The U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs (OPA) is charged with defending the rights of Baha’is, as in the case of Baha’is who face religious persecution in Iran, and advancing the processes towards world peace in several areas of action, including the promotion of human rights, the advancement of women, and sustainable development and global prosperity.
This two-pronged purpose is guided by the sacred Writings of the Baha’i Faith, which uphold universal human rights, the equality of women and men, and the advancement of global prosperity as essential for the achievement of world peace.
Principles That Guide Our Work
Gender Equality and the Advancement of Women
Peace is only possible, according to Baha’i teachings, once women have been accorded full participation across all fields of human endeavor. Until such gender equality becomes reality, Baha’is believe a climate in which international peace will emerge cannot be fully realized. The Baha’i Writings state that, “Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God.” Further, the teachings explain that “…God hath created all humankind in His own image, and after His own likeness. That is, men and women alike are the revealers of His names and attributes, and from the spiritual viewpoint there is no difference between them. Whosoever draweth nearer to God, that one is the most favored, whether man or woman.”
The Baha’i Faith holds that, in terms of spiritual qualities or virtues, human beings are created in the image of God; that there is but one human family; and that all people share the same universal human rights. The Baha’i Writings state that “an equal standard of human rights must be recognized and adopted. In the estimation of God all men are equal; there is no distinction or preferment for any soul in the dominion of His justice and equity.”
Baha’is endeavor to contribute to a just society where the rights of all people are valued and protected. In their own community life and in collaboration with civil society, government and international partners, they work to promote human rights in a number of areas.
The U.S Baha’i Office of Public Affairs (OPA) works to promote racial justice and racial unity, driven by the principles of the oneness of humankind and the need to abandon all forms of prejudice. In this connection, the Office has focused on developing relationships with a variety of actors, working together to create spaces that nurture collective understanding and will to engage in challenging dialogue. The Office also seeks to identify and distill constructive solutions to racism in the United States. We believe that racism stifles the potentialities of its victims, corrupts its perpetrators, and blights human progress. Addressing this fundamental issue requires understanding the history of racism in the United States and the mechanisms through which it lives and operates.
Throughout the Baha’i Writings, nature is seen as a divine trust that reflects many of the qualities and attributes of God and, as such, should be cherished. Like the adherents of other faith traditions, Baha’is are called upon to be stewards of the environment. Baha’i teachings also stress that sustainable development depends on humanity’s acceptance of ethical and spiritual principles that foster economic, social and environmental well-being.
For instance, providing a strong basis for the work of Baha’is in sustainable development is the following statement from the Baha’i International Community: “The profound and far-reaching changes, the unity and unprecedented cooperation, required to reorient the world toward an environmentally sustainable and just future, will only be possible by touching the human spirit, by appealing to those universal values which alone can empower individuals and peoples to act in accordance with the long-term interests of the planet and humanity as a whole.”
The Baha’i Writings further explain: “Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. There can be no doubt that, whoever is cognizant of this truth is cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory.”
Whatever difficult “growing pains” the world must go through, Baha’is believe that peace is ultimately within the reach of the nations. Achieving this goal, however, requires an “organic change in the structure of society,” the relinquishing of age-old assumptions, and understanding that justice and unity are prerequisites to peace. As such, Baha’is believe that the United Nations represents a major effort in “the planetization of mankind,” and have supported its work since its creation. An authoritative Baha’i statement asserts that the commitment to representative global governance must be grounded in the principle of the oneness of humanity, “which implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded.”
The Baha’i Faith
Founded in Iran in 1844, the Baha’i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent, monotheistic religions, with more than five million adherents in 236 countries and territories. Baha’is come from nearly every national, ethnic and religious background, making the Baha’i Faith the second most widespread religion in the world, after Christianity, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Baha’is view the world’s major religions as part of a single, progressive process through which God reveals His will to humanity. Baha’u’llah (1817 – 1892), the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, is recognized by Baha’is as the most recent in a line of Divine Messengers that includes Abraham, Krishna, Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus Christ and Muhammad.
The central theme of Baha’u’llah’s message is that humanity is one single race and that it is imperative, for the security and prosperity of all, that it resolve to move toward a united, global civilization. Baha’is believe in the harmony between science and religion, the equality of women and men, the elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty, the common origin and unity of purpose of all world religions, and the elimination of all forms of prejudice.