The Baha’i Faith and Christianity: 5 Steps to Dialogue and Understanding

Image by peasap (Flickr)

As someone who was raised with a strong Christian upbringing, the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Christianity is something I often think about when I reflect on my own journey to becoming Baha’i.

When I became Baha’i, I found myself the recipient of numerous questions and comments from my Christian friends and family members – some of whom were simply curious and interested in knowing more; and others who genuinely couldn’t understand my decision to become Baha’i, knowing how committed I remained to my Christian beliefs.

Similarly, I’ve had numerous conversations with Baha’i friends about conversations they’ve had with their Christian friends about Christianity and the Baha’i Faith. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on these conversations and trying to understand how to build a bridge of understanding that will facilitate stronger and more meaningful dialogue between Baha’is and Christians.

While this post cannot possibly do justice to the profundity and beauty of the numerous passages in the Baha’i Writings on Christianity, or the scholastic excellence of the numerous publications out there on the Baha’i Faith and Christianity, it summarises 5 strategies that have helped me to provide more useful and meaningful responses to my Christian friends and family members who have asked me about the Faith.

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Strive: An Interview with Anthony and Michael

Strive is the debut album from two 12-year-old brothers from New Zealand, Michael and Anthony Zemke, who got together with singer and producer Sonbol to record an album for young listeners and to help raise money for the Chilean Baha’i Temple Fund.

I decided to catch up with Michael and Anthony to hear what they had to say about this exciting initiative.

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The Poetry of Prayer

Image by mrehan (Flickr)

One of the first Baha’is I ever met exalted in his faith, claiming enthusiastically: “It’s the complete package!”

I now know what he means.

At the centre is a towering spiritual figure, Baha’u’llah. Then there are inspiring teachings that seem so clearly the remedy for this age and blueprint for the future. And don’t let me forget– there are astoundingly beautiful holy places.

Then there are the prayers. Oh, the prayers. They are like the bow that ties together the complete package.

Here are some excerpts to illustrate what I mean.

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Respect and Kindness for Animals

Cow

Image by JelleS (Flickr)

For three years now, I have been meaning to take on the journey of a vegetarian, but coming from a Pacific Island background in which large amounts of meat are cooked at home, this hasn’t been easy.

I first considered being a vegetarian when I came across “Meet your Meat”, a video addressing the cruelty in animal slaughterhouses. A friend of mine had posted this video on their Facebook page, accompanied beautifully by some Baha’i writings relevant to the issue. The fact that some of my closest friends are vegetarian further reinforced this idea in my mind. My sister and I have recently taken on a pescatarian diet (which has made it much easier to resist the urge to eat meat) as part of a gradual process towards becoming a vegetarian.

That being said, this blog post isn’t an attempt to convince you to become a vegetarian! Rather, it simply intends to create greater awareness about the way animals are treated around the world, and to share what the Baha’i teachings have to say on the matter.

The MANA Story …and why I think it’s important.

For the past decade I’ve had the pleasure of working with the music group MANA, who’ve recently finished recording their fifth album. Many of my friends and the Bahá’ís I’ve met while travelling have asked about MANA and why this project in particular is so important to me.

Well, before I answer that and start going on and on about MANA (which, trust me, I can do for hours), for those of you who haven’t heard of them, here’s a quick introduction.

MANA, which means “inner power” or “strength of spirit” in many of the Polynesian languages, is a musical and cultural performance group made up of young Pacific Island Bahá’ís who are mainly based in Sydney, Australia. MANA’s albums are all based on the passages from the Writings which are studied in the sequence of Ruhi books. Although these albums are predominantly in English, most of their songs are infused with the languages, chants and rhythms of the Pacific Islands. The group has released four albums so far – one album for each of the first four books of the Ruhi sequence – and is currently preparing their fifth album (based on Book 6 of the Ruhi sequence of books) for release.

MANA’s albums have been incredibly well-received around the world. But the MANA project (as we like to call it) is far more than being just about making music and selling CDs. Personally, I have always found MANA to be such a powerful and incredibly inspiring initiative because of the way it exemplifies many of the concepts and ideas discussed by the Universal House of Justice in relation to the Institute Process and the various Plans. To me, MANA represents many of the aspects of the new and exciting culture taking shape in the Bahá’í community.

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The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh

The Mansion of Bahjí, in Acre, Israel, where Bahá’u’lláh passed away on May 29, 1892. (Photo by Kamran Granfar courtesy of Baha'i Media Bank)

In the early hours of the morning of 29 May, 1892, Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith passed away.

