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Community Development

Let the friends recall and ever bear in mind the repeated exhortations and glowing promises of our beloved Master with reference to the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the crowning institution in every Bahá’í community.

Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 108

The selection and subsequent purchase of the site of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in the Antipodes in the outskirts of a city—the first to receive the light of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh in Australasia, and destined to play a predominant role in the evolution of the Administrative Order of His Faith in that vast area—is an achievement which I heartily welcome and for which I feel deeply grateful. This remarkable accomplishment will, in conjunction with the establishment a decade ago of the National Hazíratu’l-Quds in that same city, accelerate the progress, and immensely reinforce the foundations, of the administrative institutions inaugurated on the morrow of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ascension, and which are destined to yield their fairest fruit in the Golden Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.

Shoghi Effendi, Letter dated 16 June 1954 in Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 120-121

It should be borne in mind that the central Edifice of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, round which in the fulness of time shall cluster such institutions of social service as shall afford relief to the suffering, sustenance to the poor, shelter to the wayfarer, solace to the bereaved, and education to the ignorant, should be regarded apart from these Dependencies, as a House solely designed and entirely dedicated to the worship of God in accordance with the few yet definitely prescribed principles established by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. It should not be inferred, however, from this general statement that the interior of the central Edifice itself will be converted into a conglomeration of religious services conducted along lines associated with the traditional procedure obtaining in churches, mosques, synagogues, and other temples of worship. Its various avenues of approach, all converging towards the central Hall beneath its dome, will not serve as admittance to those sectarian adherents of rigid formulae and man-made creeds, each bent, according to his way, to observe his rites, recite his prayers, perform his ablutions, and display the particular symbols of his faith, within separately defined sections of Bahá’u’lláh’s Universal House of Worship. Far from the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár offering such a spectacle of incoherent and confused sectarian observances and rites, a condition wholly incompatible with the provisions of the Aqdas and irreconcilable with the spirit it inculcates, the central House of Bahá’í worship, enshrined within the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, will gather within its chastened walls, in a serenely spiritual atmosphere, only those who, discarding forever the trappings of elaborate and ostentatious ceremony, are willing worshipers of the one true God, as manifested in this age in the Person of Bahá’u’lláh. To them will the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár symbolize the fundamental verity underlying the Bahá’í Faith, that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive. Theirs will be the conviction that an all-loving and ever-watchful Father Who, in the past, and at various stages in the evolution of mankind, has sent forth His Prophets as the Bearers of His Message and the Manifestations of His Light to mankind, cannot at this critical period of their civilization withhold from His children the Guidance which they sorely need amid the darkness which has beset them, and which neither the light of science nor that of human intellect and wisdom can succeed in dissipating. And thus having recognized in Bahá’u’lláh the source whence this celestial light proceeds, they will irresistibly feel attracted to seek the shelter of His House, and congregate therein, unhampered by ceremonials and unfettered by creed, to render homage to the one true God, the Essence and Orb of eternal Truth, and to exalt and magnify the name of His Messengers and Prophets Who, from time immemorial even unto our day, have, under divers circumstances and in varying measure, mirrored forth to a dark and wayward world the light of heavenly Guidance.

But however inspiring the conception of Bahá’í worship, as witnessed in the central Edifice of this exalted Temple, it cannot be regarded as the sole, nor even the essential, factor in the part which the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, as designed by Bahá’u’lláh, is destined to play in the organic life of the Bahá’í community. Divorced from the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific pursuits centering around the Dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, Bahá’í worship, however exalted in its conception, however passionate in fervor, can never hope to achieve beyond the meagre and often transitory results produced by the contemplations of the ascetic or the communion of the passive worshiper. It cannot afford lasting satisfaction and benefit to the worshiper himself, much less to humanity in general, unless and until translated and transfused into that dynamic and disinterested service to the cause of humanity which it is the supreme privilege of the Dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár to facilitate and promote. Nor will the exertions, no matter how disinterested and strenuous, of those who within the precincts of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár will be engaged in administering the affairs of the future Bahá’í Commonwealth, fructify and prosper unless they are brought into close and daily communion with those spiritual agencies centering in and radiating from the central Shrine of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár. Nothing short of direct and constant interaction between the spiritual forces emanating from this House of Worship centering in the heart of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and the energies consciously displayed by those who administer its affairs in their service to humanity can possibly provide the necessary agency capable of removing the ills that have so long and so grievously afflicted humanity. For it is assuredly upon the consciousness of the efficacy of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, reinforced on one hand by spiritual communion with His Spirit, and on the other by the intelligent application and the faithful execution of the principles and laws He revealed, that the salvation of a world in travail must ultimately depend. And of all the institutions that stand associated with His Holy Name, surely none save the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár can most adequately provide the essentials of Bahá’í worship and service, both so vital to the regeneration of the world. Therein lies the secret of the loftiness, of the potency, of the unique position of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár as one of the outstanding institutions conceived by Bahá’u’lláh.

