One God, one religion, one humanity, but many messengers, communities and names: this characterises the basic core of Baha’i belief and has led to the growth of practices, ethics and teachings which draw on scriptures from various world religions as well as the writings of three key figures - the forerunner of the faith, known as ‘the Gate’ (Bab); its founder Baha’u’llah; and his son Abdu'l-Bahá. It developed out of fringe teachings within Shi’a Islam in Persia in the mid-19th century and its members experienced persecution there. Established as a separate faith as a result, it promotes the equality of races and the sexes, education for all, an alliance of science and religion, and a single emerging world order which will unite people irrespective of their differences and lead to world peace. Its members also actively support multi-faith activities.
The 5,000 Baha’is living in the UK mostly comprise indigenous converts, Iranians and second generation members, all of whom are affiliated to a National Spiritual Assembly by way of Local Spiritual Assemblies or smaller local groups (of which there are sixteen in Warwickshire and the West Midlands and others elsewhere in the region). Baha’is have adopted a deliberate policy of countrywide dispersal and can be found in most towns and cities.
Having no priesthood, the Bahá'í communities vote for their Local Assemblies during a 12 day festival called Ridvan in April, and at a national convention for their National Assembly. There is focus on prayer rather than worship, and Baha’is undertake a period of fasting in their nineteen-day month of ‘Al’a (which falls in March), as well as celebrating the feasts of New Year (at the Spring equinox), the start of Baha’ullah’s prophethood and the anniversaries of key figures of the faith. Interestingly, they have a year consisting of nineteen months, each of which is nineteen days long (a significant number for them), at the beginning of each of which its members meet for communing, consultation on local matters and bonding together.
The faith’s religious symbol is a nine pointed star, symbolising completeness.
International website: http://www.bahai.org/
UK website: http://www.bahai.org.uk/
In just over a hundred and fifty years the Bahá'í Faith has become the world's second most widespread religion after Christianity. It has had a presence in the United Kingdom for more than a century and Bahá'ís here are playing their part as members of this vibrant and growing religious community dedicated to promoting the oneness of all humankind. The Faith has no clergy, or individuals in positions of personal leadership, and is administered by elected bodies at local, national and international levels. Our National Spiritual Assembly was one of the first to be established, in 1923.
Bahá'ís of Southam http://home.btconnect.com/wbbookshop/southambahais/
The main purpose of the Baha'i Faith is to bring unity to the world, so it is especially valuable when a local community includes young and old and people of different backgrounds.
The Nineteen Day Feast is the only meeting which is solely for Bahá'ís, as it is the main meeting of the community, where plans and events are discussed. Friends and enquirers are invited to Holy Day meetings, to prayer meetings, tranquillity zones and study circles. Tranquillity Zones are for relaxation and meditation, prayer meetings are for spiritual nourishment and study circles are for learning and fun! For young people there are children's classes and youth groups.
The Bahá'í Faith in Southam
Up until 2001 the Bahá'ís in Southam were part of the community of the whole district of Stratford-on-Avon. However, at that time the Bahá'ís nationally decided to subdivide into smaller, more local, units and Southam became a separate unit. For information on the Stratford community click here.
In 1998 there was only one Bahá'í family in Southam - Paddy and Ann Vickers and their daughter Helena. After her ‘A’ Levels Helena went to South Africa for a Bahá’í Youth Year of Service. This is when young Bahá'ís take a year out to go and help, usually in another country. For a while Helena lived in a black township, sometimes she lived with a white family, always trying to show the Bahá'í belief that everyone is equal and that people can live together in unity.
When Helena came back from South Africa, she went to talk to various classes at her old school in Southam about her experiences in South Africa and about her faith. She organised weekly dance classes and then, with the help of other Bahá'ís, an Activity week for children and youth in Southam. This involved dance, drama, art and song. At the end of the week they did a performance for their parents and friends.
During this time, 5 teenage girls decided that they believed in the Bahá'í Faith and so the community began to grow. Friends and family became Bahá'ís and a community of all ages developed.
Helena is now married and living in Birmingham. She works for the Baha'is organising children's classes and youth groups at a national level. She assists with the youth group at Southam College.
Over the last few years and for various reasons, several people have had to move away from Southam, so the community is no longer as large as it was. However, it is still lively!