The origins of the Bahá'í community date back to the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh after the midpoint of the nineteenth century. During his mission, he had enunciated a holistic worldview and certain general solutions addressing the predicament of humankind at the threshold of a global era. But he also created the mechanism for the implementation of these ideals into a process of systematic reform. He, therefore, founded the Bahá'í community with its unique system of development and governance to translate universal principles to the specific developmental needs of humanity, in accordance with the requirements of each time and place. Perhaps, the Bahá'í community is best described as a testing ground, examining and implementing systematically the vision and strategy proposed by Bahá'u'lláh.
Bahá'u'lláh was well aware that such an enormous worldwide enterprise and its administration are hardly established, in full volume, within the few decades of his lifetime. He, therefore trained and taught his eldest son, `Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921), to continue his task after him so that the Bahá'í Community could develop sufficient evolutionary and administrative maturity. After Bahá'u'lláh's passing in 1892, `Abdu'l-Bahá, accordingly, conducted the affairs of the Bahá'í community through its fragile and perilous infancy to a point where, by the time of his passing in 1921, it was capable of undertaking the task of completing the infrastructure of Bahá'u'lláh's system of social organization.
Today this global community embraces some six million people, representing almost every race, culture and social and religious background on the planet. It is a representative sample, a microcosm, of the human race -- a miniature mankind. It seeks to create within itself a working model of a mature global society, as envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh, and set a pattern for constructive, systematic development. It welcomes every concerned spectator of humanity's predicatment to study the results of this experiment and to contribute to its deliberations.
The task being enormous and the goal infinately high, the Bahá'í community surrenders any claims of perfection in this vast enterprise. It does, however, take up the role of a global guide, a pace-setter, a change agent in pursuing this lofty goal, advancing towards it one well-conceived step at a time. This role urges the Bahá'í community to go beyond merely constructing a new working model of society: it is committed to specific and immediate developmental needs of mankind. Timely topics -- such as collective responsibility for the promotion of human rights, advancement of the status of women, equal and just international prosperity, moral development and civic participation -- are at the core of the community's daily work. This work is pursued both at the grass-roots level and on the level of governance. It requires active cooperation and consultation with organizations, governments, individuals and groups at the international, national and local levels. Bahá'í communities, both national and local, engage in projects of social and economic development through established networks of cooperation with variety social actors who share some of its vision. On the global level, the Bahá'í International Community, as an NGO member of the United Nations, conducts various public projects in cooperation with other NGOs (non-governmental organizationa) and UN agencies.
The existence of the Bahá'í community and the sustainability of its progress throughout the tumultuous decades of the past one-and-a-half centuries demonstrate the practicability of Bahá'u'lláh's vision of a united humanity. The case of the Bahá'í community is a promising sign that these words of Bahá'u'lláh are not an expression of wishful hope but a description of a realistic and attainable scenario: "These fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come."