Shoghi Effendi, Letter dated 25 October 1929 in Bahá’í Administration, p. 184-187

In central Asia, in the city enjoying the unique distinction of having been chosen by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the home of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Bahá’í world, as well as in the towns and villages of the province to which it belongs, the sore-pressed Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, as a result of the extraordinary and unique vitality which, in the course of several decades, it has consistently manifested, finds itself at the mercy of forces which, alarmed at its rising power, are now bent on reducing it to utter impotence. Its Temple, though still used for purposes of Bahá’í worship, has been expropriated, its Assemblies and committees disbanded, its teaching activities crippled, its chief promoters deported, and not a few of its most enthusiastic supporters, both men and women, imprisoned.

Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p.3-4

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions.

On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Letter dated 17 February 1933

While the Bahá’í House of Worship is open to all, non-Bahá’í as well as Bahá’í, for individual prayer and meditation, and while all are welcome to attend Bahá’í Worship Services, all services held in the House of Worship are under the supervision and control of the Bahá’ís.

The Universal House of Justice, Letter dated 19 December 1963

The spiritual growth generated by individual devotions is reinforced by loving association among the friends in every locality, by worship as a community and by service to the Faith and to one’s fellow human beings. These communal aspects of the godly life relate to the law of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár which appears in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Although the time has not come for the building of local Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, the holding of regular meetings for worship open to all and the involvement of Bahá’í communities in projects of humanitarian service are expressions of this element of Bahá’í life and a further step in the implementation of the Law of God.

The Universal House of Justice, Letter dated 28 December 1999

As we have said in an earlier message, the flourishing of the community, especially at the local level, demands a significant enhancement in patterns of behaviour: those patterns by which the collective expression of the virtues of the individual members and the functioning of the Spiritual Assembly are manifest in the unity and fellowship of the community and the dynamism of its activity and growth. This calls for the integration of the component elements—adults, youth and children—in spiritual, social, educational and administrative activities; and their engagement in local plans of teaching and development.

The Universal House of Justice, Riḍván Message 1996

With regard to your first query concerning the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, as you know, it is envisioned that a House of Worship and its dependencies will eventually be established in every locality. The upraising of the Temple, the central edifice and spiritual heart of the community, is to be followed by the erection and functioning of the various dependencies dedicated to the social and economic upliftment of the community. However, long before a Bahá’í community reaches the stage of building its own Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, this process begins in an embryonic way. Even the first local centre that a Bahá’í community acquires can begin to serve not only as the spiritual and administrative centre and gathering place of the community, but also as the site for other aspects of community life. Clearly, then, social and economic development projects need not await the building of a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and are, themselves, worthy pursuits, provided that the community has the capacity to initiate and sustain such activity. Some of the entities created in this process may even later become dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár once it is built. What is important to remember is that, as is the case with the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, central to the development process are the spiritual illumination of hearts and the enlightenment of minds.

The Universal House of Justice, On behalf of, Letter dated 15 February 1994

There are many ways in which the institutions and activities of the Bahá’í community can develop, but it must be remembered that the Bahá’í Cause is an organic body, and it is for the World Centre of that Cause to determine the methods and steps by which its potentialities and functions will unfold. The term “Mashriqu’l-Adhkár” has been used in the Writings to describe various things: the gathering of the friends for prayers at dawn; a building where this activity takes place; the complete institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, with its dependencies; the central edifice of that institution, often described as a “House of Worship” or “Temple”. These variants can all be seen as denoting stages or aspects of the gradual introduction of Bahá’u’lláh’s concept as promulgated in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. For the development of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, several lines of action have been set in motion, and it is to these that the believers should devote their efforts and attention.

