News Announcer: Elections of a different type: followers of the Baha'i Faith from the whole world elect a new religious leadership in a colorful ceremony in Haifa.
Jerusalem may be the Holy City to the three large religions, but the Baha'is prefer to sanctify Haifa, of all places. Precisely because of this, the leadership of the Baha'is is elected, unlikely as it may seem, in Israel's northern capital. This week, 1500 believers from 161 countries got together to decide. Ya'ir Kachel presents a rare product on the closed world of the Baha'is.
Narrator (Ya ir Kachel): Although it looks like a meeting of the United Nations in New York, this happens once every five years in Israel, of all places. Six million believers of the Baha'i Faith in the world send their representatives from nearly every country in the world. Each one comes, in his own national dress, to the Holy City of Haifa to elect the world leadership of the Baha'i Faith for the next five years.
Albert Lincoln (Secretary-General of the Baha'i World Faith): It's a democratic process. It's an indirect election system. There are no candidates in the Baha'i system, no electioneering, no candidates, no propaganda.
Narrator: How then do the Baha'is elect the leadership?
Albert Lincoln: The electors themselves are elected one year before. They have a whole year to prepare and to be informed about the activities of the Baha'is around the world and to think of names.
Narrator: The Baha'is have no priests, no high clergy and no succession in positions by inheritance from one generation to the next. All the Baha'is, from the senior leadership to the last of the believers, have an equal status.
Dorothy Nelson (a Baha'i, one of the representatives of the U.S. community): This event for me is the highlight of my life. Here is where my family is. Whether it is from Togo, Swaziland, Greenland, Iceland, we come together as a family, believing in common principles.
Narrator: And, although Nelson is a judge in the High Court of Appeals in the U.S.A., sitting side by side with members of primitive tribes from remote islands in the Atlantic Ocean, the equality is not absolute. The nine members of the Baha'i's Supreme House of Justice who will be elected here and who will sit in this palatial chamber, carefully protected and concealed from all eyes, in the administrative building on the Carmel, those nine can only be men, in no case women.
Dorothy Nelson: This is the one mystery of the Baha'i Faith, but it says in our writings that it will become clear in the fullness of time. Women hold very high positions in the Baha'i Faith.
Narrator: The Baha'i Faith is comparatively new, about one hundred years old. Mongolia, for example, it reached only about nine years ago. Therefore, the elected ones there can also be young people of 25 years of age.
Uransaikhan Baatar (Baha'i community representative from Mongolia): It's not very unusual for my country because the majority of the population is young people. In Mongolia, especially in the Baha'i community, we have a lot of young people.
Narrator: Among the mixture of races, colours and languages that have assembled in the International Congress Center in Haifa, there are also representatives of communities from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, among them Arab countries or countries of partially Islamic nature. In some of them, and especially in Iran - whose representatives did not come - the Baha'is are persecuted by the goverment.
Paul Lupai (Baha'i community representative from Papua New Guinea): Coming here for me, is hope. In the international convention, I see hope for mankind.
Narrator: But the youngest religion in the world attracts more and more believers every month, and stands for values of beauty and esthetics as a basis for exaltation of the spirit and the soul. This religion fulfills itself in the burial shrines and the magnificient administrative buildings built in Haifa by contributions of the believers.
In the year 2000, the Baha'is plan to open to the general public the nineteen hanging gardens that rise from the bottom of the Carmel to its top. These gardens were designed as fine workmanship and have cost about 250 million dollars.
The year 2000 will be a year of festivities for the Baha'is, and in the future they are planning to build a great temple on the Carmel in the hope of fulfilling their prophets' vision that from here will go forth redemption for the whole world.
News Announcer: From Haifa, of all places ...
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