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Ruhi Book 10 Themes for a Youth Gathering

 

In Ruhi Book 10.1, (Accompanying One Another on the Path of Service) page 86-87, we read the following:

  1. In the above episode, we begin to see how a rise in capacity to engage in meaningful conversation with youth in different settings is crucial to the continued expansion of the educational process the training institute sets in motion in a cluster.  Here is an opportunity for you and the other members of your group to think together about the nature of this capacity and about the spiritual themes that, as the House of Justice notes, tap “the deepest springs of motivation”.  As a first step, it should not be difficult for your group, bearing Enidia’s list in mind, and using sources readily available to you, to put together some passages on the themes she has identified. Once you have done so, you could undertake a thorough exploration of each theme.  It may well take some time for your group to carry out these explorations, especially if you decide to go a step further and engage in a corresponding process of action and reflection.  In that case, every member could actually hold a conversation with some youth on the proposed themes, and you could then reflect together on each experience.

Our study circle, consisting of long-term deepened Bahá’ís recognized that we didn’t know where to start a discussion, even among ourselves on these themes, so we did some research and combined our knowledge into this article, hoping that these quotes would help others going through Book 10.

We’d be most interested to have you add your own quotes to each section, so we can have an even better list.  Hope you find our efforts helpful!

Period of Youth:

Blessed is he who in the prime of his youth and the heyday of his life will arise to serve the Cause of the Lord of the beginning and of the end, and adorn his heart with His love. The manifestation of such a grace is greater than the creation of the heavens and of the earth. Blessed are the steadfast and well is it with those who are firm. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 415)

The period of youth is characterized by strength and vigor and stands out as the choicest time in human life. Therefore you should strive day and night so that endowed with heavenly strength, inspired with brilliant motives and aided by His celestial power and heavenly grace and confirmation, you may become the ornaments of the world of humanity, and preeminent among those who are initiated into true learning and the love of God. You must be distinguished amidst men by your sanctity and detachment, loftiness of purpose, magnanimity, determination, noble mindedness, tenacity, the elevation of your aims and your spiritual qualities; that you may become the means of exaltation and glory for the Cause of God and the dawning places of His heavenly bestowals; that you may conduct yourselves in conformity with the counsels and exhortations of the Blessed Beauty—may my life be offered up for His loved ones—and by reflecting Bahá’í qualities and attributes, you may stand out distinguished from others. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá eagerly anticipates that each one of you may become even as a fearless lion moving in the pastures of human perfection and a musk-laden breeze wafting over the meads of virtue.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers and Tablets for the Young (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1978), p. 30)

After a time he enters the period of youth in which his former conditions and needs are superseded by new requirements applicable to the advance in his degree. His faculties of observation are broadened and deepened, his intelligent capacities are trained and awakened, the limitations and environment of childhood no longer restrict his energies and accomplishments. At last he passes out of the period of youth and enters the stage or station of maturity which necessitates another transformation and corresponding advance in his sphere of life-activity. New powers and perceptions clothe him, teaching and training commensurate with his progression occupy his mind, special bounties and bestowals descend in proportion to his increased capacities and his former period of youth and its conditions will no longer satisfy his matured view and vision.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 9)

Among the themes explored during the series of youth conferences held around the world in 2013 and the waves of subsequent gatherings was one specifically related to the potential and characteristics associated with the period of youth.

The following paragraphs have been extracted from the materials studied by the conferences’ participants on this subject.

The youth conferences gather young people of different ages and experiences. Many are teenagers who, through school, family, and community life, are preparing for the duties of adulthood. Others are older youth who may be in college or working, married or in the process of starting a family. For some, social conditions may have thrust on them duties of a much older age, and the survival of their families may already depend on them. Equally diverse are the communities they come from, ranging from the small villages of the world to the neighbourhoods of large urban centres with millions of inhabitants.

Regardless of their social situations, young people aspire for spiritual and intellectual growth and “to make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity”. They have many wonderful powers, and channelling them properly is an important concern, for when misdirected or manipulated by others, they can cause much social distress. Among the youth of the world are those alive to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a spiritually and materially prosperous world.

In selfless service to society is the possibility for both personal growth and enhancing capacity to contribute to social progress. “Service to humanity is service to God”, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stressed. Through directing their talents and abilities to the elevation of society, they “become the cause of the tranquillity of the world of creation”. As they infuse their day-to-day activities with a spirit of generous giving, and offer voluntary acts for the well-being of others, they attract the assistance and confirmations of God.

It is essential then that ever-growing numbers of those in the prime of their lives “steel themselves for a life of service” to society. Naturally, many matters occupy their time and energy: education, work, leisure, spiritual life, physical health. But they learn to avoid a fragmented approach to life that fails to see the connections among life’s various aspects. Such a disjointed view of life often makes individuals fall victim to the false choices suggested in questions such as whether one should study or serve, advance materially or contribute to the betterment of others, pursue work or become dedicated to service. Failure to approach one’s life as a coherent whole often breeds anxiety and confusion. Through service, young people can learn to foster a life in which its various aspects complement each other.

Assured of God’s unfailing blessings to those who arise to serve, youth look at the environments in which they interact with others—the family, the peer group, the school, the work place, the media, the community—and recognize the social forces that operate in them. Some of these forces, such as love for truth, thirst for knowledge, and attraction to beauty, impel them in their progress along a path of service. Other forces, for instance the spreading materialism and self-centredness, are destructive and by distorting young people’s view of the world impede individual and collective growth. As they advance in their endeavours to contribute to the construction of a better world, their capacity to draw on the spiritual and social forces that make them builders of civilization grows manifoldly.  http://www.bahai.org/action/youth/period-youth

Twofold Moral Purpose:

The developments we have mentioned thus far—the rise in capacity to teach the Faith directly and to enter into purposeful discussion on themes of spiritual import with people from every walk of life, the efflorescence of an approach to study of the writings that is wedded to action, the renewal of commitment to provide spiritual education to the young in neighbourhoods and villages on a regular basis, and the spread in influence of a programme that instils in junior youth the sense of a twofold moral purpose, to develop their inherent potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society—are all reinforced, in no small measure, by yet another advance at the level of culture, the implications of which are far-reaching indeed.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010)

This dual transformation will only occur through conscious effort, and it is essential that young people realize its implications for their lives and become endowed with a strong sense of purpose, both to take charge of their own personal growth and to contribute to the transformation of society. Such a twofold moral purpose will naturally find expression in a life of service.  (Ruhi Book 5, Unit 1, p. 18)

We have talked about a twofold sense of purpose that impels individuals to take charge of their own spiritual and intellectual growth and contribute to the welfare of society. We have seen how this twofold sense of purpose, so necessary for young people today, is strengthened by an understanding of the nature and the magnitude of the transformation in the individual and in society envisioned in the Writings. What we also need to realize is that these two processes of change are intimately linked. Developing one’s potential and working for the welfare of society cannot be separated, for a person’s moral standards and behavior shape his or her environment and in turn are molded by the structure of society.  (Ruhi Book 5, Unit 1, p. 27)

Every individual is a member of the human family and makes a contribution to the life of society. The individual takes initiative, seizes opportunities, forms friendships and builds relationships, joins with others in common service, and acts on decisions.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote:

And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 2)

In order to act effectively during the present period of transition in human history, individuals must, above all, be imbued with a strong sense of purpose that impels them both to pursue their own spiritual and intellectual growth and to contribute to the transformation of society. These are fundamentally inseparable dimensions of a single process, for the standards and behaviours of individuals shape their environment and, in turn, are moulded by social structures and processes.

On a personal level, the sense of purpose is expressed by developing—in service to humanity—the vast potentialities with which we have been endowed by God. These potentialities include the virtues and qualities latent in all human beings, and the talents and characteristics which are particular to each individual. Bahá’u’lláh wrote:

The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 287)

In the context of the transformation of society, our purpose is to help carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, devoting our energy and abilities to promote the welfare of the human race.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said:

Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race . . . Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 3)

We pursue this two-fold moral purpose propelled by the conviction we are members of one human family. This enables us to feel as one part in an organic whole and frees us from the bigotry, prejudice, fanaticism, and superstition that can cripple collective action and frustrate positive impulses towards change.

