Bahai News - Growing faith breathes life
| March 19, 1999 | Vol. 125 | Number 141 |
Growing faith breathes life
BY ANDREA BOYLE
On March 21, New Year's Eve will be more somber and thought-provoking
than ever. But for members of the Bahá'í faith, they
wouldn't have it any other way.
Since March 2, Bahá'í's have only been able to satisfy
their hunger and thirst in the hours between sunset and dawn.
Approximately 5 million Bahá'í live in 235 countries prepare
to celebrate the arrival of the New Year at the spring equinox four days
At the heart of the faith's belief lies the idea that humanity is united
and shares a common destiny.
In the words of the prophet-founder, Bahá'u'lláh, "The earth
is but one country and mankind its citizens."
Azar Majidi, the faculty advisor of the campus Bahá'í club,
says Bahá'ís strongly promote unity and the abolishment of
all forms of prejudice.
Unlike some religions, which attempt to preserve the social ideals of the
past, Bahá'í beliefs promote major social changes, a practice
which began upon the faith's origination in the 19th century.
These social issues include a common world government, racial unity, gender
equality and world peace. Also, unlike many other religions,
Bahá'ís embrace the findings of science.
Junior Amanda Murphy says she is passionate about being Bahá'í
because she enjoys the unity and diversity of the faith.
The Bahá'í faith maintains stringent rules for its followers.
All Bahá'ís are required to abstain from alcohol, drugs
and premarital sex.
Bahá'í's must also participate in the nine holy days of the
year as set forth by their religion.
In addition, they must fast 19 days a year, pray every day, and attempt
to make a pilgrimage to Haifa, Israel, where the faith was founded, to
visit the Bahá'í World Center, and a shrine to one of the
religion's prophets and the houses in which the religion's founder lived.
Typically followers of the Bahá'í faith, unlike some
followers of many other religions, strictly adhere to these regulations,
even though there exists no policing of the rules.
As Majidi explains, "The vast majority of teachings are for personal
A Bahá'í makes decisions for himself or herself as to
whether or not to abide by the rules.
Andres DeCos, a local Bahá'í sophomore, converted from
Christianity at age 16. On his own, he switched to the faith because it
seemed very modern and grounded.
"It made perfect sense," he says.
Bahá'í is currently the second most widespread independent
religion in the world.
As a testament to the faith's popularity, throughout the world there exist
205 significant communities of Bahá'ís in different countries
and territories -- second only in number to Christianity with 254, a
religion established close to 1,800 years earlier.
The Bahá'í Club meets every Wednesday night at 7:30 in the
Williamson Room of the Perkin Student Center, and invites everyone,
including non-Bahá'í's, to attend.
Last semester the club hosted speakers on such topics as the environment
and racial equality. So far, they have no concrete plans for events this
semester, but may host a celebration in honor of the New Year, which
Bahá'ís call Naw-Ruz.
Naw Ruz falls on the first day of the Bahá'í calendar which
consists of 19 months, each with 19 days and four (five in a leap year)
extra days termed Ayy'a'm-I-Ha'.
In these four days, Bahá'ís exchange gifts and prepare for
the month of fasting ahead.
Murphy explains fasting is a time of spiritual renewal.
"The purpose is to spend the extra time working on the spiritual side
rather than the physical side," he says.
As Bahá'ís in the United States prepare to ring in the New
Year, followers in other countries across the globe do not share the same
Since 1980, the government of Iran has been attempting to destroy the
300,000-member Bahá'í community that exists there.
The government has been forcing Bahá'í children to obtain
an Islamic education, removing adult Bahá'ís from positions
of power and influence and refusing Bahá'í students
admission to colleges.
Most recently, the Iranian government shut down the Bahá'í
Institute for Higher Education, the only establishment for higher learning
where Bahá'í scholars could study.
Despite such restrictions on following their faith, the Baha'I community
continues to grow throughout the world.
In the next few days, these hungry Bahá'í's will be
reflecting on their own spirituality, as well as how they can positively
influence the world as a whole.
And that's a lot to chew.
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