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the Bahá'í

INTRODUCTION TO A WORLDWIDE COMMUNITY
Founded 150 years ago, the Bahà'ì Faith today is one of the most rapidly developing religions. In at least 233 countries and territories there are more than five million followers; it has become the second most widespread faith, exceeding, in geographical diffusion, all others except Christianity. The bahà'ì followers are in more than 120,000 places the world over, an expansion that reflects their dedication to the ideal of world citizenship.

The principle aim of the Bahà'ì Faith is mirrored in the composition of its community. Representing a cross-section of humanity, the Bahà'ì followers come from practically every nation, ethnic group, culture, profession, social and economic class. More than 2,100 different ethnic and tribal groups are represented.

The Founder of the Bahà'ì Faith was Bahà'u'llàh, a Persian noble from Teheran, who towards the mid-nineteenth century left a princely existence, comfortable and secure, for a life of persecutions and privations.
He proclaimed to be the new and independent Messenger of God. His life, His works and His influence are equal to those of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroastro, Buddha, Christ and Muhammad.
The bahà'ì followers consider Him to be the most recent in the succesion of Divine Messengers.
" This is the Day in which the most excellent favours of God have been lavished on mankind, the Day in which His most mighty grace has been infused in all things created." - Bahà'u'llah

The essential message of Bahà'u'llah is that of unity. He taught that there is only one God, only one mankind and that all religions have been phases in the revelation of the will and aims of God for mankind. On this day, He said, all mankind has reached maturity. As announced in all the Scriptures of the world, the moment has arrived to unite all the populations in one pacific and integrated global society. "The earth is one country and humanity its citizens."
The youngest of independent religions, the Faith founded by Bahà'u'llah is different from the others in several ways. It has one system of global administration with governing councils freely elected in more than 18,000 places.
It faces contemporary social problems in a different way (and sometimes radical). The Scriptures of the Faith and the Multiform activity of its members face in practice each important vision of the modern world, from the new conception of cultural diversity and the environmental preservation to the decentralization of decisions, from a renewed commitment in family life and for new morale to the call for a "New Worldwide Order".
The quality that characterizes the Bahá'í community, however is its unity. As opposed to other religions - not to mention the majority of social and political movements - the Bahà'ì Faith has resisted with success to the recurring impulse to divide into sects and factions. It has maintained its unity despite its turbulent history common to all other ancient religions.
In the century following the one in which Bahà'u'llah lived, the process of global unification that He had proclaimed, continued its advance. Through historic processes, the traditional barriers of races, classes, beliefs and nations have been firmly pulled down. He predicted that the impulses would have brought about the beginning of a universal civilization. The main challenge that the world population has to face is that of accepting the fact of their singleness and collaborating in the creation of this new world.

"The vitality of man's faith in God is dying everywhere; nothing but His wholesome remedy can ever awaken it again."-Bahà'u'llàh.



For a global society to flourish, says Bahà'u'llàh, it must be based on certain fundamental principles. These include: the elimination of all forms of prejudice; total equality between sexes; recognition of the essential singleness of the prominent world religions; elimination of extreme poverty or wealth; universal instruction; harmony between science and religion; sustainable balance between nature and technology, and the setting up of a worldwide federative system based on the collective security and the singleness of mankind.

The worldwide bahà'ì followers express their commitment to these principles above all in the individual and collective transformation. Among the many ways, commitment is reflected in the large number of small rural projects of economic and social development that the bahà'ì communities have launched over these last few years.

Forming a unified network of local, national and international councils, the followers of Bahà'u'llàh have created a different worldwide community projected towards the future - marked by a definite lifestyle and activity - that offers an encouraging model for cooperation, harmony and social action. In a world caught up in a thousand ideals, this is in itself a singular goal.

"A passage from I Bahà'ì, a publication of the Bahà'ì publisher"




The second "global" religion


The bahà'ì followers have founded "significant" communities in more countries and territories than any other independent religion except for Christianity.

According to the Book of the Year 1992 of the Britannica Encyclopedia the Bahà'ì Faith was established in 205 sovreign countries and dependent territories.
This fact was brought to light for the first time in 1982 by the World Christian Encyclopedia. This volume reported the work of approximately 500 demographic and statistic students that had lead an initial general survey on the believers all over the world.



Moral and Social Teachings

A balance between progress and tradition based on unity

There has never existed a forerunner of the times, a futurologist or a prophet whose visions have so accurately foreseen the critical points of the situation that is unfolding before mankind.

One of the extraordinary characteristics of the writings of Bahà'u'llàh is the degree of precision with which He foresees the critical points that humanity has had to face ever more frequently.

Bahà'u'llàh, in his writings, launched an appeal to reach a complete, global restructuring of the social order. His vision of renewal touches all aspects of existence, from personal morale to economy and administration, from community development to religious practice.