The standard that Bahá’u’lláh envisages for the individual who can effectively play his or her part in actively assisting society to achieve lasting material and spiritual prosperity is high indeed. Yet perfection is not a requirement; what is required of us is a sincere daily effort to move towards this high standard. We are asked to tread a common path of service—supporting each other and advancing together, with sufficient humility to value the contribution of each person and avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness.  http://www.bahai.org/beliefs/essential-relationships/individual-society/individual

Relationship Between Personal and Social Transformation:

The peoples of the world are fast asleep. Were they to wake from their slumber, they would hasten with eagerness unto God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. They would cast away everything they possess, be it all the treasures of the earth, that their Lord may remember them to the extent of addressing to them but one word. Such is the instruction given you by Him Who holdeth the knowledge of things hidden, in a Tablet which the eye of creation hath not seen, and which is revealed to none except His own Self, the omnipotent protector of all worlds. So bewildered are they in the drunkenness of their evil desires, that they are powerless to recognize the Lord of all being, Whose voice calleth aloud from every direction: “There is none other God but Me, the Mighty, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 137-138)

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.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 84)

Administrative efficiency and order should always be accompanied by an equal degree of love, of devotion and of spiritual development. Both of them are essential and to attempt to dissociate one from the other is to deaden the body of the cause. In these days, when the Faith is still in its infancy, great care must be taken lest mere administrative routine stifles the spirit which must feel the body of the Administration itself. That spirit is its propelling force and the motivating power of its every life.  But as already emphasized, both the spirit and the form, are essential to the safe and speedy development of the Administration. To maintain full balance between them is the main and unique responsibility of the administrators of the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 35)

The greatest need of all peoples is for the Faith itself, so that they may know the destiny towards which they as individuals and as members of society must strive, and will learn from the teachings those virtues and methods which will enable them to work together in harmony, forbearance and trustworthiness.  The principle remains, however, that the spiritual precedes the material. First comes the illumination of hearts and minds by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, and then the grass roots stirring of the believers wishing to apply these teachings to the daily life of their community. Such stirrings can be fostered, encouraged and assisted by the national and continental institutions of the Faith, but without them any activities introduced from above might well prove abortive. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 552)

As you well understand, not only the right but also the responsibility of each believer to explore truth for himself or herself are fundamental to the Bahá’í teachings. This principle is an integral feature of the coming of age of humankind, inseparable from the social transformation to which Bahá’u’lláh is calling the peoples of the world. It is as relevant to specifically scholarly activity as it is to the rest of spiritual and intellectual life. Every human being is ultimately responsible to God for the use which he or she makes of these possibilities; conscience is never to be coerced, whether by other individuals or institutions.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)

For the vast majority of the Bahá’ís in the world today, many of whom are the first in their families to become Bahá’ís, the values and habits they have been brought up with are not easy to shake. But by becoming Bahá’ís they commit themselves to a process of individual and social transformation, based on the fundamental reality of this age: the oneness of humanity. The equality of men and women is one important aspect of this principle. Thus the entire Bahá’í community is engaged in a shared struggle to overcome a variety of traditional prejudices, and its members are assisted in this struggle by the Bahá’í administrative institutions.  (Baha’i International Community, 1995 Aug 26, Status of Women in Bahá’í Community)

From the earliest times, religion has been a powerful force for personal and social transformation. In both the lives of individual believers, and in the distinctive communities it has spawned, the Bahá’í Faith is a dramatic illustration of this rule.  (Baha’i International Community, 1992, Magazine – The Baha’is)

We are living today in a unique period in history. As humanity emerges from childhood and approaches its collective maturity, the need for a new understanding of the relationships between the individual, the community, and the institutions of society becomes ever more pressing.  The interdependence of these three protagonists in the advancement of civilization has to be recognized and old paradigms of conflict, in which, for example, institutions demand submission while individuals clamour for freedom, need to be replaced with more profound conceptions of the complementary roles to be played by each in building a better world.  To accept that the individual, the community, and the institutions of society are the protagonists of civilization building, and to act accordingly, opens up great possibilities for human happiness and allows for the creation of environments in which the true powers of the human spirit can be released.  http://www.bahai.org/beliefs/essential-relationships/individual-society/

Constructive and Destructive Forces Operating in Society:

The days when idle worship was deemed sufficient are ended. The time is come when naught but the purest motive, supported by deeds of stainless purity, can ascend to the throne of the Most High and be acceptable unto Him.  (The Bab, The Declaration of the Bab, p. 21)

Though the forces of the nations be arrayed against Him, though the kings of the earth be leagued to undermine His Cause, the power of His might shall stand unshaken. He, verily, speaketh the truth, and summoneth all mankind to the way of Him Who is the Incomparable, the All-Knowing.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214)

The chosen ones of God… should not look at the depraved conditions of the society in which they live, nor at the evidences of moral degradation and frivolous conduct which the people around them display. They should not content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence. Rather they should fix their gaze upon nobler heights by setting the counsels and exhortations of the pen of Glory as their supreme goal. Then it will be readily realized how numerous are the stages that still remain to be traversed and how far off the desired goal lies — a goal which is none other than exemplifying heavenly morals and virtues.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 136-137)

A twofold process, however, can be distinguished, each tending, in its own way and with an accelerated momentum, to bring to a climax the forces that are transforming the face of our planet. The first is essentially an integrating process, while the second is fundamentally disruptive. The former, as it steadily evolves, unfolds a System which may well serve as a pattern for that world polity towards which a strangely-disordered world is continually advancing; while the latter, as its disintegrating influence deepens, tends to tear down, with increasing violence, the antiquated barriers that seek to block humanity’s progress towards its destined goal. The constructive process stands associated with the nascent Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and is the harbinger of the New World Order that Faith must erelong establish. The destructive forces that characterize the other should be identified with a civilization that has refused to answer to the expectation of a new age, and is consequently falling into chaos and decline.  (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 170)

Every discerning eye clearly sees that the early stages of this chaos have daily manifestations affecting the structure of human society; its destructive forces are uprooting time-honoured institutions which were a heaven and refuge for the inhabitants of the earth in bygone days and centuries and around which revolved all human affairs. The same destructive forces are also deranging the political, economic, scientific, literary, and moral equilibrium of the world and are destroying the fairest fruits of the present civilization. Political machinations of those in authority have placed the seal of obsolescence upon the root- principles of the world’s order. Greed and passion, deceit, hypocrisy, tyranny, and pride are dominating features afflicting human relations. Discoveries and inventions, which are the fruit of scientific and technological advancements, have become the means and tools of mass extermination and destruction and are in the hands of the ungodly. Even music, art, and literature, which are to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations and should be a source of comfort and tranquility for troubled souls have strayed from the straight path and are now the mirrors of the soiled hearts of this confused unprincipled and disordered age. Perversions such as these shall result in the ordeals which have been prophesied by the Blessed Beauty in the following words: ‘Every day a new calamity will seize the earth and a fresh tormenting trial will appear’. “the day is approaching when its (civilization’s) flame will devour the cities.

In such an afflicted time when mankind is bewildered and wisest of men are perplexed as to the remedy, the people of Baha who have confidence in His unfailing Grace and Divine Guidance are assured that each of these tormenting trials has a cause, a purpose, and a definite result and all are essential instrument for the establishment of immutable Will of God on earth. In other worlds on the one hand humanity is struck by the scourge of His chastisement which will inevitably bring together the scattered and vanquished tribes of the earth; and on the other, the weak few whom He has nurtured under the protection of his loving guidance are, in this formative age and period of transition, continuing to build amidst these tumultuous waves an impregnable stronghold which will be the sole remaining refuge for those lost multitudes. Therefore, the dear friends of God who have such a broad and clear vision before them are not perturbed by such events, nor are they panic- stricken by such thundering sounds, nor will they face such convulsions with fear and trepidation, nor will they be deterred, even for a moment, from fulfilling their sacred responsibilities. “One of their sacred responsibilities is to exemplify in their lives those attributes which are acceptable at His Sacred Threshold.  (Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of Iran, Lights of Guidance, p. 126)

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. (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2010)

Youth also support each other in this regard, coming together in groups to engage in further study and discuss their service, to reinforce one another’s efforts and build resolve, looking to ever extend the circle of friendship more widely. The encouragement offered in this way by a network of peers provides young people with a much-needed alternative to those siren voices that beckon towards the snares of consumerism and compulsive distractions, as well as a counter to the calls to demonize others. It is against this backdrop of enervating materialism and splintering societies that the junior youth programme reveals its particular value at this time. It offers the youth an ideal arena in which to assist those younger than themselves to withstand the corrosive forces that especially target them.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

Indeed, as the believers play their part in the propagation and consolidation of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, God provides the means for its progress and eventual establishment as a world religion for all mankind. Both the constructive and destructive forces in the world assist in its promotion. The process of the breaking up of the old order is in itself a positive step, paving the way for the spreading of the new.

