Today there are Bahá’ís living in every corner of the earth, all working towards finding ways for humanity to live in unity. One of the most distinctive aspects of the worldwide Bahá’í community is the way in which its members face the future. Bahá’ís have a hopeful yet practical approach to changing the world.
Bahá’ís work alone and in collaboration with others as they strive to build a new and peaceful world civilisation based on principles of justice, equality and prosperity for all. From a Bahá’í point of view each one of us is both a trust of the whole and also bears some responsibility for the welfare of all – no matter where we live.
The Bahá’í Faith is an independent world religion that emphasises universal peace, the elimination of prejudice, and the unity of all people.
The Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh, teaches that all religions come from one God, humanity is one family and God periodically reveals His will through divine messengers, whose teachings guide and educate us and help humanity to advance. These Messengers have included Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammed and their religions are, like chapters of a book, part of one religion from God.
Who Are the Bahá’ís?
In a sense the Bahá’ís are everyone and anyone – members of a vast world community which spans the globe from pole to pole. Bahá’ís are to be found in virtually every country in the world and are drawn from every race, every nationality and every ethnicity. Wherever they come from and wherever they reside Bahá’ís are united in a common belief that ‘the earth is but one country and mankind it’s citizens’.
There have been connections between Ireland and the Bahá’í Faith since the nineteenth century. Today there are Bahá’ís living in every part of Ireland from Cork in the south to Letterkenny in the north, from as far west as Galway and as far east as Hook Head. The Irish Bahá’í community is a diverse and welcoming one, its members striving to work shoulder to shoulder with their friends and neighbours for the betterment of their localities.
Baha’is do all the usual things in their lives – work, study, spend time with their families and friends.
The Baha’i Faith has no clergy and no formal worship schedule but nevertheless each Baha’i prays daily and groups of Baha’is often gather with their friends – Baha’i and non-Baha’i – to pray together.
Baha’is work hard at trying to achieve a dynamic coherence between the material and the spiritual in their lives and therefore don’t see prayer as separate from everything else but rather as an important factor in everything they do.
“Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship.”
Many Baha’is also spend time working with like-minded people in their neighbourhoods and towns on community building projects. Some of the projects in which Baha’is take part are organised and run by non-Baha’i organisations. Others are sponsored by local Baha’i communities. Most notable amongst Baha’i sponsored actives are Children’s Classes, Junior Youth Groups, Study Circles and Devotional Meetings.
“That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”
Children are born with tremendous capacities and with pure hearts. They have two natures, one spiritual and one material. Both are necessary for progress in the world, and both must be trained and educated.
The founding principle around which the spiritual education of children revolves is the belief that human beings are not empty vessels which must be filled with information, but that we are ‘mines rich in gems of inestimable value’. Education is the process whereby those inner gems, those talents and qualities within us, are identified and polished and find expression in the world for the benefit of humanity.
Between the ages of 12 and 15 we all transition from childhood to youth to adulthood. Young adolescents—referred to as “junior youth”—experience rapid physical, intellectual, and emotional changes. During this short and critical three-year period, ideas about the individual and society that may very well shape the rest of their lives are formed.
Popular views of this time of life regard this age as full of confusion and crises. Such thoughts foster conditions in which undesirable patterns of behaviour are spread. However, many 12-15 year olds are selfless young people with “an acute sense of justice, eagerness to learn about the universe and a desire to contribute to the construction of a better world”.
The junior youth spiritual empowerment programme is open to all. The aim of this programme is to assist young people to develop their own abilities to understand themselves and the world and thereby to learn how each of them can contribute to the well-being of the world they are about to inherit.
Devotional meetings are hosted by Bahá’ís everywhere across the globe. Each devotional has its own unique character depending on local preferences and needs. However all have certain elements in common: they are designed to respond to the longing in every human heart to be in contact with God. Devotional meetings are opportunities for prayer and collective worship, offered in every neighbourhood and open to all, regardless of their spiritual or religious affiliation.
The training that is offered to youth and adults involves the study of a short sequence of courses. These courses are both spiritual and practical. In exploring your own spiritual nature you learn about yourself, and at the same time are assisted in practical ways to find a path of service that will help your community to grow. Open to all, these courses are simple but profound.
The Bahá’í teachings emphasize that all of us, as creations of one God, are part of one human family.
Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith said, “The tabernacle of unity hath been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
People of nearly every background, in every nation, have become Bahá’ís.
Full equality and a firm sense of partnership between women and men are essential to human progress and the transformation of society. “Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God,” said Bahá’u’lláh.
The worldwide Bahá’í community has been at the forefront of the movement to advance the rights of women for more than a century.
Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world, and a fundamental unity is that of the family.
Bahá’ís understand that the family is the basic unit of society and unless this all-important building block is healthy and unified, society itself cannot be healthy and unified.
Bahá’í writings say, “If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual.”
Bahá’u’lláh gave special attention to the problem of prejudice. At the heart of His message is a call for mutual understanding and fellowship among nations, cultures, and peoples.
There is, Bahá’u’lláh insists, only one human race. Prejudice—whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or social background—must be overcome if humanity is to create a peaceful and just global society.
When Bahá’ís say that the various religions are one, they do not mean that all the creeds and organizations are the same. Rather, they believe God has revealed Himself through a succession of Divine Messengers, Whose purpose is to guide and educate mankind.
They are expressions of a single unfolding Divine purpose, “the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future.”
One of the main sources of conflict in the world today is the fact that many people blindly and uncritically follow various traditions, movements, and opinions.
Bahá’u’lláh emphasizes the fundamental obligation of human beings to acquire knowledge with their “own eyes and not through the eyes of others.”
The Bahá’í belief in one God means that the universe and all creatures and forces within it have been created by a single supernatural Being.
Such designations as God, Allah, Yahweh, and Brahma all refer to the One Divine Being, Whose nature is unknowable and inaccessible to humankind. We learn about God through His Messengers, who teach and guide humanity.
Whether peace is to be reached only after unimaginable horrors precipitated by humanity’s stubborn clinging to old patterns of behaviour, or is to be embraced now by an act of consultative will, is the choice before all who inhabit the earth.
The Bahá’í community believes that humanity can confront this supreme trial with confidence in its ultimate outcome.
The Bahá’í teachings stress the fundamental harmony of science and religion. Bahá’ís consider that it is the same unique God who is both the Author of revelation and the Creator of the reality which science investigates.
If indeed there is only one truth (reality), it is not possible for something to be scientifically false and religiously true; contradictions are attributed to human fallibility and arrogance.
The Bahá’í teachings envision that economic justice and prosperity will come about only when the essential connection between the spiritual and practical aspects of life is recognized.
A satisfactory solution to the world’s present economic crisis lies in a profound change of heart and mind which only religion can produce.