Celebrating the 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh in Wollongong

Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and surrounding gardens

This October, Bahá’ís in Wollongong, together with their sister communities around the world will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah. Celebrations planned will commemorate Baha’u’llah’s extraordinary life, His teachings and vision for a materially and spiritually prosperous world.  Bahá’u’lláh delivered a new revelation from God. His mission was to spiritually re-awaken humanity and unite all the peoples of the world. Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings form the basis of the Bahá’í Faith and offer a vision of infinite hope and healing. “My object is none other than the betterment of the world and the tranquillity of its peoples,” wrote Bahá’u’lláh. For this noble purpose, He endured a life of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and exile.

According to the recent message from the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing institution of the Bahá’í Faith: “Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings testify to the nobility of the human spirit.   The society He envisions is one worthy of that nobility and founded on principles that guard and reinforce it. The oneness of the human family He places at the core of collective life; the equality of women and men He unequivocally asserts.  He reconciles the seemingly counteracting forces of our own age-science and religion, unity and diversity, freedom and order, individual rights and social responsibilities. And among His greatest gifts is justice, manifested in institutions whose concern is for the progress and development of all peoples.”[1]

Bahá’u’lláh (1817-92) is the latest in the series of Divine Messengers who founded the world religions as part of the progressive revelation of God’s guidance to humanity. Bahá’u’lláh (“The Glory of God”) is the One promised in the scriptures of the world’s great faith traditions. Born on 12 November 1817 in Tehran, Bahá’u’lláh was the son of a wealthy nobleman and government minister. He devoted Himself to the care of the poor and became a follower of the Báb (1819-1850), His spiritual forerunner. After receiving His revelation in 1852, Bahá’u’lláh was exiled, eventually to the Ottoman-ruled Holy Land (now Israel). He remained a prisoner for the rest of His life. His voluminous writings include many beautiful prayers, passages of spiritual upliftment, guidance for the spiritual life of the individual and society, and proclamation to the most powerful rulers of His time. Bahá’u’lláh passed away near Acre in the Holy Land where His shrine is now set amid beautiful gardens and attracts pilgrims and visitors from around the world.

While some Bahá’ís are celebrating this momentous occasion with their families, friends, neighbours and colleagues in their homes, the formal celebration in Wollongong will take place on 21st of October in building 67 room 207, University of Wollongong, 7:30 pm. For your personal invitation to this event, please write to gongbahais@gmail.com

For the news of Celebration of the Bicentenary Birth of Bahá’u’lláh from around the globe, please visit https://bicentenary.bahai.org/.

[1]          The message of the Universal House of Justice, October 2017.

Forum: “Bahá’u’lláh’s Promise of Universal Peace”

Bahá’u’lláh’s room in Bahji , where He met Professor Brown in 1890
Source: Bahá’í International Community

The theme, “Bahá’u’lláh’s Promise of Universal Peace” will be the focus of a forum planned for 30 September at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

In April 1890, Professor Edward Granville Browne of Cambridge University met Bahá’u’lláh in four successive interviews. During the first meeting, Bahá’u’lláh underlined the significant changes that would take place in the world as the result of the forces released through His revelation: “… That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled.” He then questioned Professor Brown: “What harm is there in this? …” Bahá’u’lláh continued His utterances by promising that “… Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the ‘Most Great Peace’ shall come.… Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind.”[1]

The “Most Great Peace” promised by Bahá’u’lláh is the Universal Peace or the peace between the nations that has proved quite elusive in the world today, though desired by everyone. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh explain that the  “Universal Peace” is a spiritual phenomenon that occurs when some other requirements are fulfilled, the ultimate of which is the acceptance of the unity of mankind. In this regard, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  explains, “But the wise souls who are aware of the essential relationships emanating from the realities of things consider that one single matter cannot, by itself, influence the human reality as it ought and should, for until the minds of men become united, no important matter can be accomplished. At present universal peace is a matter of great importance, but unity of conscience is essential, so that the foundation of this matter may become secure, its establishment firm and its edifice strong.”[2] 

In a forum planned for 30 September, 7.30 pm at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning this topic will be explored in details. Everyone is welcome to attend.

