Re: Proselytizing Definition (1:20)
It is the personal opinion of this website (editor) that in some parts of the world the understanding of the general public regarding "proselytising" differs somewhat from the generally accepted Bahá'í definition - in that the public understanding does not include the concept of applying "pressure" to induce acceptance. Therefore, telling a person that Bahá'ís do not proselytize - and then supporting the statement with a definition that is different than their own definition may quickly invite suspicion. Perhaps a way to alleviate this suspicion is to show them from our own sacred writings that the purpose is not to persuade them to give up their religion - but to inform them that each of the world's religions have been fulfilled & renewed - information that they are completely free to accept, reject, or refuse to consider. The following quotes may be helpful (from ls 50:1-3): [-ed] (1:21)
Bahá'u'lláh exhorts the believers to be "guided by wisdom" above all in their teaching work and to treat people with patience, friendliness and good-will: "If ye be aware of a certain truth, if ye possess a jewel, of which others are deprived, share it with them in a language of utmost kindliness and good-will. If it be accepted, if it fulfill its purpose, your object is attained. If anyone should refuse it, leave him unto himself, and beseech God to guide him. Beware lest ye deal unkindly with him. A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding." (esw 15). (1:22)
To force people to the path of God is foolish and runs counter to the command of wisdom. Patience and understanding are indispensable and proselytizing is to be avoided as well as every undignified or ostentatious way of teaching the Cause. "O Son of Dust! The wise are they that speak not unless they obtain a hearing, even as the cup-bearer, who proffereth not his cup till he findeth a seeker." And just as He does not approve of the conduct of the "fearful" who seeks "to dissemble his faith", Bahá'u'lláh cannot "sanction the behaviour of the avowed believer that clamorously asserteth his allegiance to this Cause. Both should observe the dictates of wisdom, and strive diligently to serve the best interests of the Faith." (gwb 341:1). (1:23)
Time and again Bahá'u'lláh urges the believers to respect those who wish to go their own way: "Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel, and whosoever desireth, let him choose the path to his Lord" we read.. "Should any man respond to thy call, lay bare before him the pearls of the wisdom of the Lord, thy God, which His Spirit hath sent down unto thee, and be thou of them that truly believe. And should any one reject thy offer, turn thou away from him, and put thy trust and confidence in the Lord, the God, the Lord of all worlds." (gwb 279:2).. religious truth cannot be demonstrated like a mathematical rule. Therefore, if they are to become Baha'is, people should not be "converted", i.e. talked and pushed into the religion, nor should they be "awakened", i.e. manipulated in such a way that their critical judgment is befogged. Rather should they become acquainted with the message of Bahá'u'lláh and be taught the Baha'i teachings as long as they so desire. From then on it is their concern whether they decide to become Baha'is or not. Only when a person has made this decision of his own free-will is there a good chance that he will hold to it. (ls 50:1-3).