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Architects and journalists join UK Baha’i Community to honour the work of Juan Grimm

 

e17107ap_chile_temple_on_mountain-tif_International architects, together with various London-based journalists, joined members of the UK Baha’i Community last week at a luncheon to honour the work of award winning landscape architect, Juan Grimm. Mr Grimm is also the landscape architect for the gardens surrounding the recently inaugurated Baha’i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile. The luncheon provided the opportunity to honour the work of Mr Grimm, as well as to reflect on the most recent dedication of the Bahá’í House of Worship in South America.

The dedication of the Baha’i House of Worship that took place in Santiago, Chile, last month, signified a historic conclusion to a century-long process of raising up continental Baha’i Houses of Worship around the world.

On 14th October the city of Santiago, Chile, witnessed the momentous gathering of close to 5,000 Baha’is and friends from countries all over the world, to celebrate the dedication of the last continental House of Worship, this time by the footsteps of the Andes. Amongst those present were individuals and families from the UK who had undertaken the long journey to Santiago in order to be present for this significant occasion.

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The Chilean Ambassador to the UK, Rolando Drago, sent his compliments to the Baha’is throughout South America, for the inauguration of the House of Worship, stating, “It is a fascinating building that will most certainly become an important spiritual centre for the Baha’i community in Chile. It will also become a relevant landmark in the area of Penalolen where it has been built.”

The program of the dedication was unique in its own way and faithful to the South American identity with music, dance, arts and talks. At the heart of the talks and artistic presentations was the concept of heritage: both cultural as well as spiritual. At all times the friends were reminded of spiritual giants such as Martha Root, May Maxwell and Leonora Armstrong, who were remembered several times, and in particular in a touching dramatization of their lives. The rich diversity of indigenous groups throughout the continent was also celebrated, not only with joyful and infectious dance and music, but also with several presentations from these friends about how the message of Baha’u’llah has transformed their communities. Many times the friends mentioned Abdul-Baha’s promise to the native people of the Americas, that they will become so “radiant as to illumine the world”.

Carmel Momen, who travelled to Santiago from the UK, along with her family, said, “It was a true blessing to stand with believers from all over the world and every walk of life, people who, in different circumstances, we would have nothing in common with, at the foothill of the beautiful Andes mountains and breath in the love, joy and unifying majesty of this newest gift to the world. Pictures cannot do justice to the House of Worships beauty or convey the tranquil feeling of sitting inside its soul healing dome.”

A House of Worship is a pivotal institution of Baha’i community life, ordained by Baha’u’llah as a sacred structure open to all and referred to as “Mashriqu’l-Adhkar”, which translates to “Dawning Place of the Mention of God.”

Although a Baha’i Temple is a universal place of worship, its purpose is not solely to provide a place for prayer and meditation. Rather, Houses of Worship are conceived of as institutions that will contribute to the social and economic progress of the populations for whom they are sanctuaries of peace and reflection. They are expressions of the deep connection between worship and service. Around each House of Worship, essential dependencies will in time emerge, dedicated to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits.

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Apart from the priceless gift of witnessing the dedication of the House of Worship, participants were also recipients of two other special gifts. The first one was in the form of ten small prayer books with the purpose of giving them to the people who came across their paths during the dedication. Indeed it was the perfect opportunity to witness the purpose of the House of Worship in bringing together worship and service.

Sahba Saberian, who was also attending from the UK, said: “It was exciting to see the friends (many who did not speak Spanish or English) fearlessly hand these books out to taxi drivers, shopkeepers and Airbnb hosts….In a few days it was even becoming common to be turned down because the person had already been given a book!”

The second gift was that all the friends had the chance to see the blessed portraits of Baha’u’llah and The Bab at the Temple – a gift that was completely unexpected and particularly special for those friends who, for various reasons, find it extremely difficult to go on pilgrimage at the Holy Land.

“Much more can be said about the program of the dedication itself,” Mr Saberian noted, “But what stayed with all the participants is the unique spirit of love, worship and service that permeated the gathering and whose effect, no doubt, was felt across the globe.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Conversations & Beyond’ – UK Baha’i Community hosts interfaith event as part of National Inter Faith Week

“How often do you meet and have a conversation with someone new?”

“What is the role of religion in moving communities forward?”

“What gives you hope?”

These were some of the questions that were posed last week at ‘Conversations & Beyond: finding and achieving our common humanity’ – an interfaith event that was hosted by the UK Baha’i Community as part of the annual National Inter Faith week.

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Bringing together friends, neighbours and acquaintances from a diversity of faiths and none, cultures and backgrounds, the evening allowed for a space to explore the idea of meaningful conversations, to engage in them – allowing for participants to experience viewpoints and paradigms that differed from their own – and to contribute to building social cohesion within the local community.

