Episode 28: The Naw Ruz Message of 2024

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Society Builders.

Society Builders – with your host, Duane

Welcome to another exciting episode of Society
Builders – and thanks for joining the conversation

for social transformation.

We interrupt our normal broadcast schedule
to explore insights from yet another amazing

letter from the Universal House of Justice
that just came out a few days ago, on Naw


Now today, we were going to start the process
of wrapping up and bringing synthesis to the

sequence of episodes that we’ve had on the
science of depolarization.

But a few days ago, the Universal House of
Justice sent this message to the Baha’is

in Iran – and this message was packed with
incredible insights that just blew me away

and clearly bring new light to our journey
of society building.

And so naturally, I wanted to immediately
dive in and engage with all of this in a conversation

with you about this new message.

So put a pause on the science of depolarization.

Cause we’ll get back to that soon.

But today, we’re going to explore this latest
guidance which builds on that message of November

28, 2023 that we studied together in episode

Today, we’re going to study the message
of March 20, 2024 – that’s Naw Ruz of

181 – to the followers of the Greatest Name
and the helpers of the Ancient Beauty in the

sacred land of Iran

Now I want to start, once again, with a disclaimer.

Remember – this podcast is not an official
instrument of any Baha’i agency.

I have absolutely no authority – my views
are no different than yours.

This podcast is just a personal initiative.

Like you, I study Baha’i Writings and guidance,
reflect, try to read the societies around

me and translate all of this into action – and
on a very personal level, this podcast is

a tool for helping me do all that.

It’s a commitment for regularly study and

And in this context, I’m thrilled to join
with you in sharing in this journey and adventure.

And I share this in the spirit of consultation
– as thoughts you can weigh and either accept

or reject as you see fit.

OK – so on with today’s show.

Now – this message of the Universal House
of Justice is another precious gift – not

only for its direct recipients, the Baha’is
in Iran – but for the entire world.

Because in many ways, this message is a continuation
of that incredible message of November 28,

2023 that we studied together in episode 24.

In fact, the second paragraph of this message
provides an incredible summary of the November

28th message.

So you’ll want to read this paragraph to
remind you of that message – of the incredible

treasures they reveal explaining our social
evolution as a community over the past hundred


But it also goes beyond the original message
– giving it new direction and insight.

Now for me personally, there are two things
that really stand out in this message.

The first is that this is clearly a love letter
from the Universal House of Justice to the

Baha’is in Iran.

I mean, the Universal House of Justice showers
the Persian community here with so much praise

and admiration – it’s just such a remarkable
expression of the incredible love which the

Universal House of Justice clearly feels here.

And it’s a respect which was clearly hard
won – by that community’s exemplary response

to the relentless campaigns of persecution
which they’ve endured and continue to endure.

And hopefully these words give some comfort
and solace to such a persecuted community

Just listen to all the different kinds of
terms they use throughout the message to refer

to the Persian Baha’is: They call them followers
of the Greatest Name, helpers of the Ancient

Beauty, the sorely tried and devoted compatriots
of the Blessed Beauty, lovers of Abdul-Baha,

that they’re like sweetly singing birds
raised by the Beloved’s own hand, warbling

in the garden of rapture and servitude, that
their hearts are aflame with the fire of the

love of God, and their breasts illumined by
His heavenly counsels.

That at all times they have been at the front
ranks and advanced at the vanguard, as valiant

horsemen who have from the beginning of the
Faith to the present day ceaselessly urged

on the steed of endeavor in the arena of service,
overcome every hurdle and obstacle and obtained

the highest prize and honor.

That they are guardians of truthfulness and

They say that they are the solace of the eyes
of the Universal House of Justice who remembers

them at every moment, lauds their perseverance
in the face of unnumbered adversities and

that they beseech at the Sacred Threshold
the well-being, genuine happiness and true

liberty for those beloved of their hearts
and souls.

I mean WOW – you see what I mean here when
I say that they are showering the community

with their love and admiration here, right?

So that’s one dimension of the message.

It’s a love letter.

But much of the rest of the message, I think,
is really an extension of the November 28th


It’s the next chapter – with new insights
in understanding the path to society building.

As I mentioned earlier, this starts with an
amazing summary of the message – I mean,

this is THE summary that you should use whenever
you’re trying to remind yourself of the

contents of that message – a summary of
the treasures which they revealed in that


Then starting with paragraph 5, the message
reiterates themes from the Nov 28th message

– again painting a picture of the dark crisis
facing humanity – and of our necessary response.

We’re going to explore these themes further
later in our episode today.

