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Unfolding Destiny

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • UK Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1981 edition
  • Pages:
  • 490
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Pages 364-372

Letter of 11 July 1956

11 July 1956
Dear John,
As a number of questions raised in your communications addressed to the beloved Guardian have been answered by cable or through the Assistant Secretary, I will not go into these matters here, but merely acknowledge on his behalf receipt of the letters from your National Body, together with their enclosures and material sent under separate cover which were dated as follows: July 22, August 8, 9, 11 (two), 12 (two), and 18, September 7, 9, 10, 23 (three), 26 and 28, October 7 (two), 13 (two), 25, 26, 28 (two), and 29, November 3, 4, 9, 21 (two), 24 and 30, December 1, 2, 9 (three), 19 and 29 (two), 1955, and January 6, 10, 17, 23, 27, and 30 (two), February 10, 16, and 27, March 8, 9, 19, and 29, April 2, 10, 13, 16, 17, and 26, May 4, 14, 16, 31, and June 13, 19, 22, and 29, 1956.
He appreciated receiving copies of the Diary which your Assembly forwarded to him, and which is invariably gotten out efficiently and in a pleasing manner. He thinks the five copies you sent will be sufficient.
The generous spirit in which the British Bahá’ís, hard-pressed as they are to meet the requirements of the work in Great Britain, responded to the needs of their persecuted brethren in Persia, deeply touched him. These evidences of Bahá’í sacrifice and solidarity cannot but nourish the very roots of the Faith and strengthen its institutions.
As he advised you by cable, he felt it unwise to seek to clarify the relationship of the Bahá’ís to the advertised holding of Ahmad Sohrab’s conference in Jerusalem. Having a very shrewd eye to his own advantage, it has become obvious that one of the means by which he hopes to promote interest in his conference is to arouse active opposition from the Bahá’ís and create a source of discussion in the press. In view of this, the Guardian has been very careful to have the friends avoid rising to this bait. They should, in their personal contacts with people, and in a quiet 365 manner, point out when occasion arises that the Caravan activities have nothing whatsoever to do with the Bahá’í Faith and are indeed unfriendly to it. Whatever he does cannot but end in failure, because he has cut himself off entirely from the living tree of the Faith and is wholly insincere in his motives.
In spite of the fact that Mr. … has been expelled from Gilbert and Ellice Islands, the remarkable progress of the Faith there has been a source of great satisfaction. It shows that a spiritual receptivity, a purity of heart and uprightness of character exists potentially amongst many of the peoples of the Pacific Isles to an extent equal to that of the tribesmen of Africa. It is indeed an encouraging and awe-inspiring sight to witness the spread of our beloved Faith amongst those whom civilised nations misguidedly term “savages”, “primitive peoples” and “uncivilised nations”. He hopes that your Assembly will do all in its power to ensure that Mrs. … remains in the Islands. Although for some period at least this may entail separation from her husband, he believes that these two dedicated and exemplary pioneers will be willing to accept this sacrifice in view of the extraordinary work they have accomplished and are accomplishing. The community there must not be abandoned, particularly by its “mother”, so to speak. It must be well and profoundly grounded in the Faith before such a risky step can be taken. He hopes that you will deal most wisely and co-operatively with the Colonial Office officials in this matter and any others that may arise. Their esteem, their good-will, and their co-operation are practically indispensable for the future work in many islands throughout the Pacific area, and nothing but the frustration of our objectives can be gained through alienating them in any way. This should be impressed upon the pioneers and the local Bahá’ís as well.
The beloved Guardian regrets very much the entire situation in which the dear Hand of the Cause, Mr. Townshend, finds himself. He is much loved, and his services have been of a unique nature in providing the Faith with so many excellent books, the latest of which the Guardian hopes will soon be ready for publication….
