University students engage in conversations on social change

BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — In this period of heightened uncertainty, youth have especially been confronted with many questions about the direction in which the world is headed and their place in it. To assist university students in navigating these questions, the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP) has been creating spaces for young people to come together in focused discussions.

A participant from Canada says: “By identifying relevant spiritual concepts—such as unity and justice—our discussions are helping us to reflect on the current situation and to gain new perspectives.”

These gatherings, largely held online, complement a four-year seminar program offered by ISGP to university students, who are taking the opportunity to reexamine many of the concepts and ideas studied in the seminars in light of the pandemic and their efforts to serve society at this time.

“One of the concepts that has brought clarity to our analysis of present conditions is from the Bahá’í teachings, which state that humanity is reaching its collective maturity, when its essential oneness will be recognized and will give shape to new social structures. This movement toward maturity involves both processes of disintegration and integration. But if all we see is disintegration, then we do not get an accurate picture and are left with hopelessness. Through these discussions we are learning to detect progress, no matter how subtle it may be, and to think about the ways we can contribute to our society,” says a participant from France.


Youth participating at a gathering of ISGP in South Africa.

In whatever country they reside, the health crisis is making more apparent to participants and their peers the need to reconsider the relationship between the individual and society.

One participant from France says: “Many people are revisiting prevalent notions of what it means to be a good citizen and ideas about the ‘social contract’. Not harming others is simply not enough. Recognizing our essential oneness and making this a reality implies something far greater.”

“The health crisis has further exposed the inequalities that exist in our society and has made more evident the responsibility that we all have to those around us,” says a fellow participant.

A student from Russia states: “New conceptions are needed based on the organic unity of mankind, the nobility of the human soul, and the twofold moral purpose of the individual to develop their own inherent potentialities and contribute to the transformation of society.”

Such discussions are leading participants to examine further the relationship between science and religion, particularly how both science and religion—as evolving systems of knowledge and practice—can work together to eradicate prejudices and superstitions and to propel human progress.

University students in Brazil at a gathering of ISGP.

A participant from Brazil states: “A great deal of information is being propagated on social media about the virus that is confusing. If we use science as a means for investigating the world, we will understand the methods and tools through which conclusions about reality can be reached. Religion helps us to consider how spiritual principles, like justice and the interconnectedness of humanity, can be applied to issues such as economic inequality that have become even more exacerbated during the pandemic.”

A facilitator from the Central African Republic (CAR) describes efforts by participants to provide reliable information about the health crisis to their communities.

“United action guided by both science and religion is required in finding solutions to the pandemic. We are learning how to draw on science—staying informed of what scientists across the world are saying about the pandemic, consulting with each other to weigh new information—to assist our families and neighbors by dispelling the misinformation that clouds people’s thinking and spreads confusion, fear, hopelessness and prejudice. At the same time, we are guided by the spiritual concepts explored in the Baha’i teachings, particularly the understanding that all humanity is as one body and whatever affects one nation can affect any other.”

University students from Jordan at a gathering of ISGP.

Participants of the gatherings have been emphasizing the caution and wisdom needed when using social media to discuss the current health crisis. “There are online conversations about the pandemic that appear to be progressive in nature and attractive to young people concerned with the transformation of society,” says a participant from India. “But some have deep partisan political undercurrents, which can quickly unravel into highly charged debates that lead to discord.”

Another participant from India says, “The way we show forth our thoughts and ideas, combining a language that critically analyzes our social reality, with that of hope and possibilities, has become even more important during the pandemic.”

As university students reflect on the concepts and ideas discussed during these gatherings, they are identifying constructive conversations around them in which they can take part with fellow students and others, such as the role of religion in society, the intellectual and moral education of children and youth, and the material and spiritual dimensions of true prosperity.

While recognizing the value of contributing to public discourse in diverse social spaces, participants are also seeing how it is possible for them to effect social change at the level of community.

“Thinking about how any one of us can change society is very complex,” says a participant from Russia. “We can, however, see change through the efforts of people acting together at a neighborhood or village level and within their professions. We can learn about service and cooperation at these levels.”

“A challenge still is that many urban neighborhoods are large, similar to the size of a small town. But the pandemic has shrunk our space and made us see our neighbors in a different light. People living in high-rises helping each other has given us a glimpse of what community life on a small scale can look like and how unity can be built in different settings.”

