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This weekend marks a happy anniversary

This year, on this very day, Bahá’ís around the world are celebrating the 200 th anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.
Sheila Flood
Spiritually Speaking

This year, on this very day, Bahá’ís around the world are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith. His birth and remarkable life are also being celebrated throughout this weekend by the Baha’i communities of southern Vancouver Island, who are hoping they’ll be joined by many neighbours and friends.

Born in Tehran in 1817, Bahá’u’lláh became revered for a visionary message meant to bring hope and healing to the world and a golden age of peace to all its peoples. His countrymen responded to that message in great numbers, unfortunately followed by thousands being imprisoned, tortured and murdered for their beliefs in those early days.

Like all divinely-inspired Messengers, Bahá’u’lláh was far ahead of His time. He taught that “The world is one country, and mankind its citizens”, long before telephony and wireless communications made that our everyday reality. “Let your vision be world embracing,” was not a teaching destined only for the Middle Eastern population of the 1800’s.

Two hundred years later, many of those revolutionary teachings are now celebrated as essential to enlightened civilization, such as the equality of the sexes, the universal education of both girls and boys, and the need for cooperation between the nations of the world in matters such as governance, economics and international law. Others, such as a universal auxiliary language, the elimination of prejudice and a belief in the common foundation of all religions, seem to be gaining currency. The vision of a world based on order, peacefulness, humanity and compassion has created a sort of musical score, echoed by an increasing number of voices.

The life behind that powerful vision is not yet commonly known. Born to a noble Persian family, Bahá’u’lláh was known as the Father to the Poor, spending much of His time caring for the destitute and feeding the hungry. The small community was constantly under siege in the clergy-dominated Ottoman Empire. Exiled multiple times in an effort to keep the new movement from spreading, Bahá’u’lláh was sent from Iran to Iraq and ultimately to the prison-city of Akka in Israel in 1868. He was forced to remain in Israel until His passing in 1892. The Bahá’í World Centre stands there today, surrounded by peaceful gardens.

Professor Edward G. Browne of the University of Cambridge visited Bahá’u’lláh in Israel, in 1890. “We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; yet they deem us a stirrer up of strife and sedition worthy of bondage and banishment,” were the words of Bahá’u’lláh immortalized by Browne.

In spite of the efforts of the clergy, the new teachings soon spread to Europe and North America, greatly aided by the efforts of Bahá’u’lláh’s son, by then himself an elderly gentleman. On those two continents a segment of society also responded immediately to the message that the world’s religions, far from being in competition, are like chapters of the same book. For those, it seemed common sense that each religion assists humanity to evolve spiritually, and conversely, that each religion risks falling into a spiritual abyss without constant renewal. 

This story is echoed in The Gathering, a musical drama honouring the wisdom of Bahá’u’lláh, blending music and dance. Its second performance (following the premiere Friday evening) will be held tonight, Saturday 21 October, at 7 p.m. at Glenlyon Norfolk School Theatre, 801 Bank St.. Free tickets are available at

Sheila FloodSheila Flood is a member of the Bahá’í Faith ( and present Secretary of the Victoria Multifaith Society (

You can read more articles on our interfsaith blog,Spiritually Speaking, HERE

* This article was published in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on Saturday, Oct 21 2017

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