The Universal House of Justice
The Universal House of Justice is the international and highest governing body of the Faith. It was endowed by Baha’u’llah with the authority to legislate on all matters not specifically laid down in the Baha’i scriptures. In this way, the Universal House of Justice keeps the Baha’i community unified and responsive to the needs and conditions of an evolving world.
Composed of nine individuals, the Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by members of the more than 180 national-level governing councils worldwide know as National Spiritual Assemblies. The process of election is much the same as for Local and National Spiritual Assemblies: there are no nominations, campaigning is forbidden, and the nine individuals who receive the most votes are elected. As with local and national elections, voters are expected to consider only individuals of recognized ability and spiritual capacity. The first election was held in 1963.
The practical expression of the religious impulse in the modern age, Bahá’u’lláh says, is collective decision-making and collective action based on spiritual principles to ensure justice. “The essence of all that We have revealed for thee,” Bahá’u’lláh declares, “is Justice.” The chief instrument for the transformation of society and the achievement of lasting peace, He asserts, is the establishment of justice in every aspect of life. Bahá’u’lláh explains that the “purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.” A conviction of the practicality of world unity, coupled with a dedication and willingness to work toward this goal, is the single most distinguishing characteristic of the Bahá’í community.
From the Baha’i World Center, a staff of more than 600 people from 60 countries administers the international affairs of the Baha’i world community. From Haifa, information is transmitted back and forth between national Baha’i communities; international goals and plans are disseminated; social and economic development projects are monitored; statistics are collected and kept; and international funds are managed.
Developed gradually over the course of the last century and a half, the Baha’i administration is a remarkable development: a principled system of world governance that, without resort to a priestly or ecclesiastical class, serves both to develop and channel the capacities of the individual without impinging on the rights of the whole — and above all else has the demonstrated ability to forge an integrated world community, bringing unified direction to a body of people that is perhaps the most diverse on earth. Certainly, as a system of religious administration, it stands without parallel. No other world religion, past or present, conducts its affairs through a system that, through all-encompassing free elections, harkens so closely to the concerns of the grassroots while at the same time, because of its basis on divine scripture, provides the explicit authority for steadfast unity. Bahá’ís understand that the Bahá’í administrative order is nothing less than the “charter of a future world civilization.”