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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of
Growth and
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

The National Spiritual Assembly

The same basic rules governing elections and decision-making are followed in the constitution and operation of Bahá'í governing councils at the national and international levels. National governing councils, known as National Spiritual Assemblies, are formed whenever there is a sufficient base of local Bahá'í communities in a given country or territory.

Accordingly, as the Faith has grown, so have the number of National Spiritual Assemblies. In 1954, for example, there were just 12 National Spiritual Assemblies. By 1992, there were 165 National Spiritual Assemblies around the world--in nearly every country.

The same basic procedures outlined for the election of local Spiritual Assemblies are followed in electing National Spiritual Assemblies: no nominations are permitted, campaigning is forbidden, spiritual capacity is emphasized, and those men and women who receive the most votes are elected.

In this case, however, the voters are delegates to a national convention and they may vote for any adult Bahá'í residing in the country. These delegates are chosen each year in a secret ballot by the adult Bahá'ís who reside within specially defined electoral districts. The districts cover the entire country.

Just as the men and women serving on local Spiritual Assemblies oversee Bahá'í community affairs within a municipal locality, National Spiritual Assemblies are charged with guiding and coordinating Bahá'í activities within a given country. Their tasks range from the initiation and administration of large-scale social and economic development projects to book publishing; from overseeing relations with their respective national governments to the coordination of collaboration with other religious groups and non-governmental organizations.

The Universal House of Justice

At the head of the Bahá'í administrative structure stands the Universal House of Justice, the international governing council of the Bahá'í Faith. Composed of nine individuals, the Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by the combined membership of all of the world's National Spiritual Assemblies.

The process of election is much the same as for local and National Spiritual Assemblies: there are no nominations, campaigning is forbidden, and the nine persons who receive the most votes are elected. As with local and national elections, voters are expected to consider only individuals of recognized ability and spiritual capacity.

The entire election process is a powerful expression of democratic ideals. Although it is an international institution, the Universal House of Justice is nevertheless surprisingly close to the grassroots. The final election of the Universal House of Justice is just three steps away from the local level: every adult Bahá'í is eligible to participate in the election of a "district" delegate; district delegates in turn elect the members of their respective National Spiritual Assemblies; and the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies around the world in turn elect the Universal House of Justice.

Bahá'u'lláh Himself established the institution of the Universal House of Justice, and it occupies a unique position in the Bahá'í administrative order. Bahá'ís understand that its decision-making on spiritual matters is unerringly guided by God.

Bahá'u'lláh's teachings are the foundation of Bahá'í belief and practice. The Universal House of Justice has the authority to legislate on all matters which Bahá'u'lláh Himself did not address. If, for example, the development of some future technology poses a moral question which was unknown at the time of Bahá'u'lláh, it would fall to the Universal House of Justice to determine how to address that question. In this way, Bahá'ís believe, the Bahá'í Faith will continue to be guided by God until such time as the next Manifestation of God appears--an event which Bahá'u'lláh said will not occur before the passing of no less than a thousand years.

"The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men. The ocean of divine wisdom surgeth within this exalted word, while the books of the world cannot contain its inner significance." -- Bahá'u'lláh

It is important to note that, like members of national and local Assemblies, individual members of the Universal House of Justice have no power or authority on their own--however respected and honored as individuals they may be. Only when they are gathered together, meeting officially as the Universal House of Justice, are they considered to be divinely inspired. The cult of personality has been entirely avoided.

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"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."

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Photo from page 44
The National Spiritual Assembly of Zaire.

Photo from page 46
Members of the first Universal House of Justice, as elected in 1963.







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