But then, starting with the 7th paragraph,
the Universal House of Justice brings a new

a sharper focus to our response going forward
– and this is centered on the theme of us

contributing to the establishment of Universal

And in this context, they encourage us to
study their message of January 18, 2019, where

they explore this theme of peace much further.


So let’s dive in and start exploring some
of this.

We want to start today really from the 5th
paragraph of the Naw Ruz message where the

Universal House of Justice begins, I think,
further elaborating further on their November

28th message.

Some of this, of course, is reiterating and
adding color to that message.

But where this message goes further, I think
– and remember, this is all just personal

reflection – but I see this message as giving
us a much sharper focus on the cause of Universal


This is a sign post which they Universal House
of Justice is giving us in helping us navigate

our journeys of society building.

And in fact, towards the end of the message
they encourage us to study a message which

they previously wrote, on January 18, 2019,
which specifically addresses this theme of

world peace.

So we’ve got a lot to discuss here.

Now we need to bring this message, the November
28th message and the January 18th message

into alignment.

So let’s start with how the Universal House
of Justice describes the state of the world


This is something I always look for in these
messages – because it is such a precious

gift that we get- this ability to understand
what’s happening in the world around us.

It’s such a privilege.

So how does the Universal House of Justice
describe it in this message:

Again, it’s dark.

Very similar to how they describe it in the
Nov 28th message.

In fact, there’s a particularly powerful
section where they say this:

“The world is thus facing a profound and
far-reaching crisis that is destabilizing

and disrupting its order.

Although this crisis is not new, and the reasons
for it are not unknown to the people of Bahá,

yet its destructive results and the consequent
confusion are more apparent than at any time



It’s destructive results and the consequent
confusion are more apparent than at any time


That’s powerful, right.

That means something.

I mean think about how much suffering we’ve
seen over the past few centuries – and yet

THIS is the time where its destructive results
are more apparent than ever.

And think about the world’s confusion – yet
this is the time where the consequent confusion

are more apparent than ever.

I mean this is powerful, right!

And they also say: “It is no wonder then
that, as a result of this crisis, conflict

and contention among peoples and war and strife
among nations are increasing day by day, and

every pure heart and illumined conscience
is oppressed and saddened thereby.”

And I think we can all relate to this.

It weighs so heavily on our very souls, right.

So once again, we see in this message a reflection
on the state of the world – with the disintegration

eating away at our social orders.

I mean it’s a dire picture.

But, of course, the Universal House of Justice
shares this not to frighten us but to help

us embrace our responsibility in working to
release constructive forces to mitigate the

suffering – much more of which is likely
still to come.

And this is the thrust of the guidance – on
helping us understand our role in the unfolding


And in this context, I want to jump towards
the end of the message – where they translate

this response into a very sharp point of focus.

Indeed, they say: “Today, the spiritual
duty and moral responsibility of every conscientious

soul is to serve the cause of the peace and
unity of the world.”

And here they give us that other gift – a
reminder to study their message of January

18, 2019 which provides much more detail on
our path in promoting world peace.

So let’s explore that message.

Now the January 18th message was written for
a very special occasion – it was for the

centenary of the Paris Peace Conference at
the end of the First World War.

This is really the start of the process of
building machinery for our collective security

as a planet.

And as the Universal House of Justice explains,
there were three key moments where humanity

reached out for a real, lasting peace – but
always fell short because of weaknesses it

could not overcome.

So the first of these was the League of Nations
which grew out of the Paris Peace Conference

at the end of the first World War.

The world had experienced unprecedented devastation
in the Great War and there was a hunger – a

true yearning – not to see this happen again.

And the Universal House of Justice explains
how this was the first time that a system

of collective security, enjoined on the world’s
rulers by Baha’u’llah, was seriously “envisaged,

discussed and tested”.

But tragically, of course, it ultimately failed
that test because it was fatally flawed from

the outset.

You know, when embracing change, people want
to keep the status quo as much as possible

– and in this exchange between a new world
order and the existing one – the limits

placed on the new - rendered it incapable
of preventing the outbreak of the Second World


So the second key moment happens after the
Second World War – again, in the ashes of

the devastation that THAT war brought.

Again, there was a hunger for change – but
also that tension between the old and the

new – and so new institutions were born
to help uphold a peace.

Foremost here, of course, is the United Nations
– but it was more than just the UN – it

was also a system of international economic
institutions and historic advances in human

rights and international law.

Territories under colonial rule became independent,
and all kinds of regional and global cooperation

grew in both depth and range.

Now – none of us listening today would have
been around for that first moment – at the

end of the first World War.

Some of us might have been around for the
second moment – with the birth of the UN

– but if you’re 90 today, you would have
been only 10 at the time – so your understanding

and memory of that event might be limited.

