Coming of age in the Bahá’í faith

15 is the age when Bahá’ís come of age. Here, continuing our series on rites of passage Collis Tahzi

The Bahá’í faith is a distinct religion, based on the teachings of its Prophet-Founder, Bahá'u'lláh. In Persia, in the middle of the 19th century, he taught that all the world’s diverse faiths are in essence, one. An acceptance of the truth of all other religions, recognising them as authentic, divine sources of guidance for different timeframes, provides the foundation on which world unity can be built. It is a universally appealing faith, which contains the minimum of ritual, no clergy and no confession. Therefore, for young believers, the process of becoming a Bahá’í - of coming of age - does not carry with it any elaborate celebration or ceremony, but represents the start of a process of personal spiritual development where they take personal responsibility for their actions.

According to Bahá'u'lláh, turning 15 represents the age of spiritual maturity. It is at this moment that certain practices become binding – the recital each day of an obligatory prayer, the participation in a period of fasting each year, the opportunity to contribute money in a private and voluntary way to the work of the faith.

Most importantly, becoming a Bahá’í represents a commitment to social change and service to the community. Young people have always played a major role in the establishment of the Bahá’í faith, and continue to do so in its vision for a new global society. Quite in contrast to the expected disengagement of youth from the affairs of society, the Bahá’í faith gives its young members an engaging vision rooted in the notion of the equality of the human race:

unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving.

Young Bahá’ís, upon their “declaration”, see this as their goal. To be an effective instrument in this process, we strive to be upright, kind, intelligent, truthful and honest. It is through aligning ourselves to high ideals that we can influence others. The concept of ‘Year of Service’ – a kind of spiritually motivated “gap year” – where young Bahá’ís can offer to travel and engage in any number of social development projects in the world, also becomes a subject for consideration along with choice of career and university courses.

In truth, reaching spiritual maturity at the age of fifteen – as Bahá’ís believe – does not mark a sudden transition. Having been raised with Bahá’í ideals it was, for me, part of a gradual process of development. The declaration of faith does, nonetheless, indicate a personal commitment and the assumption of responsibility for my actions. In this sense it is an important milestone, and a moment of dedication to living a spiritual life.

Collis Tahzib is a pupil at Warwick School, currently studying for his GCSEs; hoping to read Politics, Philosophy, Maths and English at A-Level, and do a PPE degree at university.
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.