In 1844, a 25-year-old Persian merchant named Sayyed ʿAlí Muḥammad Shírází had a realization. He took the title of Bab, meaning gateway or gate, and began to preach through his letters and books the imminent arrival of a messianic figure, “He whom God will make manifest”. Like John the Baptist’s foretelling of Jesus Christ, the Báb’s message struck a chord, and within a few years it had accumulated thousands of followers. The Persian government, feeling threatened by the new movement, imprisoned and executed him in 1850. The movement grew, however, and in 1863 a follower of the Báb, Baha’u’llahasserted that he was, in fact, that prophet.
Imprisoned and in exile for most of His life, Bahá’u’lláh nevertheless produced over 18,000 written works which include, together with the revelations of the Báb, the Scriptures and the teachings of the religion known as the Bahá Faith. ‘ie.
The Baha’i Faith believes in three unities: God, religion and humanity. Bahá’ís teach that faith is a progressive thing, that through the ages various messengers of God have appeared on Earth – Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and so on – with their own revelations. There is therefore an order and unity between all religions and in turn between all races, nationalities and cultures of the world. The “rational soul” of the human being, the Bahá’í beliefallows us all to recognize our relationship with the creator and that the way to come closer to him through the different religions is through prayer, spiritual practice and service to others.
The gift of the Bahá’í Faith is a welcoming religious practice that recognizes and honors all religions that have preceded it. Indeed, the symbols of many religions can be seen inscribed on the pillars of various Baha’i Houses of Worship around the world, from Wilmette, Illinois, to Sydney, Australia, to Haifa, Israel.
It is no wonder, then, that members of the Bahá’í Faith fight against prejudice in all its forms, defend the brotherhood and equality of all races, fight against poverty and take at face value the command of Bahá’u’lláh: “Let your vision embrace the world”.
In pursuing the goal of a world at peace through a unifying concept of the future of society and the nature and purpose of life, Bahá’ís work closely with governments and the private sector. The Baha’i International Community (BIC) is an organization representing Baha’is, chartered by the United Nations in 1948 and now has affiliates in more than 180 countries and territories.
The BIC strives to “promote world peace by creating the conditions in which unity emerges as the natural state of human existence.” Consequently, the BIC works with its governmental and non-governmental partners to develop a united and sustainable civilization, as well as human rights, the advancement of women, universal education, the encouragement of fair economic development and environmental protection.
The BIC has offices at the United Nations in Geneva and New York, has consultative status with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and works closely collaboration with other agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The gift of the Bahá’í Faith is a vision of world peace and unity among all religions, races and cultures, and active work to realize this vision – all in accordance with their prophet, the words from Baha’u’llah:
“If the learned and wise men of the world of this age would allow mankind to breathe in the fragrance of brotherhood and love, every understanding heart would apprehend the meaning of true freedom and discover the secret of undisturbed peace and absolute calm.”