Sounds a bit abstract but I’ve been thinking about how the Baha’i Faith gives us not just the means to cope with life and to endure and pursue our goals, but it actually gives us those goals as well. Meaning, it sets for us the targets and the values that we should pursue. So in that sense God is the ends and the means.

I always sort of had intuition that the religions really are united, and as I delved more into the writings, this was in college, I started to see how much in fact we all share the same framework about God, one human family, sort of universal virtues and truths. So really that one principle for me has just, since I was in college till now and grad school and everything else, shaped the way I interact with people, how I look at policies in the world and how they are formulated, how I respond to an event in one place, and how it might affect something elsewhere, and really, even in the way I formulate friendships or the work I do.

The teachings of Baha’u’llah were not just clear spiritual truths, but also very practical steps that could clearly help humanity to progress. At the same time that I learned about the Baha’i Faith, the Baha’is that I met were very loving, and very welcoming […] and I could feel that the Faith was a living thing through them. So it would be true to say that the teachings of Baha’u’llah touched my mind immediately, and that the qualities that the Baha’is that I met were what touched my heart, and really drew me into seriously investigating the Faith.

I remember around 2006 there was a group of friends from a neighbouring street. They were always together, laughing together, playing together, they were always clean — and that’s another thing that attracted me to that group. In 2007 when I relocated to that street, I got an opportunity to ask one of them: What is it that keeps you together? What strengthens your relationships? He told me that they are attending Baha’i activities together, they are studying together, and then they are serving together also. So they invited me to join the Baha’i Faith, and I’m proud to be a part of that group also.

Serving others is healing for me […] I can feel unity. I can feel the concept of people united. I can get that feeling: it’s a rush in my heart.

I have learned that it is up to us to make the world a better place. People like Jesus, or the Bab, or Gandhi have done their part, now it is our turn.

I think that to be a Baha’i means to help the world and bring unity and peace to the land.

How do we actually start to invite people to consider what’s lower and what’s higher and be willing to give up what’s lower? It’s easier when you know what’s actually lower and what’s higher, that’s the thing. Oftentimes we think about sacrifice as suffering: what are you willing to suffer? But it’s not — it’s what are you willing to receive? What are the benefits, what are the good things that you’re willing to receive, and what are the lower things that you have to let go of in order to receive them? [It’s like that] example of the boy who has a handful of stones and is offered a handful of jewels. He has to let go of the handful of stones so he can receive the jewels. So what we have here are handfuls of stones we really like, we don’t want to let go of them. Instead of saying, ‘Let go! Let go!’, you say, ‘These are the jewels that are awaiting you.

I think that heroism and perseverance look like complete detachment from the forces of society, which is super hard because it’s going to take a lifestyle change. It looks like detachment from materialism and the comfort that the media and society offers us, and really striving to really stick to what’s authentic and what’s real, which is our spiritual side…

The Baha’i Faith has really told me a lot about who I am. I try to identify with it in new ways on a daily basis, and it’s very interesting too — it’s a way to connect with the people around you.

I grew up in this society, in this family, where the men had the good food, and they would just give the bones to the wives and the children would have whatever was remaining, and I saw that, and I was actually brought up in that. But the teachings of the Baha’i Faith taught me that everyone was equal […] Well, my father is a military person so it was very difficult for us […] we were just soldiers under him. The discipline was high and no one would voice their opinion, so it was like that and then knowing the Baha’i Faith changed me to change our ways a bit in the house. Like the food would come out and we would share it equally, and when my father would talk: ‘Hey! I’m supposed to be getting this!’, and then I stood up and said, ‘No, you get this, mum has this, and we all have this.’ So in other ways I was just sharing what the Baha’i Faith taught us about equality, and anyways it went on and eventually my father started accepting it, and talked about how mum’s view and points are very important too, and he should be consulting mum in everything. […] It just didn’t happen overnight, it happened for some time, I mean over all these experiences, and finally my father accepted it.

For me, being a Baha’i simply means to turn up every day with sincerity, striving to contribute to the betterment of the world by allowing my vision to be world embracing rather than confined to my own self.

…putting everything that we read and everything we believe into actual action…you can sit there and read the Baha’i teachings, but it’s completely different when you don’t action it, and you just verbalize it. But to actually come from your place of heart and be loving, be kind, be non-judgmental – it’s completely different… I think that’s really important, and that’s something I know I’m being more conscious of: really backing my words and actions.

I’m trying to become more active in the Baha’i Faith, not only by doing one-off activities but trying to be a regular participant. And that may look like accompanying someone who becomes an animator for a junior youth group but it may also look like helping people get to Feast on time. Or maybe serving certain foods. But I need to figure out what I can do regularly because I understand that building community requires a lot of time and consistency — consistency is key to that, and regularity.

Being closer to God means to actually live a more purposeful life, a spiritually purposeful life, to really be with others, and live the best life I can, reflecting the writings and the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.

Serving others brings me joy.

You hear and read the stories of the Dawn-Breakers, and the sacrifices, the young ages, the faith, the unconditional faith and love that they had for God, for each other, for the Bab despite the severe and intense oppression, dehumanisation, and injustice that they faced. […] It’s something that I’m trying to remind myself in my academic work, in my writing, in my teaching, and in my research: How are we sacrificing and having faith? How are we having this unconditional love for justice and equity?

I’m learning from the characteristics that the Bab showed towards others, like compassion, kindness, and love and being able to take that into your soul and bring that to the table for others.

Serving others has helped me to be patient, content and positive, and thankful under all circumstances. I mean I have come across different people of different backgrounds, and most of them don’t have much in life, but they’re still happy. As I serve in different villages, moving around, and I get to mingle with different people, with different situations in life, and you don’t see them complaining, and also you see them living life in a positive way. So that has really helped me. In all, I’ve learned so many things from serving people.

‘Unite the hearts of thy servants…’ means to don’t put people down and encourage them, and being nice and kind. And showing your purpose and what you’re meant for.