Thursday, 13 February 2020

We are all in this together

A previously unknown strain of Coronavirus has appeared in the city of Wuhan in China, and seems to be spreading rapidly. It is known to have killed over 1,300 people so far. While the medical world is trying to learn how this particular virus works, how it spreads, and how to defeat it medically, the rest of us could also be learning from this outbreak: about what it means for humanity, and how the world should be organised, to be better prepared for unforeseen problems such as this.

One thing this outbreak apparently confirms is that mankind is biologically – and therefore essentially – one. Each type of virus is species-specific. A virus has a complex life-cycle, and generally can only function within creatures of one species. Occasionally, a virus does successfully transfer into another species, as happened here, but in most cases that jump is simply impossible – the virus cannot function. So the rapid spread of this new strain among human beings from various parts of the world confirms what scientists already knew – that, despite superficial differences in hair colour, skin colour and eye colour, we are all one species.

This consciousness of all mankind being one, and needing to unite to overcome all our problems and challenges, is central to Bahá’í thinking. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, Abdu’l-Bahá, wrote an explanatory piece, “The Seven Candles of Unity” on how unity will develop amongst mankind. The “second candle”, He wrote, “is unity of thought in world undertakings, the consummation of which will erelong be witnessed.” Combatting the potentially world-wide spread of this new virus is potentially a world undertaking. But have we yet achieved unity of thought in the best way of combatting it? Different governments seem to be adopting different approaches. Are we now seeing signs that we must all work together, as one?

We have also now learned that excessive efforts to control news media, and even personal communication, led to the inability of doctors to even tell other doctors that there was a new virus to fight. Dr Li Wen-Liang and seven other people were forced to sign a statement that they would stop spreading “rumours” of a new disease. Dr Li has unfortunately now died from this virus, at the age of 33. In the eyes of local officials, the lid had to be put on the truth. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “third candle” is “unity in freedom, which will surely come to pass.” One part of freedom has to be the freedom to express oneself (provided, of course, you are not making personal attacks on others).

The rapid spread of the new virus also shows how interconnected we now all are. It transpires that many hundreds of people from outside China were to be found in the city of Wuhan. Within a few weeks, cases of the virus have been confirmed in 28 countries, and suspected in another 12. People with the virus have been unwittingly taking it across the globe. In addition, there are now many cases of factories in various parts of the world which are short of component parts which are normally supplied from China. The extended New Year holiday, intended to slow the spread of the virus, has meant that the parts have not been manufactured or exported.

It is interesting to note that when Bahá’u’lláh wrote to many of the rulers of His time, one of the things which He recommended was that, instead of spending huge amounts on ever-increasing arsenals, governments should spend money on healing the sicknesses of mankind. The coronavirus story is showing us the need to have some form of world government. The World Health Organisation is having to beg governments for several million dollars which it badly needs, to spend on fighting this new, rapidly-spreading outbreak. As is the case with the need to prevent warfare and to restrict climate change, there is a necessity for a world government which will perceive the urgency of the situation, and act upon it.

In some ways, however inadequately, this new world crisis is pushing countries which previously had competing interests towards sharing information, and co-operating. We are all in this together. As Bahá’u’lláh put it: “This earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Building peace after war

The Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the largest countries in Africa, has also had one of the unhappiest experiences in the last twenty years. Between 1998 and 2003, armies from nine other countries supported one side or the other in the second civil war, which caused the deaths of over five million people. The centre and east of the country are still unstable now. For a number of reasons, central government has been largely unable to achieve any progress. However, this is a country in which the Bahá’í community has gone from strength to strength. One of the most fundamental Bahá’í principles is the oneness of all mankind, transcending nationality, race, tribe, gender, language, religious affiliation and similar divisions. The Bahá’ís of the Congo have recently begun to organise meetings between representatives of the different villages and tribes, to see if they can replace hatred and distrust with co-operation and friendship. The biggest such meeting, in Kekenge, was broadcast live on local radio. Chiefs from about sixty villages in Kasai province, in the centre of the country, came together to discuss how to move forward, based on the Bahá’í principle of the oneness of humanity.