Ongoing gatherings have been held in Canada, and across the globe, for youth to continue to study ISGP seminar materials.

These discussions are providing participants with hope, helping them to resist the disheartening effects of the forces of disintegration of society and to see how they can align their efforts with the forces of integration that are propelling humanity towards a bright future.

“This is not a moment to let time slip away, waiting for a return to a so-called ‘normalcy’,” says a participant from India, echoing the sentiments of many others engaged in these conversations. “There is so much to do if we want to contribute constructively during this period.”

Statement on racial prejudice spurs vital conversation in the US

CHICAGO — A public statement from the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly of the United States on racial prejudice and spiritual principles essential for progress toward peace released days ago has already stimulated critical reflection across the country.

The statement comes at a moment when recent tragedies and long history have intersected to bring anti-Black racism and other forms of prejudice to the forefront of public consciousness in the United States and across the world.

The message reads in part: “To create a just society begins with recognition of the fundamental truth that humanity is one. But it is not enough simply to believe this in our hearts. It creates the moral imperative to act, and to view all aspects of our personal, social, and institutional lives through the lens of justice. It implies a reordering of our society more profound than anything we have yet achieved. And it requires the participation of Americans of every race and background, for it is only through such inclusive participation that new moral and social directions can emerge.”

The statement was released on 19 June, a date traditionally dedicated to commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Initially published in the Chicago Tribune, it has also appeared in dozens of other publications, reaching a wide range of people.

Youth across the country have been examining how the statement can assist them in their efforts to contribute to greater harmony and understanding among their fellow compatriots. Participants in a recent national forum on race unity drew on ideas from the statement to illuminate their discussions.

Photograph taken before the current health crisis. A message to the people of the United States written by the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly spurs on a conversation on the elimination of racial prejudice in which the Baha’i community has long been engaged in many spaces.

The message voiced by the National Assembly is one of hope, speaking about what is required to address the root causes of racism: sustained and concerted effort guided by the recognition of the fundamental truth that the human family is one.

This view is informed by the experience of a national Baha’i community in which, since its inception at the turn of the 20th century, people of African and European descent and eventually of all origins have joined hands to labor towards the elimination of racial prejudice.

May Lample of the country’s Baha’i Office of Public Affairs says that this message addresses profound questions that people are raising. “Americans are asking who we are as a society. What do we believe, and what will we tolerate? How much longer will we allow suffering to continue before we take action to make substantive change?”

P.J. Andrews, also of the Office, says: “In the culture of ‘othering’ in which we’re embedded, diversity can be seen as a source of weakness. But in truth diversity is a source of wealth. Unity in diversity is something that strengthens us spiritually as a society.”

Photograph taken before the current health crisis. Participants at the Dialogue on Faith and Race gathering held by the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs in the United States.

Speaking about current circumstances, Anthony Vance, Director of the Office of Public Affairs, states: “It is remarkable that in just a short span of weeks, demands for racial justice have not only been strongly renewed but are made with a much broader base of support throughout the US population. With smartphones everywhere to record events, injustices that the Black community has spoken about for generations have become an indisputable fact. Large segments of society have become conscious of this reality to a degree where inaction becomes untenable. In seizing this opportunity to act, Baha’is seek to undertake or expand activities, learn, think systematically, and, perhaps most importantly, persist over the long term to make a lasting advance toward justice and unity.”

Escalation in persecution of Baha’is in Iran: tried in court and imprisoned for their beliefs

BIC NEW YORK — The Iranian authorities have escalated their persecution of the Baha’is, targeting at least 77 individuals across the country in recent weeks despite the present health crisis afflicting the country.

Baha’is in the provinces of Fars, South Khorasan, Mazandaran, Isfahan, Alborz, Kerman, Kermanshah, and Yazd have been arrested, summoned to court, tried, sentenced to jail, or imprisoned, all under baseless accusations and for no reason other than a deep-seated antagonism to the Baha’i Faith and its teachings which emphasize truthfulness, equality of men and women, safeguarding the rights of all people, and the harmony of science and religion.

In addition, Iran’s state-affiliated media have stepped up the public defamation of the Baha’is through an increasingly coordinated spread of disinformation about their beliefs by using television channels, newspapers, radio stations, websites, and social media to denigrate and to ostracize the Baha’is. The Baha’is, meanwhile, are not permitted to respond publicly, denying their fellow citizens the opportunity to investigate the truth themselves.

