Baha’i Faith

Insightful and thought-provoking: ABS conference casts light on wide array of social themes

To read the story online or view more photos, visit news.bahai.org.

OTTAWA, Canada, 3 August 2021, (BWNS) — The 45th annual conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies (ABS), held last week, brought together over 2,500 people to reflect on their efforts to contribute to a wide variety of areas of thought and discourse.

As was the case last year, the conference, which is usually held at a physical venue, had transferred online because of the pandemic. Julia Berger, the secretary of the Association’s executive committee explains how the ABS took great care in organizing the program to ensure greater participation in sessions.

“Despite some challenges and limitations from not being able to gather in person, the conference featured thought-provoking and lively discussions.

“Many sessions were held in two parts, with the first featuring pre-recorded presentations made available in advance and the second as live sessions during the conference itself, allowing more time for rich discussions.”

The 9-day conference took place at a time when the global Bahá’í community has been preparing to commemorate the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing later this year. Titled “In the Footsteps of ʻAbdu’l-Bahá: Contributing to the Discourses of Our Time,” the conference program drew inspiration from His life and work as a champion of social justice and upholder of the principle of the oneness of humanity.

Participants called to mind ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unifying approach to contributing to the intellectual and moral life of society. His application of Bahá’í principles to contemporary issues and problems of the age informed discussions as attendees consulted on a wide variety of themes, including the role of journalism in contributing to social progress, the power of film in helping people to overcome prejudices, contemporary efforts to create just and sustainable food systems, and the dual knowledge systems of science and religion as being necessary for the advancement of civilization.

One of the sessions brought together attendees and the directors of the Center on Modernity in Transition (COMIT) to discuss the Centre’s experience with interdisciplinary research on the intellectual foundations of modern society and their possible transformation. The Centre’s work is animated by the idea of modernity as an age of transition toward a future world civilization—one characterized by unprecedented levels of peace, justice, and material and spiritual prosperity.

Speaking about the future of the conferences, Dr. Berger states: “Our hope for the evolution of the conference is that it becomes a punctuation point along a process of learning so that each year participants can explore in-depth Bahá’í teachings, correlate them with perspectives across diverse fields of knowledge, and attempt to apply them to humanity’s current issues and challenges.”

Recordings of selected conference sessions are available online at the ABS website
Share this story
 Facebook

WhatsApp

 LinkedIn
 
Twitter

Follow the Bahá’í World News Service on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates and stories.

Dear Kenneth George-dill, you are receiving this email because you subscribed to the Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS) at news.bahai.org/subscribe/.

Copyright 2021 by the Bahá’í World News Service. Stories and photographs produced by the Baha’i World News Service may be freely reprinted, re-emailed, re-posted, and otherwise reproduced as long as they are attributed to BWNS. For more information, go to news.bahai.org/legal.

Mailing Address: 
P.O. Box 155
Haifa 3100101

Unsubscribe ken@khatts.com from the Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS)

“A significant experience in our country”: Faith leaders in the UAE foster coexistence, build unified vision

To read the story online or view more photos, visit news.bahai.org.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, 22 July 2021 , (BWNS) — A unique forum initiated by the Bahá’ís of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is allowing religious leaders of the country to go beyond building mutual respect to fostering coexistence and unity of vision on questions of common concern.

The forum was established at the outset of the pandemic as a space for representatives of the diverse religious communities of the UAE to pray for the well-being of the people of their country, but quickly evolved to become a means for religious leaders to explore the role of religion in contributing to the material and spiritual progress of society in tangible terms.

“What has made these gatherings remarkable is that participants consult together about how they can stimulate further discussions within their faith communities to build unity of thought and to support collective endeavors that contribute to the betterment of our society,” says Roeia Thabet, representative of the Bahá’ís of the country.

She continues: “We also explore profound concepts and themes related to social transformation and reflect on how religion can inspire action among larger groups of people.”

