The Faiths of 500,000 British Citizens – Part 4: The Baha’i Faith

As you might know already, this month has been totally dedicated to the study of religious history. So far everything that has been covered, was closely linked with the Christian traditions and belief throughout time. This made me think about the situation of religious belief in general in the UK, and so I did some research on census and polls on religious practices of the British people. It was interesting though to find out that the second largest group of the population of the Uk according to the survey results is the one corresponding to those that consider to not have a religious affiliation whatsoever. Interesting, yes, but not surprising. What did surprise me and interested my, due to my own ignorance, is that almost 500,000 people in the Isles are part of religions that most of the people have not even heard about, and yet they are quite significant and outstanding in the rest of the world, especially in the Middle East. For this reason today, I am introducing you to these four faiths: Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism and the Baha’i Faith. In this brief introduction I will present you some of the basic details about their beliefs and practices, places of worship, rituals and their place in the modern world.

Baha’i Faith

This religion was created during the 19th Century in Persia, by the forerunner of the faith called Bab. The practice achieved its peak and spread thanks to another prophet known as Baha’u’llah. The message this belief intends to spread around the world is one of spiritual unity, collective evolution, peace and justice. In summary, one could say that this faith has adopted a syncretic combination of other religious practices, mainly Judaism, Christian and Islam, as well as many others. For them, every man to this moment that has preached about God is a prophet, not someone who has the ultimate truth, nor someone who should be worshipped like a deity.

A good follower of the Baha’i faith will pursue the following objectives as part of the practice of his belief. They would search for the truth and justice, they love God and embrace severance from anything that is not him. The believe in obedience, service to the rest of the people, courtesy and reverence, no gossip, humbleness and self-realisation. The followers of the Baha’i Faith think that religious unity is possible and that human nature needs to change. In addition, they belief in equality, tolerance, universal education and auxiliary language, and that religion and science should work together. Finally, they are against radical behaviour, and they have a traditional view on sex within their doctrine. On a  final note, for them there is no evil. God is infinite and perfect. Evil does not exist, just imperfection.

There is no professional priests in the Baha’i Faith, nor monastic orders, so it could be said it is a lay religion. They count with a sacred calendar, constituted of 18 months, that compiles all their religious festivities. They celebrate the New Year or, the feast of Naw-Ruz around the 21st of march. They also commemorate the anniversaries of their prophets: their birthdays, declarations, ascensions and martyrdom. These festivities are mainly related with the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-baha. In what once was Persia, these feasts involve picnics and gatherings with musical performance and prayers. Nonetheless, these festivities adopt a more solemn nature when they are related to the death and martyrdom of their prophets or members of their community.Their places of worship are spread all around the world, and they are usually called house of worship. However, for daily prayers and activities most of the members of this community gather in their own houses, or in rented spaces.

What is the place of the Baha’i Faith in the Modern World?

As I have mentioned already, this religion is in fact quite modern, therefore it does not suffer as much as the old traditional religions from the changes of the new age. It is important to mention the role that the Baha’i have within modern-day politics. As it stand they are well-known for working with the United Nations, trying to improved people’s lives and to achieve their beloved equality and justice.

So, this is the end of this entry. I hope that by reading and understanding what this 500,000 people belief in the rest of the population would become more aware of the religious diversity of not necessarily the world, but just one country. I also hope this is interesting enough to make us all think about religious tolerance and the alternative faiths that exist in the world. Not everyone has to be Catholic or Protestant, not all the people from India are Hindus, neither are Islamic all of the people from the Middle East.

I hope you enjoyed reading these 4 updates. If you want to know more about the Baha’i Faith you can check the following resources:

Esslemon, J.E., An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith: Baha’u’llah and the New Era (1990 ed., Wilmette)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/bahai/-BBC website dedicated to this faith

http://www.bahai.org/- the international Baha’i website

http://www.bahai.org.uk/- the Baha’i Community in the UK

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