Power and the Bahá'í Community
First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #54
Institute of Commonwealth Studies: London, England
July 2–4, 2004
(see list of papers from #54)
More than fifty years ago, Shoghi Effendi was writing that the thinking world has already caught up with the "great and universal principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh". He was suggesting that Bahá'ís needed to find ways of presenting to the world "the capacity of His projected World Order to re-create society". This paper explores what exactly is meant by this latter phrase. It suggests that what could be meant is to examine the workings of the Bahá'í community and to see in what way these present solutions to the problems facing society. This paper examines two inter-related problems. First the fact that a large proportion of people in our societies feel that they are excluded or that they are unable to participate fully in society because barriers exist that prevent this. They feel a lack of power to determine their own lives and an inability to develop folly. On account of this, they also feel a sense of injustice and consequent resentment. The second problem is that the balance between individual freedom and central authority in society has not been satisfactorily resolved. While authoritarian regimes have been overthrown and democracy established in many parts of the world, many are now saying that the balance has shifted too far towards individualism and a lack of central authority, that the rampant freedom of the market has led to a danger of falling into a situation of the "rule of the jungle", where the wealthiest and most powerful have free reign to do what they like, It is the contention of this paper that the workings of the Bahá'í community present some possible solutions to these two problems.
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