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August 14, 2011

Question: Do we have a moral duty to bring others to faith?

Most of the world’s great religions encourage their members to spread the message of their faith by word and by deed: to teach the faith and to live the life. Such a moral duty follows naturally from belief in an omniscient, all-powerful, supremely loving Divine Being who desires to communicate His will to humanity.

Bahá’ís believe that a rational, loving God desires to make Himself known to humanity through the Prophets or “Divine Manifestations,” who embody supreme love for humanity, but who also express the divine Will, revealed through “progressive revelation,” the periodical but co-ordinated appearance of a series of Divine Messengers who reveal the various holy books according to the needs of an evolving humanity.

We believe that the twin messengers, the Báb (the Gate) (1819-1850) and Bah’u’lláh (the Glory of God) (1817-1892), are the latest, authentic True Prophets for our age, whose teachings are designed to establish a richly diverse but united world community, based on the oneness of mankind and the unity of religion, their essential teachings. Naturally we feel an urgent duty to share the news of this latest revelation, particularly at such a critical juncture in mankind’s troubled history.

However, certain restrictions apply. Bahá’ís are exhorted to teach their faith passionately, but courteously and wisely. The listener should be open and receptive. Proselytizing is forbidden. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, (Servant of Glory) (1844-1921), the son and successor of Bah’u’lláh, wrote in The Secret of Divine Civilization: “Nothing in the world can ever be supported by words alone” (p. 56). Consequently, we are encouraged to teach by the most effective means — example: “O Son of Dust! Verily I say unto thee: Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother. Say, O brethren! Let deeds, not words, be your adorning” (Persian Hidden Words, no. 5).

While we are always ready to engage in faith-based conversations, we are prohibited from quarrelling with people of other faiths. Consultation is recommended. Nor do we condemn followers of our sister religions or take an exclusive stance of moral or doctrinal superiority over other faiths. Ours remains an invitation, timely but urgent. -  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen August 14, 2011
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