The Bahá’í thesis is that all human beings are essentially one family. This needs to be accepted as a starting point, together with the idea of moving forward spiritually, socially and economically. One of Bahá’u’lláh’s prayers begins: “O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household… Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home…” The gathering in Kasai province was over three days, during which understanding could begin to develop between the chiefs of hostile villages, which were at war with one another only a year ago.

The Bahá’í community does not believe that announcing lofty principles will necessarily, by itself, turn the world into a paradise. Various types of action are required, at various levels . Effort goes into building up the Bahá’í community itself, which now consists of several million people from widely different cultural, racial and religious backgrounds. By this very example, Bahá’ís are changing people’s concept of what is possible. Lambert Kashama, a leading administrative official in Kasai province, described what drew him to this conference: “During the period of tribal conflict that Kakenge and its surroundings experienced, I would see Baha’is from the two opposing tribes working together and coming to consult with me about what was to be done to restore peace. This is why I have come here today to understand more about these teachings.”

Bahá’ís also put effort into what are termed the “discourses in society” – discussion with interested parties on various issues. Bahá’ís try to contribute in discussions with government departments, inter-faith meetings, and especially global conferences, in the hope of influencing the thinking of policy-makers towards ideas of unity. The meetings with chiefs and others in rural parts of the (DR) Congo take this line of action to the grass roots, by talking to those literally on the front line.

It seems as if this approach, based on replacing people’s prejudices with a wider vision and higher principles, has worked. Jean-Baptiste Shamba, who is chief of the Nkinda Katenge village, decided at the conference that as soon as he returned to his community, he would gather every person whom he had previously seen as an enemy in order to make peace and seek mutual pardon. “Following these teachings,” he said at the conference, “I will reconcile the rancour that I have with my brothers. Our conflict was based on ignorance. Henceforth we will speak as friends for the good of our community.”

At another of these meetings, held in Bukavu, in the south of the country, twenty-six chiefs signed a statement which included these words: “We have seen that the world is evolving. We will no longer guide our people in darkness, now that the light has appeared through these teachings, which we shall never forget.”

One of the specific ideas introduced by the Bahá’ís in organising these meetings was that of the equality of the sexes. Many chiefs went back to their villages and called for a meeting of all the women, realising that this half of the population had to be involved if any lasting result were to be achieved. By involving the entire community in each village, there is a very realistic hope that in each region where this process has been set in motion, a lasting peace and prosperity will be built after a terrible war.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Onwards and upwards…

Recent events and current trends may have made many people feel despondent for the future, but, despite the wealth of problems, the world can still move forward. Yes, we have some underlying and pressing needs, too many to list them all here, but which include our treatment of the environment, the continuing wars, and various social problems.

Firstly, the climate change conference which took place recently in Madrid has not been seen as a great success. The world is still heading towards a temperature increase of 3°C above its pre-industrial levels. Whatever the results of the conference, there is general agreement that we need to curb, and even reverse, our current level of exploitation of fossil fuels. There is an increasing feeling among the world’s population that we all need to use less. Despite the comparative failure of the conference, we can still each individually work towards reducing global warming, perhaps by following the advice of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Who said: “Take from this world only to the measure of your needs, and forgo that which exceedeth them.”

Meanwhile, here in the United Kingdom, the country seems finally poised to leave the political and economic bloc of which it has been a member for over forty years. For many British people, leaving the European Union will be the realisation of a long-held ambition to renew their independence. But many others see it as a backward step, moving away from a close trading relationship and a collective identity with Europe. Whatever one’s views are on this particular bloc, what we really need is free trade and co-operation across the whole world. This would help to make all the countries of the world more equal in their income levels. We also need to recognise the oneness of the entire human race and, alongside this, the common origin of all the religions. Each of these three changes would by itself increase human happiness. As Bahá’u’lláh put it: “Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other.” Unity, brotherhood and equality are our future.