But, I think, there were many of us who vividly
remember the third moment – those days when

we were watching our TVs and saw the falling
of the Berlin Wall.

You know, shortly after the end of the Second
World War – a new global competition evolved

between the world’s two major power blocs
– a period we call the Cold War.

And for many decades, we lived in fear of
the outbreak of a nuclear war.

But the Cold War wasn’t just about this
fear of a head-to-head US-Soviet battle – it

was a global battle for dominance – and
it popped up in numerous wars and conflicts

across various regions: Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan
and it fed into countless civil wars across

Africa, South America, Europe and Asia.

So let’s go back to that moment in 1989
when we were glued to our TVs watching the

Berlin Wall fall.

It was a moment that none of us could believe.

All of a sudden, there was a glimmer of the
possibility for true peace.

I know – because I was there.

At that time, I was part of a group of 40
Baha’i youth that had been invited into

the then Soviet Union – the Promise of World
Peace tour organized by the Baha’is of Hawaii.

It was such an amazing moment.

And let me tell you – the Russian people
craved peace just as much as we did.

Probably even more so.

And suddenly it felt like we were going to
see the establishment of the Lesser Peace.

A little side note.

I was saying how surprised we all were at
the time.

I mean the end of the Cold War just seemed

But I remember on the eve of this all happening
that there was a clue that something was going

to happen.

And the clue was found in the Six Year Plan
launched in 1986 – just three years before

the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And in that Plan, the Universal House of Justice
had assigned goals – and one of the goals

for the US Baha’i community was to settle
pioneers in the Ukraine.

The Ukraine?


I mean, this truly felt impossible.

I remember as youth we looked at this with
pure confusion – how was this even possible?

You just couldn’t get behind the Iron Curtain.

But three years later, things changed.

So the end of the Cold War was an opportunity
– and even though we didn’t get the Lesser

Peace, there was considerable progress in
all kinds of international cooperative initiatives.

Now the Universal House of Justice calls out
a specific set of initiatives, the Millennium

Development Goals which was a set of goals
and targets addressing global poverty, education,

the empowerment of women, child mortality,
health, the environment – broadly social

and economic development.

And while you may have heard of this – it
probably isn’t top of mind for any of us.

I mean, it barely made the news right.

But here the Universal House of Justice positions
the Millennium initiatives not in terms of

their imperfections but in terms of its contribution
to the inexorable rise in global consciousness

and our attraction to universal justice, solidarity,
collaboration, compassion and equality.

So it was an important step forward.

So these three key moments stand out in our
advance towards World Peace.

But then the Universal House of Justice begins
exploring the new challenges that we have

faced as we came into the new millennium.

And in many ways, this was a retreat.

Instead of bringing us together – these
new forces increasingly pulled us apart.

Although we were successful in decreasing
many of the extremes of poverty, wealth further


There were new tensions in the interaction
between citizen, governments and society.

Religious fundamentalism warped the character
of communities and even nations.

And with the failing of so many institutions,
public trust declined – and with the growing

loss of truth, there was systematic exploitation
to further erode the credibility of all sources

of knowledge.

Suddenly, shared ethical principles which
were on the rise began eroding, challenging

our understanding of right and wrong.

And the drive to international collective
action which had been gaining so much momentum

became assailed by forces of racism, nationalism
and factionalism.

And so it is that the forces of disintegration
are on the rise.

Now I want to pause for a second to further
explore this picture – because I don’t

think it’s easy to see the full vista of
just how bad this all really is.

Of why this is all so unprecedented.

These past few days, I’ve been watching
the news about Haiti.

The images on TV are horrific.

I mean every day you see the desperation – dead
corpses burnt in the streets, government ministry

buildings abandoned, desolate and now occupied
by the homeless.

Governments desperately trying to evacuate
their citizens.

I mean, it’s devastating stuff.

But how does a nation like Haiti get overrun
by what was previously just small gangs and


We all tend to look at the moment it all goes
wrong – but the truth is – it was going

wrong well before then.

Societies like Haiti were being corroded from

As social institutions break down – as public
trust and confidence erode – society becomes


And this is what, I think, this disintegration
is doing.

It’s corroding our societies – making
them fragile.

Now none of us knows what the specific form
of what follows might be – but when you’re

vulnerable like that – it only takes a spark.

Now we know that none of this effects are
ultimate destiny – as the Universal House

of Justice reminds us, the unification of
humanity is unstoppable by any human force.

It’s the next stage in our global evolution
– because it’s the only way we can address

our problems in our interdependent world.

So peace is inevitable.

