Millions of Bahá’ís in over 100,000 localities worldwide are preparing to celebrate, on October 22, the bicentennial of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith whose Arabic name means “Glory of God.”
The global festivities will involve people of hundreds of cultures and ethnic backgrounds, demonstrating the pivotal message of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings: the time has arrived for the entire human race to establish a world commonwealth based on its spiritual unity.
Tributes in honor of the bicentenary from local and national leaders from diverse parts of the world continue to be received by Baha’i communities, most recently from Australasia, Central Asia, and South America. In New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English has addressed a message to the Baha’i community of his country.
“Many in New Zealand and around the world will be celebrating this very special anniversary, and I hope you enjoy the festivities with your family and friends,” he states in his letter. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia wrote an uplifting tribute, acknowledging this special bicentenary year, saying, “Australia’s Baha’is are a community of warmth and welcome; a community of music and charity; a community that rejoices in its identity and yet extends its counsel of respect and equality to all.” He added that, “We are truly citizens of the world and our shared commitment to friendship, inclusion and harmony is what lies at the heart of our success.”
In Pakistan, Member of Parliament Asiya Nasir hosted a gathering at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services in honor of the upcoming bicentenary. Over 100 parliamentarians, diplomats, and religious leaders were invited to attend the gathering, the theme of which was based on a well-known passage from Baha’u’llah: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.”
In Namibia, an event hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly, with over 200 government officials, parliamentarians, and ambassadors in attendance, will feature the Speaker of the Parliament of Namibia, His Excellency Prof. P. H. Katjavivi. The Speaker’s message, like those given at celebrations elsewhere in the world, will focus on the oneness of humanity, and of the importance of unity of the world’s peoples.
The Bahá’í writings explain this emphasis on unity: “In cycles gone by… the unity of all mankind could not have been achieved. Continents remained widely divided… In this day, however, means of communication have multiplied, and the five continents of the earth have virtually merged into one… Hence the unity of all mankind can in this day be achieved. Verily, this is none other but one of the wonders of this wondrous age…”
Bahá’u’lláh’s guidance, contained in letters and books spanning over 100 volumes, will usher in an age of unity, while respecting and cherishing the diversity of mankind’s cultures. The Bahá’í Faith will forge unity because its core principles uphold that all religions are, in essence one, originating from one God, acknowledging humankind as one family. Bahá’u’lláh reconfirmed the moral teachings of the world’s great religions and commanded His followers to be law-abiding citizens, who practice rectitude of conduct in all their private affairs. In addition, Bahá’u’lláh wrote on societal and global issues that are highly relevant today, such as statesmanship, science, collective security, the role of the media, world language, the economy, medicine, the environment, global governance, agriculture, education and many others.
The Bahá’í Faith was introduced to Namibia in the early 1950s, at a time of great disunity in the country. While interaction between black and white people was restricted by apartheid, adherents quietly promoted the principle of the unity of peoples. Despite the difficult circumstances, the first Bahá’í to enter the country, an Englishman named Ted Cardell, was able to share the Faith’s teachings with a few people and enrolled Hilifa Nekundi, the first Namibian Bahá’í, in 1956. Vigilance was necessary when Bahá’ís met in the early days; gatherings of blacks and whites were risky for participants and, if observed, reprisals would have occurred.
Following independence, the Bahá’í community continued to grow gradually, primarily enrolling Namibians in the area of the capital and the north central region. The Faith does not ordain clergy to organise activities, but relies on assemblies elected from its adult population. The rate of growth has increased as the generation of Namibians who never experienced the restrictions of segregation grows to maturity.
In Namibia, there are Bahá’í communities in Windhoek, Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Omaruru, Otjiwarongo, Tsumeb, Grootfontein, Oshakati, Ongwediva, Rundu, Shighuru, and Katima Mulilo, among others. Activities are coordinated by a national governing body, the National Spiritual Assembly, which became a registered body in Namibia in 1981.
Well-wishers of the government and the community at large, Bahá’ís promote and organise various activities open to all people of good will. These include devotional gatherings, classes for the moral education of children, groups for the moral and social empowerment of junior youth, and groups that study the Faith’s body of writings. Wherever Bahá’ís and their friends are gathered, the bicentennial celebrations in Namibia, promise to be joyous and spiritually uplifting.
In Windhoek, the National Spiritual Assembly will invite all enlightened souls to join in celebrating this important world event with joy and reverence on 22 October 2017, at the Safari Court Hotel.