In one instance, a court in South Khorasan Province has sentenced nine Baha’is from three to six years of imprisonment. These include an elderly man, whose advanced age puts his health at great risk if he is imprisoned. In Fars Province 12 Baha’is were sentenced from one to 13 years of imprisonment under spurious charges. In recent days, six Baha’is in South Khorasan Province were summoned and have had to present themselves for imprisonment; four more were arrested in Kerman and Yazd provinces; another Baha’i in Alborz Province was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and two years of internal exile; and yet another Baha’i in Isfahan province was summoned to serve a prison sentence.

After being arrested and released on large bails, these individuals have faced months, and sometimes years, of waiting between their arrest, trial, appeal court, and the beginning of a jail term, adding an enormous additional burden psychologically. Such cruel tactics have been employed repeatedly by the authorities in recent years, as part of their systematic persecution of the entire Baha’i community.

“The recent incidents have placed great pressures on so many families,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community. “Subjecting them to the constant threat of imprisonment under these circumstances and emotional anguish associated with it is yet another attempt to place greater strain on the community. And to do all this during a health crisis, at an alarmingly escalated rate without any justification whatsoever, is extremely cruel and outrageous.”

For more information on the situation of Baha’is in Iran, visit the website of the Baha’i International Community, which includes archives of Baha’i persecution in Iran.

Prerequisites for peace penned 100 years ago reverberate today

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — In the aftermath of World War I and the devastating 1918 flu pandemic, two Baha’is set out from the Holy Land in May 1920 to deliver a message written by ‘Abdu’l-Baha to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace in The Hague. This message, referred to as the First Tablet to The Hague, explored principles required for profound societal transformation.

“This tablet continues to speak to us today,” says Sherene Devid-Farag of the Dutch Baha’i community’s Office of External Affairs. “It helps us see, point by point, the elements that are needed for a peaceful world, including the equality of women and men, the harmony of religion and science, the promotion of education, and the elimination of all forms of prejudice. These same principles inspire countless movements, organizations, and people in their efforts toward social justice today. What we need to realize across all these endeavors is that we are all companions on the same path toward peace.”

The Baha’is of the Netherlands and Religions for Peace Netherlands co-hosted an online conference last Thursday, marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the tablet to its destination. The commemoration was originally planned to take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague but was later moved online due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In the aftermath of World War I and the devastating 1918 flu pandemic, two Baha’is set out from the Holy Land in May 1920 to deliver a message written by ‘Abdu’l-Baha to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace in The Hague.

Participants explored the themes from the First Tablet to The Hague in light of current circumstances.

“What ‘Abdu’l-Baha was telling us is that faith is the light that eliminates the darkness of fear… What is needed is the deliberate commitment to come together as people of all faiths and take action [based] on our common principles,” said Azza Karam, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace International.

Speaking on the theme of the oneness of humanity, Britt Bakker, vice-president of Religions for Peace Netherlands, said: “It is in these remarkable times that we are painfully, but at the same time beautifully, confronted with our… connectedness.”

Awraham Soetendorp, a Jewish rabbi in The Hague, shared his hope that people might one day look back at this time as a crucial moment “when we found the wisdom and courage to truly cooperate beyond borders out of mutual trust, when we thus turned great peril into great promise and fashioned a new compassionate world order in which no one was left behind.”

The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the First Tablet to The Hague to its destination was originally planned to take place at the Peace Palace but was later moved online due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Marga Martens, Secretary of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, in reflecting on the event and the vision for peace presented in the tablet, says:

“The remedy to these ills are the principles elucidated by ‘Abdu’l-Baha. We all have the choice to work toward them, both in our personal lives and as a society. Just as turning to the advice of a physician is essential when we are ill, it is the spiritual medicine of these principles that will help us go to the roots of society and create a beautiful change.”

Heavy sentences, return to prison for Baha’is in Iran despite health crisis

GENEVA—18 May 2020—

In a reprehensible move by the Iranian government, incidents of persecution against the Baha’is have increased despite already difficult circumstances endured by the entire population during a global health crisis.

