Bahai News -- Corvallis Gazette-Times - Baha'is celebrate, hope for peace

Saturday, March 15, 2003
Last modified Friday, March 14, 2003 11:26 PM PST

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Baha'is celebrate, hope for peace

Naw-Ruz event ushers in New Year for local Baha'is

By Carol Reeves
Gazette-Times reporter

The cold, rainy weather of the past few weeks combined with the chilling possibility of going to war with Iraq makes the upcoming Naw-Ruz celebration and the change in seasons it symbolizes more welcome than ever for Baha'is living in the mid-Willamette Valley.

Up to 200 people will gather Thursday evening at the Corvallis Country Club to celebrate the Baha'i New Year and break the Baha'is' annual 19-day fast.

"It is a deeply spiritual and joyous occasion, as the fast has ended, we have been spiritually cleansed and it is a time for a new beginning," said Deborah Hobbs, chair of the Spiritual Assembly of Baha'is in Corvallis.

The Naw-Ruz gathering here has evolved over the years from an informal potluck dinner to a Persian meal prepared by local Baha'is to this year's catered dinner at the country club. Each year is different, but there's always entertainment and plenty of flowers and festive decorations marking the beginning of spring and a new year.

The annual celebration is a symbol to Hobbs of "the promise that is never broken.

"As the cold and darkness of winter comes to an end, spring brings the inevitable flowers, new leaves and warm sun. It symbolizes the covenant God has made with humanity, that we will never be left alone," she said.

"As bleak as it looks right now in the end, it will be alright."

Naw-Ruz, which literally means "new day," was the greatest of the many seasonal festivals celebrated in ancient Persian culture. According to Iraj Motazedian of the local Baha'i assembly, people renewed friendships, tried to forget the hard feelings of the previous year, wore new clothes and paid visits to family and friends. Families decorated a special table with a dish of growing wheat or lentil seed sprouts, fruits, homemade sweets, roasted nuts, colored eggs and other traditional foods and treats.

The secular Naw-Ruz holiday later was adopted as the start of the Baha'i New Year by the founder of the Baha'i faith, Baha'u'llah. It was to be a celebration of one's spiritual rebirth as well as that of the Earth during springtime.

Baha'u'llah, a Persian nobleman, claimed to receive a revelation from God in 1852 declaring him to be the latest divine messenger after Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed. His message of unity and common ground among all world religions is one Baha'is believe is essential to resolving current world crises.

"Baha'u'llah, while in prison about 120 years ago, sent tablets to the kings and the ruler of his time suggesting that they sit and consult to bring peace between their nations. He told them humanity would benefit greatly if they could work out their differences. Otherwise, humanity would suffer greatly to achieve the inevitable world peace later," Motazedian said.

Like most Baha'is, Motazedian refrains from political comment or participation but he still hopes for world peace someday. "I personally hope those who are in charge of the program for the Naw-Ruz celebration this year will include a prayer for peace."

Hobbs stressed the Baha'i religion, with more than 5 million followers worldwide, is committed to bringing about a spirit of unity among all humans.

"As our country prepares for a frightening new war, Baha'is all over the world are steadfastly working to build up a new system based on the principles of equality, consultation and unity. We do not believe that the world will come to an end, but that there is a glorious future ahead for humanity.

"The human race is learning hard lessons right now, and it may appear that destruction is imminent," Hobbs said. "But this is likened to the pain and destruction that occurs with the birth of a new child. Birth can be a scary, harrowing experience, and what was known to be healthy and nurturing at one time must come to an end before the new life can enter this world. Likewise, many aspects of society as we know it, such as partisan politics, an economic system that encourages extremes of wealth and poverty and prejudice of all kinds, must come to an end."

Tickets to the 6 p.m. Naw-Ruz celebration cost $20, including dinner, entertainment and dancing. For information, call 929-6609.

Carol Reeves covers religion for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached at reevesc@gtconnect.com or at 758-9516.

©Copyright 2003, Corvallis Gazette-Times (OR, USA)

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