This year, on Oct. 21, Bahá’ís around the world celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Bahá’ís view Bahá’u’lláh as one of God’s Manifestations, who have continuously and progressively revealed God’s will to mankind at various times in our history.
Having attended Christian schools from kindergarten through high school and being raised in a Christian family, I reflect often about another one of God’s Manifestations, Jesus Christ, and the communities that bear His name around the world. This year in particular, the bicentennial of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth, I’ve thought much about what the community of early Christians may have looked like around the year 200 A.D., approximately 200 years after the birth of Christ. While history cannot give us a perfect picture of these early communities, and I’m certainly no historian, we do know that the name of Christ was not as commonly known around the world as widely as it is today. We know there were no mega-churches or televangelists, nor were there the tens of thousands of Christian denominations or many of the other associations with Christianity that we have today.
While we can’t know for certain, the picture of those early Christian communities seems to contain at least a few of the following elements. Individual souls deeply touched and inspired by Christ’s words and actions … these souls meeting with similarly inspired souls in small gatherings to share stories of Christ, spurring each other on to spreading the message of Christ … Christian communities engaging in collective action trying to translate Christ’s words into action, often at great personal risk to themselves … Christians finding constant encouragement and renewal in Christ’s words.
In looking around at my own Bahá’í community in Albany and in reading about Bahá’í communities around the world, I observe many of these same elements being carried out at this stage of the development of Bahá’í Faith. Individual Bahá’ís pray and reflect on the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and hold devotional gatherings with friends, neighbors, and family members in their homes. Bahá’ís meet in small groups to study the Bahá’í Writings and practice performing acts of service associated with Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings. Bahá’ís conduct spiritual education classes for children and spiritual empowerment programs for junior youth in their neighborhoods. From these simple gatherings, animated by the love of Bahá’u’lláh, further acts of service often organically develop based on the needs of the community or interests of the participants. In this manner, Bahá’ís seek to translate the words of Bahá’u’lláh into reality, just as early Christian communities did with words of Christ 200 years after His birth.
As early Christians did back then and many Christians still do today, I find great support, encouragement, and love from other members of my religious community. Bahá’ís have a genuine love for humanity and believe that promoting Bahá’u’lláh’s spiritual and social principles is the most potent way to express that love. These spiritual principles, which largely echo the spiritual principles of Christianity and other major religions, find expression in terms such as love, generosity, kindness, compassion, detachment from materialism, charity, and service, among others. Bahá’í social principles, which address the needs of humanity at our present stage of development, include promoting unity, working for justice, eliminating prejudice, providing universal education, asserting the equality of men and women, and establishing the oneness of mankind.
I encourage and invite anyone interested in these principles to explore the life and teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and join Bahá’ís in Albany and around the world in celebrating His 200th birthday.