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Religion Library: Baha'i

Missions and Expansion

Written by: Moojan Momen

"Teaching" is distinguished from "proselytization"; the latter for Baha'is implies using inducements or pressure to change a person's religion and is forbidden. Baha'is are encouraged to seek out, from among their friends and relatives, individuals who are open to speaking about religion and who can be engaged in spiritual conversation, which it is hoped would lead to their joining the Baha'i community. Whereas previously, they would take an interested person along to a "fireside" meeting, the purpose of which was give sufficient further information about the Baha'i Faith, they are now just as likely to encourage a person to enroll in a study class.

The spread of the Baha'i Faith to new areas, whether within a country or to new countries, is not implemented by paid missionaries. Baha'is move to a new area or a new country and either obtain employment there or set up a business. They aim to be self-supporting although they are sometimes supported by Baha'i funds in the initial period while they establish themselves. They then seek to interest local people in the Baha'i teachings and gain enough adherents (minimum of nine adults) to be able to elect a local Baha'i administrative institution (called a local spiritual assembly). When there were enough local institutions, a national administrative institution (called a national spiritual assembly) is elected. Part of the success of the Baha'is in spreading throughout the world has been the fact that the Baha'i Faith has few set rituals and thus is open to the incorporation of local customs and cultural practices into its meetings and into such events as weddings and funerals.

Study Questions:
     1.    In what way has the Baha'i Faith spread throughout the world?
     2.    How do Baha’is attract others to the Baha'i Faith?
     3.    What do Baha’is perceive to be the difference between “teaching” and “proselytization”?
     4.    How do Baha’is interact with the cultures of the world?


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