By Susan A. Black
On Sunday, January 21, 2018, a cluster of Baha’i friends and friends of the Faith gathered at the United Church in Sicamous, British Columbia. We had been invited by the Reverend Juanita Austin to present the Baha’i Faith to her congregation in the celebration of World Religion Day. The moment we entered the building, there was a keen sense of welcoming and curiosity.
The worship service began with a prayer of approach, followed by a hymn and a funny story about Jonah. Afterward, Frank was invited to introduce the Baha’i Faith.
“Welcome to International World Religion Day. I am Frank. I am a Baha’i and follow the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. We believe in progressive revelation, meaning that from Abraham on through to Bahá’u’lláh, there have been a number of Messengers sent by God over the ages.
Each Messenger refers to the next, who comes after Him. For example, Budha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and presently, Bahá’u’lláh, are Messengers from God. Jesus makes reference to “I will not leave you comfortless”, “I will come in a new Name”, and “I will come as a thief in the night”.
In 1844, the Bab, also known as The Gate or The Door, began to prepare people for the arrival of the new Manifestation, much like John the Baptist in the time of Christ. Baha’u’llah, a follower of the Bab, was arrested for his beliefs and put in prison for forty years. It was there that Baha’u’llah received His Divine Message from the Lord. God revealed to Him that he was the One who would bring the New Teachings to the world. After He was released, Baha’u’llah was still a prisoner. He and His family and some of His followers were exiled across the Ottoman Empire to the prison city of Akka in Palestine.
Some of the principles of His Teachings are men and women being equal, science and religion must work together, unity of all humankind, all coming together in every way, and all religions are one.
Here is a quote.
‘It is easy to read the Holy Scriptures, but it is only with a clean heart and a pure mind that one may understand their true meaning. Let us ask God’s help to enable us to understand the Holy Books. Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, and for hearts that long for peace.’
I would like to finish with a prayer for unity.”
O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence.
Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.
“World Religion Day is an observance initiated in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, celebrated worldwide on the third Sunday in January each year. Though initiated in the United States, World Religion Day has come to be celebrated internationally.
Described as a “Bahá’í-inspired idea that has taken on a life of its own”, the origins of World Religion Day lie in the Bahá’í principles of the oneness of religion and of progressive revelation, which describe religion as evolving continuously throughout the history of humanity. The purpose of World Religion Day is to highlight the ideas that the spiritual principles underlying the world’s religions are harmonious, and that religions play a significant role in unifying humanity.”