The persecution of the Faith last year in Persia, although no doubt a great trial to the Persian believers, can be regarded in no other light than as a triumph. The designs of the traditional enemies of the Faith, the mulláhs, have been entirely frustrated. 366 The Government has been forced to take action for the first time in its history to officially protect the Bahá’ís and their institutions and the Cause of God has received a publicity all over the world—entirely free of charge—which an expenditure of many thousands of pounds could not have secured for it.
In spite of the great anxiety and pain which the crisis of last summer caused the Guardian, he could not help being highly gratified that, for practically the first time, publicity of a weighty nature was given to the Faith in such papers as the “Spectator”, the “Observer”, “The Times” and the “Manchester Guardian”, and that the voices of two such distinguished scholars as Professor Gilbert Murray and Professor Arnold Toynbee were raised in defence of the believers of Bahá’u’lláh and His Faith. This has opened the door on a new phase of the unfoldment of the Faith in the British Isles. However slow the process may seem, the first inklings of its emergence as a public force can now be discerned….
The loss of some of the Spiritual Assemblies in England this year need not be viewed as an unduly horrible experience. It was inevitable that the British Bahá’í community would have to get itself, once and for all, grounded on the same basis as all other Bahá’í communities, namely, that of having Spiritual Assemblies function within defined civil limits. Although this seems to have dealt a set-back to the work, it is purely temporary. The localities have perforce been increased, which is a step in the right direction, and which cannot but widen the foundation of the Administrative Order. In those islands more members of the community will be given the opportunity to serve on local Assemblies and their committees; and above all, the new crisis which developed because of this change-over once more demonstrated the truly extraordinary and exemplary steadfastness of the British Bahá’ís which had led them, over and over again, at great cost to themselves, to throw themselves into the breach. Although this is a well-known national characteristic, it provides nevertheless a great example to their fellow-Bahá’ís all over the world. The Guardian knows of no community, east or west, which so valiantly and so consistently, one might almost say ferociously, has arisen to defend its Home Front. He has the greatest admiration for the spirit which animates them and for their achievements. 367
He was sorry to refuse the request of the National Assembly to, under certain circumstances, permit the localities that would achieve Assembly status by next Riḍván, to have a delegate at the National Convention. He feels that, although this would no doubt have provided a great stimulus to the friends, it was an unjustifiable breach of the general administrative procedure. If there are too many exceptions, the rule has a tendency to lose its clearly defined character, not to mention encouraging other communities to want to be exceptions too, under various circumstances!
The Guardian hopes that during the coming year there will be more Assemblies incorporated, as he attaches great importance to this process.
He was delighted that the Irish translation had been completed, and also very happy to hear that the National Endowment for the British National Spiritual Assembly had been purchased. All these signs of life and vitality are greatly to be admired, and prove the intense virility and youthfulness of the British Bahá’í community.
He was sorry to have to disappoint Mr. … who was so enthusiastic about his own design for the Temple. However, there was no possible question of accepting something as extreme as this. The Guardian feels very strongly that, regardless of what the opinion of the latest school of architecture may be on the subject, the styles represented at present all over the world in architecture are not only very ugly, but completely lack the dignity and grace which must be at least partially present in a Bahá’í House of Worship. One must always bear in mind that the vast majority of human beings are neither very modern nor very extreme in their tastes, and that what the advanced school may think is marvellous is often very distasteful indeed to just plain, simple people.
The Hand of the Cause, Mr. Remey, has now completed a design for the Kampala Temple which meets with the Guardian’s approval. It will shortly be ready to be forwarded to the Central and East Africa National Assembly.
It was a great pleasure for Shoghi Effendi to have a number of pilgrims from the British Isles as his guests this winter. They brought with them the spirit of perseverance and devotion so clearly evinced by the British believers; and he feels sure that, 368 upon their return, they carried back much of inspiration and encouragement to the friends at home.
Not the least of the landmarks reached on the international Bahá’í scene this year has been the formation of the three new National Bodies in Africa. Your Assembly and the community you represent have every reason to look with pride and affection upon the development of the Cause in the African continent, and upon the many spiritual children and grandchildren, and perhaps great-grandchildren you have over there. The record has been truly astonishing, and such as to gladden the heart of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Who so ardently longed, Himself, to go forth “on foot” and carry the Message to yet another of the far corners of the world.
