Last update - 01:11 31/08/2001
Politics and Bahai don't mix
Murray Smith's experience as a member of Parliament for the Labor Party in New Zealand 30 years ago was a key factor in his long journey to the Bahai faith. Today, the deputy secretary-general of the Bahai World Center in Haifa and a familiar face in Israeli diplomatic circles, Smith is a commited follower of the religion, which - among other things - forbids affiliation with a political party.
Seven years ago, he and his wife, Miette, who is presently working as a librarian at the Bahai center, came to live in Israel for an indefinite period of time.
Looking back, Smith says his involvement in politics was "disillusioning": "I thought there had to be a more positive way than the adversary system of party politics to deal with the problems of society and the world," he says.
During a political campaign in 1970, Miette met a woman who told her about the Bahai faith. Eventually, Miette accepted the faith, following a process involving intensive studying and attending meetings. She then stopped actively campaigning for her husband: Such partisan political activity is the antithesis of unity, one of the supreme Bahai values.
Another key Bahai principle, Smith explains, is "independent investigation of the truth," which means that children of Bahai parents are given a broad religious education, including learning about all of the monotheistic religions. At the age of 15, the child makes an independent decision about his or her commitment to abide by the teachings of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Bahai faith, whose writings are viewed as divinely inspired.
Murray and Miette's five children studied the Bahai teachings and made the commitment to become followers of the religion. Their father was actually the last member of his family to convert, doing so only in 1989.
Having been raised in a highly political family, Smith says, the process for him was particularly complicated.
©Copyright 2001, Ha'aretz (Israel)