(This is a message I sent to the Baha'is in New Hampshire. It has to do with a service that Baha'is are rendering worldwide -- offering free moral education to young people. I have removed from it the names and contact information for individual Baha'is. The font is very large because this was requested by some readers who could not otherwise access the posting.)
Dear friends throughout the New Hampshire Cluster. I've been asked to serve as the newsletter person for this cluster.
So I'd like to begin by inviting you to NOT do a Book 5.
This is an invitation to gain some skills, so we can learn how to make a difference in children's lives, and to help train them to be servants of humanity and builders of civilization.
And here's why I'm saying it this way. Personally, I think that when we say "We're doing a Ruhi Book," some of us have the impression that we're going to sit down through some lessons, and when we're done, presto, the masses will enter the Faith. And it's taken me much too long to learn that the institute program isn't about "taking books." It's about making commitments to people, and growing new spiritual organs in our communities, and demonstrating the vitality and clarity of the spirit of service in our Faith. It's about work. Work that counts, work that is focused exactly where the House of Justice wants it focused.
So that's how I'm looking at the new program that is being held at Green Acre. Yes, we're going through Book 5 in the Ruhi Sequence. And through that, we're learning how to facilitate the junior youth books. (If you haven't already seen them, these are some of the wonderful books the youth will be using. http://www.palabrapublications.com/junioryouth You might examine a copy and see if you agree that in these terribly spiritually perilous days, they would help your kids, your grandkids, the kids in your neighborhood.)
Those of you who have already received this training, please be patient with this latecomer as I explain that these spiritual empowerment programs for junior youth train them to think in new ways, to look at themselves as God looks at them- as powerful agents for growth, as artists and beautifiers, as promoters of standards of excellence in all they do. In these deceptively simple lessons, we are training youth to be a part of the "spiritual solution" to civilization's problems by learning to seek God's confirmations in their lives, to analyze hope and despair, to distinguish between flattery and praise, and to strive for excellence. These kids learn to translate the principles of Baha'u'llah into direct action. Though Book 5 is based on the Baha'i Writings, these youth programs we will learn to facilitate, are not religious instruction. The programs we will later set up, will be a safe haven for junior youth to come together and learn to work together to build a better and more beautiful world. They will apply the Baha'i principles which are really principles common to all faiths, brought by Baha'u'llah into world-mindedness and world action.
And these are good, solid programs. Baha'is who have studied intercultural education, and who have seen the results of these spiritual empowerment programs in the lives of youth, know that these are highly effective programs of the highest caliber, that reach young people where they live, and truly help to orient their souls and their deeds. These empowerment programs are better education than they receive elsewhere -- and we provide them free.
In these programs, the kids learn to recognize the difference between true beauty and the beauty that must die. They learn to conquer the forces in society that rob them of their true identity as noble human beings, and how to work together for the common good. Older youth are trained to serve junior youth as their true friends and wise advisors.
In these days when kids are facing challenges none of us faced when we were young, when they are in great danger of being swept away; under the guiding hand of the House we are teaching these kids, and are ourselves learning, how to make a difference in the world. We're not only "doing a Book 5." Ultimately, we're making a commitment to some kids, we're building our community and inviting others to join us. We're learning how to focus and animate youth, we're demonstrating that the Baha'i community is selflessly giving to the precious young.
And while we're at it, we can compensate for the loss of these youth groups shut down in Iran. As you can read on page 9 of this One Country Newsletter, some Baha'is in Shiraz were brought to trial for a social-economic program in which they were serving sick children. Part of the evidence against them was the Junior Youth book "Breezes of Confirmation" which this Book 5 trains us to facilitate. And since the government of Iran shut that one down in Shiraz, let's build up a thousand more. And then, Bani Dugal can let the government of Iran know about them, and eventually they'll learn that it's not wise to mess with the Baha'i Faith. As the Guardian wrote, we should view such opposition as the motive-power to galvanize us, and as "a God-sent gift and a God-sent opportunity which, if we remain undaunted, we can utilize for the furtherance of His Faith." As Baha'u'llah wrote,
"Should they attempt to conceal its light on the continent, it will assuredly rear its head in the midmost heart of the ocean, and, raising its voice, proclaim: 'I am the life-giver of the world!'"And in addition, we can make a real difference in some kids' lives. (And maybe, in the process, someone else will help your kids, or your grandkids.)
In the 2010 Ridvan Message the House of Justice wrote:
"The rapid spread of the programme for the spiritual empowerment of junior youth is yet another expression of cultural advance in the Bahá’í community. While global trends project an image of this age group as problematic, lost in the throes of tumultuous physical and emotional change, unresponsive and self-consumed, the Bahá’í community—in the language it employs and the approaches it adopts—is moving decidedly in the opposite direction, seeing in junior youth instead altruism, an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world. Account after account, in which junior youth in countries all over the planet give voice to their thoughts as participants in the programme, testifies to the validity of this vision. There is every indication that the programme engages their expanding consciousness in an exploration of reality that helps them to analyse the constructive and destructive forces operating in society and to recognize the influence these forces exert on their thoughts and actions, sharpening their spiritual perception, enhancing their powers of expression and reinforcing moral structures that will serve them throughout their lives. At an age when burgeoning intellectual, spiritual and physical powers become accessible to them, they are being given the tools needed to combat the forces that would rob them of their true identity as noble beings and to work for the common good."
One of the newly-appointed Counsellors is Dan Scott in Canada, and I'm listening to his talk on this subject --you might find it very worthwhile.
One of the titles Shoghi Effendi uses for Baha'u'llah is "the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization." That's why I'm saying, we're not just "taking a Book 5" -- We're making an investment in youth, and giving them direction in building a world civilization. And that's what we Baha'is are best at.
Maybe you will be able to participate in this institute course, and if so, please contact [...] at the email addresses above. Or if you've already taken the Book 5 course, maybe you'll feel moved to participate in one of the youth empowerment programs we already have going in this cluster; or to pray for the success of the neighborhood children's classes, and devotionals, and junior youth programs in our cluster; or to be an assistant in the classes; or to be a silent prayer partner accompanying a teacher; or to be a driver; or to help train children to dance and sing; or share this information with those friends who do not have internet access; or make home visits to families; or help translate for French speakers, or maybe even one of the African languages. These programs are an excellent way for friends of the Faith, including non-Baha'i relatives who are supportive of the Faith, to find an avenue of service where it's really needed. To participate in these ways, or set up another institute course, please contact one of the members of the Area Teaching Committee [...]
"Let deeds, not words, testify to thy faith, if thou art a man of true learning. Cease idly repeating the traditions of the past, for the day of service, of steadfast action, is come. Now is the time to show forth the true signs of God, to rend asunder the veils of idle fancy, to promote the Word of God, and to sacrifice ourselves in His path."(Words of Tahirih to Vahid, quoted by Abdu'l-Baha in Memorials of the Faithful)
P.S. You can see photographs of some of these wonderful youth gatherings at this website. These photographs were commissioned by the Universal House of Justice, and they demonstrate the wonderful spirit of this service the Baha'i community is giving to the world.