But the question we face is what price we
pay for it.

We can either embrace our future responsibly
– or resist it – and pay a higher price.

And the Universal House of Justice makes it
clear what the consequence is here.

They say: “As long as that call goes unheeded,
there is no reason to doubt that the world’s

current state of disorder and confusion will
worsen—possibly with catastrophic consequences—until

a chastened humanity sees fit to take another
significant step, perhaps this time decisive,

towards enduring peace.”

Now, we have a responsibility to help the
world respond to this call as best we can.

But how?

And here, the Universal House of Justice helps
further paint the picture.

You see, the Universal House of Justice explains
that achieving this vision of world peace

requires a historic feat of statesmanship
from the leaders of the world.

But the will to even attempt this is lacking.

And a big part of the reason for that is that
humanity is gripped by a crisis of identity.

Now identity is one of these watch words of
the new Plans.

You see references to identity in almost every
message from the Universal House of Justice

– so that tells us that it’s a very important

And this crisis is one where people struggle
to define themselves, their place in the world

and how they should act.

And what’s missing here is a shared identity
and common purpose.

So without that vision – they fall into
competing ideologies and power struggles – into

the us vs. them paradigm of identity.

And over time, this splintering has weakened
our social cohesion.

What all of this is missing is the understanding
that above all of this, humanity is on a common

journey in which we are all its protagonists.

Now for our discussion today, let’s call
this the ‘oneness of humanity’ paradigm.

It’s a lens through which we see everything.

There is no us and them – there is one humanity.

We are a single interconnected social organism.

We are one.

And yet – there is a paradox.

Because we believe that diversity is an asset
– we appreciate diversity.

How can we advocate for one humanity and diversity
in the same breath?

And here, the Universal House of Justice explains
this so beautifully – it clarifies our path.

They say: “It is through love for all people,
and by subordinating lesser loyalties to the

best interests of humankind, that the unity
of the world can be realized and the infinite

expressions of human diversity find their
highest fulfilment.”

So it’s our love for humanity which cultivates
our appreciation for its diversity.

How beautiful is that, right?

And how do we cultivate this selfless love
for humanity – well, that’s the task for


It’s a spiritual ambition – centered on
cultivating fellowship and concord.

But so many who claim to be religious instead
use religion to fan the flames of fanaticism

and prejudice.

And so we need to help remind and reawaken
people to the true need for religion – as

a powerful instrument in unifying all of us
– as one humanity.

Because as Abdul-Baha reminds us, “our desire
for peace is not derived merely from the intellect:

It is a matter of religious belief and one
of the eternal foundations of the Faith of


And this then links back to our collective
crisis of identity.

Because another one of those key constructs
that you now see in so many messages of the

Universal House of Justice is the coherence

And part of what coherence is about is have
a balance between the spiritual and material

dimensions of life.

The crisis of identity is in part the product
of us reducing our life experience to the

material realm alone.

But when you think about it, what really defines
us – what really differentiates us – is

our character.

That’s who we really are.

That’s what really defines us.

And understanding that at a collective level,
that character is about unifying us, about

conquering our prejudices – about that unified
paradigm I was talking about earlier – that’s

what we’re talking about here.

And so we promote the oneness of humanity
as a fundamental spiritual principle, critical

to our progress as a planet.

Now there’s another construct which we see,
really almost always, in the messages of the

Universal House of Justice – and that’s
a construct we can call ‘agency’ – that

we empower people to become protagonists in
their own progress.

And this is another really big idea.

We are not trying to convert the world to
our views.

We’re working to empower people to see truth
for themselves and chart their own destinies

towards the betterment of the world.

And as the Universal House of Justice reminds
us: “In this important undertaking, every

member of the human family has a share.

In purifying the heart and cleansing its mirror
from prejudice on the one hand, and in creating

the social conditions for peace and unity
on the other, every individual has agency

and the capacity to play a part.

All souls are able to promote the culture
of peace and unity in their interactions with

friend and stranger alike.”

Now – let’s explore this idea a little
further here – because it’s such a powerful


Remember earlier when I was talking about
Haiti – how it had become a society corroded

from within that was fragile and vulnerable
– this is the story unfolding almost everywhere.

So what can we do to strengthen our social
fabric – to create the conditions for peace.

I’d like to go back to what some of our
recent guests on this podcast have shared.

Remember how in episode 21, Dr. Peter Coleman
talked about nations that had taken measures

to address their threats to peace.

In Botswana – having seen how tribalism
had destroyed neighboring countries, they

introduced the truly radical requirement for
civil servants to have to regularly rotate

the region they were serving in – to get
up and move to a different region for a few

years - facilitating intergroup contact across
their nation.