At a recent gathering focused on the Bahá’í principle of the equality of women and men, a participant stated: “All of us, as religious leaders, have a significant role in shaping the culture of true understanding of equality between men and women.”

In a paper prepared for the discussion and distributed to participants, the Bahá’ís of the UAE highlighted that equality between women and men is an aspect of human reality and not just a condition to be achieved for the common good.

The paper reads in part: “The search for meaning, for purpose, for community; the capacity to love, to create, to persevere, has no gender. Such an assertion has profound implications for the organization of every aspect of human society. That which makes human beings human—their inherent dignity and nobility—is neither male nor female.”

This and other themes examined over the past year are part of an overarching conversation on coexistence in Emirati society, a discourse that has gained significant prominence in recent years not only in the UAE but in the whole Arab region.

“This group has raised the bar on coexistence and tolerance by bringing everyone of different religions together and commencing valuable discussions,” says Ashis Barua, representative of the country’s Buddhist community. Referring to the unified spirit of the gatherings, Mr. Barua continues: “It is truly rare… in our lifetime.”

Dr. Thabet of the Bahá’í community describes the strong bonds of friendship that have been fostered among the participants: “We have become much closer through these gatherings, sitting together for hours with real focus on how to foster greater coexistence in society and promote the welfare of communities. This kind of dialogue among leaders of different faiths is a significant experience in our country.”


Share this story
 Facebook

WhatsApp 

 LinkedIn
 
Twitter 

Follow the Bahá’í World News Service on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates and stories.

 

Dear Kenneth George-dill, you are receiving this email because you subscribed to the Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS) at news.bahai.org/subscribe/.Copyright 2021 by the Bahá’í World News Service. Stories and photographs produced by the Baha’i World News Service may be freely reprinted, re-emailed, re-posted, and otherwise reproduced as long as they are attributed to BWNS. For more information, go to news.bahai.org/legal.Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 155
Haifa 3100101Unsubscribe ken@khatts.com from the Bahá’í World News Service (BWNS)
 

New Canadian parliamentary caucus looks at religion’s role in society

To read the story online or view more photos, visit news.bahai.org.

OTTAWA, Canada, 29 June 2021, (BWNS) — In a rare dialogue about the role of faith in governance, Canadian parliamentarians and representatives of the country’s religious communities recently held the inaugural meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Interfaith Caucus—a new space to explore how principles and insights from religion can contribute to thinking about the challenges facing the country.

“I believe that religion defines who we are and what we value, and that democracy, which is a vehicle by which we inform change, is often guided by these values,” said Mobina Jaffer, a member of the Canadian Senate.

The recently formed all-party caucus is open to members of Canada’s elected House of Commons and appointed Senate and is organized with the support of the Canadian Interfaith Conversation (CIC), of which the Bahá’í Community of Canada is a member.

“The pandemic has produced new kinds of dialogue between government and religious communities,” said Geoffrey Cameron of the Canadian Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs. “It has made leaders more conscious of the important role religion continues to play in inspiring people to serve their society.”

Stockwell Day, former MP and cabinet minister, spoke about the power of religion to bring comfort and hope, especially in times of crisis. “The very notion of religion in our society gives us a sense that there is restraint on a leader, and that there should be some sense of humility at the possibility that there is a bigger force out there than himself or herself, or the group to which they associate.”

He continued: “If individuals have a sense of religion—that there is something greater than ourselves—that brings a sense of solace.

“And so we imagine this spread over millions of citizens within a political setting, a significant portion of whom believe there is actually a power of God out there, [who] are living with a greater sense of respect and, we would hope, love for one another.”

Participants emphasized that beyond personal inspiration, religion can make important contributions to the policymaking process. 

Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis said, “There are two concepts that are of supreme importance in religion: one is love and another is truth. And those two concepts have to go together. If you have love but no sense of truth, then … you’re not understanding what is really going on or what someone’s real needs are. And if you have a sense of the pursuit of truth, but no love in the process, that’s also clearly deficient… Love means being willing to confront serious injustice.”

