Baha'i News -- West Warwick couple keeping the Baha'i faith

West Warwick couple keeping the Baha'i faith

RYAN BURR, Daily Times Staff Reporter October 07, 2002

NATICK -- People of the Baha'i faith embrace the existence and importance of theirmessenger Baha'u'llah, as well as all divine messengers, including Buddha, Mohammed and Jesus Christ.

Baha'u'llah happens to be the latest "messenger," says Robert and Flora Salmon, members of the Baha'i faith who live in West Warwick.

"The unique thing about our faith is that you don't have to deny anything to become a Baha'i," said Robert Salmon, who taught Baha'i in Portugal for years. Baha'u'llah declared himself the messenger in 1863, having endured years of persecution for his Baha'i teachings.

Though their religion, which originated in Iran in 1844, is not often the focus of media coverage, Robert Salmon said Baha'i is actually the second-most geographically widespread religion in the world, next to Christianity. In Rhode Island, there are just 60 to 70 active members, according to the Salmons

There is no clergy within their faith, only local assemblies which are designated in areas where there are nine or more members who are older than 21. The only Rhode Island assembly is currently in Providence. There were two others in Cranston and Warwick until last year when their membership dipped too low.

The 158-year-old Baha'i religion pursues this agenda:World peace and the unity of mankind. The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, in Chicago, states that racism and gender inequality are the main hindrances to achieving world peace.

Worship, devotion and informational meetings are always held at a person's house. There is no church per say. The Salmons' home at 10 Intervale Road is routinely open for such gatherings, drawing on average 15 to 20 people. On Saturday, they are hosting an informational meeting which will feature a guitarist who will also speak on "Knowing Yourself and God."

"Many of the members of Baha'i open their homes to meetings," said Salmon, who discovered the religion in his late 20s after a girl his age introduced the idea to him.

One of the commandments Salmon said he had trouble adjusting to was abstention from alcohol.

"That was a tough one for me because I'm from an Irish background," Salmon joked.

Flora Salmon was born into the faith in Iran. Three generations of her family are steeped in Baha'i.

She is happy to be in America practicing her beliefs because of the religious persecution that still exists in her native Iran.

"It wasn't until recently that they finally let kids come over here to attend college," she said. During and before Baha'u'llah's existence, more than 20,000 people were persecuted for their Baha'i beliefs.

On the calendar, Baha'is celebrate the same holidays but at very different times. New Year's, for instance, arrives on March 21, while the 19th of every month actually begins the start of a new month. This is one of the times when members meet officially with administrative assembly leaders to relay their feelings on the condition of the Baha'is and suggest change if so desired.

The Salmon's agree that Baha'i is especially successful when it comes to attracting youth, a goal many churches struggle to achieve.

"The Baha'i youth seem more involved than the youths I saw as a Catholic," Robert Salmon said.


©Copyright 2002, Kent County Daily Times

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