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George Townshend was born in Ireland and was a well known writer and clergyman. He spent many years near Ballinasloe, County Galway, where he was incumbent of Ahascragh and Archdeacon of Clonfert. He later became the Canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. However, at the age of 70, Townshend renounced his orders to the Anglican Church and wrote a pamphlet to all Christians under the title “The Old Churches and the New World Faith” proclaiming his allegiance to the Bahá’í Faith.
“The mightiest proof of a Prophet has ever been found in Himself and in the efficacy of His word. Bahá’u’lláh rekindled the fires of faith and happiness in the hearts of men. His knowledge was innate and spontaneous, not acquired in any school. None could gainsay or resist His wisdom and even His worst enemies admitted His greatness. All human perfections were embodied in Him. His strength was infinite. Trials and sufferings increased His firmness and power. As a divine physician He diagnosed the malady of the Age and prescribed the remedy. His teachings were universal and conferred illumination on all mankind. His power has been poured forth more abundantly since His death. In His presence He stood alone and events have proved and are still proving its accuracy.
From The Mission of Bahá’u’lláh
Gordon Brown is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He took office on 27 June 2007, three days after becoming leader of the Labour Party. Prior to this he served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997-2007, becoming the United Kingdom’s longest serving Chancellor since the early 19th century.
“I would like to express my respect and admiration to the Baha’i community which makes a contribution to British life out of all proportion to its size. The principles of the Baha’i faith are rightly shared and appreciated by many in our different communities. It is therefore all the more tragic that Baha’is around the world face prejudice and discrimination. I very much welcome your increased participation in public life and hope you will build on this in the future.”
21 April 2009
The Bahá’í community has a long, proud and respected tradition and contributes much to today’s Britain. Your faith includes a clear obligation to work towards religious tolerance and respect for other faiths, an aim shared by both myself and a wide range of different communities across Britain.
I commend you for promoting an understanding and exploration of your faith to wider British society. The Bahá’í community can be proud of its success in working to foster cohesive and integrated communities.”
21 April 2008
Josá Maria Eça de Queiróz is acknowledged to be one of the greatest Portugese novelists, attempting to bring about social reform through his novels. In 1869 and 1870, he travelled to Egypt and watched the opening of the Suez Canal, which inspired several of his works, most notably “O Mistério da Estrada de Sintra”. “A Correspondencia de Fradique Mendes” features a character – Mendes – who travels to many different places and writes of them to his friends and relatives. It is said that Eça de Queiróz modelled the character of Mendes on himself. Introducing the character of Mendes, he writes of their meeting in Cairo:
“…I asked Fradique what had detained him thus in Persia for a year and a day, just as in the fairy tales. And Fradique confessed with all sincerity, that he had tarried so long on the banks of the Euphrates because he had by chance come into contact with a religious movement called Bábism, which since 1849 had been developing and nearly triumped in Persia. Although attracted to this new sect by a critical curiosity, and also wishing to observe how a new religion is born and established, he gradually began to take a very keen interest in Bábism – not so much because he admired its doctrine, but because of the dedication of its apostles…
I do not remember, after so many years, whether these are the exact facts. I only know that these revelations by Fradique, thrust upon me during the festival in Cairo, impressed me unutterably. While he spoke of the Báb…and of the rise of another faith within the Muslim world, with its own procession of martyrs and ecstasies…this personage (the Báb) took on grand proportions in my mind. I had never known anyone involved in such exalted matters, and I felt myself both proud and awed to be trusted with this sublime secret. I would not have been more moved if I had, on the eve of St Paul’s departure for Greece to take the Word to the Gentiles, walked with him through the narrow streets of Seleucia, listening to his hopes and dreams.”
John Estlin Carpenter was an eminent Unitarian biblical scholar, theologian and Oxford professor. Carpenter presided over a meeting on 31 December 1912 for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at Manchester College, Oxford, where Carpenter was Principal.
“From that subtle race (the Persians) issues the most remarkable movement…The new faith declared that there was no finality in revelation, and while recognising the Koran as a product of past revelation, claimed to embody a new manifestaton of the divine Unity. Carried to Chicago in 1893…it succeeded in establishing itself in the United States; and its missionaries are winning new adherents in India. It, too, claims to be a universal teaching; it has already its noble army of martyrs and its holy books; has Persia, in the midst of her miseries, given birth to a religion which will go round the world?”
From Comparative Religion
British explorer and writer, Dorothy Mills toured Palestine in 1925 where she met Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith. She wrote of her visit in her book, Beyond the Bosphorous.