Speaking with the News Service about the future of the all-party interfaith caucus, Dr. Cameron of the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs states: “There is a need to foster new relationships among policymakers and faith communities and to frame conversations such that people can collectively advance in their thinking by exploring productive lines of inquiry, rather than framing every issue as a binary choice.”“Underlying the contributions of the Office to the discourse on the role of religion in society,” he continued, “is the Bahá’í principle of the essential oneness of humanity. This caucus, although in its very early stages, is an expression of that principle and an example of greater societal unity.”

A path toward a unified America

June 16, 2021 Share

Podcast: A path toward a unified America

The centenary of the first race amity conference held by the American Bahá’í community was marked by a three-day symposium exploring racial unity and social change.

RSS  |  iTunes  |  SoundCloud  |  Tunein  |  iHeart  |  Stitcher

WASHINGTON, D.C. — One hundred years ago, in May, the first race amity conference in the United States was held in Washington, D.C., by the American Bahá’í community, a defining moment on the path toward racial unity in the country.

The description on the program read, in part: “Half a century ago in America slavery was abolished. Now there has arisen need for another great effort in order that prejudice may be overcome. Correction of the present wrong requires no army, for the field of action is the hearts of our citizens.”

To mark the centenary of that historic gathering, the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs brought together academics, civil society leaders, and other social actors for a three-day online symposium titled Advancing Together: Forging a Path Toward a Just, Inclusive and Unified Society.

SLIDESHOW
6 imagesPanelists of a three-day online symposium held by the U.S. Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs titled Advancing Together: Forging a Path Toward a Just, Inclusive and Unified Society.

“For those of us gathered here today, we are conscious that we are engaged in a process aimed at profound organic change in the very structure of society,” said P.J. Andrews of the Office at the gathering.

“The change required to create justice in the country,” he continued, “is not only social and economic but moral and spiritual.”

The latest episode of the Bahá’í World News Service podcast provides highlights from the symposium at which panelists discussed topics including the role of language in fostering a sense of shared identity, the relationship between truth and justice, and the need to address systemic changes in efforts toward social justice.

SLIDESHOW

6 images The discussions at the symposium looked at experiences of the U.S. Bahá’í community in fostering collaboration and strong bonds of friendship among people of diverse backgrounds in neighborhoods across the country. Some of these efforts are pictured here.

Woven throughout the conversations at the gathering was the spiritual principle of the essential oneness of humanity. Drawing on the Bahá’í teachings, May Lample, also of the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs, stated: “Any movement that seeks to eradicate all forms of racism from our society has to be predicated on a notion that all human beings are in their essence the same, that they are deserving of dignity, that they possess unique skills and abilities, and that they are worthy of safety and security.

“And without an understanding of our oneness and interconnectedness our differences appear too vast, rather than adding necessary and valuable complexity and beauty to our lives.”

This symposium was part of an ongoing contribution of the Bahá’í Office of Public Affairs in the United States to the discourse on race unity. Recordings of discussions at the symposium can be viewed here.

Shift in agricultural systems necessary for sustainability, says BIC

June 8, 2021Share

BIC BRUSSELS — Each year, tens of thousands of people from Africa travel to Europe to work alongside a declining national agricultural workforce on farms in EU member states in an industry that is increasingly becoming dependent on migrant seasonal workers.

When the pandemic disrupted international travel in April 2020, the spring harvest throughout Europe was thrown into jeopardy, revealing the extent of the EU’s reliance on seasonal workers and their difficult living conditions. Additionally, the pandemic has brought renewed attention to economic crises, the loss of land by farmers, and other factors that are driving people to leave rural areas in Africa.

“The way that agricultural affairs are organized is not sustainable or equitable, be it in Europe, Africa, or anywhere else in the world. There are fundamental questions that need to be closely examined in the light of principles such as the oneness of humanity,” said Rachel Bayani of the Brussels Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) at an online seminar held by the Office last Wednesday.

