Baha'is Prayerfully To Choose National Convention Delegate
Publication date: 2000-10-14
Arrival time: 2000-10-15
Imagine an election where there is neither nomination of candidates nor campaigning. Where qualifications for office include nothing more than selfless devotion, a well-trained mind and mature experience. Where the process is conducted in silence and the outcome is a result of prayer.
To Baha'is, this is no fantasy, but the most spiritual way to select delegates and leaders.
More than 150 members of Salt Lake City's Baha'i community, along with some from southern Wyoming, western Colorado and parts of Idaho, are meeting today at the University of Utah to select a delegate to the national Baha'i convention that will, in turn, elect members of the faith's governing council in the United States.
Delegates do not "aspire to the role and are usually humbled by the experience," said Shahab Saeed, last year's delegate from Utah. "They are responsible to God and not the body which elected them."
Baha'is trace their beginnings to Mirza Ali Muhammad, a Persian Sufi who in 1844 proclaimed himself to be the "Bab," meaning "gate," through whom a new manifestation of God was to come.
Because Muslims believe their founding prophet, Mohammed, was "the seal of the prophets," or last prophet, the Bab and his followers met strong resistance from Muslim leaders in what is now Iran.
In 1848 the Babis declared their secession from Islam, and in 1850 the Bab was executed by firing squad. Some years later, Mirza Husayn Ali, a follower of Bab, proclaimed himself to be the great prophet foretold by the Bab. In 1863, he took the title "Baha'u'llah," or Promised One.
Baha'is believe that God is continually speaking to humanity.
"Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Krishna, Christ and Mohammed were all messengers from God," Saeed said.
Baha'is teach traditional morality, paralleling the Ten Commandments. They restrict sexual relations to marriage and strongly advocate the equality of the sexes.
The Baha'i religion, with more than 5 million believers worldwide, has a membership of 133,000 in the United States and about 300 in Utah. The state has seven Baha'i administrative structures known as spiritual assemblies. Each unit is made of at least nine believers -- but most include many more.
These conventions provide a chance to meet with Baha'is from a larger region, Saeed said. "It provides us the opportunity to share ideas and create a better sense of community with fellow believers."
©Copyright 2000, The Salt Lake Tribune