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Faith, Tradition and Rituals

Attending church with my family as a child was for me, as a kid with the attention span of a fly, a weekly three-hour long ordeal. I remember sitting in the pews observing the same elaborate ceremonies every week and not understanding why we were doing any of it. I was not alone either. My friends, just as bored and disgruntled, would complain about the length and repetition of the rituals, challenging our parents to show us where in the bible Jesus makes mention of any these rituals.

Our parents would smile patiently and urge us to see the beauty in our traditions. It’s the way things have always been done, was the common refrain. Not at all a satisfactory answer for a child. Tradition for tradition’s sake! I would exclaim impatiently.

As an adult, however, I am finally able to look back at those very practices and see the beauty in each of those practices. As a child, I considered the solemn chants in Latin to be a earsore, but now, hearing those same chants help me feel more reverent. As a child, I used to make a point of coughing obnoxiously to make my distaste for incense known, but know I understand that incense represents an offering to God borne out of love and devotion.  As a child, sitting through those long services each week were a test of my very will to live, but it is only now that I understand the theological significance behind the order of service.

I remember being intrigued, when I first became a Baha’i, by what then seemed like a complete lack of ritual in the Baha’i Faith. Our post last month, “What Christmas means to Baha’is” generated a lot of comments which have got me thinking about the Baha’i approach to rituals and tradition.

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Where to Find Free Baha’i eBooks Online

"Kindle Birdies" photo by Sarowen

Thanks to the Kindle and iPad, paperless reading is becoming more and more common. Even without these devices it’s sometimes handy having an ebook on your laptop or PC. Thanks to Baha’i eBooks Publications you can get more than 70 Baha’i eBooks completely free in both ePub (iPad, iPhone, Android suitable) and Mobi (Kindle suitable) formats.

The project, which was started in late 2009 by a couple of Australians and an American, was created “to make the Bahá’í Writings more readily available to a world that is becoming ever more technologically advanced, by publishing them in formats that can be read on all electronic devices.”

Books available range from the Kitab-i-Aqdas to a compilation of the Ridvan messages from 1950 to 2011. There are even books in Spanish, German, French and Chinese – though the selections are much more limited at the moment.

New books and publications are being added all the time and you can get notified by following the site via Facebook, Email Updates, Twitter or RSS.

Visit Bahai eBooks Publications to Download Free Baha’i eBooks. And don’t forget also that if you are after a PDF or Word Doc of many of the Baha’i writings you can find them in the Baha’i Reference Library.

Junior Youth Matter: 4 Principles for Social Transformation

Junior youth can change the world. There is an ever-increasing recognition of this in today’s world.

Internationally, there is more attention being paid to the education and well-being of children and adolescents. Slowly, but surely, governments have started to realise that an investment in the youngest members of their countries is the best investment that they can make.

The other day, I was talking to a friend (we both work in fields related to children and community development) about a program for junior youth that we are both working on together. We sat together, sharing our ideas for the program, but as time passed, the conversation became more philosophical in nature, and we began talking about the nature of children and youth, the kind of educational and developmental experiences that they need, and the role of programs for children and youth in the broader efforts for social transformation.

Generally, I am – by far – the quieter of us two, but as I shared my views on the nature of children and youth, I found our usual roles to be reversed. There I was talking rapidly and gesticulating wildly while my friend sat quietly, listening intently and reflecting on what I was saying.

Finally, she spoke.

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14 Beautiful Baha’i Images of Prayer and Reflection

Prayer, meditation, reflection and reading of the Baha’i writings are all fundamental parts of our lives as Baha’is. They can be rich and powerful in experience, daily and habitual in action, and deeply contemplative by their nature.

This post is a small collection of photographs by Baha’is that helped me reflect on our relationship to the Word of God. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have, and are in awe of their creators as much as I am.


Photo by Lauren Herrmann, source Nineteen Months


Photo by Ryan Lash, source Flickr/DepartureLounge Continue reading

In Memory of Mr. Ian Semple

Mr. Ian Semple 1928 – 2011

To write a tribute for Mr. Ian Semple – a man so radiant and beloved – is a task which in itself an undeserved honour.