The gathering is part of a seminar series, co-hosted by the Brussels Office and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which brings together policymakers, academics, and civil society organizations from Europe and Africa to explore the relationship between agriculture, rural sustainability, and migration, particularly in the context of partnerships between the two regions.

SLIDESHOW
4 imagesPanelists of the most recent seminar in a series held by BIC Brussels and the FAO. The seminar focused on the viability of the EU’s agricultural sector and the need for rethinking production systems.

Rodrigo de Lapuerta, Director at the Liaison Office in Brussels of the FAO, spoke about the novel approach of the seminars: “FAO estimates that 80% of all moves involve rural areas. Migration and rural transformation, with the sustainability of agri-food systems, are totally interrelated. However, I do not think these two issues have often been treated jointly.”

Attendees at the gatherings have highlighted different aspects of the links between migration and agriculture. “Many factors influence why and how people migrate from rural areas... [but] it is essential that this migration is done out of choice, rather than necessity,” said Mr. Ola Henrickson, Regional Director at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

A particular focus of the most recent seminar was on the viability of EU’s agricultural sector and the need for rethinking production systems. 

“We have to remember that our food security depends on the respect of our agri-food workers’ rights,” said Maximo Torero Cullen, the FAO’s Chief Economist, at a recent gathering. “The pandemic has shown us how indispensable migrants are… but it has also rightfully put the spotlight on the poor working and living conditions in the [agricultural] sector and the invisibility of these workers.”

SLIDESHOW
4 images

Dr. Torero Cullen and other participants emphasized that policies of African and European states and regional bodies aimed at building sustainable food and agriculture systems need to put at the center the interests, safety, and well-being of agricultural workers.

“Many EU Member States frame their seasonal worker schemes primarily in terms of meeting labor-market needs at home,” said Camille Le Coz of the Migration Policy Institute of Europe. But she highlighted that some countries are looking at other approaches, including framing migration policies around “co-development”—creating arrangements that are beneficial to the sending and receiving countries as well as the workers themselves.

Reflecting on the gathering, Mrs. Bayani states: “Our current economic and agricultural systems and their implications for migration, the environment, nutrition, and livelihoods need to be closely examined. The Bahá’í teachings offer insights that can be helpful in this conversation: that the question of economics should begin with the farmer, because the farmer ‘is the first active agent in human society.’ This idea can allow us to explore possibilities for different ways to look at production systems.”

SLIDESHOW
4 imagesImages of agricultural initiatives of the Bahá’í community in (clockwise from left) Colombia, Uganda, and Nepal to strengthen local agriculture.

She continues: “The issues discussed at these seminars reflect only some of the profound questions before humanity. The Bahá’í teachings envisage that every element of society, including economic relations, will have to undergo a profound transformation in the light of the essential principle of the oneness of humanity.”

Future seminars over the coming months will continue to look at agriculture and migration, focusing on topics such as education and the future of villages.

Related stories

Subscribe

Receive stories via email

Sign Up

Mobile app

"O contending peoples and kindreds of the earth! Set your faces towards unity, and let the radiance of its light shine upon you. Gather ye together, and for the sake of God resolve to root out whatever is the source of contention amongst you. There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God.

The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you.

This, verily, is the most exalted Word which the Mother Book hath sent down and revealed unto you. To this beareth witness the Tongue of Grandeur from His habitation of glory.

Bahá’u’lláh / Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

"The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and color from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different colored roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them.

