South America Temple bridges two eras

 

The Baha’i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile, sits in the foothills of the Andes.
The Baha’i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile, sits in the foothills of the Andes.

 

SANTIAGO, Chile — On the edge of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes, the continental Baha’i House of Worship for South America has been illuminating the mountainside for over a year and a half. In that time it has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to its radiant edifice, which has received multiple prestigious architecture awards.

Since its dedication in October 2016, the Temple has been a recipient of an International Architecture Award as well as awards for structural artistry from the Institution of Structural Engineers, for innovation in architecture from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, for innovation from the American Institute of Architects, for design excellence from the Ontario Association of Architects, for “Best in Americas, Civil Buildings,” from World Architecture News, and for Architectural and Cultural design from American Architecture Prize.

But the Temple’s impact has been much more than that. It has also impacted the hearts and minds of the people in Santiago and beyond.

“People understand that the House of Worship is here to help with the spiritual development of our society,” explained Rocio Montoya, from the public affairs office of the Chilean Baha’i community.

“There are many families that are coming to the Temple. Religious groups come to pray together. Many people in their advanced years also come for hours and sit at the picnic tables and enjoy fellowship. People here see the House of Worship more and more as their Temple.”

Marble interior surface of the nine panels of the continental Baha’i House of Worship of South America
Marble interior surface of the nine panels of the continental Baha’i House of Worship of South America.  More views can be seen here.

 

The House of Worship has become a sanctuary for thousands upon thousands of visitors. They gather on its grounds each week to immerse themselves in the beauty of the natural landscape. They pray and meditate in the tranquil atmosphere of the central edifice. They participate in a range of uplifting conversations and activities oriented toward the betterment of the surrounding communities.

“Young people especially are finding that programs on the Temple grounds help them to gain a deeper and nobler sense of purpose,” said Jenny Perez, a representative of the Chilean Baha’i community. “They focus not only on their personal development, which is very important, but also on the development of their communities.”

Like other continental Baha’i Temples, the House of Worship for South America was an innovative architectural endeavor that had international scope. The project broke new ground in architecture and engineering, and it drew on the material support of the worldwide Baha’i community. Yet the more than decade-long project emerged at a time when Baha’i communities were also learning intensively about the spiritual and social development of neighborhoods and villages, and the construction process developed in parallel with community-building endeavors in the surrounding area.

“It is in the consciousness of the people,” said Ms. Perez. “They feel its impact. People are asking, why is this beautiful structure here? How did it come about? What is its purpose? How can we learn more?”

“People here see the House of Worship more and more as their Temple.”

– Rocio Montoya, Chilean Baha’i public affairs office

The award-winning House of Worship—the final continental Baha’i Temple—is a bridge between two eras. With its complex aerospace engineering technology, it embodies the architectural ingenuity and uniqueness of the Baha’i continental Temples. But like the Temples now rising for local and national communities, it has emerged in the midst of a vibrant community-building process.

The Temple has become a focal point for learning about the dynamic relationship between worship of God and service to humanity. The surrounding community has contributed to a native flora project on the land. The Temple hosts programs for the moral and spiritual empowerment of youth, who become committed to the progress of their communities. And on its grounds are numerous events, some held in collaboration with the municipality and some with local and national NGOs.

With the dedication of the local Baha’i House of Worship in Battambang, Cambodia, last year and several more local and national Temples planned for the coming years, Baha’i communities will no longer focus on innovation in an architectural sense. They will be learning much more about how these structures, embedded in a locality, can be in harmony with the social and material environment and support the advancement of a population.

Delegates return home energized, inspired

Prayers are read during the 12th day of Ridvan celebration in Bahji.
Prayers are read during the 12th day of Ridvan celebration in Bahji.

 

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — With the celebration of the 12th day of Ridvan on the hallowed grounds around the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in Bahji May 3, the extraordinary period of the 12th International Baha’i Convention came to a close.

Following the election of the Universal House of Justice on the first morning of the Convention, the delegates spent the next three days consulting on how the teachings of Baha’u’llah are finding concrete expression in their communities and societies. They also explored how insights from this process can be offered to those in the world who are interested in building unity and peace.

“It’s so beautiful to see the world come together to consult—men and women from different backgrounds and a wide array of ages, working shoulder to shoulder to build a new world,” said Yevgeniya Poluektova, chairperson of the last session, in her closing remarks.

Many delegates attributed the growing opportunities before their communities to the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, which was accompanied by an upwelling of support from public figures and dignitaries, as well as from countless neighbors, friends, and coworkers who attended the festivities.