However, at the current time, people across the world are still suffering from the effects of war. Different ethnic, tribal, religious or political groups try to impose their will on others, or engage in what they see as necessary self-defence. Not only do the combatants suffer from the results of their actions, but so do the innocent, particularly the old people, the women and children. Death, injury, disability and deprivation all follow from these conflicts. What is really needed – as previously mentioned - is for all of mankind to be seen as one people, and for the whole earth to be seen as one country. Bahá’u’lláh said: “It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”

On a more limited scale, one worrying factor in human life at the present time is the amount of crime and senseless violence which afflicts many areas, but especially the inner cities. The causes of this behaviour are complex and are endlessly debated by those seeking to understand it, but it ruins the lives of victims and their families, not to mention the perpetrators and their families. The real needs of society are to be found in a completely different direction from the self-centred behaviour of the criminal or the impulsive responses of those lacking in self-worth. Humanity needs more open-hearted friendship, more honesty, and for everyone to be included in useful employment. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who was Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, urged:  “Let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.”

At a time when communication between individuals across the world is becoming easier than ever, and is rapidly developing new forms and new channels, new challenges are arising. On “social” media there seems to be an epidemic of anti-social content, with people being unpleasant about others and towards others. Meanwhile, vested interests, which wish to manipulate things in particular ways, circulate fake news, and then proceed to dismiss anything proven by honest and open journalism as being itself “fake”. What is really needed is for each person to have a positive view of their own worth, for each human being to have a positive view of the worth of every other person, and for everybody to have a positive view of those groups which are undervalued, such as racial, cultural or tribal minorities, those whose behaviour is outside the norm, and those who are disabled or disadvantaged in some way. We must always choose our words with care. According to Bahá’u’lláh, “One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world,” and again: “One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison.” When we put finger to keyboard or screen, we should aim to cheer and encourage others, not to denigrate and dismiss them.

At times, it can seem as if the negative forces which are leading to social disintegration and unhappiness are overwhelming. But the positive forces will win in the end. We can each make a difference. As individuals, it is our responsibility to make all our actions and words positive ones, so that these negative forces can be overcome. The power of example should not be underestimated. We must stand up and consciously work for the unity of humanity, so that the whole planet shares in a glorious future. We must be tirelessly helping to lead mankind onwards and upwards…

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Two book-makers with faces the same

As a small child I was fascinated by books, and apparently used to read at the same time as I was (slowly) getting dressed in the morning! When my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I allegedly replied, “Me and Stephen are going to be two book-makers with faces the same.” By “book-makers” I obviously meant producers of books, and naturally I never actually consulted my younger brother on this!

When I was a new Bahá’í, in my early twenties, the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Birmingham asked me if I would like to take over the running of their book sales. I accepted the suggestion, and I have been selling books ever since. When my wife Ann and I moved to the Warwick District, the new Bahá’í group set up the Warwick Bahá’í Bookshop. We were soon invited to be an official Bahá’í book agency, selling books over a wide area of the Midlands - at conferences and weekend schools, for example. When I was a new Bahá’í, I used to read every Bahá’í leaflet or pamphlet I could obtain, preferring these “bite-sized chunks” to adult-sized volumes, and now part of our work as a book agency was selling these same leaflets.

In 1989, by which time we had moved to Southam, there was a hiccup in the supply of leaflets. People were ringing us up, asking for leaflets, but we were simply unable to obtain them – virtually every popular title had been allowed to go out of print! Ann said, “I wonder if we could write our own,” followed by, “I expect we could find a printer in Leamington to produce them – or maybe even in Southam!” So we found a printer (Clintplan Ltd) in Southam, and started writing our own leaflets. Ann designed a logo, and we were off! Our leaflets were also sold to Bahá’ís in other countries; many of them were even reprinted in the United States and in Australia. Over time, we produced more than sixty different leaflets. Steadily the number of individual leaflets sold also pushed ahead, passing the one million mark in 2016!

