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Monday, December 23, 2002

Baha'i's commemorate 150th anniversary of the birth of their faith

By ROBERT THAGGARD and LEY SCHLEICH-For the Frontiersman

This is a special season for members of several religions throughout the world and here in the Valley. Christians are celebrating Advent and preparing for Christmas; Jews have concluded their Chanukah tradition. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan recently ended. It is indeed an especially spiritual time of year for many.

This month the nearly 6 million worldwide members of the Baha'i Faith are concluding a four-month long observance marking the 150th anniversary of the events surrounding the origins of their faith.

It was in August of 1852 that the founder of the Baha'i Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, was overwhelmed with the message of the oneness of God and humanity while unjustly imprisoned in a subterranean dungeon near Tehran, Persia (now Iran). Recognized as a leader of a growing religious community that was departing from the orthodox Islamic traditions, Bahá'u'lláh was perceived by government and religious authorities as a threat to the existing order.

Unbeknownst to Bahá'u'lláh, a deranged person attempted to murder of the king of Persia and this became an excuse to condemn Him to the Siyah-Chal (Dark Pit).

His imprisonment in the loathsome, foul-smelling and gloomy dungeon lasted four months, during which Bahá'u'lláh received a most powerful revelation.

Described in His own words, "though the galling weight of the chains and the stench-filled air allowed Me but little sleep, still in those infrequent moments of slumber I felt as if something flowed from the crown of My head over My breast, even as a mighty torrent that precipitateth itself upon the earth from the summit of a lofty mountain. Every limb of My body would, as a result, be set afire."

Following His release from this prison Bahá'u'lláh continued to proclaim His message despite being banished from Tehran to Baghdad, then to Istanbul and Adrianople, and finally to the prison city of çkká in Israel.

Imprisoned or in exile for a total of 40 years, still He taught the principles of the singleness of God, the unity of religions, the oneness of mankind and elements of the foundation for world peace. He won the hearts of hundreds of people, who became the first Baha'i's, and He won the admiration of vast numbers of people who did not recognize His station. Today Baha'i's are guided by the principles revealed by Bahá'u'lláh and recorded in extensive volumes of His writings just a century and a half ago. More particularly, Baha'i's believe in:

  • The individual's sacred duty to investigate truth

  • The essential harmony of science and religion

  • The elimination of prejudice of all kinds

  • The equality of men and women

  • The importance of universal education

  • Spiritual solutions to economic problems

  • The need for an international auxiliary language

  • A world federation to uphold world peace

    Illinois Representative Mark Steven Kirk addressed the U.S. Congress in October with these words, "On the 150th anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment and the founding of the Baha'i Faith, we salute along with the American Bahá'' community the ideals of universal brotherhood, peace, cooperation, and understanding espoused by Bahá'u'lláh. These are Baha'i values, they are American values, and they are universal values."

    Baha'i Faith members in the Mat-Su Valley, along with members of the faith throughout the state of Alaska have been engaged in activities to commemorate the origins of their faith for the last four months.

    The campaign has three main aspects: gatherings to recall Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal and render artistic expressions of His sufferings for mankind; individual initiatives to establish study groups to explore the aims and purposes of Bahá'u'lláh's redemptive mission; and special efforts to eliminate backbiting from the community, as backbiting is considered one of the greatest human afflictions, one which Bahá'u'lláh stated, "quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul."

    Locally, a public informational and devotional event featuring a documentary video of Bahá'u'lláh's life and teachings will be held on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 2 p.m. at the MTA Building in Palmer.

    Anyone interested in more information can call 373-0623. Information about the Baha'i Faith is available at

    ©Copyright 2002, Frontiersman (Alaska)

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