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Messages to America

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1947 edition
  • Pages:
  • 110
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Pages 26-29


A triple call, clear-voiced, insistent and inescapable, summons to the challenge all members of the American Bahá’í community, at this, the most fateful hour in their history. The first is the voice, distant and piteous, of those sister communities which now, alas, are fettered by the falling chains of religious orthodoxy and isolated through the cruel barriers set up by a rampant nationalism. The second is the plea, no less vehement and equally urgent, of those peoples and nations of the New World, whose vast and unexplored territories await to be warmed by the light and swept into the orbit of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. The third, more universal and stirring than either of the others, is the call of humanity itself crying out for deliverance at a time when the tide of mounting evils has destroyed its equilibrium and is now strangling its very life.
These imperative calls of Bahá’í duty the American believers can immediately if only partially answer. Their present status, their circumscribed resources, debar them, however great their eagerness, from responding completely and decisively to the full implications of this threefold obligation. They can, neither individually nor through their concerted efforts, impose directly their will upon those into whose hands the immediate destinies of their persecuted brethren are placed. Nor are they as yet capable of launching a campaign of such magnitude as could capture the imagination and arouse the conscience of mankind, and thereby insure the immediate and full redress of those grievances from which their helpless coreligionists in both the East and the West are suffering. They cannot moreover hope to wield at the present time in the councils of nations an influence commensurate with the stupendous claims advanced, or adequate to the greatness of the Cause proclaimed, by the Author of their Faith. Nor can they assume a position 27 or exercise such responsibilities as would enable them by their acts and decisions to reverse the process which is urging so tragically the decline of human society and its institutions.
And yet, though their influence be at the present hour indecisive and their divinely-conferred authority unrecognized, the role they can play in both alleviating the hardships that afflict their brethren and in attenuating the ills that torment mankind is none the less considerable and far-reaching. By the range and liberality of their contributions to mitigate the distress of the bereaved, the exiled and the imprisoned; by the persistent, the wise and judicious intervention of their elected representatives through the authorities concerned; by a clear and convincing exposition, whenever circumstances are propitious, of the issues involved; by a vigorous defence of the rights and liberties denied; by an accurate and dignified presentation of the events that have transpired; by every manner of encouragement which their sympathies may suggest, or their means permit, or their consciences dictate, to succor the outcast and the impoverished; and above all by their tenacious adherence to, and wide proclamation of, those principles, laws, ideals, and institutions which their disabled fellow-believers are unable to affirm or publicly espouse; and lastly, by the energetic prosecution of those tasks which their oppressed fellow-workers are forbidden to initiate or conduct, the privileged community of the American Bahá’ís can play a conspicuous part in the great drama involving so large a company of their unemancipated brethren in the Asiatic, European and African continents.
Their duties towards mankind in general are no less distinct and vital. Their impotence to stem the tide of onrushing calamities, their seeming helplessness in face of those cataclysmic forces that are to convulse human society, do not in the least detract from the urgency of their unique mission, nor exonerate them from those weighty responsibilities which they alone can and must assume. Humanity, heedless and impenitent, is admittedly hovering on the edge of an awful abyss, ready to precipitate itself into that titanic struggle, that crucible whose chastening fires alone can and will weld its antagonistic elements of race, class, religion and nation into one coherent system, one world commonwealth. “The hour is approaching” is Bahá’u’lláh’s own testimony, “when the most great convulsion will have appeared… I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: ‘Taste ye, what your hands have wrought.’” Not ours to question the almighty wisdom or fathom the inscrutable ways of Him in whose hands the ultimate destiny of an unregenerate yet potentially glorious race must lie. Ours rather is the duty to believe that the world-wide community of the Most Great Name, and in particular, at the present time its vanguard in 28 North America, however buffeted by the powerful currents of these troublous times, and however keen their awareness of the inevitability of the final eruption, can, if they will, rise to the level of their calling and discharge their functions, both in the period which is witnessing the