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Unfolding Destiny

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1981 edition
  • Pages:
  • 490
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Pages 332-340

Letter of 17 June 1954

17 June 1954
Dear Bahá’í Brother,
Your Assembly’s letters dated June 10 (2), 17, 22 and 26, July 3, 7, 8, 9 (2), 16 and 24, August 17, 19 (2) and 24, September 17, 21, 24 and 25, October 1, 8, 12, 22 and 28, November 13 (4) and 18 (2), December 10 (2), 12 and 23, 1953, and January 7, 20 (2), 21 and 22, February 17 (3), 19 (3), 21, 23 (2) and 25, March 1, 23, 24 and 25 (3), April 13 and 28, May 12, 21 and 25, June 1 (4) and 15, 1954, with enclosures, have been received by the beloved Guardian, and he has instructed me to answer you on his behalf.
He regrets very much the long delays in answering the National Spiritual Assemblies, but is finding it increasingly difficult to keep abreast of his work. He feels sometimes that he will soon be forced to give up correspondence with individuals, although he is reluctant to do so, because so many of the new believers brought in during the present teaching activities in Africa and other far goals are writing to him. However, he has attended to a great many of your questions by cable, and the visits of a number of English pilgrims have enabled him to send you messages and to keep the British community in contact with the work in the Holy Land.
He greatly appreciated the desire of John and Dorothy Ferraby to go out as pioneers, but considered that it would weaken the work of the National Assembly altogether too much. Important as the pioneer field is, if all the most able workers go out, the 333 campaigns carried on from different national bases will become absolutely unwieldy for lack of adequate able management.
The expression of condolences which your Assembly conveyed to him at the time of the passing of Fred Schopflocher and Dorothy Baker, two dear and trusted Hands of the Cause who could ill be spared from their work at this time, touched him very much. Others must now arise, and through their services seek to fill the gaps which such valuable workers have left in the vanguard of the Bahá’í host.
He would like you to express to the British pioneers on the home front, whose names you forwarded to him, his sincere thanks. Their arising to protect the goals which have been won by other pioneers at a cost of such sacrifice and effort was noble and highly meritorious.
Speaking of pioneers, he was very pleased to hear recently that Mrs. Shomais Afnán had succeeded in gaining entry into Ethiopia. Her perseverance in the face of a great deal of opposition is certainly exemplary.
As he already cabled you, he did not approve of the statements you had prepared for circulation amongst the Assemblies regarding Bahá’í marriage. Some of the remarks were incorrect in the first place, and in the second place he is strongly against Statements! He wishes the friends to keep as elastic as possible in administering the affairs of the Faith, while at the same time adhering to fundamentals. He knows that at times this inconveniences the National Bodies and makes their work more detailed, but believes it to be the lesser, so to speak, of two evils.
He was very sorry to learn that dear Mr. Townshend’s health is in such a precarious state, and necessitated the return of his daughter from Malta. His devotion is so single-hearted and touching, and his determination to carry on at all costs is exemplary, and should inspire the young people to follow in his footsteps.
When compiling the list of African languages into which the Bahá’í Message should be translated, the Guardian realised that certain changes would probably be necessary—naturally the fewer the better. In this connection, if you feel it advisable and not otherwise, he would like you to convey to Dr. Berry, of the African Department of the School of Oriental and African studies, his personal thanks for the valuable advice he has given 334 your Assembly, and his friendly co-operation. You might also, at your discretion, extend his thanks to any other members of the Staff who have assisted you.
He is very pleased that the Temple land has been bought in Kampala. Mr. and Mrs. Elston are visiting here at the present time; and he has told them he feels that at present the Temple land should merely be held in trust, and all meetings continue in the Hazíratu’l-Quds building. Should this eventually prove too small, enlarging one of the rooms to accommodate more of the people at the meetings might be considered as a possibility; but any work carried out must be of a very economical nature, and he does not think it is pressing at present, anyway.