On the other hand, through the transforming power of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, God is creating a new race of men who arise to champion His Cause. Through the sacrificial outpourings of their substance and resources, they attract the spiritual forces which together with all the material aids sent down by Providence, propel the Cause of God forward. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v. 3, chapter 7, p. 140)

Material and Spiritual Progress:

If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul. It may be that a man who has every material benefit, and who lives surrounded by all the greatest comfort modern civilization can give him, is denied the all important gift of the Holy Spirit.  It is indeed a good and praiseworthy thing to progress materially, but in so doing, let us not neglect the more important spiritual progress, and close our eyes to the Divine light shining in our midst.  Only by improving spiritually as well as materially can we make any real progress, and become perfect beings.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 63)

I want to make you understand that material progress and spiritual progress are two very different things, and that only if material progress goes hand in hand with spirituality can any real progress come about, and the Most Great Peace reign in the world. If men followed the Holy Counsels and the Teachings of the Prophets, if Divine Light shone in all hearts and men were really religious, we should soon see peace on earth and the Kingdom of God among men. The laws of God may be likened unto the soul and material progress unto the body. If the body was not animated by the soul, it would cease to exist. It is my earnest prayer that spirituality may ever grow and increase in the world, so that customs may become enlightened and peace and concord may be established.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 107-108)

It is my hope that these revered people present may attain both material and spiritual progress. As they have advanced wonderfully in material degrees, so may they, likewise, advance in spiritual development until the body shall become refined and beautiful through the wealth of spiritual potentiality and efficiency.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 104)

No matter how far the material world advances, it cannot establish the happiness of mankind. Only when material and spiritual civilization are linked and coordinated will happiness be assured. Then material civilization will not contribute its energies to the forces of evil in destroying the oneness of humanity, for in material civilization good and evil advance together and maintain the same pace. For example, consider the material progress of man in the last decade. Schools and colleges, hospitals, philanthropic institutions, scientific academies and temples of philosophy have been founded, but hand in hand with these evidences of development, the invention and production of means and weapons for human destruction have correspondingly increased. In early days the weapon of war was the sword; now it is the magazine rifle. Among the ancients, men fought with javelins and daggers; now they employ shells and bombs. Dreadnoughts are built, torpedoes invented, and every few days new ammunition is forthcoming.

All this is the outcome of material civilization; therefore, although material advancement furthers good purposes in life, at the same time it serves evil ends. The divine civilization is good because it cultivates morals. Consider what the Prophets of God have contributed to human morality. Jesus Christ summoned all to the Most Great Peace through the acquisition of pure morals. If the moral precepts and foundations of divine civilization become united with the material advancement of man, there is no doubt that the happiness of the human world will be attained and that from every direction the glad tidings of peace upon earth will be announced. Then humankind will achieve extraordinary progress, the sphere of human intelligence will be immeasurably enlarged, wonderful inventions will appear, and the spirit of God will reveal itself; all men will consort in joy and fragrance, and eternal life will be conferred upon the children of the Kingdom. Then will the power of the divine make itself effective and the breath of the Holy Spirit penetrate the essence of all things. Therefore, the material and the divine, or merciful, civilizations must progress together until the highest aspirations and desires of humanity shall become realized.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 109-110)

Material civilization is like a lamp-glass. Divine civilization is the lamp itself and the glass without the light is dark. Material civilization is like the body. No matter how infinitely graceful, elegant and beautiful it may be, it is dead. Divine civilization is like the spirit, and the body gets its life from the spirit, otherwise it becomes a corpse. It has thus been made evident that the world of mankind is in need of the breaths of the Holy Spirit. Without the spirit the world of mankind is lifeless, and without this light the world of mankind is in utter darkness.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 303)

It is to be expected, however, that the multiplication of these core activities would soon be sustained by human resources indigenous to the neighbourhood or village itself—by men and women eager to improve material and spiritual conditions in their surroundings. A rhythm of community life should gradually emerge, then, commensurate with the capacity of an expanding nucleus of individuals committed to Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of a new World Order.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010)

At this crucial point in the unfoldment of the Plan, when so many clusters are nearing such a stage, it seems appropriate that the friends everywhere would reflect on the nature of the contributions which their growing, vibrant communities will make to the material and spiritual progress of society. In this respect, it will prove fruitful to think in terms of two interconnected, mutually reinforcing areas of activity: involvement in social action and participation in the prevalent discourses of society.  (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010)

That the world civilization now on humanity’s horizon must achieve a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life is central to the Bahá’í teachings. (Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2010)

Social action, it has been suggested in this paper, is to be carried out in the context of a much larger enterprise—namely, the advancement of a civilization that ensures the material and spiritual prosperity of the entire human race. The fundamental teachings of the Faith that will inspire this civilization, some of which have been mentioned in these pages, need to find expression in the sphere of social action. Clearly, the application of the requisite principles to the social and material progress of communities involves a vast process of learning.  (Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 26 November 2012)

Service to the Community:

That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 250)

The administrative model conceived by Bahá’u’lláh promotes a concept of leadership embodying trustworthiness, wisdom, and willingness to sacrifice for the common good, and whose highest expression is service to the community. It also fosters collective decision making and collective action through a process called “consultation.” Conducted in a spirit of unity, its purpose is to search out the truth. Those engaged in the process are enjoined to express their views with “all freedom,” but at the same time “with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care, and moderation.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, cited in Consultation: A Compilation (Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1980), #10, p. 6.)

Bahá’u’lláh’s solution of the social question provides for new laws, but the different social classes are preserved. An artisan remains an artisan; a merchant, a merchant; a banker, a banker; a ruler, a ruler; the different degrees must persist, so that each can render service to the community.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 83-84)

While it is the wish of the House of Justice to see social and economic development become a part of the life of Bahá’í communities, great care should be exercised that our limited efforts are directed to projects whose primary objective is not business but service to the community. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, no. 1874)

For the prompt achievement of all the goals and the healthy growth of Bahá’í community life National Spiritual Assemblies must pay particular attention to the efficient functioning, in the true spirit of the Faith, of their national committees and other auxiliary institutions, and, in consultation with the Continental Boards of Counsellors, must conceive and implement programmes that will guide and reinforce the efforts of the friends in the path of service.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 406)

Although the time has not come for the building of local Mashriqu’l-Adhkars, 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, 1999 Dec 28, Further Application of Devotional Laws)

Acceptance of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings implies a commitment on the part of the individual to strive for one’s own spiritual development, to participate in the construction of a vibrant community, and to contribute to the common good. The collective undertakings of the Bahá’í community include the management of affairs related to personal status; the conduct of the Nineteen Day Feast and other Bahá’í gatherings; the education of children, youth and adults in spiritual and social matters, as well as in the arts and sciences; and the creation of an environment among its members that encourages mutual support in the pursuit of such activities and in service to the wider society.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Believers in the Cradle of the Faith, 26 March 2009)

Educating Younger Generations:

In this New Cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)

It is incumbent upon that Spiritual Assembly, that assemblage of God, to exert every effort to educate the children, so that from infancy they will be trained in Bahá’í conduct and the ways of God, and will, even as young plants, thrive and flourish in the soft-flowing waters that are the counsels and admonitions of the Blessed Beauty.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 265)

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children, young plants of the Abhá Paradise, so that these children, fostered by grace in the way of salvation, growing like pearls of divine bounty in the shell of education, will one day bejewel the crown of abiding glory. It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All-Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 133-134)

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. An all-embracing love of children, the manner of treating them, the quality of the attention shown them, the spirit of adult behavior toward them–these are all among the vital aspects of the requisite attitude. Love demands discipline, the courage to accustom children to hardship, not to indulge their whims or leave them entirely to their own devices. An atmosphere needs to be maintained in which children feel that they belong to the community and share in its purpose. They must lovingly but insistently be guided to live up to Bahá’í standards, to study and teach the Cause in ways that are suited to their circumstances.  (Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, Ridván 2000)

Our children need to be nurtured spiritually and to be integrated into the life of the Cause. They should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers… (Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of the World, Ridván 2000)

The Baha’i community has labored assiduously within the framework of the global Plans issued by the House of Justice and has succeeded in establishing a pattern of Bahá’í life that promotes the spiritual development of the individual and channels the collective energies of its members towards the spiritual revival of society…It has devised programs for the spiritual and moral education of its younger members and has extended them not only to its own children and junior youth but also to those of the wider community.’ (Universal House of Justice, Ridván 2006, To the Bahá’ís of the World)

Let them never forget the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character.  (Universal House of Justice, 20 October 2008, to the Bahá’ís of the World)

It should also be realized that a child, from early life, is a conscious and thinking soul, a member of his family with his own duties towards it, and is able to make his own sacrifices for the Faith in many ways. It is suggested that the children should be made to feel that they are given the privilege and opportunity of participating in the decisions as to the services their parents are able to offer, thus making their own conscious decision to accept those services with consequence for their own lives. Indeed, the children can be led to realize that it is the earnest wish of their parents to undertake such services with their children’s whole-hearted support.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 231-232)

Early Adolescence as a Critical Stage of Life:

Among the young ones in the community are those known as junior youth, who… represent a special group with special needs as they are somewhat in between childhood and youth when many changes are occurring within them. Creative attention must be devoted to involving them in programs of activity that will engage their interests, mold their capacities for teaching and service, and involve them in social interaction with older youth.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2000, p. 8)