At the local level, emphasis has long been placed upon the believers’ gathering regularly for worship, in whatever location they can effectively use. After the Kitab-i-Aqdas had been revealed there was a spontaneous reaction among the friends in Iran to implement the ordinance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and `Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged this, stressing the importance of the friends’ meeting for devotions, even if, owing to the conditions of the time, this be in an inconspicuous place. During the lifetime of `Abdu’l-Bahá, the various community functions and institutions, such as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár and the Local Spiritual Assembly, were developed in a variety of evolving and temporary manners. […]

As yet, too few local communities have been able to establish an adequate Haziratu’l-Quds, and it would be both unnecessary and undesirable for Local Spiritual Assemblies, let alone individual believers, to attempt to establish Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs now at the local level. What is required is for Local Spiritual Assemblies, as their communities grow, to strive to obtain a modest local centre and ultimately to acquire a Haziratu’l-Quds, and to encourage the greater use of the local Bahá’í Centre for devotional, as well as other gatherings.

As to the activity of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the Universal House of Justice has, for some years, been advocating the desirability of the holding of gatherings for dawn prayers wherever such an activity is feasible. Clearly, such meetings would be both natural and easy of accomplishment in the case of agricultural villages, while in a large industrialized city, under present circumstances, it would be far more difficult for the friends to gather regularly at dawn for devotional purposes.

The Universal House of Justice, Letter dated 20 April 1997

A feature of the Fifth Epoch will be the enrichment of the devotional life of the community through the raising up of national Houses of Worship, as circumstances in national communities permit. The scheduling of these projects will be determined by the Universal House of Justice in relation to the advancement of the process of entry by troops within countries. This development will unfold throughout successive stages of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan. Upon the completion of the Mother Temple of the West, the Guardian started a programme of constructing continental temples. The first among these were the Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs in Kampala, Sydney and Frankfurt, which were built in response to Ten Year Plan goals. The Universal House of Justice continued along these lines with the building of Temples in Panama City, Apia, and New Delhi. But this continental stage has yet to be completed: one more edifice remains to be built. It is with profound thankfulness and joy that we announce at this auspicious moment the decision to proceed with this last project. During the Five Year Plan, erection of the Mother Temple of South America in Santiago, Chile, will commence and thus fulfil a wish clearly expressed by Shoghi Effendi.

The Universal House of Justice, Riḍván Message 2001

The National Spiritual Assemblies of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Papua New Guinea as well as those of Cambodia, Colombia, India, Kenya, and Vanuatu, with the close support of the Office of Temples and Sites created at the Bahá’í World Centre in 2012, promptly moved forward with the initial preparations. A committee was formed in each country, entrusted with identifying, together with institutions and agencies at all levels of the community, means to promote widespread participation and to channel the enthusiasm engendered among the friends following the announcement of the projects. Another practical step in these national and local projects has been the selection of a suitable piece of land, one which is modest in size, strategically located, and easily accessible.

[…]

In four countries, the projects have reached the stage of preparing a design for the Temple edifice. This begins with the selection of potential architects and the formulation of an architectural brief defining the requirements for the structure, and it ultimately results in a contract for the final design. Architects are presented with the singular challenge of designing Temples “as perfect as is possible in the world of being” that harmonize naturally with the local culture and the daily lives of those who will gather to pray and meditate therein. The task calls for creativity and skill to combine beauty, grace, and dignity with modesty, functionality, and economy. A number of architects from near and far have gladly offered their services, and while such contributions are of course welcomed, National Assemblies are giving due regard to the value of engaging architects who are well acquainted with the area where the edifice will be built.

