A Global CommunityWomen and men gather in Garoua Boulai, a rural region of eastern Cameroon, to discuss how they can work together to alleviate some of the burdens placed on the women with regard to child care. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, scholars come together to exchange ideas on the topic "Anarchy into Order: Understanding Humanity's Role and Destiny." People on Goodenough Island, Papua New Guinea, escort a flower-strewn platform carrying a new Book of Laws to their village, ushering it in with respect and joyful songs. In Panchgani, India, young boys are learning how to plant and tend tree seedlings in the course of their studies in sustainable development at a locally run institute. A youth group performs a dance about the terrible consequences of racism to schoolchildren in a school auditorium in British Columbia, Canada. In Colombia, South America, a conga musical group imbues its traditional Latin rhythms with a spiritual message about the unity of humanity, to the delight of listeners at open-air venues. A team of medical specialists from the United Kingdom "twins" efforts with doctors at a hospital in Bulgaria, offering assistance in training local practioners. These people, though they have in all probability never met one another, share a united view of the world and its future, as well as their own role in shaping that future. They are members of the Bahá'í International Community.
The Bahá'í community, comprising members of the Bahá'í Faith from all over the globe, now numbers some five million souls. They represent 2,112 ethnic and tribal groups and live in over 116,000 localities in 188 independent countries and 45 dependent territories or overseas departments. What was once regarded by some as an obscure, tiny sect is now recognized by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the second-most widely spread independent religion in the world, after Christianity. Its membership cuts across all boundaries of class and race, governing itself through the establishment of local and national elected bodies known as Spiritual Assemblies. Haifa, Israel, is the site of its international center and the seat of its world-governing council, known as the Universal House of Justice.
The worldwide Bahá'í community may well be the most diverse and widespread body of people on earth. It is also among the world's most unified organizations, a feature that is perhaps its most distinguishing characteristic.
Bahá'ís the world over come from all religious backgrounds: Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian, animist, and non-religious. Yet they study a common set of sacred writings, observe a unifying code of religious laws, and look to a single international administrative system for continuing guidance.
Their sense of unity goes beyond a shared theology. It is expressed in an abiding commitment to a global program for moral, spiritual and social progress that represents many of the finest ideals of civilization.
Promoting equality of women and men is a primary goal, as are ending racial and ethnic strife, promoting economic justice for all peoples, and ensuring access to good education for all. The community eschews all forms of superstition, emphasizes the importance of an unfettered search for scientific and religious truth, and sets for its followers the goal of meeting the highest moral standards. World peace and the establishment of a united global commonwealth have been and remain distinguishing concerns.