[1]           J.E. Esslemont — Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, Page 39-40

[2]           ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Forum: “Baha’u’llah’s teachings: a response to the challenges of a turbulent world”

The theme, “Baha’u’llah’s teachings: a response to the challenges of a turbulent world” will be the focus of a forum planned for 26 August at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

In one of His works written more than 150 years ago,Bahá’u’lláh underlined some of the social challenges faced by humanity through a number of questions:   “How long will humanity persist in its waywardness? How long will injustice continue? How long is chaos and confusion to reign amongst men? How long will discord agitate the face of society?” He then warns humanity: “… The winds of despair are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divideth and afflicteth the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appeareth to be lamentably defective.[1]

The questions asked by Bahá’u’lláh at that time are more pertinent now and the convulsions and chaos foreseen by Him are currently the prevalent characteristics of our societies in every corner of the planet. The long-established traditions, values and norms that governed human civilisation for thousands of years are no longer adequate and applicable to a world what has radically shrunk to a global village through mass communication, mass transportation and mass migration. This has brought about a global awareness and consciousness that struggles for its prevalence against old established prejudices, assumptions, and standards.

In response to such crises, Bahá’u’lláh has offered a new order  in His teachings to address the challenges faced by humanity. Referring to His revealed paradigm as “new World Order” He states: “The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System — the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.[2]

In a forum planned for 26 August, 7.30 pm at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning this topic will be explored in details. Everyone is welcome to attend.

[1]           Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 215.

[2]           Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 136.

Local Bahá’í Talks at the Launch of Ink of Light

Negar Sabet in front of a calligraphic written piece on the wall of the gallery

Negar Sabet, a local Bahá’í in Wollongong was one of the speakers at the launch of the Ink of Light Exhibition on Saturday 5 August 2017.

Ink of Light art exhibition is an artistic quest by five artists with concerns for human rights. Work created by artists highlight our common humanity in reflective and meditative ways. The exhibition charts a journey exploring constructive resilience and spiritual freedom in the face of persecution. The artists are Negin Chahoud a painter and printmaker, Shadi Eshragi a painter and digital artist, Monir Rowshan a ceramic and mosaic artist, Kath Podger an installation artist, sculptor and painter, and Mehrzad Mumtahan ceramic sculptor and digital video artist.

The exhibition is a commemoration of the seven Bahá’í leaders in their home country, Iran. The seven prisoners are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Affif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behruouz Tavakoli and Vahid Tizfaham.

Negar is the daughter of Mahavash Sabet, who currently lives in Wollongong and studies at University of Wollongong. In her talk, Negar highlighted the innocence of her mother and the other six prisoners as well as their dignity, nobility and peaceful response to prolonged incarceration. She concluded her talk by reading one of the poems of her mother published as a book titled Prison Poems.

The Ink of Light art exhibition is held at Articulate Project Space, 497 Parramatta Rd, Leichhardt until 19 August. The opening times are 11 am-5 pm Friday-to Sunday.

Forum: “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizen”

The theme, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizen” will be the focus of a forum planned for 29 July at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Around 150 years ago, Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith proclaimed: “It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.[1]  This reflects the fundamental conviction in the Bahá’í Faith that we all belong to one human family, while denouncing unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, and emphasising a wider loyalty to love humanity as a whole.  According to  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  “This earth  is one  household and the native land of all humanity; therefore, the human race should ignore distinctions and boundaries which are artificial and conducive to disagreement and hostility.[2]

Development of science and technology since the time of Bahá’u’lláh has revolutionised communication and transportation across the globe, and has removed the physical barriers towards the realisation of such ideal. The world has become a global village and the society has reached a new stage of maturity. The forces of change in the world today reflect part of an organic process of social evolution that will ultimately lead to the unification of the human race into a single social order whose boundaries are those of the planet.  There are, however, many personal, social, cultural and political impediments that should be addressed before world citizenship becomes a reality.

The first step in this process is accepting the oneness of humanity.  This is a characteristic different from uniformity, resembling closely to the structure and functioning of the human body.  The millions diverse cells forming the body should function in perfect harmony and cooperation to ensure the wellbeing and health of the body. The same is true for the diverse people living on the planet and the state of the world. In fact, such diversity is a source of strength as the diversity of colours and fragrances of flowers in a garden add to its richness and beauty.

Acceptance of the oneness of humanity demands total elimination of all types of prejudice, whether racial, religious, or gender from people’s heart and minds as well as the social system. This will be inevitably followed by the emergence of a world federal system and its universally agreed and enforceable laws.