Whatever the nature of the cluster, it is imperative to pay close attention to children and junior youth everywhere. Concern for the moral and spiritual education of young people is asserting itself forcefully on the consciousness of humanity, and no attempt at community building can afford to ignore it. What has become especially apparent during the current Five Year Plan is the efficacy of educational programmes aimed at the spiritual empowerment of junior youth. When accompanied for three years through a programme that enhances their spiritual perception, and encouraged to enter the main sequence of institute courses at the age of fifteen, they represent a vast reservoir of energy and talent that can be devoted to the advancement of spiritual and material civilization.  (Universal House of Justice, 27 December 2005 to the Continental Boards of Counsellors)

Let them come to realize the full significance of their efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities.  (Universal House of Justice, 20 October 2008, to the Bahá’ís of the World)

Countless parents yearn for the means of developing their children’s spiritual faculties that would lay within them the foundations of a principled and upright character. And surely every young person will flourish in a programme that helps to form a strong moral identity in the critical years of early adolescence and empowers participants to contribute to the well-being of society. (Universal House of Justice, letter to Youth Conference in UK, 1 January 2010)

This bright period of youth you share is experienced by all—but it is brief, and buffeted by numerous social forces…With this in mind, we are delighted that so many of you are already engaged in service by conducting community-building activities, as well as by organizing, coordinating, or otherwise administering the efforts of others; in all of these endeavours you are taking an increasing level of responsibility upon your shoulders. Not surprisingly, it is your age group that is gaining the most experience at aiding junior youth, and children too, with their moral and spiritual development, fostering in them capacity for collective service and true friendship. After all, aware of the world which these young souls will need to navigate, with its pitfalls and also its opportunities, you readily appreciate the importance of spiritual strengthening and preparation. Conscious, as you are, that Bahá’u’lláh came to transform both the inner life and external conditions of humanity, you are assisting those younger than yourselves to refine their characters and prepare to assume responsibility for the well-being of their communities. As they enter adolescence, you are helping them to enhance their power of expression, as well as enabling a strong moral sensibility to take root within them. In so doing, your own sense of purpose is becoming more clearly defined as you heed Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction: “Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.  (Universal House of Justice, to the participants in the forthcoming 114 youth conferences throughout the world, 1 July 2013)

The Institute Process and the Educational Process it Promotes:

Institutes, however, ought to take care, lest they begin to perceive their work as training in techniques, losing sight of the conception of capacity building at the heart of the institute process that entails a profound understanding of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation…the lessons prepared by the Ruhi Institute would constitute the core of a programme for the spiritual education of children, around which secondary elements could be organized… It is assumed that, if found to be appropriate, any additional items would be selected from resources readily available. There will seldom be cause to formalize the use of such items, whether directly through their adoption by training institutes or indirectly through their widespread systematic promotion.

In the case of junior youth groups, a similar approach is encouraged by the Office of Social and Economic Development. The core of the programme consists of a series of textbooks studied by the groups. We understand that, at present, seven of a projected eighteen textbooks, exploring a range of themes from a Bahá’í perspective, though not in the mode of religious instruction, are available. These form the major component of a three-year programme. Another nine textbooks will provide a distinctly Bahá’í component, and two of these are currently in use. Animators are advised to complement study with artistic activities and service projects. As with children’s class teachers, the institute coordinator at the cluster level can offer animators assistance in determining how to proceed. Yet, most often, such projects and activities are selected by the junior youth themselves, in light of their own circumstances and inclinations, in consultation with the group’s animator…

An educational process should, for example, create in a child awareness of his or her potentialities, but the glorification of self has to be scrupulously avoided. So often in the name of building confidence the ego is bolstered. Similarly, play has its place in the education of the young. Children and junior youth, however, have proven time and again their capacity to engage in discussions on abstract subjects, undertaken at a level appropriate to their age, and derive great joy from the serious pursuit of understanding. An educational process that dilutes content in a mesmerizing sea of entertainment does them no service. We trust that, in studying the institute courses, teachers and animators will find themselves increasingly equipped to make judicious decisions in selecting any materials or activities necessary, whether from traditional educational sources or from the wealth of items, such as songs, stories, and games, that are sure to be developed for the young in the Bahá’í community in the years to come.  (Universal House of Justice, to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 12 December 2011)

Foremost among these conditions is an institute process gaining in strength, given its centrality to fostering the movement of populations. The friends who have begun studying institute materials, and are also investing their energies in organizing children’s classes, junior youth groups, gatherings for collective worship, or other related activities, are being assisted to proceed further through the sequence of courses, while the number of those starting their study continues to rise. With the flow of participants through institute courses and into the field of action being maintained, the company of those who are sustaining the growth process expands.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

Clearly, the institute process raises capacity for a broad range of undertakings; from the earliest courses, participants are encouraged to visit their friends at their homes and study a prayer together or share with them a theme from the Bahá’í teachings. Arrangements for supporting the friends in these endeavours, which may have been largely informal, eventually prove inadequate, signalling the need for an Area Teaching Committee to appear. Its principal focus is the mobilization of individuals, often through the formation of teams, for the continued spread of the pattern of activity in a cluster. Its members come to see everyone as a potential collaborator in a collective enterprise, and they appreciate their own part in nurturing a spirit of common purpose in the community. With a Committee in place, the efforts already under way to convene gatherings for worship, to carry out home visits, and to teach the Faith can now expand considerably. You will need to encourage National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Bahá’í Councils, as much as training institutes, to remain alert to when conditions in a cluster call for organizational arrangements to assume a definite shape—neither acting prematurely nor unduly delaying the appearance of formal structures.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

What is clear, then, is that as the institute process in a cluster gains momentum, the act of teaching comes to assume greater prominence in the lives of the friends.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

At the same time, experience indicates that, for growth to accelerate through a steady flow of new participants entering the institute process, more is required. The pattern of community life has to be developed in places where receptivity wells up, those small centres of population where intense activity can be sustained. It is here, when carrying out the work of community building within such a narrow compass, that the interlocking dimensions of community life are most coherently expressed, here that the process of collective transformation is most keenly felt—here that, in time, the society-building power inherent in the Faith becomes most visible.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

As the growth process continues to gain intensity, the friends’ efforts to engage in meaningful conversations bring them into many social spaces, allowing a wider array of people to become familiar with the teachings and consider seriously the contribution they can make to the betterment of society. In addition, more and more homes are provided as venues for community-building activities, making each a point for the diffusion of the light of divine guidance. The institute process comes to be supported by a growing number of friends serving capably as tutors who, cycle after cycle, offer the full sequence of institute courses between them, at times with marked intensity. Thus, human resource development proceeds with minimal interruption and generates a constantly expanding pool of workers. While it continues to draw on a diverse range of the cluster’s inhabitants, those taking its courses in the greatest numbers are often the youth. The transformative effect of studying the Word of God is experienced by the many whose lives are touched in some way by the community’s activities. And as the flow of people beginning a path of service swells, considerable progress is made in all aspects of the community-building efforts of the friends. Animators of junior youth groups and teachers of children’s classes multiply in number, fuelling an expansion of these two vital programmes. Children are enabled to move from one grade of the classes to another, while groups of junior youth progress from year to year and ground their learning in service to society. Cluster agencies, bolstered by the support of Local Spiritual Assemblies, encourage and foster the natural passage of participants from one stage of the educational process to the next. An educational system with all its component elements, capable of expanding to welcome large numbers, is now firmly rooted within the cluster.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

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Codes Of Conduct For Keeping Children Safe

 

Volunteers of the Baha’i Community of Canada are required to exercise care and wisdom in all of their efforts in service to others. The following guidelines are among those with which volunteers working with children and junior youth will be expected to be familiar, and abide by:

  • When possible, activities should be held in public places, open to inspection. If activities take place in homes, volunteers should ensure that the private space is treated as a public space in which parents of the children and junior youth should feel welcome to be present.
  • Volunteers should work with others whenever possible, to prevent the likelihood of abuse or allegations thereof. When working in isolation, judgment can become skewed, boundaries may be crossed, and abuse may be more likely occur.
  • Non-screened assistants (such as parents, assistant youth and other adults) will not be placed in positions of responsibility or charge for children and junior youth during program meetings and activities, and should always be in the presence of a screened animator or teacher.
  • Adults should not spend extended time alone with children and junior youth without consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
  • Where programs are held in facilities that are the property of another entity, the volunteer will familiarize him/herself with any terms of use and/or codes of conduct of the owners of the facility, and uphold these requirements on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly. Any incidents that occur during the use of the facility will be reported both to the institute coordinator as well as to the facility manager, in accordance with the facility’s relevant guidelines.
  • If animators or teachers wish to hold activities in a public or rental facility, they will consult with the institute coordinator (cluster or regional) to obtain the necessary insurance coverage.
  • Children and junior youth should not be taken in any vehicle without parent/guardian permission.
  • In extracurricular events and activities such as overnight camps or field trips, every effort must be made to protect their privacy. Girls and boys must not change together and adults must change separately from the children and junior youth. Adults should not sleep in close proximity to children or junior youth. Under no circumstances should a single adult take a group of children or junior youth on an overnight trip.
  • Parents/guardians of children and youth should be encouraged to ask questions and stay abreast of the nature of the adult/child interaction. They should be encouraged to talk with their children about the programs and the volunteers they encounter.
  • It is mandatory to report known or suspected child abuse immediately or as soon as practically possible to local authorities or social services, as well as to program coordinators or supervising entity. (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Code Of Conduct For Coordinators And Supervisors

