Bahai News - Baha'is head home after a week of celebration and reflection
Focusing on the future, Baha'is head home after a week of celebration
and reflection on Mount Carmel
HAIFA, Israel, 25 May 2001 (BWNS) -- Inspired and invigorated after
a week celebrating the completion of essential elements of their world
center, Baha'is gathered here from some 180 countries prepared today to head
out to the four corners of the globe.
They go with their gaze set firmly towards the future.
"Everything has been really wonderful, a source of encouragement and
inspiration," said Mandu Assam, a 25-year-old business school graduate
from Nigeria, about the program that inaugurated a kilometer-long series
of 19 garden terraces and two new administrative buildings on Mount
"It has been a driving force to move ahead," Ms. Assam added, saying she
will now throw herself ever more eagerly into her Baha'i work at home,
which has involved leading moral and spiritual education classes for
children and involvement in campaigns to spread the Baha'i teachings.
Ms. Assam's feelings were echoed by others, especially by the younger
generation gathered here, who were the focus of a message from the
Universal House of Justice on Thursday night.
Delivered to 3,000 participants, the message from the Baha'i Faith's
international governing council noted that the great majority of
humanity remains engulfed in heartbreaking "suffering and deprivation."
"Humanity’s crying need will not be met by a struggle among competing
ambitions or by protest against one or another of the countless wrongs
afflicting a desperate age," said the message. "It calls, rather, for a
fundamental change of consciousness, for a wholehearted embrace of
Baha’u’llah’s teaching that the time has come when each human
being on earth must learn to accept responsibility for the welfare of
the entire human family.
"Commitment to this revolutionizing principle will increasingly empower
individual believers and Baha’i institutions alike in awakening
others to the Day of God and to the latent spiritual and moral
capacities that can change this world into another world," the statement
said. "We demonstrate this commitment… by our rectitude of conduct
towards others, by the discipline of our own natures, and by our
complete freedom from the prejudices that cripple collective action in
the society around us and frustrate positive impulses towards change."
The Universal House of Justice said these standards hold "particular
implications" for youth, inasmuch as they are blessed with "the enviable
advantages of high energy, flexibility of mind and, to a great extent,
freedom of movement."
"Their challenge is to understand the real condition of humanity and to
forge among themselves enduring spiritual bonds that free them not only
from racial and national divisions but also from those created by social
and material conditions, and that will fit them to carry forward the
great trust reposed in them," said the statement.
Many youth were among the 3,000 participants. All delegates gathered
Friday morning along a semi-circular path in the gardens that link two
recently completed administrative buildings and the majestic Seat of the
Universal House of Justice. And young participants said the message --
and the entire week of activities -- had indeed taken them to a deeper
level of faith and commitment.
"There is a great responsibility on our shoulders to change this
generation," said Jude Dogley, 23, of the Seychelles. "Going back, I
will try to live the Baha'i life and to set a good example and to
explain to others how the Baha'i principles can solve the problems of
He said the gathering together of Baha'is from virtually every race and
nationality had proved to him that peace and unity among all humanity is
"There are a lot of divisions in the world out there," said Mr. Dogley,
who has been a Baha'i since 1996. "But we can show people that even if
you are from different backgrounds and different cultures, you can still
live like brothers and sisters."
Virginie Montiel, a 25-year-old medical student from Belgium, said the
week's activities had also proved to her that it was indeed possible for
everyone to treat each other -- and to be treated by each other --
"In the Baha'i Faith we always say that we are one," she said,
describing how encounters with so many people from so many different
cultures had changed her. "We saw this in practice here, with all these
different people from different backgrounds working for the same thing.
We saw that it is possible for everyone to be equal."
The gathering today outside the two new buildings, the International
Teaching Centre and the Centre for the Study of the Texts, marked
another historic moment for Baha'is here and around the world inasmuch
as it celebrated the completion of the administrative headquarters of
the Baha'i World Centre.