The profound statement of Bahá’u’lláh:  “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizen” will be discussed in forum planned for 29 July, 7.30 pm at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning. Everyone is welcome to attend.

 

[1]           Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh.

[2]           ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace.

Forum: Bahá’u’lláh’s Teaching on the Equality of Men and Women

Copyright © Bahá’í International Community

The theme, “Bahá’u’lláh’s Teaching on the Equality of Men and Women” will be the focus of a forum planned for 24 June at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Men have traditionally assumed a superior station and role in society, and enforced this assumption by force, religious doctrines and legislation.  Hence, women have become the victims of inequality and injustice, and have suffered tremendously.  Unfortunately, this attitude has deeply influenced society and created subconscious feelings of superiority in men and inferiority in women.

For the first time in religious history, a Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh, has emphatically proclaimed equality between the sexes.  He says “In this Day the Hand of divine grace hath removed all distinctions.  The servants of God and His handmaidens are regarded on the same plane.[1]

The equality of men and women and their complimentary roles in the family and society have been addressed in many Bahá’í Writings.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá clearly indicates, “The happiness of mankind will be realized when women and men co-ordinate and advance equally, for each is the complement and helpmate of the other.”[2]  He also refers to men and women as the two wings of a bird:  “The world of humanity has two wings one is women and the other men.  Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly.  Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible.  Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be.[3]

The Bahá’í teachings have placed great challenges on both men and women to establish equality of the sexes.  Women are expected to “… attain greater perfection, to be man’s equal in every respect, to make progress in all in which she has been backward, so that man will be compelled to acknowledge her equality and capacity and attainment.”[4]

The equality of men and women as taught by Bahá’u’lláh nearly 150 years ago will be discussed in a forum planned for 24 June at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

  1. Bahá’u’lláh:  cited in The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II (Women), No. 2094, p. 358.
  2. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:  The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 182.
  3. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:  Selection From the Writings, p. 301.
  4. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá:  Paris Talks, p. 162.

 

Forum: “Bahá’u’lláh’s Teaching on the Unity of Religion”

The theme,  “Bahá’u’lláh’s Teaching on the Unity of Religion” will be the focus of a forum planned for 27 May at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Religious truth has been manifested relative to time and location.  Whenever a society has become spiritually weak and has been inflicted by complex social problems, God has appointed a divine educator from among the people.  This educator breathes a new spiritual life into the society and gives guidance on how to deal with the social problems. That explains the large number of religions that exist in the world today and differences observed among them.

However, despite of such diversity, the divine educators or the Manifestations of God and the religions they reveal are one.  The Manifestations of God are like perfect mirrors that reflect the attributes of one God.  Such oneness does not, however, imply uniformity, as there are differences among the Manifestations of God and their revelations.

The Manifestations of God have three stations, namely that of the physical, the human and the divine.  “The physical station is phenomenal; it is composed of elements, and necessarily everything that is composed is subject to decomposition”.[1]  The second station is the rational soul or the human station.  “This also is phenomenal, and the Holy Manifestations share it with all mankind.[2]  In this station a Manifestation of God is an individual with His own unique combination of the genetic variations that characterise all other human individuals.  “The third station is that of the divine appearance and heavenly splendour: it is the Word of God, the Eternal Bounty, the Holy Spirit.  It has neither beginning nor end, for these things are related to the world of contingencies and not to the divine world.[3] This is the station common among all the Manifestations of God.

Generally the light of a religion is dimmed by man-made superstitions and ideas as it approaches its winter of despondency.  Hence, the religion assumes an appearance and a form radically different from its reality when it was originally revealed by the Manifestation of God.

The unity of religion as taught by Bahá’u’lláh nearly 150 years ago will be discussed in a forum planned for 27 May at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

  1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 151.
  2. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 151.
  3. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 152.

Sacred Moments: Honouring the 7 Imprisoned Innocent Baha’i Leaders in Iran

The seven imprisoned innocent Bahá’í leaders in Iran

Wollongong Bahá’í community will be holding a devotional meeting on Sunday 7th May, 11 am at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning to honour the seven imprisoned innocent Bahá’í leaders in Iran.

