AHAD:
The Association for Human Advancement and Development

Bahá’í Social and Economic Development

Some Critical Source Documents

Shrine of Bahá
The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh

“The respect which the community’s social and economic development projects are beginning to win in governmental, academic, and United Nations circles further reinforces the argument for a detached and serious examination of the impulse behind a process of social transformation that is, in critical respects, unique in our world…”

Bahá’í International Community, 1992 May 29,
“Statement on Bahá’u’lláh”, p. 2

“The primary purpose, the basic objective, in laying down powerful laws and setting up great principles and institutions dealing with every aspect of civilization, is human happiness; and human happiness consists only in drawing closer to the Threshold of Almighty God, and in securing the peace and well-being of every individual member, high and low alike, of the human race; and the supreme agencies for accomplishing these two objectives are the excellent qualities with which humanity has been endowed.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “The Secret of Divine Civilization”, p. 60

“Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, “The Secret of Divine Civilization”, p. 4

A number of documents are available which further describe the process of Bahá’í social and economic development (SED). In our view, those below are some of the most crucial and cogent. It would be difficult to understand Bahá’í SED without being familiar with the contents of these documents.

20 Oct 1983:
DOC
PDF
web page

Seminal letter from the Universal House of Justice

“From the beginning of His stupendous mission, Bahá’u’lláh urged upon the attention of nations the necessity of ordering human affairs in such a way as to bring into being a world unified in all the essential aspects of its life. In unnumbered verses and tablets He repeatedly and variously declared the ‘progress of the world’ and the ‘development of nations’ as being among the ordinances of God for this day. The oneness of mankind, which is at once the operating principle and ultimate goal of His Revelation, implies the achievement of a dynamic coherence between the spiritual and practical requirements of life on earth...”

12 Dec 1983:
DOC
PDF
web page

Guidelines for Social and Economic Development Projects

“In selecting a development project, it must be borne in mind that the aim should not be the feasibility of the project alone, but, far more importantly, what it may bring in the form of strength, hope, and spiritual upliftment of the Bahá’ís as well as the beneficial influence its implementation and final accomplishment might exert on the members of the Bahá’í community and those of the wider community.”

1 Dec 1985:
DOC
PDF
web page

Characteristics of a Successful Bahá’í Project

Excerpt from a statement by the Badi Foundation...

The project “...considers the existing capacities of the participating populations and institutions, and assists them to increase their capabilities”

[Note: This document and the one above are single page documents which offer a good overview of what a Bahá’í SED project is.

1988:
DOC
PDF
web page

Social and Economic Development:
A Compilation from the Office of Social and Economic Development at the World Centre

“We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy...”

16 Sep 1993:
DOC
PDF
web page

Bahá’í Social and Economic Development:
Prospects for the Future

“In general, social and economic development projects at the grass roots best begin with a relatively simple set of actions. The friends should be allowed to gain experience from, and increase the range of, their activities naturally, without undue pressure from opinions that are often based solely on theoretical considerations.”

28 Aug 1994:
DOC
PDF
web page

The Evolution of Institutional Capacity for Social and Economic Development

“Bahá’í social and economic development focuses on increasing the capacity of the friends to make decisions about the spiritual and material progress of their communities and then implement them. While such development activities provide services that lead to a visible improvement in some aspect of life, their ultimate success is measured by the degree to which they enhance the ability to address issues of development at increasingly higher levels of complexity and effectiveness. This applies not only to individuals and communities but also to institutions.”

Sept 1994:
DOC
PDF
web page

Unlocking the Power of Action

“The maintenance of a climate of love and unity depends largely upon the feeling among the individuals composing the community that the Assembly is a part of themselves, that their operative interactions with that divinely ordained body allow them a fair latitude for initiative and that the quality of their relationships with both the institution and their fellow believers encourages a spirit of enterprise invigorated by an awareness of the revolutionizing purpose of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, by a consciousness of the high privilege of their being associated with efforts to realize that purpose, and by a consequent, ever-present sense of joy.”

Nov 1999:
DOC
PDF
web page

A Clarification of Some Issues Concerning Social and Economic Development...

“Some of the questions that have been repeatedly asked have to do with the relationship between teaching and social and economic development: Are social and economic development efforts distracting us from the primary work of advancing the process of entry by troops? Is development simply another word for indirect teaching, carried out for the sole purpose of attracting people to the Cause? Are activities for the consolidation of local communities— such as Bahá’í children’s classes— to be considered development endeavors?...”

Aug 2002:
DOC
PDF
web page

Junior Youth Spritual Empowerment Campaign

“‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in The Secret of Divine Civilization, states that knowledge is the key to the progress of civilization. “It is inconceivable that any nation should achieve prosperity and success unless this paramount, this fundamental concern is carried forward.” At the same time, He observes that “the mass of the population is uninformed as to these vital agencies which would constitute an immediate remedy for society’s chronic ills” and that “because of their inadequate schooling, most of the population lack even the vocabulary to explain what they want.”...”

[This document would generally not be considered seminal, nor does it describe the essential marrow of Bahá’í SED, but it does indicate a new degree of the integration of SED activities into the life of the Community, because it has been released by OSED, the Office of Social and Economic Development, and it describes a new "core activity" of the [third] Five Year Plan, 2006-2011.

Note: The web page and the DOC file contain only the 7 page cover letter. The PDF is the entire 74 page document, i.e. including appendices.]

All...
ZIP of DOCS
ZIP of PDFs

Social and Economic Development

All the above documents (except the complete version of "Junior Youth", PDF here), in a single compressed file...

“The primary consideration is the spirit that has to permeate our economic life and this will gradually crystallize itself into definite institutions and principles that would help to bring about the ideal condition foretold by Bahá’u’lláh.”