He also shared how following a violent Civil
War, Costa Rica introduced a peace curriculum

in its schools – and how this has translated
to it being a sea of calm in a region often

plagued by internal strife.

These are remarkable stories which highlight
the benefits of peace building –

Then in episode 25, Andrea Bartoli referred
us to Galtung’s framework for peace: with

peace keeping, peace making and peace building.

This goes beyond negative peace – to an
expression of positive peace.

And this was also something which Nealin Parker
was talking about in our last episode – how

what really unites those 6,700 organizations
in America alone that are working to address

polarization is their ambition for this kind
of peace building – for a positive peace.

And that’s our lane.

That’s what we’re promoting.

We are working to strengthen our collective
social fabric.

And whether or not this averts catastrophes,
it at least gives us the tools we need to

best navigate through them.

So here, in this Naw Ruz message, the Universal
House of Justice is calling on us to act as

catalysts working to awaken people’s capacity
to cultivate this kind of culture of peace,

working to create, as Abdul-Baha says: “genuine
love, spiritual communion and durable bonds

among individuals.”

And that’s why this is all about our work
in the Plans – because this kind of culture

of peace is what the Plans are working to

Now there’s one more reference in the Naw
Ruz message which I’d like to draw your

attention to.

They say: “Participation in the discourse
on peace and oneness, in all its numerous

facets, is another way in which the followers
of Bahá’u’lláh assist souls to look

to the future with a vision transcending the
challenges and limitations of society today,

and work together to better understand the
essential prerequisites of a peaceful society

and make it a reality.”

Now what stood out to me here is that we often
think about very specific discourses in which

we engage – like race unity – or the environment.

But I think, and remember, this is a personal
view here – but I think the Universal House

of Justice here is helping us see that ‘peace
and oneness’ is a meta narrative – because

they frame it as a meta discourse with ‘all
its numerous facets’.

So for me – on a personal level – this
creates a banner under which so many of our

discourse-related initiatives will land – and
that’s this call for participation in the

discourse on peace and oneness.

And of course, there’s the inspiring close
– where they quote from Abdul-Baha.

“I hope this New Year will be happy and
blessed and will become the cause of the attainment

of divine assistance and confirmation, so
that ye may become the cause of the unity

of the world and proclaim the oneness of the
human race, may change enemies into friends

and make those who are deprived the confidants
of the mysteries of the world’s Great Peace.”

So let’s reflect on the three ambitions
that Abdul-Baha voices for us.

First, that we become the cause of the unity
of the world and proclaim the oneness of the

human race.

That’s our message.

Then – that we change enemies into friends.

I mean, this is a lot of what we’ve been
exploring in our sequence on the science of


It’s the ultimate challenge, right?

So this is our method.

And finally, that we make those who are deprived
the confidants of the mysteries of the world’s

Great Peace.

Wow – That’s the result.

How truly inspiring.

Wow – this message was so powerful in helping
us look beyond the doom and gloom – so we

could see just how urgent the hour is – how
important the mission – and how critical

the need for us to arise and promote the cause
of the universal peace and the oneness of


Now remember, this podcast is not a substitute
for your own study.

Hopefully it will help inspire you to study
these three messages for yourself and see

how they speak to you.

And my review here is brief – I didn’t
cover all aspects of the message.

Further reason for you to study itself.

And my apologies for my inadequacy in better
covering the full depth of this message.

As I was doing the research for today’s
podcast, I often felt overwhelmed – like

how could I possibly fully express the ideas
here – because they’re so powerful.

So be forgiving in overlooking some of my
shortcomings here.

But that’s what our journey together is
all about, right?

Us working our best to find our path forward.

Well – that’s it for today.

Once again, I want to thank you for joining
us in our journey today – and I hope you’ll

join me again next time – on Society Builders.

Society builders pave the way
To a better world – to a better day

A united approach to building – a new society

There’s a crisis facing humanity
People suffer from a lack of unity

It’s time for a better path to a new society

Join our conversation
For social transformation

Society builders

So engage with your local communities
And explore all the exciting possibilities

We can elevate the atmosphere in which we

The paradigm is shifting
It is so very uplifting

It’s a new beat, a new song, a brand new

Join our conversation
For social transformation

Society builders

The Baha’i Faith has a lot to say
Helping people to discover a better way

With discourse and social action framed by

Now the time has come to lift our game
And apply the teachings of the Greatest Name

And rise to meet the glory of our destiny

Join our conversation
For social transformation

Society builders

Join our conversation
For social transformation

Society builders

Send us your comments at info@societybuilders.com © Duane Varan 2022