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Baha’i elections

O my God! O Thou Who endowest every just power and equitable dominion with abiding glory and everlasting might, with permanence and stability, with constancy and honour! Aid Thou by Thy heavenly grace every government that acteth justly towards its subjects and every sovereign authority, derived from Thee, that shieldeth the poor and the weak under the banner of its protection.

I beseech Thee, by Thy divine grace and surpassing bounty, to aid this just government, the canopy of whose authority is spread over vast and mighty lands and the evidences of whose justice are apparent in its prosperous and flourishing regions. Assist, O my God, its hosts, raise aloft its ensigns, bestow influence upon its word and its utterance, protect its lands, increase its honour, spread its fame, reveal its signs, and unfurl its banner through Thine all-subduing power and Thy resplendent might in the kingdom of creation.

Thou, verily, aidest whomsoever Thou willest, and Thou, verily, art the Almighty, the Most Powerful.

— ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“… reference to personalities before the election would give rise to misunderstanding and differences. What the [Baha’is] should do is to get thoroughly acquainted with one another, to exchange views, to mix freely and discuss among themselves the requirements and qualifications for such a membership without reference or application, however indirect, to particular individuals. We should refrain from influencing the opinion of others … – Shoghi Effendi, from a letter to the Spiritual Assembly of Akron, Ohio, published in the United States Baha’i Newsletter, June 1927, no. 18, p. 9.

“These Spiritual Assemblies are shining lamps and heavenly gardens, from which the fragrances of holiness are diffused over all regions, and the lights of knowledge are shed abroad over all created things. From them the spirit of life streameth in every direction.”

Abdu’l-BahaSelections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 80.

“I feel I must reaffirm the vital importance and necessity of the right of voting—a sacred responsibility of which no adult recognized believer should be deprived … This distinguishing right which the believer possesses, however, does not carry with it nor does it imply an obligation to cast his vote, if he feels that the circumstances under which he lives do not justify or allow him to exercise that right intelligently and with understanding. This is a matter which should be left to the individual to decide for himself according to his own conscience and discretion …”

Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America: Selected Letters and Cablegrams Addressed to the Baha’is of North America 1932-1946, pp. 3-4.

UHJ. December 1989. “The Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections

“Fostering a Spiritual Attitude towards Elections”

From Letters Written by or on Behalf of Shoghi Effendi

“On the election day, the friends must whole-heartedly participate in the elections, in unity and amity, turning their hearts to God, detached from all things but Him, seeking His guidance and supplicating His aid and bounty.”

27 February l923 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the East

“Such a rectitude of conduct must manifest itself, with ever-increasing potency, in every verdict which the elected representatives of the Bahá’í community, in whatever capacity they may find themselves, may be called upon to pronounce…. It must be exemplified in the conduct of all Bahá’í electors, when exercising their sacred rights and functions….”

(25 December 1938 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the United States
and Canada, published as The Advent of Divine Justice (Wilmette: Bahá’í
Publishing Trust, 1984), p. 26)

“The aim should always be so to educate the friends during the year that they consider their participation in Bahá’í elections not only as a right they exercise, but as a spiritual obligation which, when discharged in the proper Bahá’í spirit, contributes to the health and growth of the Bahá’í community.”

(From a memorandum dated 18 June 1980 to the International Teaching Centre)

“Due regard must be paid to their actual capacity and present attainments, and only those who are best qualified for membership, be they men or women, and irrespective of social standing, should be elected to the extremely responsible position of a member of the Bahá’í Assembly.”

(In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter dated 27 December
1923 written on his behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and
Burma, published in “Dawn of a New Day” (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust,
[1970]), p. 4)

“Let us recall His explicit and often repeated assurances that every Assembly elected in that rarefied atmosphere of selflessness and detachment is in truth appointed of God, that its verdict is truly inspired, that one and all should submit to its decision unreservedly and with cheerfulness.”

(23 February 1924 to the Bahá’ís of America, published in “Bahá’í
Administration”, p. 65)

“…I do not feel it to be in keeping with the spirit of the Cause to impose any limitation upon the freedom of the believers to choose those of any race, nationality or temperament who best combine the essential qualifications for membership of administrative institutions. They should disregard personalities and concentrate their attention on the qualities and requirements of office, without prejudice, passion or partiality. The Assembly should be representative of the choicest and most varied and capable elements in every Bahá’í community….”

(In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter dated 11 August 1933
written on his behalf to an individual believer, published in “Bahá’í Institutions” (New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1973), pp. 71-72)

“If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favour of the minority, be it racial or otherwise…. …every organised community, enlisted under the banner of Bahá’u’lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to
nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it. So great and vital is this principle that in such circumstances, as when an equal number of ballots have been cast in an election, or where the qualifications for any office are balanced as between the various races, faiths or nationalities within the community, priority should unhesitatingly be accorded the party representing the minority, and this for no other reason except to stimulate and encourage it, and afford it an opportunity to further the interests of the community….”

(25 December 1938, published as “The Advent of Divine Justice”, p. 35)

“The electors … must prayerfully and devotedly and after meditation and reflection elect faithful, sincere, experienced, capable and competent souls who are worthy of membership….”

(1 July l943 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Persia –translated from the
Persian)

“…concerning the qualifications of the members of the Spiritual Assembly: there is a distinction of fundamental importance which should be always remembered in this connection, and this is between the Spiritual Assembly as an institution, and the persons who compose it. These are by no means supposed to be perfect, nor can they be considered as being inherently superior to the rest of their fellow-believers. It is precisely because they are subject to the same human limitations that characterize the other members of the community that they have to be elected every year. The existence of elections is a sufficient indication that Assembly members, though forming part of an institution that is divine and perfect, are nevertheless themselves imperfect.
But this does not necessarily imply that their judgement is defective….”

(15 November 1935 to individual believers, published in “The Local Spiritual
Assembly”, compiled by the Universal House of Justice (Wilmette: Bahá’í
Publishing Trust, 1970), p. 9)

“It would be impossible at this stage to … overestimate the unique significance of the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly…. Supreme is their position, grave their responsibilities, manifold and arduous their duties. How great the privilege, how delicate the task of the assembled delegates whose function it is to elect such national representatives as
would by their record of service ennoble and enrich the annals of the Cause!… it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience….”

(3 June 1925 to the Delegates and Visitors of the National Convention of the
Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, published in Bahá’í Administration,
pp. 87-88)

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