Institute coordinators and supervisors of events and activities are to abide by the above code of conduct for volunteers, as well as to assist volunteers to familiarize themselves with and uphold these requirements and to exercise care and wisdom in all aspects of their service.  (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

In addition to the above code of conduct, coordinators and supervising entities will abide by the following:

  • Coordinators and supervisors will instruct volunteers on the organization’s internal process and chain of command for reporting observed or suspected abuse of children and junior youth. A copy of the National Assembly’s policy on reporting abuse is attached or can be requested from the National Office.
  • Coordinators and supervisors will ensure that any incidents involving local authorities, including how they were handled and any outcomes will be reported to the Institute Board or supervising agency, and forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly as a routine measure for their records.
  • Where programs are held in facilities that are the property of another organization, coordinators will ensure that children’s class teachers and junior youth animators are familiar with any terms of use and/or codes of conduct of the owners of the facility, and are committed to upholding these requirements as a volunteer on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly. The coordinator will be kept abreast of all relationships with entities providing space for the activities of the Bahá’í community, and will ensure that the necessary insurance coverage is obtained from the Treasury Department of the Bahá’í National Centre.
  • Incidents (eg. damage, injury, breach of conduct, etc.) that occur during the use of the facility will be reported to the facility manager, in accordance with relevant guidelines. An incident report will be filed by the coordinator with the Institute Board for its records, forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly.
  • Coordinators and supervisors will ensure that any incidents resulting in the loss of use of a facility due to damages or breach of conduct will be reported to the Institute Board or supervising agency, forwarded to the National Spiritual Assembly, as a routine measure for their records. (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Code Of Conduct For Institutes And Overseeing Agencies

Any agency or institution overseeing events and activities for children and youth will orient themselves with this policy and review it on an ongoing basis, at minimum at the beginning of each term of service. Should any questions arise, they will contact the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada for clarification. These agencies and institutions will ensure that this policy and its implications are reviewed in detail by coordinators and supervisors of volunteers, and that coordinators and supervisors are assisted to ensure that it is conveyed to volunteers and implemented in all of its facets.  (Baha’i Community of Canada, Code of Conduct for Volunteers and Staff working with Children and Junior Youth)

Confidentiality And Privacy 

Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential,” the Universal House of Justice states, “and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it:

The National Assembly is committed to safeguarding all confidential information that it or its agencies receive, in accordance with Bahá’í principles: “Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential,” the Universal House of Justice states, “and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it.” This commitment requires the wholehearted support of all institutions and agencies of the Bahá’í community in Canada to the Confidentiality Policy of the National Assembly.  A copy of this policy is attached, or can be requested from the National Assembly.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy:

Circumstances in which privacy and confidentiality are not required, on the other hand, such as information regarding the progress of the Cause and contact information of agencies and institutions, should be shared in a spirit of openness, as the Universal House of Justice encourages: “Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy.” Such a spirit of openness is intended to further encourage transparency in the dealings and affairs of agencies and individuals, and promote collaboration(NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

In general, it is important that Local Assemblies observe confidentiality in disclosing any information.  Records should be kept separately from the Assembly’s general minutes:

It is important that Local Assemblies observe confidentiality in disclosing any information, particularly in the field of mental illness or family conflicts, beyond what is needed as stated above. This includes not only the substance or fact of consultation with or about the person but also any document in which references are made to diagnosis or treatment. All such records should be protected, preferably separately from the Assembly’s general minutes. Moreover, in discussing the mental state or behavioral disorder of an individual, friends should avoid careless use of labels such as diagnosis (whether perceived or reported from a professional). This will avoid spread of rumor outside of the Assembly which may have legal consequences or would stigmatize such individuals in the community. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

When safety issues are a concern,  conveying confidential information to duly authorized personnel should not be considered a violation of confidentiality:

Conveying confidential information to duly authorized personnel when safety issues are a concern should not be considered a violation of confidentiality. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 23)

Records And Document Management

  • Records about any volunteer’s private or confidential information, including all police records and Bahá’í background checks, are to be stored securely.
  • Individuals’ screening records should be stored indefinitely for future reference, and should not be destroyed.
  • Physical records are to be stored in the agency’s confidential files in a locked filing cabinet
  • Electronic files should be stored on a password-protected computer within password-protected documents.
  • Any other confidential information that is entrusted to an entity or individual for the purposes of fulfilling their service – for example, membership lists of the Bahá’í community, lists of contact information and personal information of program participants, meeting minutes and institutional correspondence, information about salaries, benefits, deputization provided to any personnel, etc. – will be kept confidential during and after any individual’s service to that entity, and deleted from their personal electronic files as soon as possible following their conclusion of service. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

 

 

Taking Steps to Protect Children and Junior Youth

 

As Baha’i communities become more complex, the protection of children and junior youth becomes increasingly more important, especially in a world where sexual and physical abuse still prevails.  The following guidelines have been developed by the Canadian NSA – they may not be applicable in your country.

The protection of the youngest members of our communities depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments where young people can grow and flourish:

As the negative forces affecting children, junior youth and youth accelerate, and while new, previously-unimagined threats target the most vulnerable members of society, the protection of youth and children depends upon the sustained capacity in individuals, communities, and institutions to cultivate safe environments within which young people can grow and flourish.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

 Risk Management

Different conditions and concerns are taken into account:

The programs for children, junior youth and youth offered by the Bahá’í community in Canada range as to their degree of formality, size and scope, their relationships with other organizations and institutions, etc. Each degree along this spectrum gives rise to different conditions and concerns that are taken into account in this assessment.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Large programs:

A large program, engaging hundreds of children and youth in its activities presents higher degrees of risk in the complexity inherent in overseeing a larger program. Thus, over time, structures emerge as needed to coordinate and oversee these activities.   (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The elements of accompanying and supervising volunteers become necessary in large programs, as befits the assessment of risk such larger numbers bring to the safe provision of the programs.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Small programs:

A smaller program, composed primarily of individual initiatives with children, junior youth and youth already known to the volunteer through a network of family, friends and acquaintances, presents considerably less risk.  A coordinator for these programs is generally not deemed necessary at such a stage, while numbers of activities remain small.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is Responsible?

The Institute Boards in each region are responsible to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies:

The National Assembly has given the training institutes the task of implementing programs of children’s classes and junior youth groups operating under its aegis across Canada. It is thus the responsibility of the Institute Boards in each region to ensure the implementation and supervision of the National Assembly’s child protection policies in all formal training programs operating under that Institute Board’s supervision. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

In clusters with the capacity to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of volunteers, the Institute Board may appoint a coordinator:

The appointment of a coordinator for a program overseen by an Institute Board has been deemed an appropriate indicator of both the presence of capacity in a cluster to oversee the training, screening, and accompanying of the volunteers, as well as the degree of complexity and scale exhibited by the stage of growth of the programs. It will be the responsibility of the Institute Board or relevant overseeing agency to monitor the needs for structure and support of activities on an ongoing basis.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The National Assembly will oversee or assign the tasks where any children’s class or junior youth group takes place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board:

Should any children’s class or junior youth group take place in a locality that falls outside the jurisdiction of an Institute Board, the National Assembly will directly oversee the implementation of the relevant provisions of these policies, or assign this task to  a proximate institution or agency (such as a Local Spiritual Assembly).  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board (seasonal schools or conferences), the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers:

For programs and activities for children and junior youth at events that are not organized by an Institute Board, such as seasonal schools or conferences, the agency or institution under whose aegis the event is organized is responsible for overseeing the implementation of these child protection policies with all of its volunteers.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies:

As the programs for the spiritual education of children and the junior youth empowerment program are national programs, Local Spiritual Assemblies or other agencies should not impose alternate or additional screening policies and/or requirements on children’s class teachers or animators beyond the National Assembly’s policies. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Who is covered?

