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Fresno Baha'i believer puts faith into action in Israel

Keyan Laghaifar, a 20-year-old Fresno native, has returned from a two-year stay in Israel nurturing the soil and his faith at the religious center for the Baha'i.

A recent graduate of Clovis West High School when he began his journey in 1998, Laghaifar was among hundreds of volunteers selected throughout the world every year to care for the Baha'i spiritual and administrative headquarters.

His assignment was to work in the gardens surrounding the burial place of Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i faith. The burial place, in the city of Akka, in considered the holiest place for members of the faith.

Service to the faith and community, often for at least two years at a time, is a traditional part of the Baha'i faith, Laghaifar said. Many come to Akka or to the Shrine of the Bab in nearby Haifa to care for the Baha'i holy sites.

"It's like a show of faith," Laghaifar said. "I decided, 'What better place to go than the center of our faith?'"

There are about 100 members of the Baha'i faith in Fresno and about 6 million worldwide.

Laghaifar was among about 30 gardeners toiling at the Baha'u'llah holy site.

"It was wonderful, just working outdoors," Laghaifar said. "The gardens are so beautiful, it's like working with a piece of art. And you get to be so close to the resting place of the founder of your faith.

"That was an honor for me."

According to the Web site Beliefnet, the Baha'i faith was founded in the mid-19th century by Mirza Husayn Ali, better known as Baha'u'llah. He believed he was the prophet foretold by the Bab, a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.

Baha'u'llah was persecuted and banished several times from his native Persia and died as a prisoner in Palestine.

According to the Baha'i World Web site, the faith "teaches that religious truth is progressive, not final; that God educates the human race through a series of prophets who have appeared throughout history and will continue to appear to guide the destini men.

"The Baha'is therefore regarded Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad and Baha'u'llah as divine educators."

The Web site also said Baha'is believe "humanity is one single race and that the day has come for its unification in one global society."

Laghaifar said serving his faith right out of high school has given him the focus he needs as he begins college studies in economic and social development. He hopes to have a career working with villagers in Third World nations.

The experience also gave him a different perspective on the world.

"The Earth became a much smaller place to me serving there," Laghaifar said, explaining that fellow workers represented 80 different countries.

"There were so many different cultures, so many different nations," he said. "Mankind should be unified. This became a reality for me working there.

"We're all from one God."

The reporter can be reached at or at 441-6328.


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