The Baha’i gardens in Haifa, Israel. © Slaveya Nedelcheva

Bahá’í or Bahá’í Faith is a religious doctrine founded in the 19th century in the region of present-day Iran by the Persian Bahá’u’lláh. Its believers are called Baha’is and at the beginning of the 21st century numbered about 6-7 million people in over 200 countries around the world. The sacred places for the Baha’is are located on Mount Carmel in the city of Haifa and the Bahji mansion near the city of Acre in Israel. The relics of Bab and Bahá’u’lláh are laid there. The Seat of the Universal House of Justice, governing body of the Baháʼís, is in Haifa, Israel. One Baha’i prayer house has been built on each continent. 

Baha’i professes the existence of one Creator God and the unity of all mankind. He rejects the trinity of God according to Christianity. According to him, the religious history of mankind is an evolving educational process. It receives knowledge through messengers called “Manifestations of God.” According to the Bahá’ís, Bahá’u’lláh (translated as the Glory of God) is the most recent, the most progressive, but not the last of God’s messengers. He claims to be the long-awaited teacher of all nations, foretold in Christianity as the Son of Man coming in the Glory of the Father, Islam as Kaem (meaning the One to rise), Hinduism (as the new incarnation of Krishna), Buddhism as Maitreya Buddha. (Buddha of Universal Justice) and other religions. He claims that the time has come, and God is giving us a New Revelation for the unification of the world, the equality of people and the building of an age of eternal peace and justice.

In the middle of the 19th century, the new religion began to spread rapidly in Persia, especially among the upper class of Persian descent. The ruling Turkic Qajar dynasty saw the danger and took violent and brutal measures. After the revolt in 1844, the Bahá’ís were surrounded in a fortress in the Elbrus Mountains and their leaders were cunningly killed. To this day, Baha’i is the most persecuted religion in Shiite Iran.

The descendants of Bahá’u’lláh (‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi) and his followers spread the teachings of the new faith, which became a world religion in the twentieth century. Since 1963, the affairs of the community have been governed by the World House of Justice, a collective governing body elected every five years by the Bahá’í National Councils of the world. Famous Bahá’ís are the Swiss scientist Auguste Trout and the Romanian Queen Maria, whose palace is in Balchik, Bulgaria.

The Baha’i gardens in Haifa, Israel. © Slaveya Nedelcheva

When I visited Haifa, the Baha’i gardens left me speechless with the perfection of their beauty, colours and spirituality. 

In the recent years, perhaps the most significant phenomenon on the international stage is the process of globalization - the gradual “shrinking” of the world and the growing mixing of its peoples, cultures and economies. In many books, newspapers and political speeches, the processes of globalization have been and are being analyzed more and more. According to some people, globalization is a positive development, and according to others - a negative one. Proponents of globalization say it brings material progress to hundreds of millions around the world by removing national, economic and cultural barriers and helping to speed up the peace process.

More than a hundred years ago, Bahá’u’lláh defined this new reality with the Message: “The earth is only one country, and all people are its citizens.”

“Is it possible for humanity to collectively take control of its own destiny and be sure that the best in human civilization will not be lost? Is it possible to create a world in which material and scientific development is governed by ethical and spiritual principles that stimulate the progress of people around the world?”

The Bahá’ís believe that the dramatic changes in global human society in the last century, which have not yet completed their full cycle, have been caused by the emergence of a new messenger of God whose power inspires the best model for future society. And that it is the morning light that determines the best model for future society.

On a personal level, the model of a new society outlined by Bahá’u’lláh presupposes the highest moral standards. People will be guided in all their interactions by the principles of trustworthiness, honesty and courtesy. Selfless service to others will be the norm, and the common pursuit of perfection in all things will give new meaning to the idea of ​​personal development.

The Baha’i gardens in Haifa, Israel. © Slaveya Nedelcheva

At the community level, Bahá’u’lláh calls for a reorientation of priorities so that no one is left hungry, no family is left homeless, and no child is deprived of education. The institutions of society, whether local, regional, or national, will put justice and the common good above all else, and the widespread awareness of the spiritual reality of humanity will lead to even higher levels of cooperation, education and scientific discovery.

Globally, Bahá’u’lláh calls for the creation of new institutions capable of guiding the emerging world civilization. In particular, the Bahá’í Scriptures state that the world will be governed by a democratically elected legislature, with a world judiciary and a world executive body backed by international forces capable of carrying out the collective will of the peoples of the world. Committed to the principle of collective security, these global institutions will work together to eradicate war and poverty, to promote the development of science and technology for the benefit of society, and to coordinate markets and trade in a way that promotes the common good. In the Baha’i Administrative Order, with its freely elected governing boards and appointed advisers at the local, regional, national and international levels, we have a model of governance that addresses issues globally without undermining local views and initiatives. Similarly, the spiritual and social principles of the Bahá’í Scriptures uphold the highest standard of human rights. At all levels, the new institutions of global society, as envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh, will set justice as their primary goal. “The most beloved of all the virtues of Me is Justice,” Bahá’u’lláh wrote. The Bahá’ís are working to create a world in which the leaders of human society will do their utmost to ensure that everyone is treated fairly and honestly, to meet the basic needs of food, shelter, and human dignity, and to punish violators quickly and fairly. The widespread use of Bahá’í principles of consultation and electoral procedures will elevate a new type of moral leader in public life who places the well-being of the whole community before the interests of any party, ideology, ethnic group or corporation - and especially his personal interests.

The Bahá’ís believe that the acceptance of all these ideas and their practical implementation by the peoples of the world is inevitable and will lead to the promise of all religions a day in which the light of God’s justice will one day shine over the whole earth.

Of course, many people and groups in our society today preach such principles and ideas. They have penetrated human consciousness and reformed cultures around the world. Even for nonbelievers, the value of such teachings is obvious.

The spiritual world is the source of those human qualities that give rise to unity and harmony, lead to insight and understanding, and which make possible common endeavours in the spirit of cooperation. Among these qualities are love, courage, idealism, self-sacrifice, and humility. Spiritual in nature, these qualities form the invisible and at the same time vital foundations of human society.

In the past, spiritual teachings have dealt primarily with the actions of the individual - or with the harmony of relatively small groups of people. The emergence of the Bahá’í Community offers convincing evidence that humanity, in all its diversity, can learn to live and work as one people in its planetary homeland. It is also a convincing argument in favour of an in-depth and impartial study of the claims of the exclusive figure and whose spirit has created it and continues to sustain it.

The ideas of Bahá’ís sound especially relevant in the current situation of wars and helplessness. Let’s hope that the beauty and sublimity of love, peace and faith in humanity will eventually win.

I believe that change initially happens in one’s soul. Goodness and inspiration are contagious.

The city of Acre, Israel © Slaveya Nedelcheva