Nine years ago, seven innocent men and women were rounded up and thrown into Iran’s infamous Evin prison. After more than a year of illegal detention, they were put on trial, accused of espionage, “propaganda against the regime” and other alleged crimes that, in fact, related solely to their religious belief and practice.
The seven Baha’is – whose names are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – were sadly convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In November, that term of imprisonment was reduced to 10 years, due to the very delayed application of a new national penal code adopted in 2013, which essentially states that sentences should be served concurrently instead of consecutively.

Under the terms of the new penal code, the seven are also now eligible for conditional release. Indeed, as with their reduction in sentence, this should have happened promptly. The seven must therefore, as a matter of justice and consistency with Iran’s own national laws, be released immediately.

On the 9th anniversary of their incarceration, the Bahá’í  International Community is launching a campaign on the theme: “Not Another Year“. It will call for their immediate release, as well as reminding everyone that their sentences will have been fully served by May 2018 and they should not be held for even a day longer than the ten years of their sentence.

Wollongong Bahá’í community will be holding a devotional meeting on Sunday 7th May, 11 am at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning to honour the seven imprisoned innocent Bahá’í leaders in Iran.

For more information please visit https://facebook.com/SituationBahaisIran

Community Delighted with Tribute Received from President of India

President of Inida, his excellency Pranab Mukherjee

Wollongong Bahá’í community was thrilled to learn of the moving tribute from the President of India, his excellency Pranab Mukherjee, honouring the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. While conveying his greetings to the Bahá’í community of India in his message, President Mukherjee draws attention to the significance and relevance of the well known statement of Bahá’u’lláh, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” He calls on all Indians to reflect on the life, and vision of Bahá’u’lláh on the unity of mankind as well as “the monumental body of His Writings about the moral spiritual transformation of the individual and society.”

2017 marks the two hundred year anniversary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh and Wollongong Bahá’í community in par with other Bahá’í communities around the world is preparing to commemorate this momentous occasion.

President Mukherjee’s message can be accessed here.

Forum on Bahá’u’lláh — The Divine Educator

In Acre in northern Israel, a former prison city of the Ottoman Empire, the barracks where Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned starting in 1868-Source: Bahá’í World Centre

The theme  “Bahá’u’lláhThe Divine Educator” will be the focus of a forum that is planned for 6th May at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre of Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The world of existence – embracing vegetable, animal and human kingdoms – is in need of education. The reality of the mineral kingdom is physical.  Hence, material education is sufficient.  A garden is merely created by removing the weeds, improving the soil, planting new flowers, etc.  These are all material education.

In the animal kingdom, it is possible to change the response and behaviour of the animals through education. For example, a wild animal can be domesticated.

Humans have a complex reality consisting of three components of physical, intellectual and spiritual. The human physical, intellectual and spiritual realities are endowed with predestined potentialities and capacities.  Education is the only means to discover and develop these capacities.  Each one of these human realities is in need of a specific education to acquire perfection.

Material education ensures the development, well-being and comfort of the human physical body.  Human or intellectual education aims to unveil and develop the capacities and powers of human intellect. Spiritual or divine education develops the divine qualities and gifts hidden in the human spiritual reality. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that “Divine education is that of the Kingdom of God: it consists in acquiring divine perfections, and this is true education; for in this state man becomes the focus of divine blessings, …1

In every age, religions have provided spiritual or divine education together with material and intellectual education. For this reason, the Prophets and Manifestations of God are known as the divine educators and are in fact the true educators of humanity. The radiance and effulgence of the world of existence is dependent on divine education. “This is evident that, when the hearts are purified and through the divine education and heavenly teachings become the manifestators of infinite perfections, they are like clear mirrors and the Sun of Truth will reflect with might, power and omnipotence in such mirrors, and to such an extent that whatsoever is brought before them is illumined and ignited.2

Bahá’ís believe that Bahá’u’lláh (meaning the Glory of God), the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, who was born in 1817, is the divine educator for this age.   In the middle of the 19th century, God summoned Bahá’u’lláh to deliver a new Revelation to humanity. During forty years of His imprisonment, thousands of verses, letters and books flowed from His pen. In His Writings, He outlined a framework for the development of a global civilisation which takes into account both the spiritual and material dimensions of human life.

The theme “Bahá’u’lláh – The Divine Educator” will be the focus of a forum that is planned for 6th May at Wollongong Bahá’í Centre Learning, at 7:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

  1. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 8.
  2. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 488.