18 July 2008

A Living Word (V): Learning from others: the Bahá’is

The shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel, outside Haifa, which I first visited in 1987

Patrick Comerford

The Bahá’i Faith, founded by Bahá’u’lláh, is one of the world’s newest monotheistic faiths. Its origins can be traced to Iran in 1844, and there are now five to six million Bahá’is around the world. In many countries they are persecuted, ostracised and mistrusted.

Like the members of the other great monotheistic faiths, the Bahá’is have their own sacred scriptures, laws, calendar and holy days.

There are more than five million believers in Bahá’i Faith around the world. The first connection between Ireland and the Bahá’i Faith was formed in 1848, when an Irish doctor treated the Báb – the predecessor of Bahá’u’lláh – in his prison cell.

In the first years of the 20th century, several people became Bahá’is in Ireland, and the American consul in Cork and his family were well-known Bahais at the time.

The Bahai community in Ireland was formally constituted sixty years ago at a meeting in Dundrum in Dublin on April 20 1948. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Bahá’i community in Ireland expanded with a steady and increasing flow of new Irish Bahá’i, joined by a number of new arrivals from overseas.

What can we learn from this small, peaceful, monotheistic faith community?

The most important principle for a Bahá’i is the oneness of humanity. Bahá’is believe that the creation of harmony and unity between all peoples is the fundamental purpose of all religion. They say that the one-ness of humanity is the foundation for the other principles of social justice to which Bahá’i s are committed.

Despite persecution, marginalisation and mistrust, this small monotheistic faith community remains committed to universal peace and religious tolerance.

This contribution to A Living Word was first broadcast on 18 July 2008 on RTÉ Radio 1. A Living Word is broadcast Monday to Friday at 6:40 a.m. as part of Risin Time with Maxi and repeated Tuesday to Saturday at 12:58 a.m. as part of Late Date. A Living Word is Radio 1's long-standing two-minute daily meditation. The archives are available at:http://www.rte.ie/radio1/alivingword/1179969.html

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College

1 comment:

W Rickards said...

As the grandchild of an American Baha'i family, with children and grandchildren who are Baha'is, I have spent much of my life building a life of practice grounded in Baha'u'llah's fundamental principle of unity and its consequential commitment to justice and service. A couple of years ago we were in Ireland walking parts of the wild Atlantic way, and spent a day at Drumcliff at the chapel and Yeats' grave, getting to know a little more about the Irish Church. I greatly appreciate your blog's attention to interfaith dialogue and the critical --and difficult-- nature of the resulting civil discourse. (As my wife--who is Jewish--has often pointed out, no one quite understands Israel and its complexities like Irish writers.) We are looking to go back to Ireland soon and I would like to keep in touch.