Likewise, when you meet those whose opinions differ from your own, do not turn away your face from them. All are seeking truth, and there are many roads leading thereto. Truth has many aspects, but it remains always and forever one.Do not allow difference of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellowmen, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts.Rather, search diligently for the truth and make all your friends. Every edifice is made of many different stones, yet each depends on the other to such an extent that if one were displaced the whole building would suffer; if one is faulty the structure is imperfect"

"What profit is there in agreeing that universal friendship is good, and talking of the solidarity of the human race as a grand ideal? Unless these thoughts are translated into the world of action, they are useless.The wrong in the world continues to exist just because people talk only of their ideals, and do not strive to put them into practice. If actions took the place of words, the world’s misery would very soon be changed into comfort. One who does great good, and talks not of it, is on the way to perfection. One who has accomplished a small good and magnifies it in his speech is worth very little"

Central African republic

BANGUI, Central African Republic, 1 June 2021, (BWNS) — A years-long armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has disrupted life across the country and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

In the midst of this crisis, the Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly has guided the Bahá’ís of the country in their efforts to contribute to social progress, most recently drawing on a network of people engaged in community-building activities to channel assistance where it is most needed.

Speaking with the News Service, Hélène Pathé, member of the National Spiritual Assembly, describes the context in which such initiatives are under way in parts of the country: “The country has faced serious challenges. There are places where people have been severely affected and have had to flee, abandoning their homes and losing their means of making a living. This is the condition in many regions.”

Despite these conditions, the Bahá’ís in these areas have helped to foster resilience and a vibrant community life that has endured through cycles of war. For decades, regular gatherings for prayer have been strengthening bonds of friendship, and Bahá’í educational programs have been developing in children and youth a deep appreciation for the unity of all peoples, races, and religions.

During times of intense conflict, when entire populations have had to abandon their villages, teachers from community schools established with the support of a Bahá’í-inspired organization have sought ways to re-establish programs in temporary locations, explains Mrs. Pathé.

As part of its efforts to further enhance its capacity for responding to crises, the National Spiritual Assembly formed an emergency committee in March. The members of the committee, including Mrs. Pathé, quickly got to work. Within a few weeks they had assembled a team and headed to identified areas to help in person.

Over three days, they drove hundreds of kilometers from Bangui, the capital, to the town of Bambari, stopping in four other towns along the way to provide essentials, such as medicine for water-borne illness, to people who had returned from taking refuge in forest areas. Travel to these communities has been permitted under government health restrictions owing to exceptions for humanitarian efforts.

The emergency committee has worked closely with Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assemblies in coordinating the distribution of relief packages among village residents. “We had prepared as well as we could ahead of time with the information we could get,” says Mrs. Pathé, “but as soon as we arrived in a town, we sat down with the members of the Local Assembly, prayed together, and consulted about the needs, which they knew intimately.”

Young people have been at the forefront of these efforts, says Mrs. Pathé. “The youth were ready to spring into action as soon as the committee called on the community for support. They view this work as an extension of serving their neighborhoods: a contribution to the material and spiritual progress of society.

“They could see how this act of travelling for days to deliver a few necessities to people by hand was not just about addressing an immediate need. Meeting and speaking with people who had been cut off for so long also brought encouragement and helped build ties of unity as all saw that they are not alone in their challenges—like one family, there are others across the country who care for them and  walk with them.”

Two months since its formation, the committee is already thinking about how to address long-term needs, including through projects for local food production.

With the experience it has gained, the committee is now expanding its efforts by contacting many more Bahá’í Local Assemblies throughout the country.“In these relief efforts, we often call to mind ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who was always attentive to those in need and ever ready to respond,” says Mrs. Pathé. “He never hesitated to offer help. The National Spiritual Assembly hopes and wishes to do the same for the people of our country. What grieves us as a national body is that we can’t cover the whole country. Our efforts so far are only a small start, and we are learning little by little how to reach everyone.”


Share this story
 Facebook

WhatsApp 

 LinkedIn
 
Twitter 

Follow the Bahá’í World News Service on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates and stories.