Watch a video capsule of the convention: The journey of the delegate

 

As members of the elected national councils that guide the affairs of the Baha’i communities in their respective countries, the delegates also reflected on how the institutions on which they serve can increasingly nurture environments in which individuals and communities are empowered and grow in capacity to take action for the betterment of the world.

Delegates spent the final morning in a rich consultation about the involvement of Baha’i communities in the life of their societies. In particular, they discussed their communities’ experience with social and economic development endeavors as well as their participation in forums and settings where contemporary issues of concern to their societies are being considered by government and civil society organizations.

Ouawi Tchompaare, from Chad, talked about the decade-long experience of a Baha’i-inspired development organization in the country supporting dozens of community schools in rural and urban settings. “We focus on two lines of action at this time: a health program, which focuses on prevention and hygiene, and an agriculture program about crops and fields.

“Among the children in these schools, we have seen a dramatic change in hygiene and cleanliness standards, which has in turn inspired families to adopt new patterns in their homes,” Mr. Tchompaare said.

Following the extraordinary Convention period, delegates are now leaving the holy land and returning home inspired and energized.

Following the extraordinary Convention period, delegates are now leaving the holy land and returning home inspired and energized.

 

“In Kazakhstan, there is a widespread concern about the disenchantment of youth with the state of the world. The Baha’i community is participating in a discourse concerned with the spiritual aspirations of youth. What we are finding is that this offers them hope and a path for constructive change,” said Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, a delegate from Kazakhstan.

Describing efforts being made in Spain, delegate Sergio Garcia shared: “We understand that our work with different discourses in our country is a long term endeavor. Ultimately, we are working for peace in the world, but we also realize that the path is long and that we need to learn together what the next steps are, for example how to prevent and stop conflict between peoples and how to foster cohesion among diverse populations in our country.”

The delegates’ deliberations were framed by a message from the Universal House of Justice surveying the progress of the worldwide Baha’i community and outlining the needs and questions faced by the community at this time. Many of the themes discussed over the days of the Convention were highlighted in the practical examples presented in the documentary A Widening Embrace, which is now available online.

 

 

New film gives voice to communities around the world

 

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — An innovative new documentary film about the community-building efforts of the Baha’i world, as seen through the eyes of local populations, was released today on Bahai.org.

A Widening Embrace has been produced through a creative, grassroots process in which teams of often young people have documented the efforts of their own communities around the world to effect social change.

Drawing on footage taken by those teams over the course of a year, the film tells a story of transformation unfolding in 24 communities representing different realities and contexts. It focuses on three main themes: universal participation as a path toward collective prosperity, the vital role of young people in the transformation of society, and the emergence of a range of social and economic development initiatives that spring up from the spiritual aspirations of a population.

While one outcome of the film project is the documentary itself, another important dimension is the capacity that has developed in numerous local populations to document and describe what their communities are doing and learning in the context of social progress.

A Widening Embrace was screened at the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa, enriching the consultations of the 1,300 delegates present. Many of the themes discussed over the days of the Convention were highlighted in the practical examples presented in the documentary.

The film, which was commissioned by the Universal House of Justice, is available in English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic, and Persian. The 77-minute film can be viewed here.

Hope and purpose shine through at International Convention

 

Twelfth International Baha'i Convention

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Joy, focus, and a strong sense of purpose are characterizing consultations at the 12th International Baha’i Convention.

In an extraordinary display of unity in diversity, delegates from around the world have been describing developments in their Baha’i communities and sharing experiences that are yielding valuable lessons about community-building and social transformation.

“We are fully aware that in our work spiritual forces will assist us,” said Sophie Menard, a delegate from France. “But we will have to show a high level of devotion, sacrifice, and heroism.”

“Such is the power of the teachings of Baha’u’llah that, even in territories in the middle of the ocean, its light can radiate.” — Ana Sancho, delegate from the Canary Islands

“We see our world changing,” said Dorothy Whyte, a delegate from Jamaica. “We see it demonstrated here at the International Convention. We can take what we are consulting on here, go home, and spread it throughout the entire world.”

“Humanity is going through two processes that are very clear—disintegration and integration,” said Plinio Lacayo, a delegate from Costa Rica. “The process of disintegration is advancing rapidly, and humanity is suffering. But because of this, we know that we have to work harder and harder. We have to be more intense, more active, and more constant.”

Delegates listen intently, many receiving simultaneous translations, as a representative from France speaks.

Delegates listen intently, many receiving simultaneous translations, as a representative from France speaks.

“I live on the small island of Yap,” said Sophia Laiyolap, a delegate from the Caroline Islands, addressing the Convention. “Just six years ago, the majority of the people on the island, including myself, were unaware of the person of Baha’u’llah. Today, there are more than 1,000 people who are connected and inspired by His teachings.”

