Bahá’ís from Samoa and American Samoa are meeting on the grounds of the Bahá’í House of Worship this weekend at the 49th National Convention.
The principle twofold purpose of this annual forum is to give an opportunity to the delegates, elected by secret ballot to represent the districts from which they come, to consult on the affairs of the Bahá’í Faith in the Samoan archipelago and to elect the members of the National Spiritual Assembly.
Members of the outgoing national governing council recently returned from Haifa, Israel, where they consulted on the affairs of the Faith at the global level and participated in the election of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing council of the Bahá’í world community.
Following the election of the Universal House of Justice on the first morning of the Convention, the delegates spent the next three days consulting on how the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are finding concrete expression in their communities and societies. They also explored how insights from this process can be offered to those in the world who are interested in building unity and peace.
Many delegates attributed the growing opportunities before their communities to the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, which was accompanied by an upwelling of support from public figures and dignitaries, as well as from countless neighbours, friends, and co-workers who attended the festivities.
The delegates at the international convention also reflected on how the institutions on which they serve can increasingly nurture environments in which individuals and communities are empowered and grow in capacity to take action for the betterment of the world.
Delegates spent the final morning in a rich consultation about the involvement of Bahá’í communities in the life of their societies. In particular, they discussed their communities’ experience with social and economic development endeavours as well as their participation in forums and settings where contemporary issues of concern to their societies are being considered by government and civil society organizations.
In its annual message to the Bahá’ís of the world, the Universal House of Justice begins by recalling the memorable events in communities all over the world that marked the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Here in Samoa, the Bahá’ís celebrated the birth of Bahá’u’lláh in villages throughout the two Samoas and held national services at the Bahá’í House of Worship.
“Light to the World,” a film released to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, tells the story of humanity’s progress through history, propelled by the teachings of Messengers of God Who have guided humanity through its stages of development, and now to the dawn of its maturity.
Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings for this age represent an end to division and otherness, through which – at long last – the oneness of humankind can be realized. On their first evening, delegates to the national convention in Samoa watched a new film commissioned by the Universal House of Justice. “A Widening Embrace” is about the community-building efforts of the Bahá’í world community, as seen through the eyes of local populations.
A Widening Embrace has been produced through a creative, grassroots process in which teams of often young people have documented the efforts of their own communities around the world to effect social change.
Drawing on footage taken by those teams over the course of a year, the film tells a story of transformation unfolding in twenty-four communities representing different realities and contexts. It focuses on three main themes: universal participation as a path toward collective prosperity, the vital role of young people in the transformation of society, and the emergence of a range of social and economic development initiatives that spring up from the spiritual aspirations of a population.
Delegates to this year’s national convention will be discussing some of these same themes, consulting on how to advance the social and economic wellbeing of their communities and foster higher levels of unity among an ever-widening circle of friends.