Along with the two other buildings set high on Mount Carmel, the Seat of
the Universal House of Justice and the International Archives Building,
these edifices house essential institutions and artifacts -- and their
completion is for Baha'is the realization of a century-long dream to
create a spiritual and administrative center that will fully and
fittingly represent the Faith’s position as an independent world
religion, now the second-most widespread geographically after
The Center for the Study of the Texts houses scholars and researchers
whose role is to study the vast body of the Baha’i sacred writings,
translate them, prepare compilations, and draft commentaries on their
relationship to current world problems.
The International Teaching Center building houses a body of appointed
individuals who assist the Universal House of Justice and provide
guidance and encouragement to the worldwide Baha’i community on its
growth and development.
Altogether, the terraces -- which were inaugurated with a world premiere
concert on Tuesday, 23 May, before 4,000 people in Haifa and a worldwide
audience by satellite and webcast -- and the two new buildings cost some
US$250 million to complete. The money was raised entirely from within
the worldwide Baha'i community through voluntary donations.
The architect who designed the new buildings, Hossein Amanat, along with
the architect who designed the garden terraces, Fariborz Sahba, were
given warm appreciation in an evening program Wednesday, 23 May, the
highlight of which was the showing of a new 38-minute video documentary
on the roughly 15-year-long construction process for the new structures.
Titled "Not even a lamp," the documentary detailed the immense
challenges faced in working on the slope of Mount Carmel. The architects
had to work carefully so as not to disturb neighbors, the surrounding
gardens and buildings, or the precious golden-domed Shrine of the Bab.
"This was not an ordinary project," Mr. Amanat told the gathering. "This
was a kind of sacred task for us. We really looked on it as a prayer."
Mr. Amanat said the buildings were designed to last for 500 years:
"Every detail, when implemented, was done with a great amount of
research as to what kinds of materials we should use, what technology we
should use, so that these buildings will last as long as possible."
Throughout the week, music was a crucial element in the celebration.
Tuesday evening saw the world premiere of two orchestral works written
especially for the occasion of the inauguration of the terraces on Mount
On Wednesday and Thursday, a wide range of Baha'i artists from around
the world took to the stage to inspire and uplift. Among those
performing were the Congo Youth Choir from the Democratic Republic of
the Congo; The Tabarsi Group, a group of Roma musicians from Spain;
Vivek Nair, a singer from India; Kevin Locke, a Lakota flutist from the
United States; and Atef Sedkouai, a Tunisian vocalist from Paris.
Collectively, these performances showcased a tremendous depth of talent
and creative expression, giving new meaning to the term of "world
"We wanted the performers to represent a wide diversity," said Alex
Frame, who produced the week's program. "And we brought together people
who didn't know each other, and people who in some cases didn't even
speak the same language.
"Yet within minutes of coming together, even in their dressing rooms,
they started jamming together," said Mr. Frame. "It was natural and
spontaneous and, without impediment, they began to create new kinds of
On Thursday evening, the program used a dramatic narrative to explore
the growth and development of the Faith over the last century, exploring
how events and trends in the world at large converged or coincided with
the evolution of the Baha’i community.
Drawing on "Century of Light," a new book published by the Baha'i World
Centre, the narrative chronicled such events as the visit of Abdu'l-Baha
to America, the crusade to spread the Faith around the world in the
1950s, and the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran in the 1980s. The
drama brought to life with colorful characterizations how people's lives
have been transformed by the Faith.
"Our idea was to juxtapose news events happening in the world at large
with dramatic episodes from the Faith's history, and how the Faith
offers hope to the world," said Ann Boyles of Canada, author of the
drama. "For example, in the opening section, we talked about the
atrocities committed in the Congo at the turn of the century under King
Leopold, when more than a million Congolese were killed, starved or
worked to death.
"On the other hand," she added, "we had here this week this vibrant
youth choir coming from the Congo, with great hope and optimism about
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
Page last updated/revised 052501
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