What are the leaflets for? Basically, they are a means of passing a bit of information on the Bahá’í Faith to people who know little or nothing about it. Some leaflets are general introductions, and try to give an overall picture of Bahá’í history, teachings and philosophy, but diluted down to get it onto what is essentially two sides of a sheet of A4 paper. Not an easy task, and you have to miss out so much! However, most of the leaflets we write are about one specific area, such as “Health and Healing”, “Caring for the Environment” or “The Way to World Peace”. Such leaflets are like holding a magnifying glass to one part of the Bahá’í teachings, and are helpful to Bahá’ís as well as to enquirers. They can also be used when Bahá’ís and their friends get together, each with a copy of the same leaflet, and study the topic together.

In 2012, the second edition of my simple introductory book, (imaginatively entitled “The Bahá’í Faith”), was due to be published by a proper publishing house. However, a set of unforeseen circumstances forced us to publish it by ourselves. Ann did the editing, and Clintplan organised all the technical side. This was then the beginning of another strand of publishing. It is now 2019, and we already have twelve small books published - four written by our daughter - all with ISBNs and attractive covers, and we sell them in significant numbers to Bahá’í distributors and suppliers in other English-speaking countries.

And what are the booklets about? “The Bahá’í Faith” is an illustrated introduction, originally meant for young people. Our daughter’s four books are 32-page short biographies, telling the reader “The Life of the Báb” or “The Life of Bahá’u’lláh”, for example. Almost every one of our titles is meant to give a simple, affordable and readable introduction to an aspect of the Bahá’í Faith. Most cost just 50p or £1! Generally, the Bahá’ís buy them for their children, to give away to their friends, or to lay out for people to take from Bahá’í stalls at public events.

There are a number of Bahá’í principles related to literature. “Independent investigation of truth” often appears first in a list of Bahá’u’lláh’s principles. Each individual has the right – or even duty – to investigate the truth for himself or herself. Freedom of speech and freedom of conscience are also Bahá’í principles. Alongside these basic principles, people who work in publishing non-fiction have a duty to investigate and publish the truth. As Bahá’u’lláh Himself put it: “The pages of swiftly-appearing newspapers are indeed the mirror of the world… endowed with hearing, sight and speech. It behoveth the writers thereof to be purged from the promptings of evil passions and desires and to be attired with the raiment of justice and equity. They should enquire into situations as much as possible and ascertain the facts, then set them down in writing.”

Another part of Bahá’u’lláh’s blueprint for the world is that the governments should choose either an existing language or a newly-created one as an auxiliary language, to be taught in all the schools of the world, alongside the mother tongue of each area. This would enable a traveller to talk to people wherever he/she went. Bahá’u’lláh also suggested that all the world’s literature should be translated into this common language, enabling us all to share in the world’s literary heritage: “O members of parliaments throughout the world! Select ye a single language for the use of all on earth, and adopt ye likewise a common script… This will be the cause of unity, could ye but comprehend it, and the greatest instrument for promoting harmony and civilisation.”

This development is still for the future, so at present we sell our books to predominately English-speaking countries such as Australia, South Africa and the United States of America. However, as part of the Bahá’í ideal that the world should become one, we are always happy to give permission to the Bahá’ís in other countries to translate our publications into their local languages (should they so wish), and demand no royalty for the Warwick Bookshop. One of our authors, who is entitled to a personal royalty, asks these other countries if they can afford to support a charity working in overseas development, instead of paying her personally.

