Baha’i faith celebrates 200th anniversary

Thokozani Youth Choir, with director of the project, Mhla Masizana.

Baha’is of Cape Town marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u ’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i faith. Celebrations took place in Mowbray and Newlands with many residents of the False Bay area involved.

Baha’u ’llah (1817-1892) was a spiritual teacher who announced in 1863 that he was the bearer of a new revelation from God.

His teachings have spread around the world, forming the basis of a process of social transformation and community building which, says Muizenberg resident and follower of the faith, Claire Mortimore, is unique in its global scope and the diversity of participants.

“The celebrations showcased the transformative impact of Baha’u ’llah’s teachings on the lives of families, neighbourhoods andcommunities,revealing Baha’u ’llah’s vision of the oneness of humanity as an antidote to the racial prejudice and materialism that are corroding society,” Claire said.

Malie Ntshangase from Faerie Knowe said: “Now more than ever we need positive models of social change that bring people together rather than divide them.”

Activities at the celebrations included drama, music, exhibits, storytelling and devotional programmes.

A group of young people from Fisantekraal performed a play adapted by Emaleen Kriel of Marina da Gama and organised by Zayanih Dennis of Claremont, while the Thokozani Youth Choir from Khayelithsha, under the direction of Clare Mortimore, lifted everyone out of their seats, singing and dancing.

Thobeka Poswa from Milnerton spoke movingly of her journey towards recognising Baha’u ’llah when a white stranger at Fish Hoek train station asked her to look after her bag, while she went in search of a public phone.

Concert pianist Sylvia Benetar, from also Swellendam, performed as did a music group of students from Reddam School in Steenberg. “These three days of activity, part of a series of celebrations that will continue over the next few months, aptly showed the principle of unity in diversity, a core tenet of Baha’u ’llah’s teachings,” Ms Mortimore said.

Ms Mortimore said one of the core structures of the Baha’i Faith was the belief that beyond all differences of culture, class or ethnicity, regardless of differences in customs, opinions or temperaments, every individual was a member of one gloriously diverse human family.

The Baha’i Faith originated in Iran in the mid-19th century. In less than 200 years it has become a universal faith.

The international Baha’i community numbers more than five million. “United by their belief in Baha’u ’llah, members strive to live out the twofold moral purpose of transforming their own characters while simultaneously contributing to the advancement of society,” Ms Mortimore said.

“Baha’u ’llah taught that religion is a cohesive force in society and a system of knowledge that has, together with science, propelled the advancement of civilizations,” she said.

Baha’is consider work done in the spirit of service to humanity as the highest form of worship.The Baha’i Faith has no clergy or sacraments, and has very simple practices for life transitions such as marriage and funerals.

“The affairs of the Baha’i community are administered, without clergy, through institutions established by Baha’* ’llah to foster universal participation and to diffuse knowledge, love, and unity,” Ms Mortmiore said.

This administrative order includes both elected and appointed institutions at local, national, and international levels. Non-partisan elections and collective decision-making are hallmarks of Baha’i administration.

“These and other principles constitute a model of just and unified global governance,” she said. For more information, contact Clare Mortimore on clarmort@hotmail.com or 079 089 2377.