The main theme in the writings of Bahà'u'llàh is that humanity is one race and the day has come for its unification into a planetary society. Through an irresistible historic process, the traditional barriers of race, class, belief, faith and country will fall. These forces, He says, in time will give life to a new universal civilization. The crises that currently torment the planet is placing all the populations into the necessity of accepting their unity and to work for the creation on earth of a global society.
Bahà'u'llàh outlined some fundamental principles that constitute the basis for this new civilization: the elimination of all forms of prejudice, total equality between the sexes, recognition of the substantial unity of the prominent world religions, elimination of extreme poverty or wealth, universal instruction, a high level of personal conduct, harmony between religion and science, a stable balance between nature and technology, the creation of a worldwide federal system based on collective security and the singleness of humanity.

These principles, touching subjects such as women's role, racial relations, economic justice and worldwide order, illustrate themes that have nourished the most dynamic movements of the century and therefore they have become the principle, topical points of the political and social life of humanity.

There has never been a forerunner of the times, a futurologist or a prophet whose visions have been so accurately precise about the critical points of the social situation. The themes that Bahà'u'llàh focussed on, instead of diminshing, a century after His existence, have become predominant in the collective life of mankind.




The theme of unity


The gradual approach of the Bahà'ì Faith to human society finds its origins in the emphasis that Bahà'u'llàh places on unity. Indeed, if we should characterize His teachings in one single word, this would be: unity.
In His writings Bahà'u'llàh underlines the importance and the reality of unity and singleness. Above all God is one: even all the prominent religions are one and represent the responses of men to the revelations of the word and will of God for humanity through the succession of Messengers that have come from the one God. These assumptions are the basis of the concept of unity in the teachings of Bahà'ì.
Other principles emerge from this fundamental concept of religious and divine unity. Bahà'u'llàh teaches us that all human beings, as creatures of God, are a single population. The distinction of race, nationality, class or ethnic origins becomes ephemeral when seen in this context and any theory of individual, tribal, provincial or national superiority is rejected by the Bahà'ì Faith. Speaking by means of Bahà'u'llàh, the voice of God proclaims:
"Do you not know why you were all created from the same dust? In order that nobody should exalt over another: constantly remember in your hearts in what manner you were created. Since you were all created from the same substance, it is your duty to be as one being, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and live together on the same earth, so that from your inner self, from the mercy in your conduct and your actions, the signs of singleness may come forth with the essence of sacrifice".


The Spiritual Belief of the Bahà'ì Faith

WHAT BAHA'U'LLAH TEACHES ON GOD, RELIGION, AND HUMAN NATURE
The coming of new Messengers of God represents historical turning points, since these bring a renewed spiritual impulse, stimulating personal transformation and social progress. The revelation of Bahà'u'llàh, with the spiritual impulse that accompanies it, is particularly meaningful because it coincides with the period of the maturity of humanity.

There is only one God, the Creator of the Universe. Throughout history, God has revealed Himself to humanity with a series of divine Messengers, each one founding a religion. These Messengers were Abraham, Krishna, Zoroastro, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed. This succesion of divine Teachers reflect one historic "Plan of God" to illuminate humanity about their Creator and to cultivate moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities of the human race with the aim of preparing the way to a single, global civilization in constant progress. The knowledge of the will of God for humanity of the modern period was revealed just over a hundred years ago by Bahà'u'llàh, who is the last of these Divine Messengers.
This is the essence of His teachings on God, religion and humanity. Often the Bahà'ì followers express this faith by talking simply about the singleness of God, of religion and of mankind.Unity is by far the most important theme of the Bahà'ì belief; in theological terms, this is shown in the understanding that the only Creator has a sole plan for all humanity.

Together with these ideas there is the conviction that human nature is fundamentally spiritual. Although human beings exist on the earth with a physical appearance, the essential identity of each person is defined by an eternal soul, rational and invisible.

"Know for certain that the essence of all Prophets of God is one and the same…."-Bahà'u'llàh

The soul that gives life to the body, and distiguishes human beings from animals, grows and develops only through the relationship of the individual with God, mediated by His Messangers. This relationship is strengthened by prayer, knowledge of the scriptures revealed by these Teachers, love of God, moral self discipline and the service rendered to humanity. It is this process that gives a meaning to life. Cultivating the spiritual side of life gives numerous benefits. Most of all the individual develops step by step those innate qualities that are the basis of human happiness and social progress such as: faith, courage, love, compassion, trustworthiness and humility. When these become even more evident, the society itself advances as one.

Another effect of the spiritual development is the harmony with the will of God. The continual approach prepares the individual for the afterlife. The soul, after the death of the body, continues to live facing a spiritual journey towards God through countless 'worlds' or levels of existence. In traditional terms, the progress carried out on this journey is compared to 'paradise', whereas if the soul stops growing and remains distant from God, talking in traditional terms, it experiences 'hell'.
The coming of new Messengers of God represents historical turning points since they bring a new spiritual impulse that stimulates personal renewal and social advancement. The revelation of Bahà'u'llàh and the spiritual impulse that accompanies it, takes on a particular significance because it coincides with the period of the maturation of humanity.
Bahà'u'llàh teaches us that humanity, having reached maturity, can now reach out for new horizons. Undertakings such as the realizationof world peace, a universal social justice and the promotion of a harmonious balance between technology, development, human values and the safeguarding of natural environments.




The official web site bahá'í: www.bahai.it ...and www.bahai.org



Photographer: DENNY ALLEN