“Such is the power of the teachings of Baha’u’llah that, even in territories in the middle of the ocean, its light can radiate,” said Ana Sancho, a delegate from the Canary Islands.

The convention will come to a close tomorrow. After further consultations, delegates will celebrate the 12th day of Ridvan, the last of the holy days commemorating a 12-day period when Baha’u’llah proclaimed, 155 years ago, His divine message to a band of companions in exile with Him in Iraq.

Universal House of Justice elected

 

The members of the Universal House of Justice are, from left to right, Paul Lample, Chuungu Malitonga, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Hall, Ayman Rouhani, Stephen Birkland, Juan Mora, and Praveen Mallik. The House of Justice was elected by delegates to the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa.
The members of the Universal House of Justice are, from left to right, Paul Lample, Chuungu Malitonga, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Hall, Ayman Rouhani, Stephen Birkland, Juan Mora, and Praveen Mallik. The House of Justice was elected by delegates to the 12th International Baha’i Convention in Haifa.

 

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — The results of the election of the nine members of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i Faith, have been announced.

Yesterday, delegates to the 12th International Baha’i Convention cast ballots to elect the House of Justice.

The elected members are Paul Lample, Chuungu Malitonga, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, Stephen Hall, Ayman Rouhani, Stephen Birkland, Juan Francisco Mora, and Praveen Mallik.

Members are elected for five-year terms.

 

Huntsville Commemoration of the Riḍván Festival Continues

“O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love….” – Bahá’u’lláh

Under a beautiful blue sky canopy, on the banks of the Tennessee River’s swift current, and the fragrance of Spring with its gentle breezes, the Bahá’í’s and friends gathered Sunday, April 29, in fellowship to commemorate the Ninth Day of Riḍván, the day when Bahá’u’lláh’s family joined Him to share in this “Day of supreme felicity” in the Garden of Riḍván,”the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of His Name, the All-Merciful”.

All are invited to reunite for the commemoration of the Twelfth Day of Riḍván to conclude the King of Festivals, Wednesday, May 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Bahá’í Center.  The Twelfth Day commemoration marks the moment of exile from Baghdad of Bahá’u’lláh and His family:

“A memorable account of Bahá’u’lláh’s departure has been given by Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith:

“The departure of Bahá’u’lláh from the Garden of Riḍván, at noon, on the 14th of Dhi’l-Qa’dih 1279 A.H. (May 3, 1863), witnessed scenes of tumultuous enthusiasm no less spectacular, and even more touching, than those which greeted Him when leaving His Most Great House in Baghdad. ‘The great tumult,’ wrote an eye-witness, ‘associated in our minds with the Day of Gathering, the Day of Judgment, we beheld on that occasion. Believers and unbelievers alike sobbed and lamented. The chiefs and notables who had congregated were struck with wonder. Emotions were stirred to such depths as no tongue can describe, nor could any observer escape their contagion.” ” (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 1, p. 281)
Here are a few images from the 9th Day observance:

Delegates celebrate Ridvan festival in Bahji

 

Participants at the celebration of the ninth day of Ridvan walk together on a path circling the most holy spot for Baha’is—the Shrine of Baha’u’llah.
Participants at the celebration of the ninth day of Ridvan walk together on a path circling the most holy spot for Baha’is—the Shrine of Baha’u’llah.

 

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — More than 2,000 people representing a cross section of the human race came together today in Bahji to celebrate the festival of Ridvan, marking the anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s proclamation of His station as a Messenger of God.

The attendees included delegates from more than 160 countries who are taking part in the 12th International Baha’i Convention. Many of the delegates wore the distinctive dress of their country or people, representing the remarkable diversity of the worldwide Baha’i community.

The historic occasion of Baha’u’llah’s proclamation took place 155 years ago in a garden—referred to by Him as Ridvan, meaning “paradise”—on the banks of the Tigris River near Baghdad. Baha’u’llah and a group of companions stayed in the garden for 12 days, during which He also proclaimed the foundational spiritual principles that lie at the heart of His teachings—signaling the arrival of a new stage in the evolution of the life of humanity.

The festival of Ridvan is regarded by Baha’is around the world as the most joyous of Baha’i holy days.

More than 2,000 people came together in Bahji to celebrate the festival of Ridvan.

Delegates to the International Baha’i Convention pause in  the majestic gardens at Bahji to take part in devotions commemorating the Proclamation of Baha’u’llah.

Members of the Baha’i Community in the Tennessee Valley marked the festival with devotions and a picnic along the banks of the Tennessee River.9th Day Pano