An Encyclopedia article by Dr. Christopher Buck
Christopher Buck’s “Baha’i Faith and Social Action” is an “invited” article, published in the Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice, edited by Gary L. Anderson and Kathryn G. Herr, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007. Vol. 1, 208–213. The article has a section on “Baha’is in Iran” (p. 210).
It is unusual for a reference work to feature an article on the “Baha’i Faith.” Encyclopedias are expensive projects, and each encyclopedia entry must meet strict limits as far as the allotted “word count” is concerned. Thus, it is even more extraordinary that this much space would be allowed on the topic of the “Baha’is in Iran.”
It is said that “philosophy is the handmaid of theology.” The article is subtly structured on the work of a Baha’i philosopher, Alain Locke (1885-1954)—that is, on Locke’s philosophy of democracy, in nine dimensions. The reader will have to carefully read the article to discern this subliminal structure. Also, recent statements on democracy, from the Baha’i International Community to the Universal House of Justice, are referenced.
This small article effectively “translates” certain Baha’i teachings into an expanded concept of democracy, ranging from “local democracy” to “world democracy.” In a Baha’i essay published for the first time in World Order magazine in 2005, Alain Locke wrote: “Baha’i Principles and the leavening of our national life with their power, is to be regarded as the salvation of democracy. In this way only can the fine professions of American ideals be realized.” Contrast this to the quite undemocratic treatment that the Baha’is in Iran are experiencing, for the true test of any democracy, as Alain Locke says, is its equitable treatment of minorities.
“Baha’i Faith and Social Action” – which surveys Baha’i-sponsored social and economic development projects worldwide – concludes: “These Baha’i-sponsored initiatives represent, but do not exhaust, efforts by the worldwide Baha’i community and its democratically elected institutions to promote social justice through social action.”