The deputy Mayor of Cork City summed it all up when he told the guests gathered to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh that the Bahá’ís should be shouting from the rooftops about Bahá’u’lláh’s principles of unity and peace, so that everyone could know them and apply them at all levels of society.
And in a way, shouting from the rooftops is what has happened in Ireland during these past weeks. More than 1300 Bahá’ís and their friends attended Bicentenary events last weekend but thousands more became aware of Bahá’u’lláh and his religion through conversations with Bahá’ís and media coverage.
Last weekend’s events were many and varied. The Birth of Bahá’u’lláh was celebrated in more than 20 centres, ranging from large formal gatherings such as that at the National Gallery in Dublin attended by 210 people, to a small informal gathering in a nursing home in Co. Sligo whre the oldest native Irish Bahá’i celebrated with a few of her friends.
Hundreds of copies of the booklet on Bahá’u’lláh prepared by the National Spiritual Assembly were distributed to guests at some of the events, and many more were distributed in advance along with formal invitations to the celebrations.
Dignitaries from all walks of life were invited, including politicians, religious leaders and in some cases leaders in education. Many attended, including six Mayors or their deputies including those of Tralee, Kilkenny and Ennis, along with Chairmen and representatives of several County Councils. Leading politicians also attended, including Dublin TD Maureen O’Sullivan.
Arts and Culture
Many of the Programmes for the Bicentenary celebrations featured liberal use of the arts. In Kilkenny, a Bahá’í inspired art exhibition had been publicly mounted in the week leading up to the Bicentenary and it formed a centrepiece for their celebration which was attended by over 100 people.
Kilkenny Mayor Cllr Michael Doyle thanked the Baha’i community for inviting him on this big occasion for them and speaking of Bahá’u’lláh remarked: “His vision for universal peace is definitely something that we could bring to the world today as a lot of people are struggling and involved with wars all over the world. It would be far better if mankind would put their efforts into getting on with each other and helping each other out.”
At the same event the Chairman of Kilkenny Co. Council David Fitzgerald in his comments mentioned the involvement of the Baha’i community in the life of Kilkenny adding that the interaction of Bahá’ís with the civic authorities was reflected by the fact that there were four people who had previously served as Mayors present in the room.
Children and the Bicentenary
The contributions of children to the Bicentenary celebrations were remarkable. In Limerick two children aged 5 and 9 charmed the audience with stories and prayers, while at the Dublin event staff from the National Gallery worked on an art project with the children. Meanwhile in Cork on Sunday 22nd a special children’s celebration was held attended by 30 children. The programme included a children’s devotional, yoga, music, songs and other creative activities. Children in Bray, Galway, Kilkenny and Waterford also contributed to their local celebration programmes.
Light to the World
The film Light to the World was used in many of the programmes. In the little townland of Killuran, Co Clare the film elicited a spontaneous round of applause from the friends of Bahá’ís who attended the event. The film was used by some centres in its entirety while in other places edited highlights were presented.
Garden of Contemplation
Though the winds and heavy rain of Storm Brian battered Tralee Co. Kerry on Saturday October 21st, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd gathered to mark the opening of the Garden of Contemplation, a gift from the Bahá’ís of Co. Kerry to the townspeople.
Featuring a variety of plants, seating, an Ogham stone inscribed with the words Gloir De (Irish for the Glory of God) in Ogham script, and a variety of quotations, the garden will be maintained by the local Bahá’is for a period of two years between the bicentenaries of the births of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb.
The opening ceremony was carried out by the Mayor of Tralee, Councillor Norma Foley who spoke warmly of the project, and mentioned the generosity of spirit that motivated the community to offer this as a gift to Tralee in celebration of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh.
From a family focused day in the small town of Maynooth to a conversation rich event in Ennis; from an intimate gathering in a home in Ballinagh, Co. Cavan to a large and well-planned event in Galway; from the beautiful village of Slade near Hook Head to the bustling town of Letterkenny and all parts in between, 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh was celebrated with dignity, with joy and with great pride by the Bahá’í community of Ireland.