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A Profile of the Bahá'í Faith and its Worldwide Community

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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
Teachings
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of
Growth and
Expansion
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

Religion and Social Change

Historically, religion has been among the most powerful agents for changing human attitudes and behavior. Religion has traditionally defined what it means to be human, and it has defined the nature of our goals and relationships. And it is on this point--the struggle to change human attitudes and behavior--that the Bahá'í approach to the problems of education, development and environmental conservation offers perhaps the most hope.

Because the material means of the Bahá'í community are limited, most of these efforts are small in scale, serving their immediate locality.

Nevertheless, the approach to creating and operating these projects is distinctively Bahá'í. Directly or indirectly, nearly all promote the oneness of humanity. Many incorporate an emphasis on uplifting the status of women. Many seek to serve minority populations that have been discriminated against. Most make extensive use of the principle of consultation in an effort to seek input from--and empower--those whom the projects attempt to serve. The aggregate result is the emergence of a new model for integrated and comprehensive social and economic development.


The Indore Vocational Institute for Rural Women

In India, for example, the national Bahá'í community has started a wide range of schools and development projects. Among these projects is the Bahá'í Vocational Institute for Rural Women in Indore in the state of Madhya Pradesh, which offers free literacy and vocational training for underprivileged young women in the region.

The Institute, which reaches out to impoverished villages in a wide area, emphasizes training in locally useful and marketable skills. Like most Bahá'í-sponsored projects, however, it also incorporates elements of spiritual and moral education--a focus which contributes greatly to the institute's overall effectiveness.

"Although literacy, vocational and health training are essential, we believe that one of the most important things we do at the Institute is to help these young women recognize their full potential as human beings," said Janak Palta McGilligan, the Institute's director. "This is where the element of moral education comes into play."

The Institute's curriculum of spiritual and moral education, for example, emphasizes the equality of women and men, the oneness of humanity, and the importance of having a pure heart and selfless motives. These principles, in turn, provide an underlying motivation for transformation and self-development.

"We try to imbue them with self-confidence, so that they know they are very important as individuals, and that they can play an important role in improving their own homes and helping their villages to grow and develop," said Dr. Tahirih K. Vajdi, who helped to found the Institute and who also serves on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India, which sponsors the project. "We have found that, indeed, when these women return to their villages, they affect their entire communities. They bring back new ideas about health and hygiene. They promote the importance of educating children."

The Institute was recognized in June 1992 with a Global 500 Award from the United Nations Environmental Programme. The award citation read in part:

"Since 1987, the Bahá'í Vocational Institute for Rural Women has conducted three environmental programmes to educate villagers on the prevention and eradication of Guinea worms caused by contaminated water in 302 villages in central India... When the program began 752 people were infected and 211,813 were at risk. Today, the district is completely free of Guinea Worms." continues continues


"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."


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Photo from page 64
A Bahá'í primary school in Kivu Province, Zaire.

Photo from page 65
Consultation, as a decision-making and problem-solving process, is used in all Bahá'í development projects. Shown here is a Bahá'í group consulting in Namibia.

Photo from page 66
The staff of the Indore Bahá'í Vocational Institute for Rural women.

 

 


 

 

 

 

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