Bicentenary

“This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.” -Bahá’u’lláh

Bahá’ís all around the world will in 2017 be celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith (in 1817). The Bahá’í community in Calderdale is no exception. We’ll be holding a variety of events in the run up to the bicentenary, as well as a special event in the month of October.

It is wonderful for us to reflect from our community that in only the short, two hundred years since the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the Bahá’í Faith has now spread to virtually every country on the planet.

There are some wonderful resources available about the life of Bahá’u’lláh and about the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, and the practices of the Bahá’í community in the UK and worldwide. We encourage you to have a look at our links page to explore these. There will also be a film produced by the UK Bahá’í community about the life of Bahá’u’lláh, and a teaser of this is currently available:

We also wanted to share a bit ourselves here on our own Calderdale site, based on a leaflet that has been produced for the bicentenary by the Warwick Bahá’í Bookshop here in the UK.

Who was Bahá’u’lláh?

Bahá’u’lláh was born into a wealthy and powerful family in Iran in 1817. He gave up his inherited wealth and possessions to bring God’s new message for today. Bahá’u’lláh received the bastinado (being beaten on the soles of the feet), was imprisoned in a dungeon with heavy chains, was exiled from country to country, then imprisoned again for much of the rest of his life. The map below shows the successive exiles:

Photo: Map of the exiles of Baha’u’llah. Source: bahaullah.org

All this served only to spread Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to more people. He was still able to deliver God’s message to the world: a message of the need for unity, peace and justice for all people, among all nations.

The ‘Promised One’

Bahá’ís believe that in each age God sends a ‘messenger’ to humanity, such as those we know from the past, like the great religious teachers Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad. These messengers have all taught us about God and about how we should live our lives.

Each messenger builds on the messages of those gone before. Like children in school, we are able to learn more from each successive teacher. Our individual souls then progress towards spiritual perfection, and human society progresses towards equality, prosperity and peace.

All the messengers of the past promised that a great world teacher would come to bring an age of peace to humanity. Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh fulfilled the promises and prophecies of the past when he announced his message to the world. Bahá’ís also believe the same spirit that was in the messengers of the past was in Bahá’u’lláh.

Photo: A view of prison cells in Akka (modern day Israel) occupied by Baha’is. Bahá’u’lláh’s cell during his imprisonment here later in his life is the one shown on the left.

What does the name Bahá’u’lláh mean?

The name Bahá’u’lláh means ‘the Glory of God‘. It is a title mentioned in various ways in many prophecies in Holy Books and Scriptures. For instance, Bahá’ís believe Bahá’u’lláh is the ‘Prince of Peace‘ promised to the Jews by Isaiah, that to Christians he is Christ returned ‘in the glory of the Father‘, to Shi’a Islam the return of the Imam Husayn, to Sunni Islam the descent of the ‘Spirit of God‘, to Hindus, the reincarnation of Krishna, and to Buddhists the fifth Buddha (Maitreya, the Buddha of universal fellowship).

A message for today: Unity

Each messenger of God has brought social teachings to advance the development of civilisation in their particular age and moment in history. Bahá’ís believe the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are vitally important for the progress of humanity today, and that the coming of Bahá’u’lláh marked a new era in the shared history of humankind.

The main theme and central principle of the Bahá’í Faith is the urgent need for unity amongst all the peoples of the world. Over millennia we have already learned to live peacefully together in ever larger groups but now is the time to build a world civilisation, world peace and world unity. Bahá’ís believe this is the first time in our history that it will be physically possible for the world to function as one whole.

Another fundamental aspect of unity is the recognition that everyone is of value. Everyone should be treated with respect. Bahá’ís believe we should value the diversity of humanity, and should not disrespect or talk about people behind their backs. To do so is poisonous and destructive. Instead we try to concentrate on someone’s good points, and appreciate those.

There are also no individual leaders in the Bahá’í Faith. All local and national assemblies, and the world governing council of the Bahá’í Faith, the Universal House of Justice, are elected by secret ballot. No one is nominated for election. No one tries to sway people to vote for a particular person. Instead Bahá’ís vote after prayer and reflection for those they feel are most able and most spiritual.

Community building

Local Bahá’í communities, like our community in Calderdale, work to bring people together at the local level. We try to inspire and empower people to improve their own lives and the lives of those around them. This involves all age groups, from youngest to oldest.

For children, we offer classes where they can learn to practice virtues like kindness, honesty and generosity, learning through songs, games, arts and crafts. We offer training and capacity building for older youth, who are at a very special stage and are trying to understand their place in the world.

Bahá’ís try always to be learning. Adult Bahá’ís and their friends, neighbours and colleagues come together in ‘study circles‘, which helps build their capacity to offer services like devotional gatherings, and children classes around the community. In this way Bahá’ís try to lead a lifetime of service to humanity.