The Universal House of Justice, In a letter dated 1 August 2014

In the city of ‘Ishqábád, a devoted band of believers who settled from Persia, and who, for a time, found peace and tranquillity in Turkistán, bent their energies towards the creation of a pattern of life that would reflect the exalted spiritual and social principles enshrined in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. In a span of a few decades, this group, originally consisting of a handful of families, was joined there by others and grew to a few thousand believers. This community, fortified by ties of camaraderie and animated by unity of purpose and a spirit of faithfulness, was enabled to reach a high degree of cohesiveness and development, for which it gained renown throughout the Bahá’í world. These friends, guided by their understanding of the divine Teachings, and within the bounds of the religious freedom they were accorded, toiled to create the conditions that would lead to the founding of a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, that “crowning institution in every Bahá’í community”. On a befitting tract of land in the centre of the city that had been obtained some years before with the consent of the Blessed Beauty Himself, facilities were built for communal well-being—a meeting hall, schools for children, a hostel for visitors, and a small clinic, among others. A sign of the notable achievements of the Bahá’ís in ‘Ishqábád, who in those productive years became distinguished for their prosperity, magnanimity, and intellectual and cultural attainments, was their attention to ensuring that all Bahá’í children and youth were literate in a society with rampant illiteracy, especially among girls. Within such an environment of unified endeavour and progress, and fostered at every stage of development by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a magnificent House of Worship emerged—the most prominent edifice in the area. For over twenty years, the friends experienced the heavenly joy of having realized their lofty aim: the establishment of a focal point of worship, a nerve centre of community life, a place where souls gathered at daybreak for humble invocation and communion before flowing out of its doors to engage in their daily pursuits. While the forces of irreligion eventually swept through the region and thwarted hopes, the brief appearance of a Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in ‘Ishqábád is an enduring testament to the volition and effort of a body of believers who established a rich pattern of life deriving its impetus from the power of the Creative Word.

The Universal House of Justice, In a letter dated 1 August 2014

From the beginning of His stupendous mission, Bahá’u’lláh urged upon the attention of nations the necessity of ordering human affairs in such a way as to bring into being a world unified in all the essential aspects of its life. In unnumbered verses and tablets He repeatedly and variously declared the “progress of the world” and the “development of nations” as being among the ordinances of God for this day. The oneness of mankind, which is at once the operating principle and ultimate goal of His Revelation, implies the achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical requirements of life on earth. The indispensability of this coherence is unmistakably illustrated in His ordination of the Mashríqu’l-Adhkár, the spiritual center of every Bahá’í community round which must flourish dependencies dedicated to the social, humanitarian, educational and scientific advancement of mankind.

The Universal House of Justice, Letter dated 20 October 1983

In our Riḍván message of 2001, we indicated that in countries where the process of entry by troops was sufficiently well advanced and conditions in national communities were favourable, we would approve the establishment of Houses of Worship at the national level, whose emergence would become a feature of the Fifth Epoch of the Formative Age of the Faith. With exceeding joy we now announce that national Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs are to be raised up in two countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Papua New Guinea. In these, the criteria we set are demonstrably met, and the response of their peoples to the possibilities created by the current series of Plans has been nothing short of remarkable. With the construction of the last of the continental temples in Santiago under way, the initiation of projects for building national Houses of Worship offers yet another gratifying evidence of the penetration of the Faith of God into the soil of society.

One more step is possible. The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, described by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as “one of the most vital institutions of the world”, weds two essential, inseparable aspects of Bahá’í life: worship and service. The union of these two is also reflected in the coherence that exists among the community-building features of the Plan, particularly the burgeoning of a devotional spirit that finds expression in gatherings for prayer and an educational process that builds capacity for service to humanity. The correlation of worship and service is especially pronounced in those clusters around the world where Bahá’í communities have significantly grown in size and vitality, and where engagement in social action is apparent. Some of these have been designated as sites for the dissemination of learning so as to nurture the friends’ ability to advance the junior youth programme in associated regions. The capacity to sustain this programme, as we have recently indicated, also fuels the development of study circles and children’s classes. Thus, beyond its primary purpose, the learning site fortifies the entire scheme of expansion and consolidation. It is within these clusters that, in the coming years, the emergence of a local Mashriqu’l-Adhkár can be contemplated. Our hearts brimming with thankfulness to the Ancient Beauty, we rejoice to inform you that we are entering into consultations with respective National Spiritual Assemblies regarding the erection of the first local House of Worship in each of the following clusters: Battambang, Cambodia; Bihar Sharif, India; Matunda Soy, Kenya; Norte del Cauca, Colombia; and Tanna, Vanuatu.

To support the construction of the two national and five local Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, we have decided to establish a Temples Fund at the Bahá’í World Centre for the benefit of all such projects. The friends everywhere are invited to contribute to it sacrificially, as their means allow.

Beloved co-workers: The ground broken by the hand of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá a hundred years ago is to be broken again in seven more countries, this being but the prelude to the day when within every city and village, in obedience to the bidding of Bahá’u’lláh, a building is upraised for the worship of the Lord. From these Dawning-Points of the Remembrance of God will shine the rays of His light and peal out the anthems of His praise.

The Universal House of Justice, Riḍván Message 2012

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