Power and the Bahá'í Community

By Moojan Momen

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #54
Institute of Commonwealth Studies: London, England
July 2–4, 2004
(see list of papers from #54)

Next presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #146
Centre for Bahá'í Studies: Acuto, Italy
July 5–9, 2017
(see list of papers from #146)

published in Lights of Irfan, volume 19, pages 209-232
© 2018, ‘Irfán Colloquia

    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 suggested that Baha'is 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 Baha'i 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 fully. 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, between individualism and collectivism. 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 Baha'i community present some possible solutions to these two problems.