As described by Lina Mar, the chair for the evening, “Interfaith week…is a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work done by local faith and interfaith groups, increase awareness of interfaith learning and cooperation, celebrate diversity and commonality and open up new avenues for communication and partnership.

It is in this light, of fellowship and communication, that we decided to focus our event on using meaningful conversations to bridge differences, and to form genuine friendships.”

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The event opened with the screening of the short film ‘London is Open’, that was made by the London Boroughs Faith Network, reflecting the rich diversity of London’s faith communities and highlighting the welcoming and open nature of these communities.

The main focus of the evening were the small ‘conversation cards’ that each guest received on arrival. Each of these cards had a quotation from the Baha’i Writings on one side, and a series of questions on the other. Each participant paired up with someone else in the room and engaged in conversation, based on the questions posed.

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These conversations allowed for the sharing of deep thought and reflection, as well as much laughter and a genuine sense of connection and building of friendships.

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Annual Reception of All Party Parliamentary Group on the Baha’i Faith Celebrates Twin Holy Days

LONDON, 7 November 2016 – UK Members of Parliament and the House of Lords joined a diverse range of civil society and inter-faith representatives in attending the Annual Reception of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Baha’i Faith to celebrate the Baha’i Twin Holy Days, commemorating the births of the twin Founders of the Baha’i Faith, The Bab and Baha’u’llah.

Alistair Carmichael MP, treasurer of the APPG, welcomed all those gathered and shared a message from Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, who acknowledged the role of the APPG in ensuring that the invaluable contributions of the UK Baha’i community towards unity of humanity are made known. Lord Bourne also added that, “It did not take long for me to realise that the Baha’i community has deeply-held beliefs regarding integration that mirror our own. And it continues to do so worldwide, with its ongoing work with the United Nations in the areas of gender equality, human rights and social development.”

Alistair Carmichael MP addresses those gathered at the Reception

Alistair Carmichael MP addresses those gathered at the Reception

Speaking on behalf of the Baha’i community, Fidelma Meehan, a member of the UK National Spiritual Assembly, shared reflections about the lives of Baha’u’llah and the Bab. She further referred to the letters that were addressed to the Kings and Rulers of the world by Baha’u’llah. Ms Meehan shared that in His letter to Queen Victoria, Baha’u’llah praised and commended the Queen for having ‘forbidden the trading in slaves’ and for having ‘entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people’ who He called upon ‘to be trustworthy….and regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth’.

Fidelma Meehan reflects on the lives of the Bab and Baha'u'llah

Fidelma Meehan reflects on the lives of the Bab and Baha’u’llah

Referring to Baha’u’llah’s exhortation, to be: ‘anxiously concerned with the needs of the age [we] live in, and to centre [our] deliberations on its exigencies and requirements’, Ms Meehan reflected on the efforts made by Baha’is across the UK and throughout the world to, together with their friends and neighbours, engage in collective acts of service in order to contribute to the transformation of our society.

“Through involvement in these community building activities and discourses”, said Ms Meehan, “we are coming to a deeper understanding of the two fold purpose in life that human beings have been entrusted with: the transformation of ourselves and the transformation of society towards universal peace; and that there is a deep reciprocal relationship between individual and collective transformation.”

Ms Meehan also took the opportunity to announce the launch of the new UK Baha’i website (www.bahai.org.uk), images of which were projected during the evening.

The guest of honour for this special occasion was film and television actor, Earl Cameron CBE, who has very recently received the singular honour of being the Inaugural Inductee in Screen Nation’s hall of fame to honour outstanding film actors of African or Caribbean heritage.

Guest of honour, Earl Cameron CBE

Guest of honour, Earl Cameron CBE

Mr Cameron reflected on Baha’u’llah’s principle of the oneness of humankind, as well as the role that the Baha’i Faith has played in his life, both personally and professionally. He commented: “I’ve never accepted any differences between people based on race, and as a young man I could never accept or understand the idea of a God who loved all creatures yet would separate human beings according to race or nationality or background. Reading the Writings of Baha’u’llah, I fully accepted the fact that humanity is one single race of people.”

The programme concluded with a brief devotional consisting of two Baha’i Writings sung to music by James Mohajer, the Government Relations Officer for the UK Baha’i Office of Public Affairs.

James Mohajer, Government Relations Officer for the Office of Public Affairs concludes the evening with a devotional programme

James Mohajer, Government Relations Officer for the Office of Public Affairs concludes the evening with a devotional programme

Mr Carmichael MP closed the programme by quoting the Writings of Baha’u’llah, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens”, and reflecting on the significance and timeliness of these words.

Guests attending the Annual Reception

Guests attending the Annual Reception

After the programme, the guests had the opportunity to engage in uplifting conversations and explore pertinent themes relating to contributing towards social cohesion and the betterment of our society.

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Guests engaging in conversation after the Reception

 

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