I need not tell you that the work in Africa, and more particularly in Uganda, is very dear to his heart. The progress made there during the last year has borne him up and encouraged him greatly when he was often weighed down with work. He feels that this country and its peoples, in the very heart of Africa, are a most precious trust. Their receptivity to the Teachings, their great desire to serve their new Faith, the number of them who have arisen to go out as pioneers, mark them as a people apart in the Bahá’í world, at least for the time being. May many others in neighbouring countries prove as worthy, and follow their example.
In dealing with people who are still backward in relation to our civilised standards, and in many cases guided by a tribal system which has strong orders of its own, he feels that you should be both tactful and forbearing. There is no specific minimum age mentioned in the Bahá’í teachings at which girls may marry. In the future, this and other questions unspecified will be dealt with by the International House of Justice. In the meantime, we must not be too strict in enforcing our opinions on peoples still living in primitive social orders.
The difficulty of getting a Bahá’í into … has now been temporarily solved. The Guardian does not see why Bahá’ís should have to state to any Government that the reason for their visit to a country is for the purposes of teaching the Bahá’í Faith. Most of the time, though not perhaps invariably, this is calculated to arouse suspicion and opposition. One has to deal with cases as they arise. A blanket rule could never apply over so wide a field as that in which Bahá’í pioneers are working. 335
Although the children of Bahá’í parents are considered to be Bahá’ís, there is no objection at the present time, for purposes of keeping a correct census, and also ascertaining whether the young people are, sincerely, believers, and willing to do their share in service to the Faith, to asking them to make a declaration of their intention at the age of fifteen or so. Originally, the Guardian understands, this was adopted in America to enable young Bahá’í men to make certain arrangements in connection with their application for non-combatant status upon their attaining the age of military service. There is really nothing about it in the Teachings or in the Administration. Your Assembly is free to do as it pleases in this matter.
Regarding the publication of a pamphlet on the Bahá’í Teachings on Monarchy, funds and circumstances permitting, the Guardian sees no objection to this whatsoever. It might appeal to a certain type of British mind very much, though he fears there are other minds to which it may not appeal! However, considering Bahá’u’lláh has taught these things, there is no reason why we should not share them with those interested in the subject.
He is very sorry that it has not been possible to purchase the National Hazíratu’l-Quds yet. In spite of the fact that he attaches great importance to this, he does not think that the cost should become exorbitant merely in order to accomplish a goal before a certain date. The Bahá’ís, not only in England, but all over the world, have embarked upon a Plan which will involve over a period of years a very heavy expenditure. Undoubtedly they will have to help each other; but they will scarcely have the financial strength to help each other to the tune of extremely expensive buildings, Temple sites, etc., in different parts of the world. He has given instructions to Canada, Germany, Rome, etc., to cut down on the proposals they made to him, because the price of these things in different parts of the world, when added up, would be well beyond the means of the Faith to meet at present. He feels sure that, however painful and toilsome the process may be, you will eventually find a suitable spot in London, and one that your Assembly, with the help of the British believers and other possible contributions from outside as well, can afford.
The remarkable achievements in the pioneer field, a field in 336 which your own Assembly has been far from backward, are a source of great encouragement to all the believers as well as to him. The addition of one hundred countries during one year is certainly history-making.
Now that the back of the foreign pioneering work has been broken, so to speak, a greater measure of attention must be paid to the home fronts. The consolidation work, though far less spectacular, constitutes a very weighty task, and will require a constant measure of sacrificial effort if the goals are to be fulfilled. He thinks that during the coming year greater attention should be paid to the home front, while at the same time maintaining the pioneer posts at their present standard, at least.
The principle is, and it should be impressed on the minds of all pioneers, to hold their territory at any cost. Just because they have left their homes, and gone out and carried the Faith to one of these virgin areas, does not mean that the task is accomplished. On the contrary, nothing could be sadder than that these newly-won territories should be lost after a few months’ effort. He hopes that in your correspondence with the pioneers you will impress this fact upon them and make them realise that to be a “Knight of Bahá’u’lláh” is not only a very high and pleasant position, but involves a truly tremendous responsibility. To remain at one’s post, to undergo sacrifice and hardship, loneliness and, if necessary, persecution, in order to hold aloft the torch of Bahá’u’lláh, is the true function of every pioneer.
