The Scottish Bahá’í, No.31 – Spring, 2003
bahá’í council for scotland  
From the Council table
Dear Friends,
The Council sends its love to you all. We hope the winter hasn’t been too gruelling for you and that we can now look forward to the sun increasing the length of its daily visits.
As most will know, Council member Maggie Manvell was suddenly taken seriously ill at the end of last year and has been in hospital since. She is now in an extended period of recovery and has been greatly missed.
The National Spiritual Assembly has informed the Council that since Maggie’s convalescence period is likely to be fairly extended; they have decided to relieve her from service on the Council. They have requested Maureen Sier, who had the next highest number of votes at the November election to serve in her stead. Maureen was able to participate in the most recent meeting of the Council.
Message from the Universal House of Justice
The Council was very happy, at its last face-to-face meeting held in Glasgow over the weekend of 1st/2nd February, to be able to consult with both the Auxiliary Board members on the recent message received from the Universal House of Justice. The insights, encouragement and guidance from the message will help us all to keep focused on the tasks before us.
Progress of the Five Year Plan in Scotland
It is very encouraging to see from recent statistics gathered, that the three core activities of the Five Year Plan are progressing well in Scotland. A steady trickle of new believers enrolling on a regular basis is evidence of the efforts being made by Bahá’ís throughout Scotland to reach out to the wider community.
We are all learning the importance of cluster meetings and the Council is very keen to receive feedback as to how they are developing.
The multiplication of core activities requires a fair bit of individual initiative:
  • Should you be in a community that already has a study circle running, you might consider setting up another study circle for your friends. If not already trained as a tutor, you could contact the Training Institute Board to see when they have a training course available.
  • Holding devotional meetings open to all is fertile ground for individual initiative. This could be a very simple gathering to which you could invite one or two friends to share a pleasant stress free atmosphere for an hour or so.
  • Initiating a children’s class could be offered as a service to the wider community. Bahá’í children often have friends who, with their parent’s permission, may be very happy to join in a short class held on a regular basis.
As well as the three core activities, the Five Year Plan also has two movements:
  • The passage of believers through the training institute process
  • The development of clusters through the stages from D to A.
The Universal House of Justice has said that “the youth should be the driving force behind these two movements”
Newly appointed Scottish Bahá’í Youth Committee (SBYC)
The Council is delighted to confirm the appointment of a new Youth Committee to serve the youth in Scotland. As always emphasised, youth have a central role in leading the way forward. We are confident that they will help us all to rise to the challenges of the Five Year Plan. We are very proud of the youth in Scotland and are heartened to see the enthusiasm with which they are engaging in the three core activities.
At the request of the Council, Simon Munro attended the European Bahá’í National Youth Committees Conference held in Warsaw, Poland at the end of November last year where Bahá’í Youth represented most of the National Youth Committees (NYCs) of Europe. This historic conference saw the commencement of the decentralization process of the European Bahá’í Youth Council to the NYCs across Europe. The conference focused on this process, the Five Year Plan, and the new responsibilities of the NYCs in Europe.
Simon has already met with the SBYC and will be consulting with the Council on the experiences and insights he gained there.
Interfaith activities
Allan Forsyth is freshly back from a visit to Brussels, which he undertook on behalf of the Council. He reports as follows:
 
On 17th–19th February, I had the privilege to represent the Scottish Bahá’í community as a member of a delegation of representatives of faith communities in Scotland to visit the European Union Commission and Parliament in Brussels.
The visit was groundbreaking both in the sense that it was the first such visit from Scotland but also the first such visit from any country or region of the EU to Brussels. In previous years the moderator of the Church of Scotland (who changes every year) had undertaken a visit to Brussels but this was the first time the visit was widened out to include other faiths. The current moderator the Right. Rev. Finlay MacDonald has decided to make interfaith a theme for his year and this was one result of that theme.
The delegation had no particular agenda and so most of the visit consisted of either presentations about the work of the commission and the parliament, or very general discussions on how that work relates to faith communities. There was some misinformed reporting by the media, trying to tie the visit to the current Iraq crisis, but this was utterly inaccurate.
 
In my view there were three important outcomes from the visit from a Bahá’í perspective:
  • A much closer and deeper bond was developed between all the delegation through spending so much time together. This bodes well in general for the future development of interfaith in Scotland.
  • The Christian church leaders (and those from the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Church in particular) appeared delighted with the visit and I expect that this will help to shift their focus away from a mainly ecumenical (i.e. inter-Christian) agenda to stronger engagement with other faiths (including Bahá’í) and the possibility of starting to address some of the key issues raised in the Message to the Worlds Religious Leaders.
  • The visit helped to raise awareness with a number of key people in the Commission and the Parliament of the fact that faith communities do have an interest in their work, that they can work together in some areas and that Scotland is one of the most advanced regions of Europe in terms of its approach to religious pluralism.
Some points of interest are listed below.
  1. The delegation included leaders of Christian churches which have traditionally been fundamentally opposed to interfaith dialogue and have in the past actively opposed the Bahá’ís on the islands. On this visit I found them very warm and friendly and detected no prejudice at all.
  2. We met with Hans-Gert Pottering who is the leader of the European Peoples Party – the coalition of centre-right parties (including the Conservative party). In front of our whole delegation he talked of how beautiful he had found the Bahá’í Holy Places in the Holy Land and of the support which the European Parliament had given to the Bahá’ís of Iran – it was the high point of the visit for me.
  3. We met with seven of the eight Scottish MEPs. I was struck by how closely they work together and how little political feuding there is between them. Since the EU work receives little media attention back home, they seem to get on with their work representing Scotland in a very cooperative manner. It is interesting to see how oldfashioned politics is gradually disappearing. My impression of them was of a very hard-working group and certainly not of ‘expense-account junkies’.
  4. It is clear that there is a big difference in many of the EU countries in terms of the relationship between state and religion. In countries like France there is an absolute divide between the two. In others like the UK, there are an established churches. There is debate as to whether politicians should listen to faith communities at all, whether they should listen to them in the same way as other non-governmental organizations, or whether they should be given a more privileged status. The EU institutions seem to be only just getting to grips with expanding their consciousness from Christian churches to all faith communities
  5. There is much very important legislation which is enacted by the Parliament / Commission / Council of Ministers. Public awareness of this is minimal and media coverage of it extremely lop-sided. It was pointed out that MEPs are able to bring about much more legislative amendments that an average MP or MSP would ever be able to.
  6. We had an interesting lunch with Neil Kinnock, one of two Commission vicepresidents. It was noteworthy that he commented on the fact that we had so few women in the delegation.
All of the politicians I talked to had heard of the Bahá’í Faith and had a good impression of it.
Island Golden Jubilee Celebrations
Please remember the islands in your prayers this year – regular prayers will be much appreciated to assist the island communities in their Jubilee celebrations which will undoubtedly engage the interest of the wider community. If you would like to offer help in any way, please contact the Council.
The Fast
We wish you all spiritual renewal from the Fast and hope you have a most happy Naw-Rúz whether celebrated alone or with others.
Diary dates
Finally, Some dates to mark in your diaries:
June 14th–15th — Scottish Gathering in Inverness. The theme is “Spirit of Enterprise”
Jul 26th–Aug 2nd — Aberdeen Summer School “These Precious Days”
August 9th–10th — Golden Jubilee Celebrations in Shetland
The Council looks forward to seeing as many of the friends as possible during the year.