The Office of Public Affairs of the Bahá’ís of India has been an active participant over the past two and half decades in discourses concerned with the betterment of Indian society. The early milestone in the development of this area of endeavour was in 1995 with efforts in promoting the principle of the equality of women and men which emerged as a result of the historic Beijing Platform for Action convened by the United Nations. In the years that followed, the Office succeeded in collaborating with various government agencies, development organizations, international organizations, women’s movements in organizing seminars, workshops and conferences to generate greater unity of thought about this principle. As the Office became an increasingly known social actor in this area, it started contributing recommendations to various ministries and agencies of the government in the areas of women and child development. One of the significant spaces in which the Office grew to play a leading role as a result of its engagement in the discourse on equality of women and men was the child rights movement. The Office is a founder member of the alliance for child rights in India since 2001.
Another milestone in the evolution of the Office’s
work was the initiation and promotion of the
discourse on science, religion and development in
2000. The Office collaborated with Institute for
Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP) in organizing a
Colloquium on Science, Religion and Development in
2000 in which around 150 international and national
organizations participated to explore the role of
spiritual principles and scientific methods in
advancing social and economic progress. In the years
that followed, the Office in collaboration with ISGP
and other like-minded organizations organized
various spaces throughout the country to explore the
implications of this discourse with a widening
circle of stakeholders in the field of development.
As a result of this, this discourse grew to embrace
a large number of distinguished academics, policy
makers, civil society organizations and social
movements. The Office systematized the learning in
this discourse which eventually resulted in the
publication of the book
Science, Religion and Development: Advancing
In the years that followed, a fruit of the Office’s collaboration with ISGP was a more profound and in-depth exploration of some fundamental themes related to the principles of equality of women and men and good governance explored in discussion papers on these themes with various national-level development organizations and government agencies.
Another space where the Office historically emerged as a significant actor was the interfaith movement in India. For decades, the Office has been a member of national interfaith organizations, and the Bahá’í community has often been turned to for the promotion of, and leadership in, efforts to bring about religious co-existence and peace. The interfaith movement that the Office has been part of over the past three decades has promoted a number of important issues such as communal harmony, ending female foeticide and infanticide, and establishing peace, security and non-violence.
With rising social tensions in recent years between various religious groups, growing attention is being given to interfaith dialogue in the country, and the Bahá’í community has been an active participant in these efforts. The escalation of intolerance and conflict between religious groups has given rise to growing interest in the role of religion in establishing peace and harmony. The Office has sought to create and participate in spaces where discussions on the role of religion in building a better society can be advanced.
For the Office these years of experience in participating in discourses served as a valuable means of strengthening its relationships with organizations and individuals similarly concerned with the betterment of society. It also helped give shape to the elements of the Office’s approach to participating in discourses of society in a systematic and structured mode of learning.
As an outcome of this learning over nearly three decades, the Office is at present focusing on systematically advancing thought in the areas of Role of Religion, Advancement of Women, Media and Society, and the Well-being of Children.