Let them remember Marion Jack, who for over twenty years, in a country the language of which she never mastered; during war and bombardment; evacuation and poverty; and at length, serious illness, stuck to her post, and has now blessed the soil of the land she had chosen to serve at such cost with her precious remains, every atom of which was dedicated to Bahá’u’lláh. Perhaps the friends are not aware that the Guardian, himself, during the war on more than one occasion urged her to seek safety in Switzerland rather than remain behind enemy lines and be entirely cut off. Lovingly she pleaded that he would not require her to leave her post, and he acquiesced to her request. Surely the standard of Marion Jack should be borne in mind by every pioneer!
Regarding your question about including the Tablet of the Virgin in a compilation of “Bahá’í Scriptures” which you wish 337 to publish—the old translation is very poor and has many inaccuracies. However, the Guardian has no time at all to retranslate it or correct it himself.
He leaves it to the discretion of your Assembly as to whether you wish to include it in a compilation or not.
I am returning to you the list you sent with suggested corrections in relation to the pamphlet your Assembly published last year—“The Bahá’í Faith 1844–1952, Information Statistical and Comparative”. The righthand column marked “Suggested”, he considers quite acceptable. The places where you have put question marks are correct, with very few exceptions which the Guardian has corrected, in the column marked “As Listed”, with the exception of the transliteration of the name Shu‘á’u’lláh, (Number 12) which the Guardian has corrected.
Assuring you of the Guardian’s loving prayers for the success of your devoted labours….
P.S. July 28th. Your letter of July 7th has likewise been received.
[From the Guardian:]
Dear and valued co-workers,
The achievements of the members of the tenacious, the valiant and wide-awake British Bahá’í community, within the borders of their homeland and beyond its confines, in the course of the opening year of the Bahá’í World Crusade, deserve the highest commendation and have considerably heightened its prestige and deepened my own admiration for it as well as that of its sister communities in both Hemispheres.
Called into being through the dispensations of a watchful Providence, in the middle of the memorable decade that witnessed the introduction of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh into the Western world; sharing with its sister community across the Channel the distinction of being the first to be quickened by the life-giving influences generated by the newly-established Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh in the Holy Land; the recipient of untold blessings showered upon it by the Centre of the Covenant in the days of its infancy; singled out among the newly-fledged communities in both Europe and the North American Continent through the twice repeated visits of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to the shores of its homeland; fully equipped with the agencies of a divinely conceived Administrative Order, patiently and laboriously erected by its stalwart members in the years immediately following the setting of 338 the Orb of that same Covenant; enriched by the experience derived from the successful prosecution of two successive nationwide Plans formulated by its national elected representatives, this community finds itself, on the morrow of the termination of the opening year of the afore-mentioned Crusade, simultaneously firmly rooted within the soil of its homeland and vigorously branching out on the first stage of its mission in foreign fields, and exhibiting, both at home and abroad, evidences of a development that bids fair to eclipse any of its collective achievements in the past five decades since its inception.
In both the teaching and administrative spheres of its ever-expanding, swiftly unfolding activities, whether in the heart and capital city of the Empire to which it belongs, or in the chief cities recently opened by its pioneering members in the territories comprising its island home, or in the diversified and far-flung dependencies of the British Crown in the African Continent, this virile, forward marching, securely established community has amply demonstrated its capacity to be regarded as one of the chief strongholds of a divinely conceived Faith and one of the principal bastions sustaining the fabric of Bahá’u’lláh’s world-encompassing Order.
Standing as it does on the threshold of the second phase of a Crusade with which its immediate destinies are inseparably linked, and to which it has voluntarily and enthusiastically pledged its combined resources, the tasks now confronting it demand a degree of concentration, dedication, co-ordination, resourcefulness and perseverance hitherto unequalled in any period of its career.
