“Once human resources in a cluster are in sufficient abundance, and the pattern of growth firmly established,” wrote the Universal House of Justice in its 2010 Ridvan Message, “the community’s engagement with society can, and indeed must, increase.” How? The same paragraph provides two avenues, namely the “interconnected, mutually reinforcing” concepts of social action and public discourse.
A great example of social action comes to us from Bahá’ís in Springdale, Arkansas (A-stage), who organized a "Steps to College Success" presentation which was attended by approximately twenty Marshallese* youth and eight adults.
All were very attentive and learned many concrete steps to take for high school preparation for college. They also studied two quotations from our sacred writings which pertain to the spiritual significance of both work and education. It was inspiring to see so many young Marshallese students so enthusiastic and serious about their future possibilities. After the meeting many expressed their gratitude and appreciation.
We truly have gems in our Marshallese youth, and their dreams for professions in the fields of nursing, teaching, police work, heart surgery, and piloting airplanes are very much alive. It is the work of all of us in the cluster to support these dreams with concrete help, with filling out college and financial aid and scholarship applications, and with offering tutoring for the more difficult college prep math and science courses these students will take. They know that we are their resources, and that they can call on those Bahá’ís who have been to college to help them navigate the system.
Most appropriately conceived in terms of a spectrum, social action can range from fairly informal efforts of limited duration undertaken by individuals or small groups of friends to programmes of social and economic development with a high level of complexity and sophistication implemented by Bahá’í-inspired organizations. Irrespective of its scope and scale, all social action seeks to apply the teachings and principles of the Faith to improve some aspect of the social or economic life of a population, however modestly. Such endeavors are distinguished, then, by their stated purpose to promote the material well-being of the population, in addition to its spiritual welfare. That the world civilization now on humanity’s horizon must achieve a dynamic coherence between the material and spiritual requirements of life is central to the Bahá’í teachings. Clearly this ideal has profound implications for the nature of any social action pursued by Bahá’ís, whatever its scope and range of influence. (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 2010)
*According to an article in the Daily Headlines page of the University of Arkansas (http://dailyheadlines.uark.edu/8805.htm), the Marshall Islands has a population of about 60,000 -- and there are several thousand Marshallese people living in northwest Arkansas, most heavily concentrated in Springdale.