 

 
The Shining Lamp

MtacalgSy p27oaa datnr 1cmo1sl:oSlmnr0a6r edPnMc  · Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh My mother, my Aunt Khánum, my three sisters, and I lived in the bigger house at `Akká with our beloved Father; Bahá’u’lláh lived at Bahji. At this time the people of the place greatly respected and honoured Him and the Master, and we were as happy as was possible in the unhealthy atmosphere of `Akká. On this day of sadness a servant rode in from Bahji with a tablet for the Master from Bahá’u’lláh: "I am not well, come to Me and bring Khánum."

The servant, having brought horses for them, my Father and my aunt set off immediately for Bahji; we children stayed at home with my mother, full of anxiety. Each day the news came that our adored Bahá’u’lláh's fever had not abated. He had a kind of malaria. After five days we all went to Bahji; we were very distressed that the illness had become serious. On the fifteenth day of the illness the Persian pilgrims and Bahá’í friends from `Akká were admitted to His presence. Mirza `Andalib from Shiraz, Mirza Bassar, the blind poet, were there.

They, weeping, circled round and round His bed, praying and beseeching Bahá’u’lláh to permit them to be a sacrifice for the saving of His precious life for the world, if only for a short time longer. Bahá’u’lláh spoke loving words of peace and calm to them, exhorting them to be faithful to the Cause of God, to be loyal, true, and steadfast, letting their characters speak to the world. "I am very pleased with you all. My hope is that your deeds will be examples worthy of the Bahá’í Faith - that you may ever be true followers of the Light of God's Law." Two lambs were brought into His room, then the Master went into `Akká to arrange various matters, to see the friends, giving the good news that His Father was slightly better.

He then superintended the distribution of the two sacrificial lambs amongst the poor prisoners of `Akká. In the evening He came back to Bahji. Bahá’u’lláh asked for us, the ladies and children, to go to Him. He told us that He had left in His will directions for our future guidance; that the Greatest Branch, `Abbas Effendi, would arrange everything for the family, the friends, and the Cause. "The loving devotion of `Andalib has touched me very much, also the love of them all.

I hope they will every one be true and faithful servants." On the nineteenth day of His illness He left us at dawn. Immediately a horseman galloped into `Akká to carry the news to the Mufti. Forthwith from the seven minarets of the mosque the event was proclaimed: "God is Great. He Giveth Life! He Taketh it Again! He Dieth No, but Liveth for Evermore!" This proclamation from the minarets is a custom of Islam at the passing of a very greatly honoured, learned, and holy man. The tidings spread throughout the land, and were proclaimed from the minarets of every mosque. People from all the villages of the country-side crowded to Bahji to show their respect, and to join in the mourning. Many Shaykhs brought lambs, rice, sugar and sale.

This is an Arab custom: the idea is, that as these gifts are distributed to the poor, they will, in return, pray for the soul of the departed. Muslim friends, the Mufti, mullas, Governor and officials, Christian priests, Latin and Greek, Druses from Ab'u-Sinan, and surrounding villages, and many other friends gathered together in great numbers in honour of the Beloved One. Marthiyih, songs in His praise, were chanted by poets. Laments and prayers were chanted by Shaykhs. Funeral orations were spoken, describing His wonderful life of self-sacrifice. Many of the guests encamped under the trees round the Palace of Bahji, where more than five hundred were entertained for nine days.

This hospitality entailed much trouble on the Master, Who made all the arrangements and superintended every detail; money also was given by Him on each of the nine days to the poor. At dawn on these days the "Call to Prayer" and some of the "Munajats" (prayers chanted) of Bahá’u’lláh were chanted from the balcony of the palace. Very touching and impressive it was to hear the beautiful voice of our Arabian Bahá’í friend, chanting the call to prayer. At its sound the Master arose, and we all followed Him to the tomb-shrine, where He chanted the funeral prayer and the. Tablet of Visitation. Lady Blomfield, the Chosen Highway#bahaifaith#TheBab#Bahaullah#bahaireligion#bahaiwriting#HiddenWordsofBahallah#Abdulbaha#bahaiquotes#bahaidailyreading#bahaimemes#bahai#prayer#bahaiwritings#bahainews#bahaiprayer#bahaicommunity#bahaifast#theshininglamp

Kenya: First Local Bahá’í temple in Africa opens its doors

To read watch a video, read the story online, or view more photos, visit news.bahai.org.

