Conversations explore needs of society

December 20, 2019
Conversations explore needs of society

The challenge of how to remedy the ills of society came often to the surface during U.S. celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith. 

Quotations from the teachings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah and the darkness-into-light theme of the film Dawn of the Light gave rise to hundreds of conversations about how to bring peace and unity to individuals, families, neighborhoods and beyond.

Connecting the heroism of yesterday and today

It was a citywide celebration, yet thoughtfully and intentionally held in a neighborhood of concerted community-building activities in Washington, DC.

The intent was both to focus the prayers of the entire community on that neighborhood and to engage local residents — Baha’is and friends — who participate in the core activities of community building in planning and carrying out the program.

The program centered on the heroism of the first followers of the Bab in that oppressive time, connecting that history with present-day heroism in the face of oppression and what it means for that DC neighborhood. 

The mix of prayer, monologues, songs, drumming and talks on those themes constituted a program reflecting the culture of the predominantly African-American neighborhood.

Message of unity rings out

The story of the Bab, told in words and song, made the Performing Arts Center in Williamson County, Tennessee, rock with the spirit of celebration. 

A Baha’i choir led by Eric Dozier created a presentation that spoke directly to a population of descendants of slavery. One observer noted, “So biblical, so appropriate, so sound, so clear in its message for the unity of all people and the coming of age of humanity.” 

Quotations of the Bab and Baha’u’llah bestirred hearts amid mentions of the history of enslaved peoples and the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the year Baha’u’llah declared His station. Correlations were made between what the slave population in America was experiencing and the movement stirred by the Bab in Persia. 

Many relevant quotes and prophecies from the Old and New Testaments underscored that we are living in the age of fulfillment and a new Day of God.

Peace pole gives expression to yearning

A peace pole adds to the serenity of the Peace Garden installed in a public park by the Baha’is of Hendersonville, Tennessee. Photo by Lindsey Stewart

The bicentenary provided the occasion in Hendersonville, Tennessee, for Baha’is to expand their gift of a peace garden, with a “peace pole” as part of the new addition. 

The peace garden was established in the city’s most prominent park in 1988 as a gift from the Baha’i community. A second garden, a twin of the existing garden with four additional benches, was completed in time for the bicentenary. 

The Baha’i community partnered with the International Peace Pole Project, which has a presence in 180 countries, to install the pole as a monument to humanity’s longing for peace. It displays the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in eight languages. Cherokee was included in honor of Tennessee’s American Indian heritage, as well as Japanese in recognition of Hendersonville’s sister city of Tsuru, Japan. 

Relationships lead to unifying celebrations

During the bicentenary, relationships Baha’is have forged with people of other faiths and with public officials were reflected in communities as far apart as Lincoln County, Wyoming, and Loudoun County, Virginia.

In Lincoln County, where most residents are Latter-day Saints, a strong friendship has developed over the years between LDS and Baha’i families. An LDS family asked for bicentenary invitations to give to their friends, and on the evening of the program the family arrived with a handmade quilt they presented to the Baha’is.

State Rep. Dick Black (center) was one of several dignitaries attending a bicentenary gathering at the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center in Loudoun County. Photo courtesy of Saman Rafaee

The quilt had been made by the Osmond Ward Women’s Relief Society in honor of the bicentenary. The family told the Baha’is it is theirs to use any way they see fit. The Spiritual Assembly, governing council for the local Baha’i community, has decided to donate the quilt to a worthy cause and make it known that it was a gift honoring the birth of the Bab.

The Loudoun County Baha’i community’s many bicentenary celebrations included a public event attended by 480 people — the most ever in the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center’s 12-year history. That number included many interfaith contacts, relatives, guests, and specially invited government officials.

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton and state Atty. Gen. Mark Herring addressed the attendees with unifying remarks.


Bahá’í community representatives meet with Patti Garrett, mayor of Decatur, Georgia, for a deep conversation about the significance of the bicentenary, the global Baha’i community, and service stemming from the junior youth program and other local community-building efforts. Photo courtesy of Linda Ahdieh Grant
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Baha'is and friends in Montgomery County, Maryland, enjoy one of six local gatherings celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of the Bab. Photo courtesy of Susan Troxel
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A bicentenary celebration brings multiple generations together in Mclaughlin, South Dakota, on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. An invitation had been broadcast the weekend before through a program on KILI, the Lakota Nation radio station. Photo courtesy of Regional Bahá’í Council of the Northern Plains States
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An Eastern Kentucky University professor offers points on “Women and the Writings of the Bab” on Oct. 26 at the University of Chicago as part of a seminar examining the Bab’s impact on society, sponsored by the university’s Baha'i Student Association. Photo by Nancy Wong
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