Teaching Among Aboriginal and Indigenous People
Category: Bahá’í
1:00 h
Teaching Among Aboriginal and Indigenous People is compiled by the Research Department from Extracts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi and on his behalf.

Teaching among Aboriginal and Indigenous People


Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi

© Bahá’í International Community

Extracts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi or from Letters Written on His Behalf

— 1 —

Let anyone who feels the urge among the participators in this crusade, which embraces all the races, all the republics, classes and denominations of the entire Western Hemisphere, arise, and, circumstances permitting, direct in particular the attention, and win eventually the unqualified adherence, of the Negro, the Indian, the Eskimo, and Jewish races to his Faith. No more laudable and meritorious service can be rendered the Cause of God, at the present hour, than a successful effort to enhance the diversity of the members of the American Bahá’í community by swelling the ranks of the Faith through the enrollment of the members of these races. A blending of these highly differentiated elements of the human race, harmoniously interwoven into the fabric of an all-embracing Bahá’í fraternity, and assimilated through the dynamic processes of a divinely appointed Administrative Order, and contributing each its share to the enrichment and glory of Bahá’í community life, is surely an achievement the contemplation of which must warm and thrill every Bahá’í heart.

From a letter 25 December 1938 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada,
The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 54

— 2 —

Smallness of numbers, lack of skilled teachers, and modesty of means should not discourage or deter them. They must remember the glorious history of the Cause, which, both in East and West, was established by dedicated souls who, for the most part, were neither rich, famous, nor well educated, but whose devotion, zeal and self-sacrifice overcame every obstacle and won miraculous victories for the Faith of God. Such spiritual victories can now be won for India and Burma by the friends. Let them dedicate themselves — young and old, men and women alike — and go forth and settle in new districts, travel, and teach in spite of lack of experience, and be assured that Bahá’u’lláh has promised to aid all those who arise in His Name. His strength will sustain them; their own weakness is unimportant.

From a letter 29 June 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma

— 3 —

Many are the souls who, in this Holy Cause, without either worldly means or knowledge, have set ablaze the hearts of others with the divine love and rendered the Faith imperishable services. The Guardian hopes that you will be able to do likewise.

From a letter 5 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer

— 4 —

There is no doubt that the poorer classes should be taught the Cause and given every opportunity to embrace it. More especially in order to demonstrate to people our cardinal lack of prejudice — class prejudice as much as any other kind of prejudice. However, he feels that the great point is to confirm people of true capacity and ability — from whatever social stratum they may be — because the Cause needs now, and will ever increasingly need, souls of great ability who can bring it before the public at large, administer its ever-growing affairs, and contribute to its advancement in every field.

From a letter 30 October 1941 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer

— 5 —

That is perhaps what is most glorious about our present activities all over the world, that we, a band not large in numbers, not possessing financial backing or the prestige of great names, should, in the name of our beloved Faith, be forging ahead at such a pace, and demonstrating to future and present generations that it is the God-given qualities of our religion that are raising it up and not the transient support of worldly fame and power. All that will come later, when it has been made clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that what raised aloft the banner of Bahá’u’lláh was the love, sacrifice and devotion of His humble followers and the change that His teachings wrought in their hearts and lives.

From a letter 20 June 1942 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Aisles
Unfolding Destiny, p. 152

— 6 —

The initial contact already established, in the concluding years of the first Bahá’í century, in obedience to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Mandate, with the Cherokee and Oneida Indians in North Carolina and Wisconsin, with the Patagonian, the Mexican and the Inca Indians, and the Mayans in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Yucatan, respectively, should, as the Latin American Bahá’í communities gain in stature and strength, be consolidated and extended. A special effort should be exerted to secure the unqualified adherence of members of some of these tribes to the Faith, their subsequent election to its councils, and their unreserved support of the organized attempts that will have to be made in the future by the projected national assemblies for the large-scale conversion of Indian races to the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh….

Nor should any of the pioneers, at this early stage in the upbuilding of Bahá’í national communities, overlook the fundamental prerequisite for any successful teaching enterprise, which is to adapt the presentation of the fundamental principles of their Faith to the cultural and religious backgrounds, the ideologies, and the temperament of the divers races and nations whom they are called upon to enlighten and attract. The susceptibilities of these races and nations, from both the northern and southern climes, springing from either the Germanic or Latin stock, belonging to either the Catholic or Protestant communion, some democratic, others totalitarian in outlook, some socialistic, others capitalistic in their tendencies, differing widely in their customs and standards of living, should at all times be carefully considered, and under no circumstances neglected.

From a letter 5 June 1947 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the West Citadel of Faith, p. 16, 25

— 7 —

The primary reason for anyone becoming a Bahá’í must of course be because he has come to believe the doctrines, the teachings and the Order of Bahá’u’allh are the correct thing for this stage in the world’s evolution. The Bahá’ís themselves as a body have one great advantage: They are sincerely convinced Bahá’u’lláh is right; they have a plan; and they are trying to follow it. But to pretend they are perfect, that the Bahá’ís of the future will not be a hundred times more mature, better balanced, more exemplary in their conduct, would be foolish.

