In October 2017 Baha'i Faith communities across the globe celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of their founder, Baha'u'llah. I took part in celebrations with the local Baha'i community in Pittsburgh, with whom I have had a friendly relationship with for several years.
Born in modern-day Iran in 1817, Baha’u’llah is the founder of the Baha’i religion, often referred to as the Baha’i Faith.
Estimates for Baha’i Faith membership are between 5 and 7 million members. In fact, the Baha’i religion is the second-most geographically widespread religion in the world (Christianity is the first). To give a brief summary of the religion, the Baha’i Faith teaches that there is one God who has sent messengers to guide humankind. These messengers include figures such as Moses (Judaism), Krishna (Hinduism), Jesus (Christianity), the Buddha (Buddhism), Muhammad (Islam) and Zoroaster (Zoroastrianism).
The Baha’i Faith regards Baha’u’llah as the most recent messenger for humankind. Baha’u’llah taught that God has revealed his message through progressive revelation, that men and women are equal and that all races are part of one human family. He wrote volumes of letters, books and other papers. Because of the progressive and unorthodox nature of his message for that time, Baha’u’llah suffered several persecutions; he was imprisoned on occasions and exiled a number of times. Expelled from his native Persia (modern-day Iran) Baha’u’llah and his family eventually came to live in Israel. He spent that last twelve years of his life in Acre, Israel. He died in 1892.
When I was about 12 I became interested in religions and since that time have made efforts to study different teachings and meet people from various religions. I have studied with religious groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormon Church, Soka Gakkai, Konkokyo, Zen Buddhism, New Age faiths, Islam and many other groups.
About ten years ago I began attending local gatherings of the Baha’i Faith community in Pittsburgh. Baha’i communities tend to meet in the homes of their members, although some communities are large enough that they have centers. At the time that I began taking part in Baha’i gatherings the local community meant in the home of Astrid and her husband Mohammed. They welcomed me into their home for monthly ‘unity gatherings’ and I soon became a familiar face at these monthly meetings.
Although I never became an official member of the Baha’i Faith, I agreed with many of their central principles: the equality of men and women, the importance of education, the nobility of humankind and the need to end prejudices, among others.
In 2014 I moved to Japan for a year and when I returned to the U.S. I fell out of contact with the Baha’i community. However, beginning in 2016 I did get back in touch with Dr. Mary, a Baha’i who would often take me to meetings as I did not drive at that time. She invited me to the local celebration of Baha’u’llah’s birthday and it was nice to meet people who I had not seen in a few years. At the celebration I presented her with the Baha'i ringstone calligraphy, which I made for her on special Japanese stationery. The Baha'i ringstone is one of the symbols of the Baha'i Faith. Going forward, I hope to be able to take part in future gatherings of the Baha’i community.
Looking back on my decade of friendship with the local Baha’i community, I can say that I have benefited from the warm atmosphere of peace and friendship fostered by the Baha’i religion.
Robert C. Piemme is an undergraduate student (international relations) and avid gardener, hiker and writer.