And what of my brother Stephen? He has also recently become involved in the publishing of Bahá’í books. There is a talented and original Bahá’í artist living in Bristol, who has copiously illustrated over two dozen books either of Bahá’í Scripture or of quotations, with often stunning results. The quotation books are on themes, such as “Oneness” or “Mindfulness”, which speak to thoughtful people. Steve was appalled to learn that, following the death of the original owner of the publishing house used by the artist, the stock of each title was being run down, with no plans to reprint them. Steve and his wife Becky invested money into the reprinting of these illustrated works and have put time and effort into making them available to the wider world. Although my professional career was as a schoolteacher, and Stephen’s was in the world of examination boards, we have both accidentally ended up as “book-makers”, although whether our faces are the same, I will leave it for you to judge!

Friday, 1 November 2019

Two hundred years sounds like a long time

The Bahá’í community worldwide is currently celebrating the Bicentenary of the birth of the Báb. The word “Báb” means Door or Gate, and this young man, born in Persia in 1819, chose this title for Himself, as He claimed to be the Door or Gate leading to the Promised One of all religions. 

The Báb was born in the city of Shiraz, and was sent to a religious school to learn about the Qur’an. However, His teacher took the boy back home, saying that the child’s knowledge and understanding were far greater than his own. However, His uncle, who was the boy’s guardian, insisted that the child go through school. In His teens, He began to work in the family business, buying and selling things, and was known for being scrupulously honest and fair. 

In May, 1844, the Báb declared to His first disciple that He was the Gate to a new age. The promised World Teacher would very soon appear, and change the world into a new world. His voluminous Writings extolled the greatness of the Creator, and presented a fresh way of looking at religion. He announced certain new laws for His followers, and swept away many of the accumulated beliefs and practices of the time.

Eighteen disciples gathered around Him, and were each given a specific role – to travel to a certain province or country, and to announce that the Báb had come. The rapid success of the new movement led to some of the clergy seeing it as a threat. From that time on, the Báb Himself was a marked man. He was detained, put under house arrest, and taken under armed guard to a remote fortress in the mountains. However, His religion continued to grow, and the clergy and state authorities decided to have Him killed.

He was fastened high above the ground, using ropes suspended from the wall of the barracks, so that everyone could see Him die. He was to be killed by firing squad. One of His disciples begged to be killed with Him, and the authorities allowed this to happen. The details of their deaths are extraordinary, as related to us by those present. He  was taken from His cell while He was still giving His last instructions to His secretary. The colonel in charge of the regiment sensed that the Báb was a saintly person, and begged to be relieved from the responsibility of the execution. The Báb reassured the colonel that God could prevent him from being in the least bit guilty of His execution, and so He was taken into the barracks square. The Báb and His devoted follower were tied to one another by ropes, high on the wall, to give the soldiers a clear target. A regiment of 750 soldiers was lined up in three rows, and ordered to fire. The muskets produced a lot of noise and dense clouds of smoke. Thousands of people had come to see this important event. When the smoke cleared, it turned out that the musket balls had only severed the ropes. The young follower, who had begged to be allowed to die, was standing on the ground, looking bewildered, but the Báb was nowhere to be seen. After a frantic search, they found Him back in the prison cell, finishing His conversation with His secretary. The Báb said that He was now ready to die. But the colonel had had enough! He had wanted nothing to do with this anyway, and he now marched his men out of the square, announcing that he had done what he had been ordered to do. They had to bring another regiment of soldiers out of the barracks for the second attempt, and they were now lined up as a new firing squad.

This time, when the clouds of smoke had finally cleared, the people could see that the two bodies had been severely mangled by the musket shots. However, their faces were virtually untouched. The bodies were thrown into the moat around the city, but by the next morning, His followers had managed to spirit them away. The basic details of this event were reported not just by the British consul, and by other Europeans who witnessed them, but were also recorded by the Muslim clergy who were present, who confirmed that the Báb somehow managed to escape the first volley of shots!