confusion and breakdown of human institutions, and in the ensuing epoch during which the shattered basis of a dismembered society is to be recast, and its forces reshaped, re-directed and unified. With the age that is still unborn, with its herculean tasks and unsuspected glories, we need not concern ourselves at present. It is to the fierce struggle, the imperious duties, the distinctive contributions which the present generation of Bahá’ís are summoned to undertake and render that I feel we should, at this hour, direct our immediate and anxious attention. Though powerless to avert the impending contest the followers of Bahá’u’lláh can, by the spirit they evince and the efforts they exert help to circumscribe its range, shorten its duration, allay its hardships, proclaim its salutary consequences, and demonstrate its necessary and vital role in the shaping of human destiny. Theirs is the duty to hold, aloft and undimmed, the torch of Divine guidance, as the shades of night descend upon, and ultimately envelop the entire human race. Theirs is the function, amidst its tumults, perils and agonies, to witness to the vision, and proclaim the approach, of that re-created society, that Christ-promised Kingdom, that World Order whose generative impulse is the spirit of none other than Bahá’u’lláh Himself, whose dominion is the entire planet, whose watchword is unity, whose animating power is the force of Justice, whose directive purpose is the reign of righteousness and truth, and whose supreme glory is the complete, the undisturbed and everlasting felicity of the whole of human kind. By the sublimity and serenity of their faith, by the steadiness and clarity of their vision, the incorruptibility of their character, the rigor of their discipline, the sanctity of their morals, and the unique example of their community life, they can and indeed must in a world polluted with its incurable corruptions, paralyzed by its haunting fears, torn by its devastating hatreds, and languishing under the weight of its appalling miseries demonstrate the validity of their claim to be regarded as the sole repository of that grace upon whose operation must depend the complete deliverance, the fundamental reorganization and the supreme felicity of all mankind.
Though the obstacles confronting the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in the American continent in their efforts to completely emancipate their fellow-Bahá’ís on the one hand, and to speedily rehabilitate the fortunes of their fellow-men on the other, be in the main unsurmountable, such impediments cannot as yet be said to exist that can frustrate their efforts to fully discharge the second duty now incumbent upon them in the inter-continental sphere of Bahá’í teaching. The field, in all its vastness and fertility, is wide 29 open and near at hand. The harvest is ripe. The hour is over-due. The signal has been given. The spiritual forces, mysteriously released, are already operating with increasing momentum, unchallenged and unchecked. Victory, speedy and unquestioned, is assured to whosoever will arise and respond to this second, this urgent and vital call. In this field, as in no other, the American believers can most easily evince the full force of their latent energies, can exercise in their plentitude their conspicuous talents, and can rise to the highest level of their God-given opportunities.
Fired by their zeal, their love for and faith in Bahá’u’lláh; armed with that Holy Charter, wherein ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s mandate investing them with their world mission is inscribed; piloted through the instrumentality of those agencies which a divine, a smoothly functioning Administrative Order has providentially placed at their disposal; disciplined and invigorated by those immutable verities, spiritual principles and administrative regulations that distinguish their religious beliefs, govern their individual conduct and regulate their community life; aspiring to emulate the example of those heroes and martyrs, the narrative of whose exploits they have admired and pondered, it behooves all members of the American Bahá’í community to gird themselves as never before to the task of befittingly playing their part in the enactment of the opening scene of the First Act of that superb Drama whose theme is no less than the spiritual conquest of both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. Their immediate task, under the Seven Year Plan, the object of which is the establishment of a minimum of one Bahá’í center in each of the Republics of Middle and South America, has now been gloriously ushered in through the settlement of one pioneer in most of the Central American Republics, and bids fair to be recognized by posterity as the original impulse imparted to an enterprise that will go round the world. That impulse must, as time goes by, communicate itself to the farthest extremities of Latin America, and must be reinforced in every manner, by as many of the American believers as possible. The broader the basis of this campaign, the deeper its roots, the finer the flower into which it shall eventually blossom. That its call may be heeded, that its implications may be recognized and its potentialities progressively unfold, is my earnest prayer, and the supreme longing of my heart.

July 28, 1939