The commemoration of His passing is called ‘The Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh’, and Bahá’ís throughout the world pay their respects with prayers and selected Bahá’í Writings. It is also one of nine days in the Baha’i calendar year, where work should be suspended.

For almost 40 years Bahá’u’lláh suffered imprisonment and banishment, originally from His birthplace in Persia (present day Iran), to Baghdad, and then to the Ottoman cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, and then finally to the infamous prison city of Acre (in present day Israel), where He was held in a cold and damp cell. Continue reading

Tiny Seeds – Children’s Book of Prayers and Colouring

Parenting is a huge weighty responsibility and as Baha’i parents it’s important that we nurture and nourish our children spiritually. Since I am the very lucky and rather proud father of a nine-month old, I’ve been on the lookout for Baha’i materials for children. So I was very pleased to come across a gorgeous children’s prayer book called Tiny Seeds by mixed media artist Misha Blaise.

Tiny Seeds is a book of prayers and writings from the Baha’i Faith and comes with a 10 page colouring book on CD (so you can print it out over and over again!) It’s got some very bright and cute illustrations and is perfect for little ones the world over!

The book is up for sale on Etsy, a site where you can also find lots of Baha’i Jewellery and Handcrafted Goodies! If you’ve got a little one in your life or teach a children’s class, head over and Buy a Copy of Tiny Seeds and support this talented artist by buying a copy. Continue reading

The Declaration of The Bab

The Shrine of the Báb located on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel is where the remains of The Báb are laid to rest. (Photo courtesy Nancy Wong)

Baha’is around the world celebrate the 22nd May 1844 as the day of the declaration of The Báb, who was the forerunner of Baha’u’llah the founder of the Baha’i Faith.

Baha’is view The Báb as a Messenger of God, who had a role that can be likened to John The Baptist (who told of the coming of Christ) in heralding the coming of the latest Manifestation of God: Baha’u'llah.

The events surrounding the declaration of The Báb have been told in many ways, but perhaps the most widely read is the account in The Dawn-Breakers: Nabíl’s Narrative of the Early Days of the Bahá’í Revelation. This book was written by Nabil (one of the Letters of the Living), and chronicles the early days of the revelation of The Báb and Baha’u’llah.

The story begins in 1783, when a learned man named Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ahsá’í (1743-1826) began, at the age of 40, to travel through Persia teaching that the advent of a great day was drawing near, the day that would see the advent of the Qá’im, the Promised One of Islám. During this time, there was great discontent in the East as certain prominent clerics practiced disunity and behaved in a way that was damaging Islam.  As he spread this message, his knowledge and wisdom impressed many, who were eager to learn from him. Among these was a gifted young man named Siyyid Kázim-i-Rashtí (1793-1843), who became Shaykh Ahmad’s favoured pupil and eventual successor. Continue reading

The Evocative Work of Baha’i Photographer Shahriar Erfanian

Photo by Shahriar Erfanian

Rarely have I come across photographic work as inspired and stunning as that of Baha’i photographer Shahriar Erfanian. Hailing originally from Ecuador, Shahriar now lives in Vancouver, Canada, where he and his wife run a photography agency. Shahriar has been a participant in the wonderful Baha’i photographic project Nineteen Months and has many of his uniquely vivid photos online over at Flickr and 500px.

Baha’i Blog caught up with Shahriar to ask him if we could showcase some of his beautiful work here on the blog, and to learn a bit more about what inspires this passionate Baha’i photographer. But before we get to his answers, here are some of Shahriar’s photographs to gaze at! Continue reading

The Baha’i Faith and Persian Culture

Image by seier+seier (Flickr)

The Baha’i Faith is a global religion. It is acknowledged today as one of the most wide-spread religions – present in over 200 countries and territories, with its central texts translated into over 800 languages and its adherents hailing from diverse traditions and cultures. This is something that many of us Baha’is are proud of and see as a testament to our diversity and universal worldview.

However, wherever you may encounter the Baha’i Faith, sooner or later you’re bound to encounter Baha’is from a Persian background. They will vary in their relative “Persian-ness”. Some will be second or third generation immigrants with a strong cultural foundation in their new country, such as my husband who is more Australian than he is Persian. Others will be much more culturally Persian and might tarof with you every chance they get. You’ll also find people like me, who are a good old mix of a lot of different things. (I am one quarter Persian, although most people wouldn’t know it, and often assume my last name is taken from my husband.) There are also those who have no ethnic links to Persia or Iran, but may have Persian names after early heroes of the Faith’s history, like Vahid or Tahirih.

So what is the relationship between the Baha’i Faith and Persian culture?

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