VIEWS FROM THE BRASSCOCK
The Baha'is - regular visitors to Waterford
But their number frequently includes members of their faith from around the globe. Among the 400 at this year's gathering are visitors from the U.K., New Zealand, Israel, the U.S., Canada, Poland, The Czech Republic and others who would constitute about 25% this year, the balance of 75% being Irish. They have always found Newtown and the people of Waterford generally most hospitable and welcoming which has encouraged them to return here year after year over such a long time.
But who are they?
Normal family groups on holiday but with a purpose which is built around a programme of devotional periods, classes, talks, workshops and the very popular meditation sessions and, of course, times to relax, play and pray as they regard any positive activity done well as a form of prayer.
The Bahai's believe that this came as a twin manifestation, firstly The Bab - analogous to John the Baptist as a precursor to Jesus Christ. This was to be a short ministry of nine years during which time he experienced imprisonment. Among those who were attracted by the new teaching, and despite the reality of persecution and deprivation, was a Persian nobleman named Baha'u'llah (pronounced Ba-howl-la) meaning Glory of God. In 1863, he declared himself to be the One who was promised, a Divine Messenger.
The Islamic rulers of Iran didn't take kindly to these claims and talk of unity and equality and so the new leader was much imprisoned and the growing flock of believers were persecuted as they are to this very day in their founding country of Iran. The story of persecution is a familiar one when a movement emerges which is perceived as a threat to an established authority.
The earth is but one country
From where I'm standing we still have a long, long way to go to achieve anything like that ideal but at least, as they say, there is a nobility in the striving. They also place great emphasis on the elimination of all forms of prejudice, full equality between the sexes, elimination of extremes of poverty and wealth, universal education, the harmony of science and religion, a sustainable balance between nature and technology and, furthermore and critically, the essential oneness of the world's great religions.
All this is very positive and seems relevant in our modern world that has been riven by sectional and national conflicts driven by tribalism and racism. Their message seems to be a very positive one rather than negative, inclusive rather than exclusive, unity as opposed to divisions. Sounds good to me as an observer looking in and the world can only benefit from their benign beliefs and commitment.
Incidentally, a George Townsend, a Church of Ireland clergyman in Galway
and later Dean of St. Patrick's, Dublin, first brought the ideas of the
Baha is faith to Ireland in 1901. The movement was well established by
the 1950's and today number well in excess of 600. I hope I have not
been "too heavy" this week but, as they say, knowledge is no load and it
is a good thing to deal with others with amity and consort with
affection. We all gain in the end.
©Copyright 2001, Munster Express (Ireland)