Entry by troops
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Entry by troops is a term that developed in the Bahá'í Faith to describe a process of expansion when the Faith would emerge from relative obscurity, and masses of people would become Bahá'ís. It is not meant to suggest militancy - the word "troops" is used for its secondary meaning of "large groups of people". The term first appeared in Bahá'u'lláh's Suriy-i-Haykal. 
The Bahá'í Faith currently claims at least 6 million members, in almost every country of the world. It is the second most widespread, behind Christianity,[not in citation given (See discussion.)] and ranks among the fastest growing in many parts of the world.
Entry by Masses
Entry by troops is referred to as a period of time, or a process, and does not represent an event in any place or time. It is seen as the beginning of an expected large-scale entry into the Faith, when a majority of the world will recognize and accept it. One example that defines the attitude towards entry by troops comes from Shoghi Effendi:
- "This flow, moreover, will presage and hasten the advent of the day which, as prophesied by `Abdu'l-Bahá, will witness the entry by troops of peoples of divers nations and races into the Bahá’í world—a day which, viewed in its proper perspective, will be the prelude to that long-awaited hour when a mass conversion on the part of these same nations and races, and as a direct result of a chain of events, momentous and possibly catastrophic in nature and which cannot as yet be even dimly visualized, will suddenly revolutionize the fortunes of the Faith, derange the equilibrium of the world, and reinforce a thousandfold the numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh."
- (1953, Shoghi Effendi, “Citadel of Faith: Messages to America 1947-1957”, p. 117)
Ten Year Crusade
The efforts of worldwide expansion that characterized the Ten Year Crusade from 1953 to 1963 were followed by massive enrollments in some parts of the world. Almost every country in the world which had no Bahá'ís was visited by travelling teachers. The initial excitement was followed by a slight reversal, as the retention rate was low after the first two years of enrollment. This caused the Bahá'í community to focus more on consolidation. The experience emphasized that it was not a difficult task to go into a new country and enroll many people in the Faith. The difficult part was getting people grounded in the teachings, and capable of carrying on their own teaching work. In many places, a pioneering Bahá'í would generate a lot of enthusiasm, which would die off after that individual went back to their native country.
In 2000, the Universal House of Justice published Century of Light, which reviewed the accomplishments and setbacks of the previous century. A major conclusion of the book was the need to focus on long term teaching goals. For example, a 1975 letter from the Universal House of Justice said the following:
- "Teaching the Faith embraces many diverse activities, all of which are vital to success, and each of which reinforce the other. Time and again the beloved Guardian emphasized that expansion and consolidation are twin and inseparable aspects to teaching that must proceed simultaneously yet one still hears believers discussing the virtues of one as against the other. The purpose of teaching is not complete when a person declares that he has accepted Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God for this age; the purpose of teaching is to attract human beings to the Divine Message and so imbue them with its spirit that they will dedicate themselves to its service, and this world will become another world and its people another people. Viewed in this light a declaration of Faith is merely a milestone along the way—albeit a very important one."
- (To all National Spiritual Assemblies, May 25, 1975, Lights of Guidance, p. 594)
The Universal House of Justice has announced consecutive multi-year plans. From 1996 to 2000, the Four Year Plan focused on strengthening "communities, institutions, and believers" in a way that would prepare for the coming of entry by troops, which would begin by the end of the plan. From 2000 to 2001, the Twelve Month Plan focused on creating activities and further building an administrative structure. In this time the Regional Bahá'í Council (RBC) was created in very large countries, where an intermediary was necessary between the National and Local levels. From 2001 to 2006, the Five Year Plan has focused on three core activities, which are devotional gatherings, children's classes, and study circles. An additional aspect newly created was the categorizing of areas into "clusters", a new term created for that purpose. The clusters represent groups of geographically similar communities, such as a metropolitan area, and each cluster given a designation ranging from A-D based on their capacity for large-scale growth. From 2006 to 2011 the Five Year Plan introduced Junior Youth Activities in addition to the previous four activities.
The results of these efforts have not only increased the numbers of Bahá'ís in the world, but effectively increased the retention rate. In India, which has the largest Bahá'í community, a single cluster had two thousand individuals become Bahá'ís within a six-month period. Within the following year, one thousand of them had finished Ruhi book 2. Similar trends have been observed in Mongolia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh among others (all in relatively large numbers); and in the Southern United States, Eastern Europe and even Britain (all in somewhat smaller numbers). Many other communities around the world have experienced increased growth and activity since 2000.
A letter written to a Bahá'í on behalf of Shoghi Effendi has a section that gives a clear perspective of the Bahá'í attitude toward mass conversion.
- It is not sufficient to number the souls that embrace the Cause to know the progress that it is making. The more important consequences of your activities are the spirit that is diffused into the life of the community, and the extent to which the teachings we proclaim become part of the consciousness and belief of the people that hear them. For it is only when the spirit has thoroughly permeated the world that the people will begin to enter the Faith in large numbers. At the beginning of the spring only the few, exceptionally favoured seeds will sprout, but when the season gets in its full sway, and the atmosphere gets permeated with the warmth of true springtime, then masses of flowers will begin to appear, and a whole hillside suddenly blooms. We are still in the state when only isolated souls are awakened, but soon we shall have the full swing of the season and the quickening of whole groups and nations into the spiritual life breathed by Bahá'u'lláh."
- (Letter 18 February 1932, on behalf of Shoghi Effendi)
- Encyclopædia Britannica (2002). "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2002". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2006-05-31.