In recent days, two Baha’is in Isfahan have been arbitrarily arrested; seven Baha’is in Shiraz have been sentenced to long prison terms ranging from one to thirteen years; prison terms of five Baha’is in Karaj previously sentenced to one year imprisonment have been confirmed in an appeals court; another Baha’i in Ghaemshahr who was sentenced to eleven years in prison has been summoned to prison; and two Baha’is—one in Shiraz and one in Karaj—who were released due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, have been summoned back to prison, making them vulnerable to the disease. This is despite widespread international calls for the release of prisoners of conscience in Iran due to the deadly risks associated with the spread of the infection in prisons. 

Those sentenced to prison in Shiraz were arrested under the preposterous claim that their efforts in the area of the environment and children’s education constituted “propaganda against the regime” and “forming groups against the regime.”

“The Baha’i International Community is appalled by the sentences handed down to these innocent individuals who were guilty of nothing other than selflessly serving their communities,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “At a time when the government should be encouraging and promoting mutual support and assistance among citizens, it instead penalizes and condemns those who try to help others”.

Two Baha’is who had been released as part of the prison leave associated with the epidemic have been re-summoned to prison in recent days.  

“These individuals are not criminals and they do not belong in prison,” said Ms. Ala’i. “During this global pandemic, when prisons are hotbeds of infection, returning these Baha’is to prison is akin to handing down a death sentence.”

The Baha’is in Iran have been systematically persecuted since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. They are barred from numerous businesses and professions and employment in the public sector. They are denied the right to study in universities, are routinely arrested, interrogated, and imprisoned, their properties are confiscated, their cemeteries desecrated, and their private livelihoods are often disrupted or blocked—all because of their beliefs. The persecution of the Baha’is in Iran has been widely documented and condemned by UN bodies and the international community for four decades.

“The Baha’i community not only has to share many of the economic and health-related consequences of the current pandemic with the rest of the population,” continued Ms. Ala’i. “They face additional layers of pressures, being denied the right to public employment, to study in universities, and having to endure arbitrary arrests and imprisonment only for their faith. This is an abhorrent treatment of an entire community at a time when lives and livelihoods in Iran are already under such severe strain.”

The two Baha’is imprisoned in Isfahan are Mr. Shahzad Hosseini and Mr. Shayan Hosseini. The seven Baha’is sentenced in Shiraz are Mr. Navid Bazmandegan, Ms. Bahareh Ghaderi, Ms. Soudabeh Haghighat, Ms. Niloufar Hakimi, Mr. Ehsan Mahboub, Ms. Noura Pourmoradian, Ms. Elaheh Samizadeh. Those in Karaj are Mr. Abol-Fazl Ansari, Mr. Rouin Kohansal, Mr. Mohammad Sadegh Rezaie, and Mr. Rouhollah Zibaie. The three Baha’is summoned to prison are Mr. Ali Ahmadi, Mr. Nematollah Bangaleh, and Mr. Farhad Fahandej. 

Arts reveal beauty in the world, cast light on current situation

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — In these unique times, the arts have been particularly important in stimulating reflection on the spiritual dimension of human life and inspiring hope. Baha’is and their compatriots throughout the world have been drawing on the arts to cast a light on themes that are captivating the public consciousness, such as humanity’s interconnectedness.

“Creative initiatives are providing people a way to reach out to friends and to help relieve their anxiety. Artistic works can increase the feelings of hope, cohesion, and unity in a society,” says Simina, a sketch artist from Romania.

People of all ages, especially youth, have found ways to uplift the spirits of their fellow citizens through music, podcasts, paintings and drawings, theatre, puppet shows, poetry, and digital designs. Such works have focused on revealing the beauty that exists in the world and conveying new perspectives on current circumstances.

Nadiv, a young musician from Kenya, reflecting on the use of the arts to express constructive ideas says: “We’ve been able to address issues of common concern during the pandemic through music, and to bring people together to take part in collective expressions of solidarity. The arts have really been a voice for the voiceless. When you can’t say something directly, you can express it through creative means.”

The arts have been drawn upon by many to show appreciation for those working in essential services and to provide communities with information about health measures.

Meadow, a painter from the United States, says that “by using our hands and our voices, we’ve seen how everyone can create something beautiful and inspiring for others to enjoy. Creativity allows inspiration to flow, lifting our spirits and helping those around us.”

The following is a small selection of the many artistic expressions produced during this period that have been inspired by the Baha’i teachings.