From a letter 5 July 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer

— 8 —

The news of the very successful Congress held in Santiago pleased him very much. Now that more of the Latin believers are active and beginning to assume responsibilities, the work will go forward on a more permanent foundation, as pioneers from a foreign land can never take the place of native believers who must always constitute the bedrock of any future development of the Faith in their country.

From a letter 30 January 1948 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer

— 9 —

great patience must be used in dealing with the childlike members of some of these primitive races. They are innocent in heart and have certainly had a very bad example, in many Christians, of a purely mercenary approach to religion, but if their hearts and minds once become illumined with the Faith they could make very fine believers.

From a letter 29 April 1948 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles
Unfolding Destiny, p. 213

— 10 —

We can truly say that this Cause is a cause that enables people to achieve the impossible! For the Bahá’ís, everywhere, for the most part, are people with no great distinguishments of either wealth or fame, and yet once they make the effort and go forth in the name of Bahá’u’lláh to spread His Faith, they become, each one, as efficacious as a host! Witness what Mustafa Raumie accomplished in Burma, and a handful of pioneers achieved, in a decade, in Latin America! It is the quality of devotion and self-sacrifice that brings rewards in the service of this Faith rather than means, ability or financial backing.

From a letter 11 May 1948 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand
Letters to Australia and New Zealand, p. 70

— 11 —

The work being done by various Bahá’ís, including our dear Indian believer who returned from the United States in order to pioneer amongst his own people, in teaching the Canadian Indians, is one of the most important fields of activity under your jurisdiction. The Guardian hopes that ere long many of these original Canadians will take an active part in Bahá’í affairs and arise to redeem their brethren from the obscurity and despondency into which they have fallen.

From a letter 23 June 1950 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada Messages to Canada, p. 16

— 12 —

Bahá’í institutions, must be paralleled by a deeper thrust of the roots which sustain the spiritual life of the community and ensure its sound development. From this vital, this ever-present need, attention must at no time be diverted; nor must it be, under any circumstances, neglected, or subordinated to the no less vital and urgent task of ensuring the outer expansion of Bahá’í administrative institutions. That this community … may maintain a proper balance between these two essential aspects of its development, and march forward with rapid strides and along sound lines toward the goal of the Plan it has adopted, is the ardent hope of my heart…

From a letter 30 December 1948 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand
Letters to Australia and New Zealand, p. 76

— 13 —

Shoghi Effendi is also most anxious for the Message to reach the aboriginal inhabitants of the Americas. These people, for the most part downtrodden and ignorant, should receive from the Bahá’ís a special measure of love, and every effort be made to teach them. Their enrollment in the Faith will enrich them and us and demonstrate our principle of the Oneness of Man far better than words or the wide conversion of the ruling races ever can.

From a letter 11 July 1951 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Meso-America and the Antilles

— 14 —

Your Assembly is called upon to direct and safeguard the activities of our Faith in a truly vast and impressive area. But the very newness of the work, the room for spiritual conquest, the great need of the people, both aboriginal and European in origin, to hear of Bahá’u’lláh, is stimulating and challenging, and must call forth the best in every believer.

The Guardian feels that special efforts must be made to enrol the primitive peoples of South America in the Cause. These souls, often so exploited and despised, deserve to hear of the Faith, and will become a great asset to it once their hearts are enlightened.

From a letter 11 July 1951 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of South America

— 15 —

He was very pleased to hear of initial steps you have taken to teach the Indians.

He adds one suggestion (he does not know if it is practicable or not): can contact not be made with Indians who have become fore or less absorbed into the life of the white element of the country and live in or visit the big cities? These people, finding Bahá’ís sincerely lacking in either prejudice — or that even worse attitude, condescension — might not only take interest in our Teachings, but also help us to reach their people in the proper way.

It is a great mistake to believe that because people are illiterate or live primitive lives, they are lacking in either intelligence or sensibility. On the contrary, they may well look on us, with the evils of our civilization, with its moral corruption, its ruinous wars, its hypocrisy and conceit, as people who merit watching with both suspicion and contempt. We should meet them as equals, well-wishers, people who admire and respect their ancient descent, and who feel that they will be interested, as we are, in a living religion and not in the dead forms of present-day churches.

From a letter 21 September 1951 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Comite Nacional de ensenanza Bahá’í #los indigenas

— 16 —

The Guardian was most happy to hear of the excellent work some of the Bahá’ís are doing with the Eskimos and the Indians, and considers their spirit most exemplary. They are rendering a far greater service than they, themselves, are aware of, the fruits of which will be seen, not only in Canada, but because of their repercussions, in other countries where primitive populations must be taught.

From a letter 8 June 1952 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada Messages to Canada, p. 28

— 17 —

Ocean 2.0 Reader. Empty coverOcean 2.0 Reader. Book is closedOcean 2.0 Reader. FilterOcean 2.0 Reader. Compilation cover