The 10th regional level Baha’i Fund Conference organised on 24 and 25 May 2019 at Saputara, Gujarat assists the believers to reflect upon the spiritual significance of giving to the Fund, and its impact upon their spiritual and material life. Around 135-140 believers from all-over, the State participated wholeheartedly and tried their best to understand how the act of giving to the Baha’i Fund helps in developing spiritual qualities and to progress spiritually and materially. This was the 10th conference organised by the State Baha’i Council of Gujarat with the sole purpose of educating the believers about the Baha’i Fund so that no believer is deprived of the blessings received therefrom. As a result of these conferences organised once in year followed by Fund Yatras organised at cluster and community level, the number of contributors is increasing gradually, and this year the Gujarat Baha’i community was able to celebrate 9th consecutive year of self-sufficiency towards the expenses of the State Baha’i Council and 5th year of self-sufficiency towards the expenses of the Training Institute Board. The purpose of the Council is to educate the believers about their spiritual obligation towards the Baha’i Fund and a privilege only open to the Baha’is. For the 10th conference, the Council decided to conduct workshops instead of talks and use first four titles as study material from ‘Roaring Fountain’ – an e-magazine published by National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Azerbaijan and its impact was very much effective.
The conference began with a workshop on ‘Me and My Contribution’ conducted by Auxiliary Board Member- Mr. Ratilal Gavit after spiritualizing atmosphere generated by the prayers chanted by youth and children. The session assisted the believers to understand the following statements in deeper context – “God hath, at all times and under all conditions, been wholly independent of His creatures”. “If a person is willing to make his offering with utmost contentment, its acceptance is permissible, otherwise our merciful Lord is independent of all mankind”. The first workshop helped the friends to understand that God is independent of all things, He does not need our material wealth. We contribute not for God, but it is for our need and to develop our spiritual qualities- such as generosity, love, sacrifice, regularity, etc. We may say that this session helped the believers to reflect upon the aim of giving to the Fund and a kind of attitude a believer must have while offering contributions.
After lunch the workshop on ‘Degree of Sacrifice and My Contribution’ conducted by Mr. Sanjay Shrivastav helped believers to understand the theme – ‘degree of sacrifice as they reflected upon the statement – “such giving has been considered in our Teachings as a spiritual obligation and an act of sacrifice, which is closely related to the spiritual development of the individual believer”; “The importance of contributing resides in the degree of sacrifice of the giver, the spirit of devotion with which the contribution is made and the unity of the friends in this service; these attract the confirmations of God and enhance the dignity and self-respect of the individuals and the community.” This session helped the friends to reflect upon the concept of ‘sacrifice’ and how one may know when he/she is crossing the threshold of sacrifice.
Soon after these sessions the Treasurer of the Council, Mr. Rajesh Ahire presented the financial reports of the Council for the year 2018-19. The believers were extremely delighted to know that, as a result of their generous, sacrificial and regular contributions towards the National Fund, the Gujarat Baha’i community was able to maintain its self-sufficiency. The treasurer explained how the financial requirements of the Gujarat Baha’i community have increased with a steady increase in the activities of the Cause in the State. The flow of the pledges received from the friends towards National and Temple Fund reflected how eager they were to offer their pledges to support the Baha’i Fund as a sign of their love towards God.
The workshop organised on ‘My Poverty and My Contribution’ conducted by Mrs. Swati Chinubhai assisted the believers to discuss that each Individual believer is capable of offering something for the Cause according to his/her ability and no one can escape himself/herself from the act of giving. The statement from the Writings says that “… God does not ask from any soul except according to his ability. This contribution must come from all cities and villages from all the believers of God…. whosoever comes with one good act, God will give him tenfold”. The study material helped the friends to discuss that sacrificial contributions to the Bahá’í Fund accelerate “spiritual progress”, attract “the confirmations of God”, and foster “dignity and self-respect of the individuals and the community”, and no one can say that he/she is not capable of offering anything to the Cause. Sometimes we may think that generous giving and philanthropy is reserved only for the rich and the wealthy. Whereas the Writings make it clear that contributing to the Bahá’í Fund is a privilege reserved for “every Bahá’í, no matter how poor,” and “according to his ability”. This session helped the friends to think about how they spend their wealth and to know if their wealth is spent judicially or not, and to think upon how they can make efforts to earn in order to contribute. They discussed that surely, God understands our limitations, and all can contribute according to their limitations. This workshop helped the friends to understand that one must evaluate when he/she is crossing the threshold of sacrifice, as God loves our degree of sacrifice and not the amount.
Day 2 began with spiritualization and it was followed by the workshop on ‘Study of the Ridvan 2019 Message from Universal House of Justice’ conducted by Vasant Bagul. This session helped the friends understand how the Funds are being utilized and what the Baha’i community is building for the better future and to build a new civilization for mankind envisaged by Baha’u’llah. This session also helped the friends to focus their attention on the provisions of the Five-Year Plan. While discussing the call from the Universal House of Justice, ‘That time has come. The Bahá’í world is being summoned to build the edifice which will forever embosom those sacred remains.’ The friends decided to offer their pledges towards this call. It was heartening to see the response of the believers to support the construction of the shrine of Abdul-Baha.
After that Mr. Jayesh Bhoya briefly shared the reports of the activities of the Training Institute during the last financial year and the plan of the Institute for the current year and invited the friends to support the Institute activities in whatever manner they may wish to.
National Fund Development Officer, Ms. Shraddha Teli encouraged friends with some selected Holy Writings and inspiring stories about the Baha’i Fund. She was happy to see how Gujarat Baha’i community is advancing in the area of contributing towards Baha’i Funds. She also reminded that the friends may think about other Baha’i Funds while offering their contributions. Dr Mangesh Teli, representative of the National Spiritual Assembly gave a concluding remark in which he mentioned that the National Spiritual Assembly is keen to see the fulfillment of the goals of the Five-Year Plan and the friends may come forward to pioneer for a shorter duration to serve the goal clusters. He also suggested that the Gujarat State Baha’i Council may encourage the Local Spiritual Assemblies to think about contributing towards various Baha’i Funds also, which they may begin with token amount and cultivate into a regular practice.
This conference has assisted the believers to reflect upon the various spiritual concepts about the Baha’i Fund- like generosity, sacrifice, universal participation, spiritual obligation, every believer is capable to contribute, etc. The conference was self-sufficient, and the Council received pledges for Rs. 20,49,162.00 from 118 believers towards National Fund and Rs. 2,00,400:00 from 84 believers towards Temple Fund to be fulfilled during the current year, and pledges for Rs. 20,13, 280:00 from 56 believers towards the construction of the Shrine of Abdul-Baha during the conference. The friends will try to fulfill their pledges towards the shrine of Abdul-Baha during the next three years.
The Council made some extra efforts to make this conference more effective. They decided to have workshops rather than talks – to study the selected material translated into Gujarati. The Council also appointed some facilitators and organized a training prior to the conference for them in order to provide them an opportunity to be familiar with the concepts explained in the material. Various committees like Invitation committee and physical arrangement committee were appointed for the smooth functioning of the conference. The Council is grateful to all the friends contributed towards making this program successful.