Bahai News - Baha'is gather to celebrate birth of prophet, founder

Baha'is gather to celebrate birth of prophet, founder

November 10, 2000

BY CATHLEEN FALSANI RELIGION REPORTER

Hundreds of followers of the Baha'i religion from across the region are expected to gather in their grand house of worship in Wilmette Saturday evening to mark the Birth of Baha'u'llah, one of the most important celebrations on their religious calendar.

Baha'u'llah, the founder of Baha'i, was born in Persia (now Iran) 183 years ago Sunday.

Saturday's services will be a mix of reflection and celebration with prayers, Scripture readings and song, much like Christmas Eve vigils in the Christian tradition.

Baha'i is a monotheistic religion that worships Allah. Baha'u'llah, who is not worshipped, is its prophet, but the religion teaches that eternal truths have been revealed through many prophets, including Jesus Christ, explained Lorelei McClure, spokeswoman for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States in Evanston.

"We don't demean, denegrate or deny other religions," McClure said. "We believe in oneness: one god that we know by these different names."

Passages from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian New Testament, the Muslim Quran and various Baha'i Scriptures will be read at the Birth of Baha'u'llah service.

Baha'u'llah, who was born a Muslim, lived much of his life in exile after straying from traditional Islam to follow the short-lived Babi mystics. He then started his own faith tradition, Baha'i, which means "followers of the glory." He died in what is now Israel in 1892.

Baha'i, still considered a heretical religion in the Muslim world, has an estimated 5 million followers worldwide, with about 150,000 in the United States, McClure said.

In the Chicago area, Baha'is number about 1,400.

The Baha'i house of worship in Wilmette is a North Shore architectural touchstone that was built over a span of years from the 1920s to the 1950s. It is the only one in North America. It was built by followers who were introduced to Baha'i at the 1893 Parliament of World Religions at Chicago's Columbian Exposition. The Parliament is credited with introducing several Eastern religions to the West, including Hinduism.


©Copyright 2000, Chicago Sun-Times

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