Bahai News - Garden Is Symbol Of Love In A Land Of Anger
Garden Is Symbol Of Love In A Land Of Anger
Fulfilling a vision of the Bahai prophet Bahaullah, workers pruned
and clipped grass and shrubs down a hillside in front of a gold-
domed shrine - a symbol of peace and tranquillity in a land where
both are scarce.
Inside the silent, dim room of the serene shrine, a few Bahai
faithful meditated cross-legged, heads bowed, eyes closed and hands
clasped above the tomb of one of their prophets.
The completion of 18 gardens of eucalyptus and gnarled olive
trees, flowers and ivy marks the realization of a century-old vision
of the prophet Bahaullah. Followers of the Bahai faith believe he was
sent to lead humanity into an age of universal peace.
In a place where more than 450 people have been killed in months
of clashes between Israelis and Palestinians, that hope can seem far
Iran Hessami, 50, a pilgrim from Vancouver, Canada, prayed inside
the shrine, perched on the slopes of Mount Carmel overlooking this
Mediterranean port city.
"I prayed for peace of the world," she said, following a line of
pilgrims smiling at two Arab couples taking wedding photographs in
the gardens. "I am praying not only for the Bahai people, but all the
people of the world. Bahai believe in unity and diversity."
Hessami was born in Iran but left after the Islamic revolution in
1979, prompted by rules that prevented her children from going to
school because their mother was Bahai.
About 130 years earlier, one of the religion's founders, the Bab -
who foretold the coming of the prophet Bahaullah - was shot to death
in Iran along with 20,000 followers. Islamic clergy apparently felt
threatened by the growing popularity of the religion.
A few years later, Bahaullah was exiled from Iran to Acre, near
Haifa, in what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. There he was kept
under house arrest until his death in 1892.
The world's 5 million Bahai are scattered throughout the globe,
with an estimated 130,000 living in the United States. They teach the
importance of abandoning all prejudice and recognize equality of the
sexes and the essential unity and common themes of all religions.
"The Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens," said
Bahaullah, who is considered by Bahais to be the last of a line of
prophets that included Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed.
Bahais are still considered heretics in Iran and are not
recognized in the Iranian constitution as a religious minority.
Islamic authorities there executed some 200 Bahais in the 1980s, and
thousands have since reportedly fled the country to escape
Before he died in Acre, Bahaullah pointed across a bay to Mount
Carmel in Haifa and said that the Bab's remains should be buried
there and a shrine built.
The structure was built on the site in 1909, and improvements and
additions have been made ever since. Anne Wong, a spokeswoman for the
center, said that the terraced gardens, which took 10 years and cost
$250 million to develop, complete the project and fulfill Bahaullah's
Recently, journalists were invited to preview the gardens, whose
completion will be formally celebrated on May 22 in a ceremony to be
attended by 3,000 believers from around the world.
"The real message of these terraces is one about the victory of
love over violence," said Albert Lincoln, secretary-general of the
Bahai International Community. "When the Bab was martyred in Iran in
1850, his body was thrown out on the side of a moat outside the city
to deny him a decent burial. The Bahais of the world answered that
hatred with love."
Mr. Lincoln said he hopes visitors, in particular Muslims and Jews
in the Middle East, will feel that love and perhaps explore the
message of the Bahais, who say believers in all religions are equal
under one God.
Their terraces illuminated by 2,000 lamps, the gardens symbolize
the Bahai faith, said Fariborz Sahba, the Iranian-born architect who
designed the gardens.
"The visitor feels they are walking through a spiritual garden,
not a beautiful garden," Mr. Sahba said. "You can buy the beauty. You
cannot buy the spirit."
©Copyright 2001, The Augusta Chronicle
Page last updated/revised 051301
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