The Báb had declared a new stage in religion, and had stressed that the Promised One of all religions was soon to appear. Bahá’u’lláh, Whom Bahá’ís believe was that Promised One, declared His message in 1863. He built upon the religion of the Báb, and brought new teachings for the new age. He also gave instructions as to where the remains of the Báb (and the devoted follower who died with Him) should be buried. Bahá’u’lláh was exiled several times, finally to the Holy Land, and it was on the slopes of Mount Carmel (Haifa) that the spot was chosen. In the following years, a Shrine for the remains of the Báb has been erected, and appears in the photograph I have chosen for this blog post.

Two hundred years sounds like a long time, but the spiritual principles proclaimed by the Báb and the social principles given to us by Bahá’u’lláh have not yet been implemented across the world. A world government, the realisation of the oneness of mankind, the equality of men and women; universal education, freedom of conscience, and measures to bring about world peace; a common second language, the harmony of religion and science, a fairer economic system…. Perhaps two hundred years is not such a long time after all.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Eating for the future

Many people have been out on the streets protesting that governments should do something about climate change, but there are also many things that we can do as individuals to reduce the threat of global warming. One of these is being careful about what we eat. A short while ago, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change produced a report suggesting that the current food choices of mankind collectively are adding to the process of global warming and climate change. It is excellent that there is a body looking at the climate change process from a global perspective, given that we have not yet evolved global institutions, and that we do not yet function as one, united, mankind. Bahá’u’lláh urged us: “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self.” Luckily, the International Panel for Climate Change has that world-embracing vision, and is urging action now, because now is the time when we need to act to avoid the worst effects of global warming. As Bahá’u’lláh said: “Every age hath its own problem... Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” This is so necessary.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (I.P.C.C.), a general change in the diet of mankind towards eating less meat is part of the remedy the world needs. Why should this be? Comparing plant consumption with meat consumption, producing meat uses up more land than does plant production, as the animals need a lot of land to produce enough food for them, both fresh pasture and winter feed. In the Amazon, for instance, forest areas are being cut down or burned down to provide pasture and also to grow winter feed for animals in other parts of the world. Another consideration is the amount of methane produced by the unnaturally large quantities of cattle and other animals, as a by-product of our own food choices. So we have more large animals producing more methane and breathing out carbon dioxide, at the same time as we have more trees being destroyed which should be absorbing these chemicals.

The I.P.C.C. observes that, for most people, any reduction in the amount of meat which they eat will probably also result in health benefits. Millions of people consume more protein than necessary, indeed they eat more food than is necessary. Millions of us are labelled as “overweight”, or even “obese”. A better diet, with more fruit and vegetables, should prevent so many people developing diabetes, heart conditions and so on.

Does this all mean that we should be evolving toward vegetarianism – or even veganism? The I.P.C.C. stops short of advocating this. But from a Bahá’í point of view, this is the direction which the world should be taking anyway. It states in the Bahá’í Writings that: “The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten… our natural food is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food.” Note that the Bahá’í teachings expect this to be a process, and do not demand that people reject meat instantly. The I.P.C.C. observes that some people, for medical reasons, would find an immediate transfer to a vegetarian diet difficult. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, made the same point, and said that people who are weak could eat meat. There is the additional point that people living in very harsh environments, such as deep snow, deserts, high mountain ranges and tiny islands, cannot produce enough plant-based food to survive, and cannot make this change yet.
On the other hand, there are some societies which do not eat meat, and the people living in them are more aware of what foods are required to provide them with enough protein and traces of necessary minerals. Likewise there are many individual vegetarians and vegans who have the same knowledge.  

