PHOTO BY CHRIS YOUNG/SJ-R
A Persian meal Friday was part of the
Baha'I members celebrate Ridvan
With tables full of Persian food and a children's dance troupe, the local Baha'i community Friday celebrated the beginning of the Festival of Ridvan, which will be marked over the next 12 days.
The most important date on the Baha'i calendar, Ridvan (pronounced "Riz-wan") commemorates the public declaration of the prophethood of Baha'u'llah, the acknowledged founder of the Baha'i faith. Baha'u'llah is considered by Baha'is as a manifestation of God in the line of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ.
Friday's gathering at the Springfield Baha'i Center, Eighth and Allen streets, attracted about 80 Baha'is, many from different ethnic backgrounds.
Bedi Mesbah said Ridvan is a cause for celebration.
"It's like a rebirth," said Mesbah, president and CEO of KM2 Design Group in Springfield. "It's a spiritual springtime. It's our biggest celebration of the year."
The first, ninth and 12th days of Ridvan are all major Baha'i holy days, marked by socializing and programs at the center.
Baha'is will gather today to elect members to the Local Spiritual Assembly. The nine members who make up the assembly administer the affairs of the Baha'i community, which has no functioning clergy.
Baha'u'llah, literally the Glory of God, was "the great messenger from God," heralded by the Bab, who led a religious movement in the early 19th century in what is now Iran. A close adherent of the Bab, Baha'u'llah, while imprisoned, received a revelation from God that he was to be the Promised One. He kept the revelation private during his exile in Baghdad.
Deemed a firebrand, Baha'u'llah and his family were persuaded to move from Baghdad to Constantinople in 1863. Prior to his departure, Baha'u'llah took up residence in the Garden of Ridvan, or "Paradise." There he received visitors for the next 12 days.
During that time, Baha'u'llah declared the Festival of Ridvan and revealed to his followers that he was the Promised One.
Bill Wieties, a Springfield native now living in Rolla, Mo., and an appointed member of the Baha'i national auxiliary board, said Baha'u'llah was referred to as "a menace" because of the further exile, but that such an order fulfilled a divine prophecy.
His treatment also has a lesson today, said Wieties.
"Baha'u'llah chose that period of time and made it the most important time in his life," said Wieties. "The lesson is that when life tends to hand me a situation less than favorable, I need to follow his example and make something positive out of it."
The Baha'i faith numbers about 6 million worldwide, including 140,000 in the United States. An essential belief is that all religions sprang from one spiritual source and that departures in creeds and doctrines came at different times due to differing circumstances.
Locally, the Baha'is have rallied around race unity, which attracted Selina Gross, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Springfield, originally from Maryland.
"I was invited to some of the Baha'i meetings, and I felt very welcomed, right at home," said Gross.
While she attended other churches, none, she said, addressed issues such as racial prejudice and gender equity.
"It brought (these issues) to where I worship," said Gross.
Steven Spearie can be reached at 527-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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