To a Bahá'í there is no demarcation between religion and everyday life. The most important prayer, Bahá'ís say, is a person's daily life. Religion, in other words, is an attitude towards God reflected in life.
Today there are between 5 and 6 milion Bahá'ís in the world, extending over more than three hundred and forty countries, territories and island groups. In England there are 6,000 registered Bahá'ís (1989) with 180 local Assemblies, resident in over 400 localities. At least 9 people are needed to form a local assembly. The Scriptures of the Bahá'í Faith consist of the writings of the founders and are translated into over six hundred languages. The rapid growth they have experienced puts them in the category of a world religion, the youngest in the line of the prophetic tradition.
Its founder was Bahá'u'lláh (the Glory of God), a Persian nobleman who in 1863 declared Himself to be the One whose coming the BáB and all the previous Prophets had foretold. Like His predecessor, He was bitterly opposed and persecuted. During nearly forty years of exile and imprisonment He committed to writing the teachings of His revelation, some of them in letters to the most important kings and leaders of religion, as well and teaching and training His followers. His fourth and last place of banishment, reached in 1865, was the prison city of 'Akka (Acre), Palestine, where He passed away in 1892 at the age of seventy-four.
Its authorised interpreter and exemplar was 'Abdu'l-Bahá (the servant of the Glory), eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, who was appointed by his father as the Centre of His Covenant and the one to whom all must turn for instruction and guidance. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the close companion and constant helper of his father, whose sufferings he shared. He remained a prisoner untiol 1908, when the old regime in Turkey was overthrown and all religious and political prisoners were liberated. AFterwards he travelled widely in Egypt, Europe and America, explaining the principles of the Faith and inspiring and directing the activities of its followers throughout the world. He passed away in Haifa in 1921, mourned by people of all faiths. His life was and continues to be a shining example to all. In his will and testament,k 'Abdu'l-Bahá appointed his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, to be the Guardian of the Faith, and the interpreter of its scripture. Under his guiding hand, the faith spread rapidly. He passed away in London in 1957. Since 1963, the Faith has been under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice.
There is one major Bahá'í House of Worship in each continent. For local regular gatherings the Bahá'ís hold meetings in their homes or in hired halls. The community has neither a priesthood nor rituals. The Bahá'ís see their teachings as a ringing call to action. They see them as offering hope, courage and vision, in a world beset with universal problems.
There is no clergy and no ritual.
The Scripture is in written form, preserved and authentic. Administrative bodies are called Spiritual Assemblies; they are local, national, and international. All Assemblies meet in a spirit of prayer.
These spiritual Assemblies are elected by the people, but their responsibility is trust from God to whom alone they are answerable.
There is no seeking for votes, no candidates, no platform promises, no parties.
The Nineteen Day Feast is a community occasion, for the reading of prayers, discussions of affairs with the Local Spiritual Assembly, and material refreshment together.
The Universal House of Justice--an elected International body constituted by Bahá'u'lláh as the supreme legislative and governing body of the Faith--carries out its duties at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa Israel.
Only members of the Bahá'í Faith may contribute to the Bahá'í Fund.
In what areas would cooperation with people of [the] Bahá'í Faith be most fruitful and possible?
A complete catalogue of Bahá'í literature can be obtained by writing to :
The Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 2 South Street, Oakham, Leicerstershire LE15 6HY.
Telephone (01572) 722780 Fax (01572b) 724280
UK Freephone number for Orders and Catalogues 0500 223849
The Committee is grateful to its member Sr. Elizabeth West rscj for this contribution.
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Further information and copies of these leaflets can be obtained from: The Multi-Faith Centre, Harborne Hall, Old Church road, Harbone, Birmingham B170BE and The Westminster Interfaith Programme, 2 Church Avenue, Southall, Middlesex UB24DH.
They can also be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]
The Number for the US Bahá'í Distribution Service is 1-800-999-9019