No doubt although the Central and East Africa Assembly is a strong one, it will still welcome and need at least a large measure of moral support from its parent; and he feels sure that you will always be ready and willing to help in any way you can with advice and suggestions, and perhaps teachers and pioneers and other support as opportunity affords. (As he informed you when you were here, he does not feel the British National Spiritual Assembly can support financially its Central and East Africa one. However, a token contribution would be a kind and appropriate gesture.) In any case, you should keep in close touch with the work there, a work dear, not only to the Guardian’s heart, but to all of yours as well.
As regards certain questions raised in your letters: There is no objection for the time being in going on including in Prayer Books the Prayer of the Báb: “In the Name of God, the Victor of the Most Victorious”, etc.
As regards the question raised in Africa about divorce connected with adultery, these are matters for the future. No action of any new kind should be taken at present.
As regards strikes, the Guardian feels that your own understanding of the matter as expressed in your letter is quite correct, and he does not see the necessity of adding anything to it. We should avoid becoming rigid and laying down any more rules and regulations of conduct.
Regarding taking oaths, there is nothing in the Teachings on this subject. As a Bahá’í is enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh to be truthful, he would express his truthfulness, no matter what the formality of the law in any local place required of him. There can be no 369 objection to Bahá’ís conforming to the requirements of the law court whatever they may be in such matters, as in no case would they constitute in any way a denial of their own beliefs as Bahá’ís.
Concerning the short obligatory Prayer: the Guardian does not wish to define these things at present; the time will come for it in future. The friends need not be too strict about it at present. The Greatest Name is Alláh-u-Abhá.
He remembers you and all the N.S.A. members in his prayers most lovingly, and supplicates for your success and that strength may be given you to discharge your many important duties.
[From the Guardian:]
Dear and valued co-workers,
The emergence of the Regional Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Central and East Africa, under such auspicious circumstances, and after the lapse of such a short period of time since the inception of the Ten Year Plan, marks a milestone of far-reaching significance in the unfoldment of the great historic Mission entrusted to the British Bahá’í community in the vast and far-flung territories beyond the confines of its motherland. It is, moreover, a striking evidence of the exemplary and whole-hearted devotion of its members to that Mission, and of the vigour, the vigilance, the resourcefulness, the tenacity and the courage with which they have conducted this vast and magnificent enterprise launched in the heart of that continent, in the face of various obstacles and with such limited resources at their disposal. The entire community, now standing on the threshold of still greater and nobler enterprises in other parts of the world, and particularly its national elected representatives, who have so splendidly discharged their responsibilities overseas, and assumed with characteristic resolution, fearlessness and consecration the direction of the manifold activities of so dynamic an enterprise, must be heartily congratulated on so conspicuous a victory, won in such a distant field, within so brief an interval, at the cost of so much sacrifice, by so limited a number of pioneers, labouring amidst a people so divergent in language, customs and manners.
Its sister communities in both the East and the West, and particularly its daughter communities, now blossoming into new life, and marching forth, unitedly and resolutely, along the path traced for them in the Ten Year Plan, cannot but feel proud of the tremendous work first initiated in the heart of Africa by British Bahá’í pioneers, and of the organising ability, the sound judgement, the unquestioning 370 fidelity, and the dogged determination that have characterised every stage in the rise, the development and fruition of the first collective enterprise embarked upon beyond the confines of the British Isles by the British adherents of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
Though much of the responsibility hitherto discharged by your Assembly, in both the heart of the continent and the territories situated on its Eastern and Western shores, will now devolve on the newly established Regional Spiritual Assemblies, the particular Mission you have been called upon, through the dispensation of Providence to fulfil, is by no means concluded. Every assistance within your power, particularly in matters requiring the aid, support and intervention of the authorities at the Colonial Office, and in connection with the translation of Bahá’í literature into African languages, their publication and dissemination, as well as with any publicity that can be given in the British press to the marvellous achievements of the numerous Bahá’í communities recently raised up in Africa, and now energetically discharging their manifold and sacred duties all over that continent—such assistance should be constantly and unstintingly extended to these newly fledged communities which the power of the Most Great Name has called into being at so crucial a period in human history, and at so auspicious a stage in the mysterious unfoldment of God’s Plan for all mankind.
