Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002
The Baha'is: A world community of peace
BY BOB REEVES / Lincoln Journal Star
This is one of a series of stories about world religions.
One of the world's fastest growing religions, the Baha'i Faith, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
The religion grew out of a movement begun by a Shi'ite Muslim in Persia named Ali Muhammad, who in 1844 declared that he was the Bab-ud-Din ("Gate of Faith"), or the long-awaited "hidden imam."
His followers, known as Babis (followers of the Ba'b), suffered persecution, and in 1850 the Bab was executed. But before he died, the Bab revealed that he had prepared the way for one who was yet to come, who would found a universal religion.
Two years later, in 1852, one of the Bab's imprisoned disciples, Husayn Ali, had a vision in which he was assured that God would "render him victorious through his pen."
Husayn Ali was exiled to Baghdad, where in 1863 he proclaimed that he was the one promised by the Bab. He assumed the name Baha'u'llah, meaning "the Glory of God."
Baha'u'llah spent the rest of his life in prison, but continued to write and to send missionaries to spread his new faith. He preached a message of human equality and world peace. His disciples were known as Baha'is, meaning "followers of the glory."
After his death in 1892, leadership passed to Baha'u'llah's son, Abdul Baha. In the early 1900s, Abdul Baha traveled widely in Europe and North America, spreading the new faith and establishing Baha'i assemblies in many countries.
Today there are more than 5 million Baha'is in 233 countries, making it the second most widespread religion after Christianity.
Baha'is believe in the oneness of humanity and the oneness of God. They believe that God has revealed himself through messengers down through history, each bringing a message appropriate to a particular time. The founders of great religions, such as Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed, are considered messengers of God. Baha'u'llah is the latest messenger, but Baha'is believe that God will send still more messengers to speak to the people of the future.
Thus, they believe that all religions share a common foundation, and all people -- regardless of race, creed or economic status -- are equal in the sight of God. Baha'u'llah also taught that men and women are equal "like the two wings of one bird."
Other key teachings are that each individual is responsible to investigate truth for himself, and that there is no conflict between science and religion. Baha'is believe that "science without religion is materialism, and religion without science is superstition."
Baha'is believe that world peace is possible, and that each person has an ethical duty to help create a more peaceful world. Bahai's advocate universal education for all children as a step toward peace, as well as a single world language so that all people can communicate with each other. Ultimately, they envision a world government that would assure universal peace.
Historically, Baha'is have supported the United Nations and other international efforts at non-violent resolution of conflicts.
Baha'is have no ordained clergy, but stress the role of each individual in living out the faith. Worship consists of recitation of Baha'i scriptures and scriptures of other revealed religions, as well as personal meditation. Actions to help others and improve the world are also viewed as a form of worship.
Baha'is have their own calendar made up of 19 months of 19 days each, plus a four-day intercalary period to adjust to the 365-day year. Every 19th day is a feast day, a time for communal worship and fellowship.
Most Baha'is meet in individual homes or other convenient meeting places, rather than formal places of worship.
There are seven Baha'i Houses of Worship, which are located in: Willmette, Ill.; Frankfurt, Germany; Sydney, Australia; New Delhi, India; Apia, Western Samoa; Panama City, Panama; Askhabad, Russia; and Kampala, Uganda. Plans call for eventually building 120 more. The houses of worship serve as spiritual centers for Baha'is throughout the world and are open to people of all faiths.
An estimated 110,000 Baha'is live in the Untied States. In Lincoln there are approximately 100 Baha'is, who meet on Sunday mornings at the Northeast Family Center, 5903 Walker Ave. Study classes for all ages are at 10 a.m., followed by worship at 11 a.m. For more information, call Ruth Hansen at 489-1570.
(Sources for this article included "The Baha'is," published by Baha'i International Community, and "Religions of the World," by Lewis M. Hopfe.)
Next week: African traditional religions.
Reach Bob Reeves at 473-7212 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©Copyright 2002, Lincoln Journal Star (NE)