Baha’is in Latin America and Spain have been producing uplifting music videos for youth. This song titled “La fuerza del amor”, meaning the strength of love, encourages young people to translate positive thoughts into actions.
Teachers of children’s moral education classes in Italy have recorded a puppet show on the theme of justice and shared it on the website, “Stelle Splendenti” (Brilliant Stars). This website, one of several initiatives of the country’s Baha’i community, was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic and makes available multimedia resources to help families explore with their children the spiritual qualities most needed at this time.
Three siblings in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have produced podcast episodes telling stories from the history of the Baha’i Faith that demonstrate perseverance in the face of challenges.

Young people who have been participating in educational programs of the Baha’i community in Nanaimo, Canada, held an online youth camp and reflected on how they can be of service to others during this time of crisis. This video was made by these youth to explore the theme of humility.

Young people from Minsk, Belarus, have created a video in which they recite poems they have written about seeing the beauty of humanity and of good deeds.

An artist from the United States has created a video to share painting skills and the spiritual concepts that have inspired her work.

one-man play from Romania titled “Exile to Paradise” explores significant historical events in the Baha’i Faith. Multiple recordings of the actor playing different roles were edited together to convey a seamless narrative.

A family in the United Kingdom performs a selection of live music on the theme of humanity’s essential oneness. Many such broadcasts have been made throughout the world from living rooms to stimulate reflection on profound spiritual principles.

An initiative of several musicians in Auckland, New Zealand, titled “Illuminate the World”, has been bringing people together to create musical works that shed light on challenges facing their society.

Children in Berlin, Germany, who participate in Baha’i education classes, have made drawings on the theme of hope for the residents of a home for the elderly

A collective of artists from Norte del Cauca, Colombia, have produced a lively song with a message about taking health precautions.

This piece, called “In the Heart of Unity”, is about how hope can spread from heart to heart. It was inspired by conversations among a group of young people who gather weekly online to share ideas about how they can continue to serve their societies under present circumstances.

Series on “Baha’i World” to focus on themes related to global health crisis

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, questions about humanity’s future loom large. The online publication The Baha’i World is, in this context, initiating a series of articles that focus on major issues facing societies as they look ahead.

“The current global pandemic has demanded drastic action,” write the editors. “It has also made evident the need for profound reflection on how humanity will emerge from this crisis. Will we move towards a more just and peaceful world?”

The first article in the series, published earlier today, looks at questions around government’s role in social welfare. Future articles will explore a range of topics such as economics, migration, and agriculture and food security, among others. The new series will join existing articles on peacetechnologyrural development, and humanitarian relief.

A new article on The Baha’i World website entitled “The Role of Public Institutions in Ensuring Social Well-Being” looks at questions around government’s role in social welfare.

The website also features a new pictorial essay depicting the settings most closely associated with the Bab and His Faith.

The Baha’i World began in print form in 1926 under the direction of Shoghi Effendi. In May of last year, the website was launched to house new articles that deal with Baha’i perspectives on contemporary themes. An email subscription service is available, allowing subscribers to be informed when new articles are published.

Looking beyond the health crisis in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq — Online forums, now a common feature of life in many places, have become a venue for promising conversations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Baha’is of the region have been organizing weekly forums where academics, social actors, faith leaders, and government officials are examining spiritual principles that have drawn people together in this time of crisis and exploring how these principles can help shape public life in the future.

A running theme has been the oneness of humanity and how society suffers when any one group considers its own needs without thought for others.

“These conversations are allowing us to sincerely and genuinely learn from each other,” said Tahireh Abaychi, representative of the Baha’is of the Kurdistan region. “It’s not that any one of us has the answers. We’re seeing one another through a new lens with the interests of all at heart.”

New perspectives are allowing participants to challenge assumptions that underlie prevalent modes of thought, questioning the idea that self-interest drives prosperity and that progress depends on its expression through unrestrained competition.

A running theme of weekly online forums among social actors in the Kurdistan region of Iraq has been the oneness of humanity and how society suffers when any one group considers its own needs without thought for others.

The current circumstances, participants noted, are showing just the opposite—an outpouring of generosity that transcends differences is what contributes to the progress of all. Such expressions of good-will, some participants observed, have had their most profound affect in small geographic areas, where people can come to know one another, understand each other’s needs, and take action for the benefit of their fellow citizens.

