|Founded a century and a half ago, the
Bahá'í faith is today among the fastest growing of world religions. With more than five
million followers in at least 232 countries and dependent territories, it has already
become the second-most widespread faith, surpassing every religion but Christianity in its
geographic reach. Bahá'ís reside in more than 116,000 localities around the world, an
expansion that reflects their dedication to the ideal of world citizenship.
The Bahá'í Faith's global scope is mirrored in the composition of
its membership. Representing a cross section of humanity, Bahá'ís come from virtually
every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession and social or economic class. More than
2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups are represented.
Since it also forms a single community, free of schism or
factions, the Bahá'í Faith comprises what is very likely the most diverse and widespread
organized body of people on earth.
The Faith's Founder was Bahá'u'lláh,
a Persian nobleman from Teheran who, in the mid-nineteenth century, gave up a princely
existence of comfort and security for a life of persecution and deprivation.
Bahá'u'lláh claimed to be nothing less than a new and
independent Messenger from God. His life, work and influence parallel that of Abraham,
Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, and Muhammad. Bahá'ís view Bahá'u'lláh
as the most recent in this succession of Divine Messengers.
"This is the Day in which God's most excellent favors have been
poured out upon men, the Day in which His most mighty grace hath been infused into all
created things." --Bahá'u'lláh
The essential message of Bahá'u'lláh
is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, that there is only one human race,
and that all the world's religions have been stages in the revelation of God's will and
purpose for humanity. In this day, Bahá'u'lláh said, humanity has collectively come of
age. As foretold in all of the world's scriptures, the time has arrived for the uniting of
all peoples into a peaceful and integrated global society. "The
earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens," He wrote.
The youngest of the world's independent religions, the Faith
founded by Bahá'u'lláh stands out from other religions in a
number of ways. It has a unique system of global administration, with freely elected
governing councils in more than 18,000 localities.
It takes a distinctive (and sometimes radical) approach to
contemporary social problems. The Faith's scriptures and the multifarious activities of
its membership address virtually every important trend in the world today, from the new
thinking about cultural diversity and environmental conservation to the decentralization
of decision-making; from a renewed commitment to family life and morality to the call for
a "New World Order."
The Faith's most distinctive accomplishment by far, however,
is its unity. Unlike every other religion--not to mention most social and political
movements--the Bahá'í Faith has successfully resisted the perennial impulse to break
into sects and sub-groups. It has maintained its unity despite a history as turbulent as
that of any religion of antiquity.
In the hundred years since Bahá'u'lláh
lived, the process of global unification for which He called has become well-advanced.
Through historical processes, the traditional barriers of race, class, creed and nation
have steadily broken down. The forces at work, Bahá'u'lláh predicted, will eventually
give birth to a universal civilization. The principal challenge facing the peoples of the
earth is to accept the fact of their oneness and assist in the creation of this new world.
vitality of man's belief in God is dying out in every land, nothing short of His wholesome
medicine can ever restore it." --Bahá'u'lláh
For a global society to flourish, Bahá'u'lláh
said, it must be based on certain fundamental principles. They include: the elimination of
all forms of prejudice; full equality between the sexes; recognition of the essential
oneness of the world's great religions; the elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth;
universal education; the harmony of science and religion; a sustainable balance between
nature and technology; and the establishment of a world federal system, based on
collective security and the oneness of humanity.
Bahá'ís around the world express their commitment to these
principles chiefly through individual and community transformation. Among other ways,
commitment is reflected in the large number of small-scale, grassroots-based social and
economic development projects that Bahá'í communities have launched in recent years.
In building a unified network of local, national and
international governing councils, Bahá'u'lláh's followers have created a far-flung and
diverse worldwide community--marked by a distinctive pattern of life and activity--which
offers an encouraging model for cooperation, harmony and social action. In a world so
divided in its loyalties, this is in- itself a singular achievement.
This booklet is an attempt to tell this story.