THURSDAY NOVEMBER 23 2000
Times Religion Correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, answers your questions: ...
Q: The Baha'i Faith - now the second most wide spread religion in the world - whose main principle is that of unity, appears to offer the most practical blueprint for the human race to follow if it is to continue developing. Its Prophet Founder, Baha'u'allah, is believed to be the fulfillment of the prophecies of all the major Faiths.The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith lived mostly in England and his body rests in a north London cemetery. What impact, if any, are the Baha'is having in England? What are your views on the Baha'is and their beliefs? Vernon Samaroo, Alberta, Canada
A: You say that the Baha'is are the 'second most widespread religion in the world'. While I do not dispute that they have an impressive geographical spread, there are in fact about six million Bahai's worldwide. This should be compared to Buddhists - 330 million, Hindus - 750 million, Jews - 18 million, Muslims - one billion and Christians - 1.8 billion.
I do agree that Bahai's have an attractive philosophy in many respects which embrace unity. Certainly there is a thriving and well-established Baha'i community in England. I have myself visited one such community and taken part in a Baha'i candle-lit meditative ceremony in Swindon. It was restful and soothing.
It is said that a religion thrives most when it is most persecuted. If this is true, the Baha'i faith is certainly one to watch. The Baha'is are the largest religious minority in Iran, where the religion originated, and where they are also the most persecuted minority. They are held to be blasphemous because of the belief that the 19th century founder, Bah'ullah, is the successor of a line of prophets including Mohammed and Jesus Christ. To complicate matters, the founder was exiled to Mount Carmel in Israel, which as a result is the religion's most holy place.Some members in Iran have been sentenced to death because of "Zionist Baha'i activities".
Baha'is eschew gambling, alcohol and drug abuse and abide by the Ten Commandments. With increased interest among young people of the West in a spirituality which seems divorced from the established religions, the future for the Baha'i faith would seem to be one of growth, although it is highly unlikely that the entire human race would ever embrace it as a practical blueprint for the future.
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