LONDON, 2 May 2014 – At a reception held in the Houses of Parliament here, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has stated his admiration for the Bahá’í Faith and its ideals.
The Bahá’í principle of the oneness of mankind is one ‘which we strive to promote in the UK,’ the Right Honourable Eric Pickles MP told a gathering of more than 100 guests.
‘We all have in common our basic humanity and it’s this oneness that inspires the Bahá’í Faith.’
Mr Pickles was speaking at the Houses of Parliament on 30 April at a celebration of the annual Baha’i festival of Ridván. Among those present were government officials, parliamentarians, representatives of faith communities and civil society organisations, and foreign diplomats.
‘Your message of unity ripples down the ages,’ Mr. Pickles said.
The activities that Bahá’ís offer in neighbourhoods and localities, designed to build bonds of community and encourage spiritual renewal, were also singled out for praise by the Secretary of State.
‘Your knack in promoting oneness is inspiring – and a little humbling,’ he said.
Welcoming the guests, Louise Ellman MP – who is the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Bahá’í Faith – said that ‘we want to showcase the Bahá’í community’ and its contributions to UK society, while also raising awareness about the situation of the persecuted Bahá’ís of Iran.
The Ridván festival marks the first public declaration by Bahá’u’lláh – the Faith’s Prophet-founder – in a garden in Baghdad, in April 1863. There He informed His friends and family members of His mission to unite the human race and establish universal peace.
‘So the Bahá’í Faith began in a garden,’ said Sahba Besharati, speaking on behalf of the Bahá’í community, ‘the Garden of Ridván, and the word Ridván means Paradise – aptly so, since Bahá’u’lláh’s vision was to transform this troubled world into a heavenly garden, where diversity is celebrated, and where the different colours and shapes of the flowers of the garden serve to further enhance the beauty and the harmony of the whole garden.’
In 2012, Mr. Pickles launched the ‘A Year of Service’ initiative at the National Bahá’í Centre in London, and last year he hosted a group of Bahá’ís to celebrate the centenary of the visit to the United Kingdom by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – Bahá’u’lláh’s son and successor.