Any observer of the Bahá’í community would quickly come to appreciate the emphasis it places on family life and the education of children. The Bahá’í community sees the family unit as the nucleus of human society—a space within which praiseworthy morals and capacities essential to the betterment of society are to be developed. It recognizes that the habits and patterns of conduct nurtured within the family are carried into the workplace, into the local community, into the social and political life of the country, and into the arena of international relations.
Bahá’ís strive, therefore, to continually strengthen the spiritual ties that bind together the family. Each member of the Bahá’í community undertakes to contribute to the maintenance of a dynamic of family life that acknowledges the equality of the sexes, cultivates a loving and respectful relationship between parents and children, and promotes the principles of consultationand harmony in decision-making.
Bahá’í families strive to nurture love for all people, tolerance of differences, an acute sense of justice, and empathy for others. Great efforts are made to raise children who understand the oneness of humanity and so view every soul, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or any other affiliation, as a fellow human being, and to give expression to Bahá’u’lláh’s invocation to regard one another as “the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” The emergence of an “us and them” mentality—a damaging attitude that can emerge when excessive and narrow-minded emphasis is placed on the wellbeing of one’s own family, and the needs and interests of others are ignored—is to be assiduously avoided. For, in the final analysis, devotion to family interests cannot be permitted to diminish one’s commitment to justice and compassion for all.
A number of summer and winter schools from different periods and parts of the world, clockwise from top: Summer school in the United States of America, 1928; participants at an annual music festival in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2009; Bahá’í Summer School in Greenland,1991; participants at a Bahá’í summer school in Slovakia, 2004; Bahá’í summer school in Namibia 1983.
At a time when one of the most obvious signs of moral decay is the deterioration of family ties, it is no small task to nurture the kind of family life envisaged in the Bahá’í teachings within the many cultures and traditions represented in the Bahá’í community. Throughout the world, in urban and rural settings alike, Bahá’í institutions use every means at their disposal—arranging courses and conferences, organizing summer and winter schools, offering counsel and advice when difficulties arise—to assist in strengthening family life.
Summer and winter schools have been features of Bahá’í community life for many years. In addition to providing an opportunity for participants to study the Bahá’í writings and to strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of their significance, these seasonal schools allow Bahá’í families to spend a period of time together in a joyful atmosphere conducive to learning and the strengthening of spiritual bonds. Here you can see pictures of Bahá’í summer and winter schools, from the early years of the 20th century to the present day.