“He (Shoghi Effendi) is a most charming young man, looking about thirty, small, slight featured, Persian in his general appearance, dressed in sober black robes, with composed and courteous manner. He seems to talk every known language, and spoke to me with willing fluency and conviction of the aims of his movement…
They are a lovable and fascinating people, the Bahais: idealists who have dreamed a dream of peace that passes all understanding, who seek to bring relief to restless unhappy human hearts, who, by cooperation, would replace competition, and blend all races, religions, nations and classes into one harmonious whole. A beautiful dream, too good, it is feared, to come true in our present state of imperfection and atavistic crudity, but a dream that it is pleasant to come into contact with, as I did, for a couple of hours, on a blazing April afternoon.”
Alain LeRoy Locke was an American writer, philosopher, educator and patron of the arts. He is best known for his writings about the Harlem Renaissance. He is unofficially called the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance”. His philosophy served as a strong motivating force in keeping the energy and passion of the Movement at the forefront.
“The gospel for the Twentieth Century rises out of the heart of its greatest problems – and few who are spiritually enlightened doubt the nature of that problem. The redemption of society – social salvation, should have been sought after first. The fundamental problems of current America are materiality and prejudice. And so we must say with the acute actualities of America’s race problem and the acute potentialities of her economic problem, that the land that is nearest to material democracy is furthest away from spiritual democracy…And we must begin heroically with the greatest apparent irreconcilables: the East and the West, the black man and the self-arrogating Anglo-Saxon, for unless these are reconciled, the salvation of society cannot be. If the world had believingly understood the full significance of Him who taught it to pray and hope “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven,” who also said ”In my Father’s house are many mansions,” already we should be further toward this great millennial vision. The word of God is still insistent, and more emphatic as the human redemption delays and becomes more crucial, and we have…Bahá’u’lláh’s “one great trumpet-call to humanity”: “That all nations shall become one in faith, and all men as brothers; that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; that diversity of religion should cease, and difference of race be annulled…These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and men be as one kindred and family.”
From The Gospel of the Twentieth Century
The Reverend Peter Owen-Jones is an Anglican clergyman, author and TV presenter. He is the writer and presenter of The Battle for Britain’s Soul, Extreme Pilgrim and Around the World in 80 Faiths.
“Out of the biblical traditions of the Middle East, a new religion emerged in 19th century Iran which introduced a whole set of new ideas about our connection with the past. On the coast of Israel at Haifa, the followers of the Bahá’í Faith have built a garden at the Shrine of their Prophet known as The Báb. I wonder if this faith will offer a break from the hidebound views of the past I’ve experienced on my journey so far…
There’s one particular Bahá’í saying that I really do admire and it is the world is one country and we are all its citizens. That implies equal rights and an equal relationship with God – not fractured upon one belief system or another.
Having been here, I see Bahá’í is a religion which welcomes all religious perspectives. And I think – in a land of belligerent tribalism – this is such a wonderful, refreshing tonic. For me connecting with God means transcending the mundane facts of where we were born and in what tribe…
This isn’t dependent on being born into some tribe, born into your religion. This is inclusive, all-embracing monotheism and I hope, I hope that this is the future, I do.”
From Around the World in 80 Faiths, Episode 3 “The Middle East”
The Reverend John Tyssul Davis presided over the Theistic Church in London’s New Bond Street and later became a Unitarian Minister in Bristol. He was also the Principal of a Buddhist College in Ceylon for two years.
The Bahá’í religion has made its way . . . because it meets the needs of its day. It fits the larger outlook of our time better than the rigid exclusive older faiths. A characteristic is its unexpected liberality and toleration. It accepts all the great religions as true, and their scriptures as inspired. The Baha’ists bid the followers of these faiths disentangle from the windings of racial, particularist, local prejudices, the vital, immortal thread, the pure gospel of eternal worth, and to apply this essential element of life. Instances are quoted of people being recommended to work within the older faiths, to remain, vitalizing them upon the principles of the new faith. They cannot fear new facts, new truths as the Creed defenders must. They believe in a progressive revelation. They admit the cogency of modern criticism and allow that God is in His nature incomprehensible, but is to be known through His Manifestations. Their ethical ideal is very high and is of the type we Westerners have learnt to designate “Christlike.” “What does he do to his enemies that he makes them his friends?” was asked concerning the late leader. What astonishes the student is not anything in the ethics or philosophy of this movement, but the extraordinary response its ideal has awakened in such numbers of people, the powerful influence this standard actually exerts on conduct. It is due to four things: (I) It makes a call on the Heroic Element in Man. It offers no bribe. It bids men endure, give up, carry the cross. It calls them to sacrifice, to bear torture, to suffer martyrdom, to brave death. (2) It offers liberty of thought. Even upon such a vital question as immortality it will not bind opinion. Its atmosphere is one of trust and hope, not of dogmatic chill. (3) It is a religion of love. “Notwithstanding the interminable catalogue of extreme and almost incredible sufferings and privations which this heroic band of men and women have endured-more terrible than many martyrdoms-there is not a trace of resentment or bitterness to be observed among them. One would suppose that they were the most fortunate of the people among whom they live, as indeed they do certainly consider themselves, in that they have been permitted to live near their beloved Lord, beside which they count their sufferings as nothing” (Whelps). Love for the Master, love for the brethren, love for the neighbors, love for the alien, love for all humanity, love for all life, love for God-the old, well-tried way trod once before in Syria, trodden again. (4) It is a religion in harmony with science. It has here the advantage of being thirteen centuries later than Islam. This new dispensation has been tried in the furnace, and has not been found wanting. It has been proved valid by the lives of those who have endured all things on its behalf. Here is something more appealing than its logic and rational philosophy. “To the Western observer” (writes Prof. Browne), “it is the complete sincerity of the Bábís, their fearless disregard of death and torture undergone for the sake of their religion, their certain conviction as to the truth of their faith, their generally admirable conduct toward mankind, especially toward their fellow-believers, which constitute their strongest claim on his attention.”
