Paralleling these outstanding events has been a remarkable unfoldment of organic growth in the maturity of the institutions of the Cause. The development of capacity and responsibility on their part and the devolution upon them of continually greater autonomy have been fostered by the encouragement of ever closer cooperation between the twin arms of the Administrative Order. This process now takes a large stride forward as the National Spiritual Assemblies and Counselors consult together to formulate, for the first time, the national goals of an international teaching plan. Together they must carry them out; together they must implement the world objectives of the Six Year Plan 1 as they apply in each country. This significant development is a befitting opening to the fourth epoch of the Formative Age 2 and initiates a process which will undoubtedly characterize that epoch as national communities grow in strength and influence and are able to diffuse within their own countries the spirit of love and social unity which is the hallmark of the Cause of God. 3
The launching of the Six Year Plan at Riḍván 1986 coincided with the opening of a new epoch—the fourth—in the organic unfoldment of the Formative Age of our Faith. The Administrative institutions of this growing Cause of God had already begun to show signs of an increasing maturity, while at the same time emerging from the protective obscurity of their early days into the larger arena of public notice. These twin processes were signalized by a development of far-reaching consequence to the internal life of the Bahá’í community and by an outward activity of a magnitude unprecedented in its entire history.
The former was a devolution of responsibility whereby all national communities, through their National Spiritual Assemblies, in consultation with Counselors, Local Spiritual Assemblies and the generality of believers, were requested to formulate, for the first time, their own objectives for achievement during the new Plan. This expectation of maturity challenging the national communities was matched by their formulation of national plans submitted to the World Center for coordination into the world-embracing Six Year Plan.
The latter was a united uprising of the entire Bahá’í world community to distribute the statement, The Promise of World Peace, issued in October 1985, to the peoples of the world. Heads of State, large numbers of the members of national governments, diplomats, teachers, trade unionists, leaders of religion, eminent members of the judiciary, the police, legal, medical and other professions, members of local authorities, clubs and associations, and thousands of individuals have been presented with the statement. It is estimated that more than a million copies, in some seventy languages, have so far been distributed. These two activities alone have heavily reinforced the growing strength and maturity of the Bahá’í world community and given it a more clearly defined and readily recognizable public image. 4
A silver lining to the dark picture which has overshadowed most of this century now brightens the horizon. It is discernible in the new tendencies impelling the social processes at work throughout the world, in the evidences of an accelerated trend towards peace. In the Faith of God, it is the growing strength of the Order of Bahá’u’lláh as its banner rises to more stately heights. It is a strength that attracts. The media are giving increasing attention to the Bahá’í world community; authors are acknowledging its existence in a growing number of articles, books and reference works, one of the most highly respected of which recently listed the Faith as the most widely spread religion after Christianity. A remarkable display of interest in this community by governments, civil authorities, prominent personalities and humanitarian organizations is increasingly apparent. Not only are the community’s laws and principles, organization and way of life being investigated, but its advice and active help are also being sought for the alleviation of social problems and the carrying out of humanitarian activities.
A thrilling consequence of these favorably conjoined developments is the emergence of a new paradigm of opportunity for further growth and consolidation of our worldwide community. New prospects for teaching the Cause at all levels of society have unfolded. These are confirmed in the early results flowing from the new teaching initiatives being fostered in a number of places as more and more national communities witness the beginnings of that entry by troops promised by the beloved Master and which Shoghi Effendi said would lead on to mass conversion. The immediate possibilities presented by this providential situation compel us to expect that an expansion of the Community of the Most Great Name, such as has not yet been experienced, is, indeed, at hand. 5
The spiritual current which exerted such galvanic effects at the International Bahá’í Convention last Riḍván has swept through the entire world community, arousing its members in both the East and the West to feats of activity and achievement in teaching never before experienced in any one year. The high level of enrollments alone bears this out, as nearly half a million new believers have already been reported. The names of such far-flung places as India and Liberia, Bolivia and Bangladesh, Taiwan and Peru, the Philippines and Haiti leap to the fore as we contemplate the accumulating evidences of the entry by troops called for in our message of a year ago. These evidences are hopeful signs of the greater acceleration yet to come and in which all national communities, whatever the current status of their teaching effort, will ultimately be involved. 6
Having ended a year of momentous achievements, we stand at the threshold of the last decade of this radiant twentieth century facing an immediate future of immense challenges and dazzling prospects. The swiftness of events during the past year is indicative of the acceleration, as the hundredth anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s Ascension approaches, of the spiritual forces released with the advent of His revolutionizing mission. It is an acceleration which, in its suddenness and wide transformational impact on social thought and on political entities, has aroused feelings of delight as to its immediate effects and of bewilderment as to its real meaning and destined outcome, prompting the astonished editors of an outstanding newspaper, finding themselves bereft of explanations, to attribute it to the workings of an “Invisible Hand.”
