Indigenous people worldwide have rich spiritual traditions that emphasize the oneness of humans with each other and with Mother Earth, a tenet shared with the Bahá’í Faith. Recognizing this commonality, some Native people have become Bahá’ís, making enormous contributions to the community—for instance, in the United States, the late Kevin Locke (Lakota) and his mother Patricia Locke (Lakota) were spiritual giants.
Yet, much work remains to strengthen the connections between Indigenous and Bahá’í teachings. A new task force based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is diligently carrying out that work.
“As a youth, it’s very impactful to be able to feel that you’re doing something good,” says Issa Masumbuko, a high school student in Durham, North Carolina. “It’s kind of like we’re being held back by society, but when we’re given the opportunity to contribute, we start to see our importance in the world.”
Although Jaron Myers’s story unfolds in the desertscape of central Arizona, it actually starts 1,500 miles away in Minnesota. At 18, Myers was a college student and churchgoer there. But he wasn’t satisfied with his spiritual life, feeling a disconnect between the rituals of religion and the call he felt to serve society.
Growing up in a small town has its benefits: kids often enjoy a tight-knit community and relative safety. But they may not have as many opportunities to expand their horizons as their urban peers do.
Take Federalsburg, Maryland, a town of 2,700 nestled near the center of the Delmarva Peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. “Federalsburg is a town with a lot of children and not much to do,” says high school student Joseph Foster. “They get bored and turn to other stuff.”
A strong-willed leader and organizer, and a seeker forever pursuing the mysteries of divine love; an insurance salesman and an artist of page and stage who composed poetry and prose, sang and acted; a man who wrestled with a wariness of women and a unifier of contending personalities: this was Thornton Chase.
While winter and pandemic hibernation may seem far in the past, several initiatives originally undertaken during the previous winter months have blossomed. Though diverse in focus, these initiatives shared a common thread of building networks of people in the Midwestern states dedicated to sharing Baha’u’llah’s teachings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.
A few years ago, I was having a conversation with a renowned professor of communication arts. He posed this question to me: “Why do the English translations of Baha’i Writings use such elevated language? Does it pose an obstacle to understanding for some people?”
In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi laid out a path for the U.S. and Canadian Baha’i communities to contribute to the transformation of their societies, as summarized in introduction to the Advent of Divine Justice. Addressing the United States in particular, he identified “racial prejudice” as “the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community,” for this issue permeated the entire nation, which he called “a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.”
Baha’u’llah proclaimed to humanity that “these great oppressions that have befallen the world are preparing it for the advent of the Most Great Justice.”1 His teachings lay out a blueprint for establishing a just world civilization founded on international cooperation, and the paramount task of His successors has been to give people around the world access to this blueprint.
Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 30, no. 1–2, 2020, pp. 19–44.
Abstract: Scholars have wrestled with the question of how people can be persuaded to extend feelings of kinship beyond their own ethnic or national groups. This article identifies spiritual cosmopolitanism, whose principles of universal love and harmony can be found in the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, as key to such borderless solidarity. Drawing on data gathered from interviews with Iranian refugees who have settled in the United States, the article demonstrates how cosmopolitan principles shape the worldviews of Bahá’ís. Through this case study, spiritual cosmopolitanism’s potential to enrich public arguments for the inclusion of Others such as immigrants becomes apparent.