Most religions respectfully elevate the status of their adored one to a rung above all others.
Certainly that is true among Christians with Jesus Christ and Muslims with Muhammad.
It can also be said that Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster and Buddha are each considered “special and unique” by their faithful.
But the Baha’i Faith is slightly different, and, perhaps in the minds of some, in a refreshing way.
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Baha’i faithful such as Joan Irwin and Allan Wunsch of Bradenton believe that their adored ones, including The Bab and Baha’u’llah, were “messengers” sent by the same God over different periods on the human time line when most needed, every 600 to 1,000 years or so, and, as such, are on the same plane as fellow messengers, including Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad.
But, above all, the “message” itself, is elevated over the messenger.
The main theme of the Baha’i Faith is unity. Baha’is are dedicated to the adoration of One God and the reconciliation of all major religions. Also, the appreciation of the diversity and nobility of the human family and the elimination of all prejudice.
For Irwin, who first heard about the Baha’i faith at a “fireside” gathering in a coworker’s home, those distinctions have made a big difference.
“What I heard that evening was the confirmation, continuation and expansion of the teachings that I held dear,” said Irwin whose spiritual training up until that point was in the Presbyterian church. “Namely, that there is one loving God that blesses humanity throughout the ages with his messengers. ... Each appearance of these divine lights is a chapter in the book of the religion of God.”
Irwin found out the main theme of the Baha’i Faith is unity.
“Baha’is are dedicated to the adoration of one God and the reconciliation of all major religions,” Irwin said.
An appreciation of the diversity and nobility of the human family and the elimination of all prejudice are hallmarks of the faith, and elements that certainly make it relevant in today’s world.
But there’s more.
“We are dedicated to the establishment of world peace, equality of women and men, a universal language and universal education, the harmony between science and religion, the individual investigation of truth, the spreading of hope and joy and, finally, a positive vision for humanity’s future,” Irwin said.
“That evening in June 1971, I declared myself to be a Baha’i and continue to study and practice in this path of service to God,” Irwin added.
While Irwin and other Baha’is hold all of these “divine lights” dear, there is certainly nothing wrong with throwing a birthday party for one of their own messengers who would be 200.
A celebration commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder and central figure of the Baha’i faith, will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center Complex, 1845 34th St., Sarasota, Irwin said.
Appetizers, a joyful program and desserts will be offered at no charge to the public.
“We Baha’is love to eat,” said the 79-year-old Wunsch with a laugh.
Moreover, Baha’u’llah’s birthday party would be a great place for anyone curious about the Baha’i Faith to learn more, Wunsch said.
“It is so special to Baha’is around the world to be alive at this precious time of the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth,” Irwin added.
Baha’u’llah and the messengers
Baha’u’llah, whose name translates from Arabic into The Glory of God, was born into nobility in Persia in 1817, Irwin said.
“At an early age and without formal education he was known for his rare understanding,” Irwin added.
Also firmly on the Baha’i agenda include the establishment of world peace, equality of women and men, a universal language and universal education, the harmony between science and religion, the individual investigation of truth, the spreading of hope and joy and, finally, a positive vision for humanity’s future.
Baha’u’llah was known as the “Father of the Poor” because even as a teen he was drawn to helping the downtrodden and poor.
While Baha’u’llah was growing up, The Báb was a young merchant from Shiraz, Persia, who proclaimed in 1844 that he was bearer of a new message from God, a message that centered on the unity of all mankind into one human race.
Baha’u’llah was drawn to the teaching of The Bab, whose name translates into Gate. Although Baha’u’llah and The Bab never met in person, they corresponded. Baha’u’llah picked up the torch and carried it, taking The Bab’s teaching to new levels.
“The main thing is the unity of mankind,” said Wunsch, who was once Lutheran. “One ever unfolding religion. One race of man. Each messenger brings a similar message. Unity. Every 600 to 1,000 years God sends another messenger.”
The closest Baha’i Center is in St. Petersburg.
There are roughly 150 Baha’is in Manatee and Sarasota counties with nine in Bradenton, Irwin said. They meet in each other’s homes, Wunsch added.
If you go:
- What: The Bicentenary Birth of Baha’u’llah, A Joyful Program
- When: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Robert L. Taylor Community Complex, 1845 34th St., Sarasota
- Admission: Free