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MEMO: Robert Seguin is a London resident.

At dusk on Tuesday at the foot of Mount Carmel, a feature oratorio by Lasse Thoresen, titled Terraces of Light, will accompany the illumination of 19 garden terraces climbing a kilometre up the side of Mount Carmel, building light upon light like strings of pearls draped around the illuminated Shrine of the Bab.

This shrine, a gold-domed structure set as a jewel in the center of the terraces, currently Haifa's sixth largest tourist attraction, was first completed in 1953 by Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell and has been, since then, a dominate feature of Haifa's Mount Carmel skyline.

The century-long transformation of this once-barren mountain, sacred to Jews, Christians, Muslims and Baha'is, has been integrated as a key element in the bustling port city of Haifa's urban renewal campaign. Together with the terraces, they create a three-kilometre- long pedestrian walkway -- one of the most attractive urban developments in the Mediterranean region.

The terraces have been designed by the Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba. The Baha'i Administrative World Center, adjacent to the terraces, have been designed by another Canadian architect, Hussein Amanat. Sahba designed the terrace gardens using the latest in water management, pest control and ecological sensitivity to create an atmosphere of peace and serenity for visitors.

The gardens and terraces, as an approach to a sacred place, are treated with as much reverence as the shrine they embrace. Recycled water flowing down the mountain drowns out the noise of the city, to the area creating an atmosphere of dignity and peace befitting a holy place.

The shrine of the Bab on the side of Mount Carmel has the religious significance of being the resting place for the martyred forerunner of the Baha'i faith, named Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, known as the Bab (Arabic for "gate"). The Bab's Shrine on Mount Carmel is the second most sacred spot for Baha'is the world over. In 1891, on the slopes of Mount Carmel, Baha'u'llah, founder of the Baha'i faith, pointed out the spot to be the permanent resting place for the remains of the Bab.

The Bab was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1819. The Bab founded a distinct religion, the Babi faith, which had its own ordinances and mystical and doctrinal works that included; the spiritual and moral reformation of society, uplifting the station of women and improving the lot of the poor. He also promoted education and useful sciences for all. The main theme addressed by the Bab and His teachings was the imminent appearance of another Messenger from God. This second messenger, Baha'u'llah (Arabic for "glory of God") would usher in the age of peace and justice promised in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the other religions of the world. The Bab's mission was short, only six years, during which thousands of Babis, exhibiting great heroism, were tortured and killed for their beliefs.

After three years of imprisonment, the Bab was publicly executed by a firing squad in the city of Tabriz, Iran, on July 9, 1850. The remains of the Bab, which were cast into a ditch after his execution, were rescued and hidden in homes and cellars throughout Persia for more than 50 years. Eventually, His body was transported to Haifa and interred in 1909.

For Baha'is, the completion of the terraces is concurrent with the faith's full emergence as a world community and the realization of a century-long dream to create a spiritual and administrative centre, which will befittingly represent the religion, long persecuted in the land of its birth, Iran.


Celebration of the Declaration of the Bab, with excerpts of the Vision TV broadcast, will take place May 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kiwanis Centre (Riverside Drive at Wharncliffe Road). Everyone is welcome. London Baha'is who have served at the Baha'i World Centre will be in attendance.

ILLUSTRATION: photo\At dusk next Tuesday, Baha'is representing more than 200 countries andterritories will gather at the foot of Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel, to openthe Terraces of the Shrine of the Bab, a project begun 10 years ago that hastransformed the ancient barren face of the mountain into 19 majestic terracedgardens cascading down the length of the mountain.

©Copyright 2001, The London Free Press

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