Bahá’i Initiatives towards attaining peace, unity, socio-economic development and environmental conservation

Dr Mrs Janak Palta McGilligan Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2016 (13:27 IST)
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Inspired by Bahá’i writings, there are many social and economic development centres/schools, colleges, academies, projects being run by Bahá’i community and Individuals in many parts of the world .

Bahá’i Community in India

Today, over 2 million Bahá’ís representing the great diversity of the Indian nation live in all states and union territories of India. The guidance and resources for all these activities are channelled through Bahá’í governing councils at the local, state/regional and national levels functioning harmoniously in a spirit of non-adversarial consultation under the aegis of the National Assembly of the Bahá’ís of India, which is the apex body looking after the affairs of the Indian Bahá’í community.

The Bahá'ís of India work towards the realization of unity in diversity by directing efforts to the organic process of transformation of individuals, social systems and structures. They are actively engaged in this process by involving men, women, children and youth from all walks of life, in a collective learning enterprise.

Through these efforts and in collaboration with a number of like-minded organizations, the Bahá’ís of India are learning to address the grave challenges facing present day society such as the prevalence of caste and class prejudice, gender inequality, communal disharmony, illiteracy, lack of education, violence, extremes of wealth and poverty, corruption and degradation.

It is the fervent hope and aspiration of the Bahá’í community in India to see their dear nation grow in material and spiritual prosperity, to see that the bonds of unity between the thousands of ethnic and religious communities living within its borders grow, that its people not only excel in the acquisition of scientific knowledge but also become renowned for their moral character and for qualities such as love, justice, compassion, equality and rectitude of conduct and that India makes its own distinct contribution to the advancement of world civilization.

Socio-economic Development Programmes in India

India hosts a number of Bahá’í -inspired socio economic projects such as Barli  Development Institute for Rural Women (Indore), the Bahá'í Chair for Studies in Development at the Devi Ahilya Viswavidyalaya (Indore University), New Era Teacher Training Centre & New Era High School (Panchgani, Maharashtra), The Bahá'í Academby (Panchgani, Maharashtra), Rabbani School (Gwalior), Foundation for Advancement of Science (Lucknow), Sikkim Bahá’i Schools (Sikkim) and a host of privately owned Bahá’i-inspired schools in different cities and villages of India. These schools attempt to satisfy the educational needs of all children from different walks of life. Bahá'ís have also established rural and community schools in villages of India, mostly in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Many of these Indian schools and other socio-economic development institutions in India have been recognized  worldwide for their contribution towards the promotion of value-integrated universal education, the enhancement of the status of women and the initiation of community development projects. There are also examples of activities of social action of a shorter duration, such as seminars on raising social consciousness, projects of tree plantation, a neighbourhood cleaning drive, medical camps, etc.  

Participation in Discourses of Society

The Bahá'ís of India are engaged with the government agencies and organizations of civil society in a series of social discourses such as on advancing towards the equality of men and women,  what constitutes effective governance,  of youth, rural development, freedom of religion or belief and universal, compulsory education for all.

The Bahá'ís of India have worked closely with the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity since its inception and co-organized a colloquium in 2000, on science, religion and development in New Delhi. Since then there has been a burgeoning network of development organization, academics and policy makers who have shown a keen interest at the exploration of the intersection of science and religion in addressing various issues of human development such as equality of men and women, effective governance, elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty.

The Institute for studies in Global Prosperity is a non-profit organization, dedicated to building capacity in individuals, groups and institutions to contribute to prevalent discourses concerned with the betterment of society. Drawing on both science and religion as two complementary systems of knowledge and practice, learning environments are created where knowledge and experience can be shared and systematized.

In February 2001, the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India recognized National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India as one of its Regional Resource Centres for Education in Human Values in recognition of the efforts made in the area of holistic education and non-denominational value education offered by the Bahá'ís at its schools and teacher training centres.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India is an affiliate of the Bahá’i International Community (BIC). BIC is an international non-governmental organization with affiliates in over 180 countries and territories, which together represent over five million members of the Bahá’i Faith. As an international NGO, the Office interacts and cooperates with the United Nations, its specialized agencies, with governments, as well as with inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.

The BIC seeks to promote and apply principles — derived from the teachings of the Bahá’i Faith — which contribute to the resolution of current day challenges facing humanity and the development of a united, peaceful, just, and sustainable civilization. At this time, the work of the BIC focuses on the promotion of a universal standard for human rights, the advancement of women, and the promotion of just and equitable means of global prosperity.

The Bahá’i International Community has offices at the United Nations in New York, Geneva, and Brussels; representations to the European Union and UN Regional Commissions based in Addis ABába, Bangkok, Nairobi, Rome, Santiago, and Vienna. An Office of Public Information, based at the Bahá’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel, disseminates information about the Bahá’i Faith around the world and publishes a quarterly newsletter, ONE COUNTRY.

 Public Information: Another avenue of involvement in public discourse that the Bahá'ís of India pursue is in production and broadcast of video series (Ek Behtar Samaj ki Aur) that focus on the process of the empowerment of people across different age groups in urban and rural settings and on how an understanding of one’s spiritual nature and identity motivates people to arise in acts of service for the transformation of their community and society.

The videos try to capture the knowledge that has been generated in the process of enabling people to read their reality, articulate the change that they want to happen and to work collectively towards that vision of true growth and development.  This grassroots learning enriches the contribution of the Bahá'ís to public discourse.

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