Mr. Semple was a man distinguished by both his exemplary character and his dedicated and unwavering service to the Baha’i faith from the days of his youth until his passing on the 1st of December at the age of 82.

Mr. Semple embraced the faith as a university student and went on to be elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the British Isles in 1956. He later served as an Auxiliary Board member in Europe before being elected onto the Universal House of Justice in 1963, the year of its establishment. Mr. Semple served steadfastly on the Universal House of Justice until 2005 when he was 76 years old. Continue reading

What Christmas Means to Baha’is

Image by scottfidd (Flickr)

Do Baha’is celebrate Christmas? This question is a bit of a tricky one to answer because Christmas means different things to different people.

Based on the understanding of Christmas as a commemoration of the birth of Christ, the day is clearly of significance to Baha’is, who believe that Christ was a Manifestation of God. Baha’is do not, however, celebrate Christmas within their communities as one of the Baha’i Holy Days.

While the principle of progressive revelation means that Baha’is believe in the divine origin of the other world religions (and consequently, the significance of each of their Holy Days), the Baha’i Faith is an independent religion with its own Holy Days. Baha’is – while believing in the divine origins of all other world religions – follow the teachings of Baha’u’llah, whom we believe to be the latest in the line of Messengers sent from God with laws to address the needs of humanity in this day and age.

That being said, however, Baha’is are free to participate in the celebrations observed by their friends and family who adhere to other religions. Christmas is a tricky one because of what it has come to represent in much of Western society – the  true meaning of Christmas is, unfortunately, often lost amidst the Christmas tree decorations, Santa-and-elf motifs and endless Christmas sales advertisements. Continue reading

9 Service Project Ideas for You and Your Community

Baha'is of Wahiawa Adopt a Highway

While on holiday to Hawaii, I was driving down a highway on the island of Oahu and passed a sign for the “Adopt a Highway” program. The program is for local organizations and communities to keep their roads and areas clean and free of litter. I was really pleasantly surprised to see that this particular highway stretch had been adopted by the Baha’is of Wahiawa!

Rendering service to humanity is an important part of being not just a Baha’i, but a member of any religion and in fact pretty much any good moral code. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Well here are nine simple ideas to get you thinking. I’d love to hear more ideas in the comments! Continue reading

In Memory of Russ Garcia

Russell Garcia 1916 - 2011

It was with great sadness that I received the news of the passing of Russ Garcia, a man who was not only known for his outstanding career in the international music industry, but a man who was also known for his great love and dedication to the Faith.

Both Russ and his lovely wife Gina became Baha’is in 1955. They soon set sail to various parts of the world in order to spread the Baha’i teachings of love and peace, eventually anchoring and settling in New Zealand.

There are so many things I’d like to say about him. He was a man who was loved by everyone who met him.  Russ and Gina were an icon in not only the New Zealand Baha’i community, but they were well known and loved throughout the world.

I first met Russ in the early 90’s when I was working on music for the Youth for One World performance group, and Russ offered to do anything  he could to help. He offered to let us use his personal recording studio to record some songs for a musical we were working on, and I was just some kid, but we were all welcomed into his home and treated like family. Continue reading

The Resource Directory is Now Live!

Ba-bada-baaaa! Drum roll please!

Baha’i Blog is happy to announce the launch of our very own Resource Directory!

We want to build Baha’i Blog’s Resource Directory to be THE place you can find pretty much anything and everything Bahá’í related that exists online. Whether you’re looking for websites, videos, music, books, talks, apparel, organizations (and the list goes on) we  hope that the Directory will be the place where you can find what you need.

We’re always looking for more great Baha’i resources to share with our audience, so if you know of any we don’t yet have, then please let us know.

Happy resource hunting!

Dapper Rappers win Tony Blair Faith Shorts 2011

A few months ago here on Baha’i Blog we featured a YouTube music video and interview of two Canadian Baha’is Blair Cameron and Nadim Merrikh who perform under the moniker the Dapper Rappers. Since that interview Blair and Nadim have released two more songs, the most recent of which has just won both the music and overall categories at the Tony Blair Faith Shorts competition for 2011!

The Dapper Rappers entered their music video “Be the Change You Want to See” which was inspired by the recent London riots.

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Bahai Arts, Stories, Media & Bahai Religion