The prizes won in recent months, since the launching of the Ten Year Plan to which it stands committed, through the strenuous exertions and the shining example of its pioneers in the islands situated to the North, the West and the South of its homeland, as well as in the far away territories lying in the heart of the African Continent and situated on both its eastern and western shores, must, however great the sacrifices involved, be preserved. The acquisition of the national Hazíratu’l-Quds in a centrally located area in a city that ranks as the chief metropolis of a vast Empire is yet another task of the utmost urgency and of the highest significance, the consummation of which should be considered as the chief objective and pre-eminent duty of this community’s elected national representatives, and one which is bound to exert, in the days immediately ahead, a far-reaching and pervasive influence on the growth and unfoldment of the Faith which it is their privilege to serve and promote. 339
Of no less importance is the responsibility to reinforce the structure of the Administrative Order throughout the British Isles, and particularly in the newly opened territories of Scotland, Wales, Eire and Northern Ireland, through a rapid and unprecedented increase in the number of the avowed supporters of the Faith, and a multiplication of isolated centres, groups and assemblies that constitute the warp and woof of the fabric of its evolving Order.
A no less urgent task, which will directly reinforce this fabric, and heighten the prestige of the Faith itself, and pave the way for the establishment of Bahá’í local endowments, is the prompt incorporation of firmly established local assemblies, a process which, as soon as it is initiated, must gather steady momentum throughout the length and breadth of the British Isles, and be ultimately reinforced by the incorporation of all local assemblies destined to be established in the virgin territories recently opened in the neighbourhood of the British Isles and in the African territories allotted to your Assembly under the provisions of the Ten Year Plan.
Special attention should, moreover, be paid to the no less vital duty of completing the translation, the publication and the dissemination of Bahá’í literature in the languages assigned to your Assembly, in accordance with that same Plan, an achievement which will greatly stimulate the work to be undertaken in the course of the future phases of this world spiritual Crusade as it unfolds itself in the African Continent.
Whilst these highly meritorious enterprises are being assiduously carried on, the inescapable and sacred duty of consolidating the nine African territories and the two additional ones in Europe and Asia must be adequately discharged, in order to enable the British Bahá’í community to bring to full fruition the noble mission entrusted so confidently to its care.
The tasks facing this community in the course of this second and future phases of a world-encircling Crusade are admittedly vast, complex and challenging. The resources at the disposal of its doggedly persevering, wholly dedicated members are, alas, circumscribed and inadequate. The Mission, however, to which its Founder is calling it, is unspeakably glorious. Many and divers will, no doubt, be the tests, the setbacks and trials which teachers and administrators alike within the ranks of its members, must necessarily experience. The times, during which the opening phase of its Mission overseas is to yield its fairest fruit, are fraught with great peril. Both at home and in distant 340 outposts of the Empire, the opposition which those responsible for its development and consolidation will encounter from those in authority, whether civil or ecclesiastic, will progressively hamper their efforts. The competition from its own sister communities, in various regions of the globe and in the course of the systematic prosecution of the same world-embracing task will, in the meantime, grow keener.
Every ounce of energy its members can muster must unhesitatingly be expended to further the supreme end for which so sacred, so formidable and so momentous a Plan has been devised. With every sacrifice that is made, with every forward step that is taken along the toilsome and long road they are destined to tread, with every victory dearly and laboriously won by the champions, the representatives, the vanguard, the spokesmen, as well as the rank and file of this community, a measure of blessing from on high will undoubtedly be vouchsafed, in order to reinforce the exertions, cheer the hearts, and stimulate the march of all those enlisted in the service of so glorious a Cause.
The hour is propitious for a concerted effort which in its scope and intensity will surpass any united action of which the British followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh have proved themselves capable in the past.
That they may ascend from height to height, go forward from victory to victory, is the fervent prayer of one who has invariably followed the course of their exploits with undiminished confidence and admiration, who has cherished the brightest hopes for the ultimate attainment of their Mission, and whose love and esteem for them has correspondingly increased with every revelation of the capacities and energies with which they have discharged, and are constantly discharging, their Mission.
Your true brother,