MATUNDA, Kenya, 24 May 2021, (BWNS) — A luminous presence in Matunda Soy, Kenya, the first local Bahá’í House of Worship in the continent of Africa was dedicated at an opening ceremony Sunday morning.

The chorus of “Make my prayer, O my Lord, a fountain of living waters” sung by a local choir resonated deeply within the people who had gathered at the dedication ceremony and represented thousands of people nearby and across Kenya celebrating a momentous step in the spiritual journey of their people.

The House of Worship—referred to in the Bahá’í writings as a Mashriqu’l‑Adhkár, meaning “Dawning-place of the Praise of God”—has a unique reality. It stands at the heart of the community, is open to all peoples, and is a place where prayer and contemplation inspire service to society.

Sunday’s opening ceremony included remarks from Townshend Lihanda, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa whom the Universal House of Justice named as its representative to the event.
Mr. Lihanda read a letter of the House of Justice addressed to the gathering, which stated: “…at a time when the world is caught in the midst of uncertainty, the efforts of the friends throughout Matunda Soy and beyond have culminated in the raising of this beacon of hope, a cause for jubilation and great joy.”

The Universal House of Justice stated that the completion of the project in just three years and under difficult circumstances “is a testament to the vitality, resourcefulness, and determination of the Kenyan people.”

Others in attendance included government officials, village and district chiefs, local dignitaries, representatives of local and national Bahá’í institutions, the architect and other representatives of the construction team.

Mourice Mukopi, the chief of the group of villages where the temple is located, said, “The most important thing about the Bahá’í temple is that it welcomes everyone from different religions to come and worship.”

In speaking with the Bahá’í World News Service, residents of the area have echoed these sentiments. “The people of Matunda Soy see the House of Worship as a sign of unity,” says Andrew Juma.

Elder Khaemba, another member of the local community, states: “The differences that existed before are over, since people of all faiths come together in prayer at the temple.”

A village elder, Justus Wafula, states: “The House of Worship is a space where the negative forces of society have no place. When we go to the temple, we know that we are on the right path. We know that we are home.”

The sense of home created by the appearance of the temple is reminiscent of the traditional huts of the region, explains Neda Samimi, the House of Worship’s architect. “A place of worship is a place where your soul belongs, where you should feel comfortable whatever your religion and be able to connect and commune with your Creator.”

Mrs. Samimi describes how the process of raising the temple was unifying.

“Everyone who has been involved in the project has been very conscious that this structure is dedicated to the promotion of oneness and the praise of God. All our work has been carried out through consultation, and our meetings would begin with prayers from diverse faiths.”

Construction came to a close this month with two significant events. A sacred Bahá’í symbol known as the Greatest Name was raised to the apex of the dome.

Then, on Saturday, a small ornamental case containing dust from one of the Holy Shrines at the Bahá’í World Centre was placed within the structure of the House of Worship, symbolizing the profound connection between the temple and the spiritual center of the Bahá’í Faith.

John Madahani, a member of the Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly of Matunda, explains how Bahá’í community life in the region has evolved since its origins in the 1970s. “In the past, only a few Bahá’ís would gather in their homes for prayers. Now more than 300 families regularly hold devotional gatherings, praying with their neighbors, welcoming all without asking what religion one is from.

“And when we started the practice of gathering on the temple grounds early in the morning before construction began, we saw how powerful it was for all members of the community to have such a moment together before going about their daily tasks. Otherwise we would never see workers and farmers, youth and parents together at once.”Bernard Liyosi, another member of the Local Assembly, says, “The House of Worship brings us closer to God through both worship and service. We receive energy from gathering at the temple, energy that we channel into building stronger communities.”