Greek and Turkish Cypriots join in Baha'i celebrations
The terraces and nearby administrative centre of the Baha'i Faith took 10 years to build and cost $250 million, raised from voluntary contributions from the five million members of the faith worldwide.
Some 4,000 people attended the opening ceremony from 170 countries. There were 19 representatives in the Cyprus delegation including four Greek Cypriots, 11 Turkish Cypriots and four non-Cypriot nationals.
The Baha'i community has around 200 followers in Cyprus, with slightly more Turkish Cypriot than Greek Cypriot members. The delegation from the north travelled separately and met up with the representatives from the south in Haifa.
The ceremony began at 6pm and included world premieres of specially written music by composers from Norway and Tajikistan. The ceremonies continue today as celebrants, dressed in national dress, walk along the terraces which surround the Shrine of Bab, one of the most important Baha'i holy places, for the first time.
A public opening at the end of the week will allow visitors of all faiths to enjoy the gardens free of charge every day. The terraces are expected to triple tourism in Haifa each year and Israel has released a special stamp to mark their completion.
Baha'is believe in one god and one human race. They have consultative status at the United Nations and work at a grass-roots level in peacemaking, human rights, health and sustainable development.
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