“By their fruits shall ye know them! ” We cannot but address to this youthful religion an All Hail! of welcome. We cannot fail to see in its activity another proof of the living witness in our own day of the working of the sleepless spirit of God in the hearts of men, for He cannot rest, by the necessity of His nature, until He heath made in conscious reality, as in power, the whole world His own.
From A League of Religions
Yone Noguchi was an influential writer of poetry, fiction, essays and literary criticism in both English and Japanese.
“I have heard so much about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, whom people call an idealist, but I should like to call Him a realist, because no idealism, when it is strong and true, exists without the endorsement of realism. There is nothing more real than His words on truth. His words are as simple as the sunlight; again like the sunlight, they are universal…. No Teacher, I think, is more important today than ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.”
Alfred W.Martin was a Unitarian minister and writer on religion. He was the leader of the Ethical Culture Society and author of many books about comparative religion including Great Religious Teachers of the East, Psychic Tendencies of Today, Comparative Religion and Religion of the Future, and Objective Evidence for Life after Death.
“Inasmuch as a fellowship of faiths is at once the dearest hope and ultimate goal of the Bahá’í movement, it behooves us to take cognizance of it and its mission…. Today this religious movement has a million and more adherents, including people from all parts of the globe and representing a remarkable variety of race, color, class and creed. It has been given literary expression in a veritable library of Asiatic, European, and American works to which additions are annually made as the movement grows and grapples with the great problems that grow out of its cardinal teachings. It has a long roll of martyrs for the cause for which it stands, twenty thousand in Persia alone, proving it to be a movement worth dying for as well as worth living by.
From its inception it has been identified with Bahá’u’lláh, who paid the price of prolonged exile, imprisonment, bodily suffering, and mental anguish for the faith he cherished-a man of imposing personality as revealed in his writings, characterized by intense moral earnestness and profound spirituality, gifted with the self same power so conspicuous in the character of Jesus, the power to appreciate people ideally, that is, to see them at the level of their best and to make even the lowest types think well of themselves because of potentialities within them to which he pointed, but of which they were wholly unaware; a prophet whose greatest contribution was not any specific doctrine he proclaimed, but an informing spiritual power breathed into the world through the example of his life and thereby quickening souls into new spiritual activity. Surely a movement of which all this can be said deserves-nay, compels-our respectful recognition and sincere appreciation.
Taking precedence over all else in its gospel is the message of unity in religion…. It is the crowning glory of the Bahá’í movement that, while deprecating sectarianism in its preaching, it has faithfully practiced what it preached by refraining from becoming itself a sect…. Its representatives do not attempt to impose any beliefs upon others, whether by argument or bribery; rather do they seek to put beliefs that have illumined their own lives within the reach of those who feel they need illumination. No, not a sect, not a part of humanity cut off from all the rest, living for itself and aiming to convert all the rest into material for its own growth; no, not that, but a leaven, causing spiritual fermentation in all religions quickening them with the spirit of catholicity and fraternalism.
Who shall say but that just as the little company of the Mayflower, landing on Plymouth Rock, proved to be the small beginning of a mighty nation, the ideal germ of a democracy which, if true to its principles, shall yet overspread the habitable globe, so the little company of Baha’is exiled from their Persian home may yet prove to be the small beginning of the world-wide movement, the ideal germ of democracy in religion, the Universal Church of Mankind?”