Child protection policies established by the National Assembly should cover all volunteers:

The child protection policies established by the National Assembly cover all volunteers working with children in programs under the supervision of any agency or institution of the National Assembly, including children’s classes, junior youth groups, and programs for children and junior youth at events such as seasonal schools and conferences. Volunteers serving these activities may be of any age. (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve:

  • will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community
  • will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening

While members of the local population (i.e. parent helpers, local youth assistants, etc.) who wish to serve will be welcomed as participants in the community-building activities of the Bahá’í community, they will not be authorized to serve in a position of responsibility for children and junior youth without screening. Should individuals express interest in serving as children’s class teachers or junior youth animators, they will be required to begin the training process and undergo screening before they will be considered for such specific service as volunteers of the National Assembly.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

What is required? 

Steps for approval

  • Volunteers study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency.
  • This person should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation.
  • The volunteer signs the agreement, giving consent to:
  • participate in the screening process
  • Their information being retained in the agency’s confidential files.
  • The coordinator recommends the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing the Volunteer Agreement Form.

Volunteers are required to study the volunteer agreement and Spirit of Excellence document in the company of an individual designated and approved by the overseeing agency. Such an individual could be a tutor or another volunteer, but should be well known to the candidate and able to provide an informed recommendation. Upon completion of the study, the volunteer is required to sign the agreement and accompanying consent form for participation in the screening process and retention of information in the agency’s confidential files. The coordinator or designated accompanying individual should subsequently indicate his or her recommendation for the candidate to work with children and junior youth, by signing in the space provided on the Volunteer Agreement Form.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

Regardless of the scale and complexity of the program, two checks are required for volunteers working with children and youth within the programs of the National Assembly:

  • A vulnerable sector check is required for all volunteers working with children and youth

Vulnerable sector checks will be required for all volunteers working with children and junior youth, regardless of cluster or locality. If the results of the background checks reveal any prior allegation of offense involving children and/or offenses involving violence, illegal substances, indecency and any conduct contrary to the mission of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, the volunteer’s application will be reviewed on a case by case basis to determine if the results of the VSC indicate present patterns that would impact the service with children, junior youth and youth. All background checks must be performed in accordance the vulnerable sector screening requirements. Additional mental health screening is not required.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

All volunteers are required to annually renew their information regarding the VSC by either providing a updated VSC or providing a signed statement that their criminal records history has not changed, nor have they been the subject of any allegations or investigations since the previous VSC.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

  • A Bahá’í administrative background check is required for all Bahá’ís

For those volunteers who are registered as members of the Bahá’í community, background checks will be conducted through the National Spiritual Assembly to ensure that the applicant is a Bahá’í in good standing and that there are no restrictions precluding his or her service with children and youth for any reason. This background check must be carried out for all volunteers registered as members of the Bahá’í community, regardless of cluster or locality. Following this initial check, the National Assembly will keep Institute Boards informed of any changes in individuals’ administrative status or suitability to continue working with children and junior youth.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

The role of the training institute

The process of human resource development in place by the training institutes, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications:

The National Assembly has noted from experience that the process of human resource development in place by the training institutes across the country, when executed with excellence and diligence, is highly conducive to the effective screening of its volunteers, beyond what can be generally achieved through isolated interviews and written applications. Screening is thus an ongoing process, reviewed continually as new information emerges, and has been interwoven into the process of human resource development set in motion by the institute, brought forward more explicitly in the measures described in greater detail in the forthcoming sections.  (NSA of the Bahá’ís of Canada, Framework and Guidelines for the Implementation of Child Protection Policies, July, 2012)

How has this been helpful?  Post your comments below.

Newsletter on Children and Children’s Classes

Welcome to the Month of Loftiness 171!

In this issue – Children and Children’s Classes

Articles on Children:

9 Great Books for Young Children

Activities to Build Character

And So You Were Born

Bahá’í Education

Bahá’í Homeschooling

Multicultural Kid’s Blog

Children’s Classes:

Ideas

Bahá’í Children’s Class Ideas

Brilliant Star

Five Tips for Teaching Baha’i Children’s Classes

Resources for a Bahá’í Children’s Class

Resources for a Baha’i Preschool Class

Teacher’s Guide for Children’s Classes

Thoughts on Children’s Classes

Songs

Book 3 Songs for Bahá’í Children’s Classes

Ruhi Book 3 Songs for Teaching Children’s Classes

Songs for Children’s Classes

Los Nice Guys

Games and Activities

Baha’i Crafts for Children

Baha’i Puzzles

BIG Baha’i Activity Book For Little Baha’is

Colouring Book

Cooperative Games for Preschoolers

Magazine Activities for your Children’s Classes

Ruhi Crafts http://ruhicrafts.blogspot.com.au/

Stories

Baha’i Storytelling for Our Children

Storytelling in the Baha’i Faith

Featured Stories:

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Treatment of Children

On 5 May, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá met with a group of 35 children in the hotel salon. After listening to them sing the song “Softly, His Voice Is Calling Now”, the Master called each child to him individually. Some He took on His lap, others He kissed or stroked their hair: … All with such infinite love and tenderness shining in His eyes and thrilling in the tones of His voice, that when He whispered in English in their ears to tell him their names, they answered joyfully and freely as they would to a beloved father … The children’s joy in His own happiness seemed to culminate as one dear little tot ran to Him and fairly threw herself into His arms. Afterwards, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave each child an envelope full of rose petals, then invited them all to Lincoln Park, across the road from the hotel for a photograph. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 117)

‘When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá first arrived in England, he was the guest of a friend in a village not far from London. The evident poverty around him in this wealthy country distressed him greatly. He would walk out in the town, garbed in his white turban and long Persian coat, and all eyes were centered upon this strange visitor, who, the people had been told, was “a holy man from the East”. Naturally the children were attracted to him, followed him, pulled at his coat, or his hand, and were immediately taken into his arms and caressed. This delighted them, of course, and children are never afraid of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, but what pleased and amazed them still more was that when they were put down, they found in their little hands a shilling or sixpence from the capacious pockets of “the holy Man’s” long coat. Such bits of silver were a rarity in their experience, and they ran home with joy to tell the tale of the generous stranger from the Orient, possessed apparently of an endless store of shining sixpences. ‘The children crowded after him and so many sixpences were dispensed that the friend who entertained ‘Abdu’l-Bahá became alarmed, and talked the matter over with Miss Robarts, who was also a guest in the house. “It is a shame!” they said indignantly. “He comes to us accepting nothing, and is giving to our people all the time! It must not go on!” (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)

 Featured Prayer:

O loving God! I am a young child, a suppliant, a captive. Be Thou my refuge, my support, my protector. I am in distress: give me the means of tranquillity. I am needy: bestow upon me the treasure of the Kingdom. I am dead: give me the Spirit of Life. I am weak: favor me with power and strength, so that I may be a maid-servant in Thy Threshold, with perfect purity and sanctity; sacrifice myself unto Thee, be quit of myself and seek Thee, walk in the path of Thy good pleasure, speak Thy secret and witness the signs of Thy Oneness wherever I look. O God! Make me ablaze, like unto the fire of Thy love, and make me free from attachment to this mortal world, until I find the peace of soul and the rest of conscience. Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty! Thou art the Hearer, the Seer! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 196)

Featured Books:

Teaching Unity

 Teaching Unity is a guide for parents and teachers, with learning activities for ages 8-12. It’s filled with fun, hands-on, kid-tested learning activities, written in plain language and designed for any level of educator from novice to experienced. It’s based on the principle of the oneness of humankind; organized in a sequential, step-by-step format. The lessons incorporate a variety of teaching and learning strategies, including warm-up activities, demonstrations, readings and stories, crafts, songs, felt lessons, role plays, discussion starters, memory quotes, puzzles, poems, worksheets, research projects, outdoor games and more. In addition to detailed lesson plans, there are simple patterns for making instructional materials, student handouts, song sheets, music scores, plans for a children’s performance, and a comprehensive planning guide for organizing a weekend retreat or week-long Unity Camp. Your purchase includes free downloads with four colorful PowerPoint programs, printable handouts and over 70 pages of color photos and illustrations to accompany the lessons.

To get your copy

 

 

Gentle Geoffrey

Lorene Ryhard is a writer of children’s story books aimed at entertaining children and parents while modelling character qualities, emotional intelligence, and awareness of self and others. Children love them! She has five titles in the works so far, and the first one is now available as an audio book.

Gentle Geoffry is the story of a little boy who is dealing with his intense feelings before the birth of his twin siblings. As the story unfolds, we watch Geoffrey learn to deal with his feelings and find the gentle side of his nature.

You can listen to a sample 

To learn more and buy the book

To watch for her new titles on Facebook

 

Featured Video:

 Children

Listening to children sing or recite their prayers often moves me to tears! In this month’s video, we hear the creative, talented and professional child rapper, Kristine H, sing the following children’s prayer in rapper style:

O My Lord! O my Lord! I am a child of tender years. Nourish me from the breast of Thy mercy, train me in the bosom of Thy love, educate me in the school of Thy guidance and develop me under the shadow of Thy bounty. Deliver me from darkness, make me a brilliant light; free me from unhappiness, make me a flower of the rose garden; suffer me to become a servant of Thy threshold and confer upon me the disposition and nature of the righteous; make me a cause of bounty to the human world, and crown my head with the diadem of eternal life. Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Seer, the Hearer. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 36)

 

 

I can’t wait to hear more from this talented musician! Thanks to Nabil Moghaddam for bringing her to light!

