BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — A new edition of the publication titled For the Betterment of the World has been released, casting light on the efforts of the Bahá’í community, together with social actors from all walks of life, to contribute to material and social progress.
This publication, prepared by the Bahá’í International Development Organization at the Bahá’í World Centre, provides an illustration of how Bahá’í social and economic development is being carried out.
An essential feature of this enterprise, states the publication, is an evolving framework for collective learning, rooted in spiritual principles from the Bahá’í teachings and the conviction that all human beings “have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” The publication explores some key elements of this framework, providing examples of efforts from all parts of the world.
Principles and approaches
Over the decades, development has come to be recognized as a complex process that cannot be solved by materialistic approaches alone, states the publication. Policymakers and practitioners have become increasingly interested in learning about the role of spirituality and religion in enhancing development practice.
For the Betterment of the World examines this idea, exploring several concepts and principles that are essential to the pursuit of Bahá’í efforts in social action, including: oneness and justice, calling for a reconceptualization of the relationships that sustain society; harmony of science and religion, highlighting that “religion without science soon degenerates into superstition and fanaticism, while science without religion becomes merely the instrument of crude materialism”; and universal participation, requiring the widest participation of every member of the human family from all backgrounds.
Closely related to the aim of universal participation is the concept of capacity building at all levels of society, which views people, communities, and institutions as protagonists in marking their own path of development.
An implication of this principle highlighted in the publication is that social change is not a project that one group carries out for the benefit of another. Rather, in recognizing that no nation or people have achieved a state of true peace and prosperity that can serve as a model for others to follow, what is required is a process of learning in every social and cultural context about the meaning and implications of development in all its dimensions—material, spiritual, and social.
Areas of action and spectrum of activities
The publication explores a wide array of Bahá’í development efforts, from small-scale grassroots projects to complex development programs implemented by Bahá’í-inspired organizations.
These endeavors represent responses to local needs and are related to one or more areas, including education, agriculture, the environment, arts and media, health, the local economy, the advancement of women, and humanitarian relief. The examples span a range of social and cultural settings on every continent, illustrating that for the Bahá’í community, development is a process that necessarily involves community building and local action in every part of the world.
The publication affirms that by learning to combine the perspectives of religion and science in these efforts, new insights and pathways for the betterment of the human condition can emerge.
Ongoing process of learning
For the Betterment of the World highlights learning as a central theme and mode of operation in Bahá’í social action endeavors. This involves ongoing study, consultation, action, and reflection, all carried out in light of insights from science and religion. This process is supported by evolving arrangements and structures at all levels, from the local to the international, to facilitate learning about development.
Through this learning process, insights from neighborhoods and villages are connected to a broader body of knowledge by regional and national Bahá’í institutions, and the Bahá’í International Development Organization serves as a learning entity dedicated to synthesizing worldwide experiences in development.
The systematization of learning enables communities worldwide to benefit from the growing body of knowledge about development and contribute to it.
This latest edition of For the Betterment of the World is the fourth in the series, with previous editions published in 2003, 2008, and 2018. Copies of the publication have been distributed to some 1,400 delegates and Counsellors that arrived for the International Bahá’í Convention, which began on 29 April 2023. A copy of the new edition can also be accessed on Bahai.org.