“What is happiness? What are needs? What is prosperity? These terms can now be redefined,” said another participant. “A culture of consumption promotes the value that our worth is based on how much we can consume and accumulate. But we are now seeing that giving selflessly needs to be an organizing principle.”

Officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, including the director of the ministry’s department of coexistence, noted that these discussions are proving helpful in formulating plans for promoting societal values.

“The government is actively looking at policies that can help our society to come through this crisis more resilient and more attentive to needs. These conversations will help with that process,” said one of the officials from the ministry.

Reflecting on the discussions to date, Mrs. Abaychi says: “The question is how can we ensure that principles which have for so long been at the margins of thought or viewed as idealistic be brought to the center of the public consciousness and policy making?

“This will require a recognition of our essential oneness and many acts of true and selfless generosity—meaning, that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand has given.”

Community banks in Nicaragua take early precautions

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Before concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak were in the public consciousness, a Baha’i-inspired community banking program in Nicaragua took initiative to implement safety measures for the handling of money and made arrangements for transactions to take place online and by telephone.

“These banks are founded on the Baha’i principles of service and care for the well-being of all,” says the program’s national coordinator. “So, with the economic challenges and the evolving health crisis, we have not only been conscious of continuing vital services that support the economic life of the community but also of ensuring that our operations do not put people at risk.”

The way the program works is by offering training to groups of 10 to 30 people, who then begin to save small sums and make modest loans available to bank members at a reasonable rate. The banks are managed entirely by the members themselves and interest earned is divided proportionally according to the amount each person holds in savings. As a bank grows, it is also able to provide financial support for social and economic development initiatives in the community.

Photograph taken before the current global health crisis. Community banks in Nicaragua inspired by Baha’i principles are managed entirely by the community members.

Over the last 15 years, the program has grown in Nicaragua to serve several localities and is recognized in the country for its distinctive approach.

“The banks’ experience and underlying principles have informed their response to the global health crisis,” says the national coordinator. “We recognize that we are not just businesses looking to our own affairs but are here to serve the common welfare. We have the responsibility to be an example of sound and safe business practices during these times.”

Local Temple design unveiled in India

NEW DELHI — The design for the local Baha’i House of Worship to be built in Bihar Sharif has been unveiled. In light of the prevailing circumstances, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of India chose to make the announcement online today in lieu of the ceremony that would have marked the historic event.

This will be the second Baha’i temple in India. The House of Worship in New Delhi that has stood as a symbol of hope and unity in the country for decades has become a beloved place of spiritual reflection and renewal for Indians of all faiths and traditions.

“We have personally experienced the power of a space to inspire in the architecture of the Lotus Temple, which many of us have been visiting since we were children,” stated the firm that designed the new temple. “We appreciate that the Baha’i House of Worship in Bihar Sharif needs to offer a setting for the experience of the divine, while being humbly rooted in its surroundings.”

“Bihar is a fertile land and its many villages present a timeless scene of Indian rural life,” says Suditya Sinha, one of the architects. “The House of Worship is coming up in this lush, rural setting. Inspired by traditional architecture and crafts, we chose to use brick made from local earth. The land is literally and metaphorically molded into the form of the temple.”

Drawing on patterns found in the Madhubani folk art of Bihar and the region’s long architectural heritage, the firm created a design with a repeating pattern of arches. The domed edifice will step up from nine arches at the base, multiplying until each segment appears to merge into a single geometry. Openings at the center of the dome and in each ring of arches will reduce the weight of the ceiling while allowing gentle light to filter in.

Openings at the center of the dome and in each ring of arches will reduce the weight of the ceiling while allowing gentle light to filter in.

Reflecting on the power of prayer, Naznene Rowhani of the National Assembly says: “in the difficult times we are passing through, people are finding more than ever the need to turn to their Creator. Therefore, constructing the temple in Bihar Sharif now has even greater meaning, and we feel that we must continue this process while ensuring the safety and health of all involved in its construction.”

The new temple and its grounds will serve to enhance the connection between service and worship present in the community-building activities of the Baha’is of Bihar Sharif. With its doors open to everyone, the temple will foster a culture of inclusion and cooperation among all people.

The domed edifice will step up from nine arches at the base, multiplying until each segment appears to merge into a single geometry.