Last year the ITC sent a team around to world to document the success of four Baha’i communities in implementing the core activities. This film was released during the international Baha’i convention and has become a central focus of attention and conversation for Baha’is around the world. A reader of this blog, Rowland, mentioned the video recently in the post about the election of the UHJ. In case you haven’t yet, I invite you to watch the video. I wanted to briefly share my thoughts on it and what it means from a broader perspective about the Baha’i worldwide community.
At first glance the video is quite uplifting because it showcases examples of community development where Baha’is have had a meaningful and positive impact. For example, in India we are shown how the institute process has lead some villagers to soften their deep-seated male chauvinism and to question the cultural norm of ‘castes’. It seems all very wonderful! Apparently the Baha’i community has discovered community development. More than that, it comes across as if the Baha’is have invented community development.
The truth is that the contributions of Baha’is around the world is miniscule compared to everything else out there, both in terms of manpower and in terms of resources; and it comes very late. Nevertheless it is praiseworthy and should be acknowledged as such. At the same time, it is important to maintain perspective and realize that there are other groups doing amazing work out there light years ahead of the Baha’i community and that we can learn much from them. This, I would submit, is the more appropriate tone to strike, rather than one of triumphalism and chest-beating “overstatements of the Baha’i experience”.
This year’s annual Ridvan message from the Universal House of Justice can be summarized with just a few words: “Keep Calm and Ruhi On”.
More on this and the recently released video, Frontiers of Learning, in the coming days. Until then, you’ll find the complete Ridvan message below:
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.