While this beneficent, slowly maturing, irresistibly advancing enterprise develops and gains momentum, through the concerted and tireless efforts of its original organisers in the British Isles and those in charge of its immediate destinies in Africa itself, a corresponding endeavour, no less consecrated, persistent and enthusiastic, should be exerted in the Islands of the Mediterranean and the Far East, where similar exploits must needs be achieved by those who have performed such unforgettable feats among the Negroes of the African continent.
Parallel with this highly vital and urgently needed exertion in foreign fields, a further intensification of effort is required on the homefront, and particularly throughout the newly opened islands bordering the homeland itself, now standing in such dire need of a flow of pioneers and a concentration of material resources unexampled in British Bahá’í history. There is no reason to doubt that the phenomenal progress achieved within the span of a few years, amidst an alien people, and in such distant and backward territories, will be duplicated, nay surpassed, among people of the same race, speaking the same language, of the same background, and living in such close proximity 371 to the Administrative Centre in the British Isles, provided that a determination no less unyielding, and a dedication no less whole-hearted and complete, will be displayed by those who have already won such memorable victories in such far-off and inhospitable regions of the globe. He Who in recent years infallibly guided from His realms above the steps of the little band of pioneers and administrators under such difficult and challenging circumstances, Who galvanised their souls, blessed their handiwork, raised their status, and noised abroad their fame, can well enable them, if they but arise to the occasion now presenting itself, to conquer with no less rapidity and even greater effectiveness, the citadels of men’s hearts, to tear down the barriers which now confront them, and ignite a fire in the hearts of their own countrymen as consuming as the one that has set ablaze, in so conspicuous a fashion, the souls of the African races over the length and breadth of an entire continent.
The rapid increase in the number of the avowed supporters of the Faith, the multiplication of groups, isolated centres and assemblies within the limits of the homeland and its neighbouring islands, must be accompanied by a marked acceleration in the process of internal consolidation, such as the incorporation of firmly established local Assemblies, expansion in the publication and dissemination of Bahá’í literature, and the adoption of carefully considered measures aimed at giving a still wider publicity, among circles hitherto unapproached, or as yet inadequately informed of the tenets, the aims and purposes, as well as the world-wide achievements of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in both the teaching and administrative spheres of its activities.
The highly gratifying and truly praiseworthy success which has attended, so unexpectedly, the energetic efforts exerted by your Assembly in connection with the campaign of publicity initiated for the purpose of safeguarding the rights of our oppressed brethren in Persia must be regarded as a most encouraging sign, and should constitute a prelude and a stepping-stone to a still wider undertaking, aimed at a more systematic presentation of the ideals animating our beloved Cause and of its fundamental verities, and an adequate proclamation of its God-given mission to this distracted, sadly erring, and increasingly tormented generation.
The annals of the British Bahá’í community, small in numbers, yet unconquerable in spirit, tenacious in belief, undeviating in purpose, alert and vigilant in the discharge of its manifold duties and responsibilities, have in consequence of its epoch-making achievements 372 been vastly enriched. The process set in motion and greatly accelerated through the successive formulation of the Six Year Plan, the Two Year Plan and the Ten Year Plan, must continue unabated and unimpaired. Nay with every passing day it must gather momentum. Every individual believer must, henceforth, encouraged and inspired by all that has already been achieved, contribute to its future and speedy unfoldment. That the entire community may befittingly respond to the call of the present hour and bring to a final consummation the Mission with which it has been entrusted is the deepest yearning of my heart and the object of my unceasing prayers.