Bahai News - Baha'is Plan To Build New Center In Antioch

Baha'is Plan To Build New Center In Antioch

Members of the Baha'i faith, who have been in Nashville since the 1930s, are confident the world will eventually catch up to their passion for human equality and optimism about world peace. Perhaps with that in mind, local Baha'is are planning to build a large Baha'i center in Antioch, one of the biggest such Baha'i buildings in the country, about 30,000 square feet. Ground clearing will begin soon on the Baha'is' nine-acre tract on Bell Road near Nolensville Road. Efforts to raise about $2.5 million to build the 500-seat worship center will take up most of 2001. Leaders then hope the building itself will be constructed in 2002. `We believe in equality between men and women, and in racial equality, and we believe the world is making progress toward those things,` said Faran Ferdowsi, treasurer of the Nashville Baha'i assembly. `Look how divided the world was 150 years ago, or 50 years ago. World peace is going to happen someday. We just don't know when. We want to see the elimination of all kinds of prejudice.` The Baha'i faith emerged out of Persia in the 1840s, declaring that all humanity is one, and the world's religions are all basically in agreement, and that the nations should lay aside their egotism and form a world government for the betterment of all people. Baha'is rely on the teachings of the prophet Baha'u'llah, who is regarded as a prophet for the current age, in a line of holy manifestations reaching back to Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. `Prophets have come in at different times to educate people and move them forward until we truly understand equality,` said Ferdowsi, who was born in Iran and escaped religious persecution there in the early 1980s. About 300 adults are Baha'i practitioners in Middle Tennessee. There are small communities in Franklin, Hendersonville, Brentwood, Murfreesboro and elsewhere in Williamson and Wilson counties. The largest, in Nashville, has met at a worship center at 2026 Clifton Ave. since the mid-1980s. That property will eventually be sold once the new building is open. The new center is conceived as a social and worship place for Baha'is as well as a meeting place for the faith's community-oriented programs, including its regular Unity feasts and racial reconciliation efforts. Leaders want to use it as a performing arts center and a training institute, too. It also will include recreation and trails on the property. `We want people to spend their time there,` Ferdowsi said. The largest Baha'i temple in the United States is in the Chicago area. The Antioch building will technically be a community center for the faith, not a temple proper, because it will have an administrative function, not just a worship function. As a Baha'i community center, it will be one of the largest in the nation. Ray Waddle covers religion for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 259-8077 or

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