So – what is a balanced diet? People will be able to improve on my suggestions, as I have no expertise in this field whatsoever! My understanding is that we need carbohydrates, ideally grains such as wheat, rice, millet or oats. Fruit – there is a huge choice! We need vegetables, which seems to mean any edible plant parts except the seed or fruit – so edible leaves, stems, roots, etc. And we need some protein. Many of us tend to get this from meat, but we can obtain it from cheese, nuts, or from pulses, such as peas, beans or lentils. Crucial to this seems to be variety. I had a friend who was told by somebody to eat grapes: grapes were good for you. So he ate grapes – for breakfast, lunch and tea, as far as I could make out. After some weeks, his body reacted violently against this, and he became allergic to grapes, with very unfortunate results. The I.P.C.C. considers that we should eat a balanced diet, with rather less meat, and using our common sense, we should become healthier – as will the planet!


P.S. I haven’t mentioned food miles, or the many other things that we can each do to reduce our carbon footprint, but I didn't want the post to be too long!

Saturday, 24 August 2019

Let’s make it work

Jimmy Broadhouse, who cuts grass for a living, was so pleased with the appearance of the local council’s playing field after he had finished, that he took a photograph of it, and posted it on Twitter. He wrote: “It might only be a council field next to the tip, but, to the kids round here playing football, it’s Wembley. So I always cut it like it is.”

For those who do not live in England, this might require a little explanation. “The tip” is the council refuse site, adjacent to the field. “Kids” are actually children, and “Wembley” is shorthand for the Wembley Stadium, which belongs to the Football Association and is the home of the England national football team. The message suggests that, for the sake of the local children, who play their own football (“soccer”) on this field, he tries to mow the grass to the perfection required of the most prestigious pitch in the country.

The tweet has been seen over a million times, and was the cause of Mr Broadhouse being invited to help prepare the pitch at the Wembley Stadium for a special match between the famous teams of Liverpool and Manchester City. But it is the spirit behind Mr Broadhouse’s remark that has captured most attention. In my last blog post (“I am from the Windows company…”), I stressed the importance of people entering into their work in a spirit of service to other people. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explaining the Bahá’í view of work, stated that: “In the Bahá’í Cause, arts, sciences and all crafts are counted as worship. The man who makes a piece of note-paper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God.” He continues: “Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity.” The same principle obviously also applies to cutting grass, and Mr Broadhouse has definitely shown that spirit of service.

Society is composed of millions of individuals each contributing something to the benefit of mankind, and even to other creatures and to plants. Doing that work in a spirit of dedication and service, like Mr Broadhouse, should raise the quality of what is done, bringing clearer benefit to all. Mowing a field of grass is a time-consuming occupation, and with the wrong attitude could seem tiresome and repetitive. Jimmy Broadhouse obviously does not allow such negative thoughts into his mind as he works up and down the field. On the contrary, he takes a pride in his work.

In other, related, teachings, Bahá’u’lláh calls for us to abolish class distinctions and urges every member of society to work. Idleness is not good for anyone. Like Mr Broadhouse, all must put some effort into the community, rather than thinking they can just take from the community: “It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have… exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God…” (Bahá’u’lláh)

 In addition, the elimination of the extremes of both poverty and wealth is a basic Bahá’í principle. Bahá’u’lláh proposed a “storehouse” system to provide for those who cannot work. Among the specific Bahá’í teachings designed to facilitate the continual redistribution of wealth is the idea of (genuine) profit-sharing within a company. Bahá’u’lláh’s Son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, explained: “…laws and regulations should be enacted which would grant the workers both a daily wage and a share in a fourth or fifth of the profits of the factory… or (a) share in some other way in the profits with the owners.” By directly linking the income of the workers to the profits of the enterprise, more commitment to its success could be expected, and again, a greater quality of dedication should be engendered.

Underlying all these measures is a belief that spiritual values should be given more prominence. As the Bahá’í Writings put it: “The secrets of the whole economic question are Divine in nature, and are concerned with the world of the heart and spirit.” An artist, a sculptor or a musician puts their heart and spirit into their work. So should the builder, the shop assistant, the office worker and the man who mows the council field.


In April, 2016, I posted a blog (“There *is* a better way) which explains the Storehouse system: