Universal House of Justice Announces Conferences to Launch the Nine Year Plan

“As first announced by the Universal House of Justice in its Riḍván 2018 message, there will be a sequence of events beginning with two significant gatherings in the Holy Land: one in November marking the centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to be attended by representatives of National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Bahá’í Councils and the other bringing together the Continental Counsellors and members of the Auxiliary Boards in early January. Immediately following these gatherings, a series of conferences are to be held throughout the world over a span of months, concluding by Riḍván or soon thereafter. We have been asked to provide you with further details about the nature of this series of conferences and how they will be convened.”

— From a Letter dated 15 September 2021 from the Universal House of Justice, regarding Nine Year Plan Conferences. Please download and read here.

Questions addressed by the letter

1. What is the aim of the conferences?
  • “The conferences will aim at carrying to the friends in every land the spiritual energy released by the gatherings in the Holy Land, as the community prepares for a dynamic thrust forward with the launch of the Nine Year Plan.”
  • Attract “millions of people at the grassroots across the region and around the world so that they partake in a collective pattern of activity that fosters a vibrant community life in villages and cities everywhere.”
  • There will be two significant gatherings in the Holy Land preceding the conferences.
    • “One [gathering] in November [2021] marking the centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to be attended by representatives of National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Bahá’í Councils,
    • “the other bringing together the Continental Counsellors and members of the Auxiliary Boards in early January. [2022]”
2. What insights will the participants gain?
  • “The conferences … will give the participants an opportunity to gain greater insight into the nature of the spiritual enterprise in which they are engaged, a sense of the distance traversed thus far, and a deeper understanding of the exigencies of the current stage in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan.”
  • “They will strive to enhance appreciation of the privilege of being part of a community that has set its gaze upon the spiritual and material transformation of society, and of the bounty of being connected by bonds of love and camaraderie with brothers and sisters in a global effort.”
3. What capacities do I need to prepare and strengthen for the conferences?

Preparations for the conferences should reflect the capacities that have been developed during the prior series of Plans, particularly those cultivated in relation to the bicentenaries, including:

  • the capacity for meaningful conversation with Bahá’ís and members of the wider community,
  • the capacity to invite and attract Bahá’ís and friends from the wider community to participate,
  • the capacity for direct sharing of the lives and teachings of the Central Figures with friends from the wider community,
  • the capacity to create a devotional atmosphere

Area Teaching Committees and Assemblies will need to continue developing the capacities of coordination, organization, institutional collaboration, and collective action. Committees will need to develop the capacity for long-range planning that includes sequenced lines of action leading to the conferences themselves.

A great deal can be done between now and the conferences to exercise these capacities, to nurture new ones, and to build enthusiasm.

4. What general themes can I use to talk about the conferences, while awaiting final plans?

In order to communicate the vision of the Universal House of Justice in language that everyone can understand, you may wish to study the letter to familiarize yourself with the main themes of the conferences and consult with friends on how best to invite others.

For example, you could say that these global conferences:

  • will give new spiritual energy to addressing the conditions of the world.
  • will start a nine year global effort that will address problems communities around the world currently face.
  • will offer rich devotional spaces.
  • are part of a continuing community development process that has been going on for the past 25 years and now includes 5,000 communities around the world.
  • will bring together the diverse cultural elements of a global community in loving fellowship.
  • will bring together people of all ages to experience joyful expressions of art.
  • are part of ongoing effort to create new ways for individuals, institutions and community members to work together to transform society.
  • offer hope for building vibrant communities.
  • offer hope and certainty that God’s Plan is unfolding for all of humanity, and that we have the privilege of being part of it.

These are just a few examples of language that individuals might use to describe the themes of the conferences. Individuals and small groups of friends are free to consult on language that suits their local circumstances, based on their study of the September 15 letter.

5. What guidance will inspire the conference programme?
  • “It is envisaged that in preparing the programme for the conferences you [the National Spiritual Assemblies] will draw from the Sacred Writings as well as guidance contained in relevant messages of the House of Justice, in particular the message to be released at the forthcoming Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors delineating the provisions of the Nine Year Plan.”
6. When will the conferences occur?
  • After the two gatherings in the Holy Land that end in early January, there will be a series of conferences held throughout the region, “… over a span of months, concluding by Riḍván [2022] or soon thereafter.”
  • These conferences will launch the Nine Year Plan, which will start at Riḍván 2022 and extend to Riḍván 2031.
7. Who will be invited to the conferences?
  • “Given that millions of people at the grassroots across the globe are engaged in a collective pattern of activity that fosters a vibrant community life in villages and cities, the conferences should be organized such that as many of these friends as possible are able to attend.”
  • “In many places, whole families will participate, and special programmes for children and junior youth will be necessary.”
8. What do we need to do to prepare for the conferences — and when should we start?
  • The general format and the program will be prepared by the National Spiritual Assembly and Counsellors as soon as possible.
  • Local communities, Area Teaching Committees, and individuals—including members of the wider community—can begin planning conferences as soon as they receive more guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly and Regional Bahá’í Councils.
  • Individuals and groups of friends, including friends of the Faith at the grass roots level, can prepare by studying the September 15, 2021 letter from the Universal House of Justice and by familiarizing themselves with its content.
  • Local communities, Area Teaching Committees, and individuals—including new collaborators—can immediately begin drawing up lists of people to invite, paying special attention to the friends of the Faith.
    • Thinking about how to engage each individual
    • Thinking about how to engage families, children, youth, and junior youth
    • Thinking about local artists and how they might be invited to participate
9. How will the arts be included in the conferences?

“Early consideration of the artistic and creative components to be incorporated into the programme would allow for some of the preparations for these to be made well in advance.”

Artistic and creative expressions might include: visual arts such as photography, drawing, painting, and murals; musical expressions that include collective singing, drumming, improvisation and composing, etc.; dramatic presentations—plays, skits, poetry, and spoken word; sculpture, wood-carving, ceramics, and pottery; fabric arts such as weaving, quilting, beadwork, knitting and crochet, tie-dye and batique; and other folk arts that reflect the diverse populations of local communities.

  • With respect to artistic contributions, these should be a natural welling-up from the grassroots in response to the purpose of the conferences, rather than professional performances—however well-meant—that in the end entertain or at best make participants passive recipients. Volunteer professional performers at the local level who actively engage participants are welcome but should not be the center of attraction or viewed as “entertainment”.
  • It may be useful at this juncture to devise a way to become aware of existing artistic endeavors as well as emerging ones that can be encouraged over the coming months, so that the conferences may benefit from them.
  • Consideration should be given to the development of devotional, artistic and other creative contributions, programs for children and junior youth, and possibly other elements.
  • With regard to programs for children and junior youth, although youth are often asked to facilitate such programs, arrangements will need to be considered that allow young people to fully participate in the conferences given the significance of their contributions.
10. How will the conferences be organized?
  • The National Spiritual Assembly and the Regional Bahá’í Council will give further details in the near future, based on the guidance quoted below from the September 15, 2021 letter from the Universal House of Justice. “… it will be important for [Regional Bahá’í Councils] to be fully involved in the organization of the conferences.”
  • The Councils will consult with institutions and agencies over the course of the next months, resulting in a thorough mapping of the needs within regions and a plan for how the conferences are to take place.
  • “Varying circumstances of communities will require that the conferences be organized differently from place to place in response to local conditions.”
    • “In locations where the community-building process is embracing large numbers, a conference could be held for one or several adjacent neighbourhoods or villages.”
    • “In other places, a conference for a cluster, a group of adjoining clusters, or a region would be more suitable.”
    • “In yet other situations, several regions or countries may have a single conference.”
    • “In addition, the duration of each of these gatherings may differ depending on what is deemed necessary to achieve the aim of the conferences.”
  • Flexibility and creativity will be key when determining the number, location and timing of the conferences, with the overarching aim of maximizing accessibility and attendance on the part of Bahá’ís and their friends, especially those who are already in contact with or engaged in some way in the life of the community, as well as those who are yet to be aware of the Bahá’í community.
11. How may the pandemic restrictions affect the conferences?
  • “Naturally, restrictions in place due to the pandemic will influence your planning for the conferences.”
  • “In this regard, it will be important to have contingency plans ready to cover various eventualities that may affect logistical arrangements, require provisions to be made for holding sessions online, or call for other adjustments.”
  • Current public health guidelines should be respected and observed, and online options made available as feasible for those who cannot attend in person.
12. Which institutions of the Faith will plan the conferences?
  • “Where Regional Bahá’í Councils exist, it will be important for them to be fully involved in the organization of the conferences.”
  • The National Spiritual Assemblies “are encouraged to consult with the Counsellors as soon as possible regarding the details of the programme and logistical arrangements.”
  • “In addition to providing assistance throughout the planning and preparation phase, the Counsellors and their auxiliaries will naturally extend their support during the full course of these gatherings.”
13. What additional gatherings will be planned to support the launch of the Nine Year Plan?
  • “Besides the conferences, it is anticipated that national and regional institutional meetings will need to be organized, as has been the case in connection with the launch of previous Plans.”
  • “Since such institutional meetings may occur during the same period as the conferences, the scheduling of the various events will need to be carefully considered.”
  • Local communities, including members of the wider community, can begin planning conferences as soon as they receive more guidance from the National Spiritual Assembly and Regional Bahá’í Councils.

Timeline for Conference Planning

  • November — December 2021

    The commemoration marking the centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is attended by representatives of National Spiritual Assemblies and Regional Bahá’í Councils. The Universal House of Justice addresses a message to the gathering.

    National Assembly, Regional Councils and Counsellors begin planning general program format and locations for the conferences. A preliminary map of conference locations and goals for participation are created.

    Individuals, Institutions and communities study the September 15, 2021 message from the House of Justice and invite friends to the centenary of the Ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Everyone builds capacity to invite members of the general community to the conferences. See: What capacities do I need to develop for the conferences?

    Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members gather in the Holy Land and study the new Nine Year Plan Message.

  • January 2022

    Individuals, Institutions and communities study the newly released Message from the Universal House of Justice delineating the provisions of the Nine Year Plan.

    Regional Councils and Counsellors continue to refine preparations for the conferences. Local communities are included in the planning process. Venues, timing, and backup plans are considered.

    Assemblies, Cluster Agencies, and individuals consider cultural, devotional, artistic and creative contributions, programs for children and junior youth, encouraging contributions from the wider community. Special efforts should be made to reach out to people of diverse cultural backgrounds including immigrant and historically significant populations in the cluster. See: How will the arts be included in the conferences?

    National and Regional Institutions gather to gain deeper insights into the Plan and actions that will be required to achieve its aims.

  • February through April 2022

    Regional Council, Counsellors, and Agencies meet to finalize conference plans. The common elements of the program decided at the national level form the foundation of local and regional conferences.

    Cluster and local agencies finalize plans. Consideration is given to the time and duration for each conference. Venues, timing, and backup plans are finalized.

    Conferences take place and include as many friends as possible.

Conference Planning Resources

  • Exemplar, a new film from the Bahá’í World Centre that “follows the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the profound effect He had on people both past and present.”
  • Artistic works mark historic occasion of Centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing: “…an outpouring of artistic expressions inspired by His life and work as a herald of peace, a champion of social justice, and upholder of the principle of the oneness of humanity.”
  • 239 Days in America “… reconstructs ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s 1912 journey moment by moment, time-shifted to the present. You will encounter ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as Americans of the time did—little by little, day by day.”
  • Bahá’í Song Project Website and Phone App, “a resource for people from all around the world who share the understanding that singing prayers and sacred verses can bring much joy and vibrancy to a community.”
  • ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Champion of Justice and Peace: A historical perspective about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his service to humankind, with additional links to His Writings, Prayers and biographical information.
  • More resources coming soon.