Featured Coach:

Sarah Perceval of State of the Heart Storytelling is a classically trained actress and storyteller who specializes in telling sacred stories. She is fascinated by the patterns of story in the history of all religions, patterns that are profound and beautiful. She also loves the power and simplicity of wisdom tales, and the capacity of stories to draw an audience in and bring people together. Her storytelling has been described as: “A heartfelt experience, captivating and magical.” (Steve Nobel, Alternatives at St James’)

Sarah has an extensive background as an actress and puppeteer and started sacred storytelling to unite her creative and spiritual paths. She tells stories and runs workshops for a variety of organizations, events and communities, often faith and interfaith events, intercultural and dialogue programmes. She has told stories in mosques, synagogues, cathedrals, churches, Bahá’í centers, Quaker meeting houses, Buddhist and Hindu temples, living rooms, libraries, wedding venues, woods and a variety of tents.

Her clients include: St Ethelburgas’ Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, Alternatives at St James’, The Dialogue Society, The Interfaith Council for Wales, The Whirling Dervishes of Konya, Koruso Interfaith Choir, The Scottish Storytelling Centre, Network of Islamic Artists, Art Beyond Belief, Faith Around the Elephant Interfaith Group, The Bahá’í Academy for the Arts, Lambeth SACRE, High Wycombe Arts Festival, Thursday’s Child Interfaith Festival, Changing Times Youth Festival, Richmond libraries, Cyprus Arts Festival, The Anis Foundation, BBC London ‘Inspirit’ programme and others.

To visit her website

To listen to her stories on Bandcamp

To listen to her stories on Sound Cloud

To buy her CD’s

 To find her on Facebook 

To find her on Linkedin

To hear her tell the Story of Siyah-Chal

To watch her speak on “Understanding the Baha’i Faith”

 

Featured Business:

Unity Works

This month’s author is also one of the founders of UnityWorks, a non-profit foundation whose mission is to promote understanding of the oneness of humanity, the value of diversity and the need for unity. The foundation provides training, materials and support for K-12 Schools. Their program is designed to educate staff and students about living in a diverse society, to promote culturally-responsive teaching, to increase equity and reduce prejudice, to improve race relations, to close achievement and opportunity gaps, and to encourage positive multicultural change.

They also provide diversity training for educational institutions, businesses and community groups; from day-long workshops on a single topic, to a full 30-hour course on Leadership in Diversity.

UnityWorks is on a mission to promote understanding of the oneness of humanity, the value of diversity and the need for unity.

Listen to what kids, parents, teachers and schools have to say about race and acceptance – in less than 5 minutes; and join them in helping to raise a generation of prejudice-free children!

For more information

 

 

Do you know of any other great resources for children and children’s classes?  Post your information below!

Bahá’í Education of Children

 

As part of my series on parenting, I thought I’d look at the Bahá’í education of children.  Let’s have a look at what the Bahá’í Writings have to say!

Who Has The Primary Responsibility for Educating Children?

Mothers are supposed to make the child’s education as their first importance:

Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)

Mothers must provide spiritual training right from the beginning:

Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace—such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Fathers also have the responsibility of educating their children

Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Both parents must train their children with life and heart in the school of virtue and perfection:

Therefore, the beloved of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful must train their children with life and heart and teach them in the school of virtue and perfection. They must not be lax in this matter; they must not be inefficient. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 398-399)

 Both parents should counsel their children in goodly character, over a long period:

Ye should consider the question of goodly character as of the first importance. It is incumbent upon every father and mother to counsel their children over a long period, and guide them unto those things which lead to everlasting honour.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

Both parents are in a critical position to shape the spiritual development of their children:

Independent of the level of their education, parents are in a critical position to shape the spiritual development of their children. They should not ever underestimate their capacity to mold their children’s moral character. For they exercise indispensable influence through the home environment they consciously create by their love of God, their striving to adhere to His laws, their spirit of service to His Cause, their lack of fanaticism, and their freedom from the corrosive effects of backbiting. (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

Responsibility for the spiritual education of children is not the exclusive responsibility of the community:

And now we wish to address a few words to parents, who bear the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their children. We appeal to them to give constant attention to the spiritual education of their children. Some parents appear to think that this is the exclusive responsibility of the community; others believe that in order to preserve the independence of children to investigate truth, the Faith should not be taught to them. Still others feel inadequate to take on such a task. None of this is correct. The beloved Master has said that “it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son,” adding that, “should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.”  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

Spiritual Assemblies should provide mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children:

It is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assemblies to provide the mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children, showing how, from infancy, the child must be watched over and taught. These instructions must be given to every mother to serve her as a guide, so that each will train and nurture her children in accordance with the Teachings.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 138)

What is a Mother’s Responsibility?

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother:

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be most conducive to both his material and spiritual welfare and advancement. The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 148)

Mothers must establish faith and certitude; the love for and fear of God, and all good qualities and traits within their children:

Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)

Women should be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith:

Women should also be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith so that the Bahá’í community will be representative of the society of which it forms a part. Gradually the spirit of unity and fellowship, as set forth in our teachings, will be reflected in the life of Bahá’í families.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 616)

This is because if the mother is a believer, the children will become believers too, even if the father denies the Faith; while, if the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm:

Consider that if the mother is a believer, the children will become believers too, even if the father denieth the Faith; while, if the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm. Such is the usual outcome, except in rare cases.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 287)

What is a Father’s Responsibility?

The primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband:

Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Fathers also have the responsibility of educating their children

Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Why Do We Educate Our Own Children?

Education and training of children are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary, for both the father and mother:

In this New Cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 398-399)

The connection between mother and child is so strong, that even her thoughts can put a child to sleep:

A mother rocks and rocks her babe to sleep in a cradle, but the thoughts of the child’s sleep may so take possession of her mind that sometimes she is able to put him to sleep without the aid of the cradle. This effect is produced by the mother’s magnetism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 517)

If children are raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá’ís, they will remain safe from every test:

The children must, from their infancy, be raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá’ís. If such be their training, they will remain safe from every test.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

 When Does Baha’i Education Begin?

Systematic training begins in the nursery; they must learn though play, amusement and speech and not through books:

These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction. They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement. Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73)

Classes for children under the age of five can be held provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short so the duration of classes should be measured accordingly:

The House of Justice adds that you should feel free to hold classes for children under the age of five provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short and so the duration of their class periods should be measured accordingly.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

 When the child has reached the age where he can make distinctions, let him be placed in a Bahá’í school:

And when the child hath reached the age where he can make distinctions, let him be placed in a Bahá’í school, in which at the beginning the Holy Texts are recited and religious concepts are taught. At this school the child is to study reading and writing as well as some fundamentals of the various branches of knowledge, such as can be learned by children.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

From the age of five their formal education must begin so during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers:

From the age of five their formal education must begin. That is, during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers, and should learn good conduct.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

When Do Children Study?

Every morning, teach them to chant and recite the communes and prayers:

Every day at first light, ye gather the Bahá’í children together and teach them the communes and prayers. This is a most praiseworthy act, and bringeth joy to the children’s hearts: that they should, at every morn, turn their faces toward the Kingdom and make mention of the Lord and praise His Name, and in the sweetest of voices, chant and recite.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p. 139)

The children must study every day, from morning till noon, so they learn to read and acquire an art or skill:

He must study every day from morning till noon, so that he may learn how to read and write. From noon till about sunset he should acquire a craft. The children must both learn to read and acquire an art or skill.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance:

When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

Where Are They Taught?

We should avoid sending Bahá’í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic:

He is sorry to hear your little boy is not developing satisfactorily; very few children are really bad. They do, however, sometimes have complicated personalities and need very wise handling to enable them to grow into normal, moral, happy adults. If you feel convinced your son will really benefit from going to….,…’s school you could send him there. But in general we should certainly always avoid sending Bahá’í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic, as the children receive the imprint of religious beliefs we as believers know are out-dated and no longer for this age. He will especially pray for the solution of this problem.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 151) 

What is the Standard for Baha’i Education?

Whatever other children learn in a year, Bahá’í children should learn in a month:

It is incumbent upon Bahá’í children to surpass other children in the acquisition of sciences and arts, for they have been cradled in the grace of God.  Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá’í children learn in a month.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 140)

What Should Children be Taught?