For the followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the world there can be no doubt as to the Divine Source and clear intention of these extraordinary happenings. Let us rejoice, therefore, in the wondrous signs of the beneficence of God’s abounding grace. The high level of teaching and enrollments reported last Riḍván has been sustained, and new fields of teaching have been opened from Eastern Europe to the China Sea. With the settlement in recent weeks of two Knights of Bahá’u’lláh in Sakhalin Island, the last remaining territory named by Shoghi Effendi in his Ten Year Global Plan entered the Bahá’í fold. The recreation last Riḍván of the Local Spiritual Assembly of ‘Ishqábád, the recent election of that of Cluj in Romania, the first new Assembly in the “East Bloc,” the reestablishment and formation this Riḍván of Local Spiritual Assemblies in other parts of the Soviet Union and in other countries of Eastern Europe—all these achievements and immediate prospects affirm our arrival at a significant milestone in the fourth epoch of the Formative Age. The Administrative Order now embraces a community of wider diversity than ever before. It is such prodigious developments that prompted our recent announcement of a subsidiary Two Year Teaching Plan, now formally launched, to which we commend your urgent and active attention. 7
The overwhelming danger which, as a result of the turmoil in the Middle East, enveloped the Holy Land during the latter part of the year receded without halting or even seriously hampering the operation of the Bahá’í administration. The situation was a poignant reminder of the contrast between the unobtrusive, steadily developing, distinctly integrative System of Bahá’u’lláh and the turbulent character of the Age of Transition, “whose tribulations,” Shoghi Effendi avers, “are the precursors of that Era of blissful felicity which is to incarnate God’s ultimate purpose for all mankind.” It was another of the “ominous signs simultaneously proclaiming the agonies of a disintegrating civilization and the birth pangs of that World Order—that Ark of human salvation—that must needs arise upon its ruins.”
The forces which united the remedial reactions of so many nations to the sudden crisis in this region demonstrated beyond any doubt the necessity of the principle of collective security prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh more than a century ago as a means of resolving conflict. While the international arrangement envisioned by Him for the full application of this principle is far from having been adopted by the rulers of mankind, a long step towards the behavior outlined for the nations by the Lord of the Age has thus been taken. How illuminating are Bahá’u’lláh’s words foreshadowing the future reorientation of the nations: “Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world,” He wrote, “for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice.”
Indeed, from whatever direction we gaze, the power of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation is visibly at work in the world. In the call for a new world order, which has issued like a refrain from the statements of political leaders and influential thinkers, even when they themselves were incapable of defining their own meaning, can be discerned the slow awakening of humanity to the principal purpose of His Revelation. That such a call should have come so insistently from the head of that republic which is destined, in ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s words, to be “the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement” and to “lead all nations spiritually,” is an indication of the efficacy and the acceleration of two simultaneous processes, one operating outside and one inside the Cause, which Shoghi Effendi tells us are destined to culminate “in a single glorious consummation.” 8
From the peak of triumph of the Six Year Plan now ended, we come to the threshold of the Holy Year, now begun, awestruck at the very thought of the unique significances associated with the commemoration of that sanctified occasion one hundred years ago when Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One of all ages, took His leave of this earthly life. The Sun of Truth, however, was to set only to shine everlastingly from the “Kingdom of fadeless glory,” thenceforward to shed the radiance of its regenerative power on the entire world. Gone from this plane was He Who is the Author of a Revelation of “inconceivable greatness” in which “all the Dispensations of the past have attained their highest, their final consummation”; the Originator of a new Universal Cycle “that must extend over a period of at least five hundred thousand years”; the Founder of a World Order, a “System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” Moreover, He was the Dawning Point of the Day of God, the “Day in which God’s most excellent favors have been poured out upon men.” Such are the superlative realities upon which our contemplations are focused during this special anniversary occurring at this crucial moment in the affairs of humankind.
So imbued are we by the sacred remembrances evoked by this Holy Year, that we can do no less than invite you all to take pause to enter into this period of reflection, this time of reconsecration, this stage of preparation for tasks yet to be done, heights yet to be attained, splendors yet to be unveiled. For if we look back at one hundred years of an unexampled history of unremitting progress, we also look forward to many centuries of unfolding fulfillment of divine purpose—fulfillment, which as experience has shown, is incrementally realized through the systematic advances of Plans and the wondrous leaps and thrusts of epochs.
Indeed, the immediate portal to this propitious Holy Year is the vista of new horizons opened by the triumph of the Six Year Plan, which coincided with the initial phase of the fourth epoch of the Formative Age of our Faith. Overall it is not so much a triumph in numerical achievements, though in many places and at particular moments the scope of expansion was extraordinary. It is a triumph that has been manifested in a new variety of victories, in new beginnings, fresh initiatives and mature institutional developments, such as to stamp the seal of success on the Plan’s seven major objectives. Impossible as it is to enumerate in these few pages the results of the Plan, the main aspects of the developments in this remarkably dynamic period deserve, nonetheless, to be highlighted. The Bahá’í community changed markedly over the last six years. The major indicators are, no doubt, discernible to the friends everywhere … 9
- Universal House of Justice. “25 February 1986 – To All National Spiritual Assemblies.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19860225_001/1#888435380. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “2 January 1986 – The Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19860102_001/1#556001222. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1986 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19860421_001/1#519292590. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1987 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19870421_001/1#994262512. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1988 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19880421_001/1#420801640. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1989 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19890421_001/1#275533543. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1990 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19900421_001/1#995676151. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1991 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19910421_001/1#612141451. [return]
- Universal House of Justice. “Riḍván 1992 – To the Bahá’ís of the World.” Bahá’í Reference Library. Accessed May 6, 2021. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/the-universal-house-of-justice/messages/19920421_001/1#406669658. [return]