Bahai News - Baha'is mark ascension of faith's founder

Baha'is mark ascension of faith's founder

May 29, 2000

The Orange County Register

LAGUNA NIGUEL - Mansour and Bahieh Azizi held another kind of Memorial Day service this weekend.

While many Orange County residents went to ceremonies to honor war dead, the couple had a midnight memorial service in their home.

The Azizis and hundreds of members of the Baha'i faith met throughout Orange County on Sunday to commemorate the ascension of Baha'u'llah, the founder of their faith.

The service is a solemn reflection of the life of the Persian nobleman, who was persecuted because of his religious beliefs, imprisoned in the dungeons of the "black pit" in Tehran, Iran, for 40 years and died in Haifa, Israel (then Palestine), while under house arrest in 1892.

"We consider him to be a messenger of God," explained Mansour Azizi, "a man whom we have patterned our own heart and life after."

Mansour Azizi's Jewish parents, who were living in Tehran, were persecuted until they were befriended by Baha'i neighbors.

"My parents couldn't understand why they were friendly and other neighbors were hateful," he said.

The Baha'is explained to them that the faith accepts all ethnic groups and religions. They consider Jesus, Buddha, Moses and Muhammad manifestations of God, as was Baha'u'llah. The Azizis eventually joined.

Mansour, 75, and Bahieh, 65, whose own family was fourth generation Baha'i, moved to Japan, later to England and finally to the United States.

The moves were not only because of his export business. They also wanted to do informal missionary work.

Baha'is have no formal missionary programs or clergy. The faith has a grass-roots structure in which all have input. They believe that by living a moral life, others will be attracted to the faith.

And the community in Orange County has grown. In 1979, there were fewer than 100 members. Today there are more than 2,000 members in nine cities. The main center is in San Clemente.

The Azizis and their adult daughter Shiva spent Sunday preparing for the service by choosing scriptures to be read. Baha'u'llah left many writings that he is said to have received by revelation. The service was held after midnight - the time of his death.

Unlike Christians, who believe Jesus was resurrected spiritually and bodily, Baha'is believe that their leader's ascension was spiritual.

To Shiva Azizi, ascension is meaningful because Baha'u'llah laid a foundation for her to live by.

"His words written from prison are very powerful," she said. "He teaches not to drink or do drugs, to respect all others."

The tenets are followed not because of fear of hell, but because "our spiritual mission is to unify the world."

©Copyright 2000, The Orange County Register

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