Let all the lesson be entirely devoted to the acquisitions of human perfections:

The subjects to be taught in children’s schools are many, and for lack of time We can touch on only a few: First and most important is training in behavior and  good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections, and to cleave unto the religion of God and stand firm in His Laws: to accord total obedience to every just government, to show forth loyalty and trustworthiness to the ruler of the time, to be well wishers of mankind, to be kind to all.  And further, as well as in the ideals of character, instruction in such arts and sciences as are benefit, and in foreign tongues. Also, the repeating of prayers for the well-being of ruler and ruled; and the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation, and tales of love, and books that arouse the passions.  To sum up, let all the lesson be entirely devoted to the acquisitions of human perfections.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

From their earliest years, children should be taught to deliver speeches of high quality:

Encourage ye the school children, from their earliest years, to deliver speeches of high quality, so that in their leisure time they will engage in giving cogent and effective talks, expressing themselves with clarity and eloquence.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

During ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s days it was a usual work of the children to learn Tablets by heart:

The Master used to attach much importance to the learning by heart of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. During His days it was a usual work of the children of the household to learn Tablets by heart’ now, however, those children are grown up and do not have time for such a thing. But the practice is most useful to implant the ideas and spirit those words contain into the mind of the children.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

The Dawn Breakers has interesting stories about the early days of the Faith, which children like to hear:

With ‘the Dawn- Breakers’ in your possession you could also arrange interesting stories about the early days of the Movement which the children would like to hear. There are also stories about the life of Christ, Muhammad and the other Prophets which if told to the children will break down any religious prejudice they may have learned from older people of little understanding.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

 They should be educated in several languages at once:

At the start the teacher must place a pen in the child’s hand, arrange the children in groups, and instruct each group according to its capacity. When the children have, in a given place, been seated in rows, and each holdeth a pen, and each hath a paper before him, and the teacher hath suspended a blackboard in front of the children, let him write thereon with his chalk and have the children copy what he hath written. For example, let the teacher write an alif (a) and say, “This is an alif.” Let the children then copy it and repeat: “This is an alif.” And so on, till the end of the alphabet.

As soon as they properly recognize the letters, let the teacher make combinations of the letters, while the children follow his lead, writing the combinations on their paper, until, by this method, they come to recognize all the letters, singly and combined in words. Let the teacher then proceed to writing sentences, while the children copy what he hath written, each on his own sheet of paper. Let the teacher then explain the meaning of the sentence to the children.

And once they have become skilled in the Persian tongue, let the teacher first translate and write out single words and ask the students the meaning of those words. If a pupil hath grasped a little of this, and hath translated the word, let the teacher praise him; if all the students are unable to accomplish this, let the teacher write the foreign language translation beneath the given word. For example, let him write sama (heaven) in Arabic, and ask: “How do we say this in Persian?” If one of the children replieth, “The Persian translation of this word is asiman”, let the teacher praise and encourage him. If they are unable to answer, let the teacher himself give the translation and write it down, and let the children copy it.  Later, let the teacher ask: “How do they say this in Russian, or French, or Turkish?” If they know the answer, excellent. If not, let the teacher say, “In Russian, or French, the translation is thus and so”, write the word on the board, and have the children copy it down. When the children have become skilled in translating single words, let the teacher combine the words into a sentence, write this on the board and ask the children to translate it. If they are unable, let the teacher himself translate the sentence and write down the translation. It would of course be preferable for him to make use of several languages.  In this way, over a short period — that is, three years- -the children will, as a result of writing the words down, become fully proficient in a number of languages, and will be able to translate a passage from one language to another.

Once they have become skilled in these fundamentals, let them go on to learning the elements of the other branches of knowledge, and once they have completed this study, let each one who is able and hath a keen desire for it, enroll in higher institutions of learning and study advanced courses in the sciences and arts.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282) 

How Should Children be Taught?

Mothers must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness:

That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. Thus from the very beginning of life every child will be refreshed by the gentle wafting of the love of God and will tremble with joy at the sweet scent of heavenly guidance. In this lieth the beginning of the process; it is the essential basis of all the rest.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Children should be taught to read through play:

Here they should be taught, in play, some letters and words and a little reading — as is done in certain countries where they fashion letters and words out of sweets and give them to the child. For example, they make an ‘a’ out of candy and say its name is ‘a’, or make a candy ‘b’ and call it ‘b’, and so on with the rest of the alphabet, giving these to the young child. In this way children will soon learn their letters.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

They should be taught through questions and answers:

One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer. Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects. The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. Even so in godlike affairs. Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73) 

Are Daughters and Sons Taught the Same?

Both Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study:

Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study, thereby promoting unity of the sexes. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-175)

The training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons, for these girls will come to the station of motherhood and will mold the lives of the children:

If it be considered through the eye of reality, the training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons, for these girls will come to the station of motherhood and will mold the lives of the children.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 399)

What About Higher Education?

The child’s own preference and inclinations should direct his advanced studies:

Not all, however, will be able to engage in these advanced studies. Therefore, such children must be sent to industrial schools where they can also acquire technical skills, and once the child becomes proficient in such a skill, then let consideration be given to the child’s own preference and inclinations. If a child hath a liking for commerce, then let him choose commerce; if industry, then industry; if for higher education, then the advancement of knowledge; if for some other of the responsibilities of humankind, then that. Let him be placed in the field for which he hath an inclination, a desire, and a talent.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

What Happens to Parent’s Who Don’t Meet Their Responsibility?

This responsibility for the education of children is so weighty that failure to exercise it is an unpardonable sin, for which parents will be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord:

Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord. This is a sin unpardonable.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)

They could even lose the rights of parenthood:

This responsibility is so weighty that Bahá’u’lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Where Do We Go To Learn More About This Training?

Spiritual Assemblies should provide mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children:

It is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assemblies to provide the mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children, showing how, from infancy, the child must be watched over and taught. These instructions must be given to every mother to serve her as a guide, so that each will train and nurture her children in accordance with the Teachings.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 138)

Single parents could also benefit by encouraging access to counseling or support services, ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available, and offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops:

The single parent may suffer from inadequate material resources, lack of skills and confidence, and the emotional support of a partner in parenting. The Assembly may wish to assist by encouraging access to whatever counseling or support services may be available, by ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available, and offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130)

What Would This Training Consist Of?

Your efforts should focus on helping parents in their function as educators of the rising generation; and women should be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith:

The House of Justice regards the need to educate and guide women in their primary responsibility as mothers as an excellent opportunity for organizing women’s activities. Your efforts should focus on helping them in their function as educators of the rising generation. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 616)

Children’s Classes

In addition to the efforts made at home, the parents should support Bahá’í children’s classes:

Of course, in addition to the efforts made at home, the parents should support Bahá’í children’s classes provided by the community. It must be borne in mind, too, that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the unavoidable outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely, and among these are those who look for standards and discipline by which to guide their lives. Against this gloomy backdrop of a decadent society, Bahá’í children should shine as the emblems of a better future.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

The Role of Children’s Class Teachers

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered is the education and training of children… It is very difficult to undertake and even harder to succeed at it:

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children… It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding Grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All- Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children and the more you persevere in this most important task, the more will you witness the confirmations of God:

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children, and promotion of the various sciences, crafts and arts. Praised be God, ye are now exerting strenuous efforts toward this end. The more ye persevere in this most important task, the more will ye witness the confirmations of God, to such a degree that ye yourselves will be astonished.  This verily is a matter beyond all doubt, a pledge that shall certainly be redeemed.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 276)

Children’s teachers are servants of the Lord God and must offer praise with every breath, for being able to educate their spiritual children:

Praise thou God that thou hast succeeded in becoming a teacher of young Bahá’ís, young trees of the Bahá Paradise, and at the same time art able to benefit the other children as well. According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with every breath, for you are educating your spiritual children. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

The spiritual father is even greater than the physical one, for he endows his child with life everlasting:

The spiritual father is greater than the physical one, for the latter bestoweth but this world’s life, whereas the former endoweth his child with life everlasting. This is why, in the Law of God, teachers are listed among the heirs.  Now you in reality have acquired all these spiritual children free and gratis, and that is better than having physical children; for such children are not grateful to their fathers, since they feel that the father serveth them because he must — and therefore no matter what he doeth for them, they pay it no mind. Spiritual children, however, are always appreciative of their father’s loving kindness. This verily is out of the grace of thy Lord, the Beneficent.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

Teachers of children’s classes have every reason to feel pride:

O thou teacher of the children of the kingdom! Thou hast arisen to perform a service which would justly entitle thee to vaunt thyself over all the teachers on earth. For the teachers of this world make use of human education to develop the powers, whether spiritual or material, of humankind, whilst thou art training these young plants in the gardens of God according to the education of Heaven, and art giving them the lessons of the Kingdom. The result of this kind of teaching will be that it will attract the blessings of God, and make manifest the perfections of man.  Hold thou fast to this kind of teaching, for the fruits of it will be very great. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

 

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