Aug 9, 2014

Humanity’s Coming Encounter with Baha’u’llah – a talk by Douglas Martin, April 1992, retired member of the Universal House of Justice (then Director-General of the Baha'i World Center Office of Public Information)

Anniversaries are an invitation to take stock, to review where we have come from. The hope is that we can secure a vantage point from which we can better appreciate what lies ahead. Centenaries are particularly valuable in this respect, because the perspective they provide is so much longer, and the vantage point, hopefully, correspondingly high.

In reviewing of the unfolding public message of the Cause over the past 100 years it is important to distinguish this message from the Faith's teaching work. There are as many teaching methods as there are Baha'is: some five million of them at the present count. There are as many "Baha'i messages", perhaps, as there are inquirers. Entirely apart from this worldwide effort of individuals to teach other individuals, the Baha'i community as a body has pursued a parallel, century-long -- and remarkably systematic -- program to create an accurate and favorable image of the Cause in the public mind generally.

There is no one satisfactory term that captures this endeavor. The meaning of the much-used word "proclamation" has, unfortunately, become steadily more blurred as it has been used for various group teaching initiatives. What we are talking about are such activities as public information, government relations, publicity, publishing, media production and public relations, whose aim is to ensure that the society around us gains a reasonably sound understanding of the nature and purposes of the Baha'i Cause.

When one looks back over the past century with this area of our work in mind, a very interesting realization emerges. It is not only the Baha'i community that has moved through a series of stages in its development, but also the presentation of its public message. In a sense the image of the Cause can be said to have gone through three -- and perhaps four -- major transformations during these hundred years.