. Ayman Rouhani was a Continental Counsellor for Asia (since 2005). In 2008 he was appointed to the ITC along with eight other Bahai’s – see full list below.
Due to several factors, the Universal House of Justice that we have today is one which we haven’t seen before. It is both young and blindered.
I say a ‘young’ Universal House of Justice both in the sense of age as well as in the degree of seniority in membership. The member with the most seniority is Javaheri with 10 years (having been elected in 2003). In aggregate, the current membership of the Universal House of Justice has been in that post for only 3.4 years. Continue reading →
The UK government’s Office for National Statistics has released data for the 2011 census. The census data for Wales and the UK shows a surprisingly large influx of foreigners, especially from Poland. Among the various datasets, the religious make up of Wales and the UK continues to show a predictable transformation.
Christianity, while by far the largest religious affiliation, continues to decline:
The number of residents who stated that their religion was Christian in 2011 was fewer than in 2001. The size of this group decreased 13 percentage points to 59 per cent (33.2 million) in 2011 from 72 per cent (37.3 million) in 2001.
In contrast, the Muslim population has been growing at an annual rate of 5.75% and reached a total of 2,706,066 – approaching 5% of the total population of UK and Wales.
Also increasing are those who identify as ‘no religion’ or atheist. Only 29,267 self-identified as atheist but a much larger group had no religious affiliation:
The size of the group who stated that they had no religious affiliation increased by 10 percentage points from 15 per cent (7.7 million) in 2001 to 25 per cent (14.1 million) in 2011.
Adherents of the Baha’i Faith increased to 5,021 from 4,645 in the 2001 census. If my math is correct, that is an annual 0.78% growth per year. Put more simply, between 37-38 new Baha’is have been added per year since 2001. I’m not sure that you can call that ‘growth’ but it is slightly higher than the general population growth of 0.70% per year.
Within the ‘alternative religion’ category, the Baha’i Faith is eclipsed by two satirical entries: Jedi and Heavy Metal. Jedis are a fictional religious group within the Star Wars universe but they number in the hundreds of thousand. Heavy Metal (music) religion adherents were 6,242.
In his seminal work, “God Passes By” Shoghi Effendi summarized the Baha’i Faith into approximately a dozen principles which are “the essential elements of that Divine polity”. Among these is “the adoption of a universal auxiliary language”.
This idea was proposed by Baha’u'llah as a practical method to increase unity in a linguistically fragmented world. In the Tablet of Ishraqat (Splendours) Baha’u'llah writes:
The sixth Ishráq is union and concord amongst the children of men. From the beginning of time the light of unity hath shed its divine radiance upon the world, and the greatest means for the promotion of that unity is for the peoples of the world to understand one another’s writing and speech. In former Epistles We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice either to choose one language from among those now existing or to adopt a new one, and in like manner to select a common script, both of which should be taught in all the schools of the world. Thus will the earth be regarded as one country and one home. The most glorious fruit of the tree of knowledge is this exalted word: Of one tree are all ye the fruit, and of one bough the leaves. Let not man glory in this that he loveth his country, let him rather glory in this that he loveth his kind. Concerning this We have previously revealed that which is the means of the reconstruction of the world and the unity of nations. Blessed are they that attain thereunto. Blessed are they that act accordingly.
This is another in a series of articles exploring homosexuality within the Baha’i Faith. The first was delving into the historical and semantic context of the infamous excerpt in the Aqdas where Baha’u'llah refers reluctantly to the “subject of boys”.
Unfortunately the exact practice that Baha’u'llah was referring to cryptically is still being practiced today in Afghanistan. You can watch the PBS domentary following the above link as well as find a brief update on the situation from this recent Washington Post article.
Societal context is important because what we might consider salacious or inappropriate today, may very well have been the norm in another society. This is not an issue of ‘morality’ because that concept is very malleable throughout history. Not too long ago, slavery was not only considered normal, it was sanctioned by the prevalent religion. In Islam we have an institutionalized form of prostitution (nikah al-mut’ah) and it is a little known fact that polygamy is possible within the Baha’i Faith.
Wakashudo and Lycurgus
I provided a brief exposition of the Sambia tribe in Papau New Guinea. But there are many other examples to draw upon to illustrate the same point. In Japan, samurai and their apprentice would enter into a “brotherhood contract” which involved homosexual physical intimacy although not exclusively so (both were able to also have relations with women). The special relationship involved much more than physical intimacy. The samurai as mentor trained his apprentice in bushido, social etiquette and they were both honor bound to each other for life. Continue reading →