200th anniversary of birth

Deanna Way and Sharon Dickison in the Baha'i Peace Garden. Photo: Bruce Barnard.

They’ll gather in the early morning gloom on the slopes of Hopukioe or Mount Drury.

About 50 people all told – and adherents of the global faith of Baha’i. And as the sun rises on Saturday, October 21, there will be readings and prayers to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i. It will be the beginning of a weekend of celebration

“A very special, significant occasion for us,” says Tauranga Baha’i Shane Blake. “But it will be very simple, very straightforward; more spiritual than dogmatic.” And just 30-45 minutes long with all invited.

It’s a dawn devotional service that could be replicated in more than 100 communities around New Zealand and 100,000 communities worldwide.

“The principles of the Baha’i faith are unity; an acceptance of all religions. We see all religions as having the same source. It promotes the equality of men and women, the abolition of racism, the reduction of extremes of wealth and poverty. It aims to bring harmony to science and religion and to establish a world commonwealth based on the twin principles of unity and justice,” says Shane.

So Baha’i is a faith of acceptance and tolerance which operates quietly and almost invisibly in Tauranga – meeting 19 times a year, 19 days apart in accordance with the Baha’i calendar and generally in various people’s homes for a couple of hours in the evening.

And there’s a garden – ‘The Unity Garden\ – marking the principles and work of the Baha’i faith in the Te Puna Quarry.

Another bigger function celebrating the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah will be held on Sunday, October 22 at The Olive Tree Cottage in Pyes Pa at 1.30pm.

“There will be lots of items, a big programme,” says Baha’i Deanna Way. “Youth will be performing, there will be cultural performances, singing – a real festival.”

The man they’ll be celebrating was born in 1817 in Iran. Baha’is are still persecuted for their beliefs in Iran and have called on the government to end ‘human rights violations’. Baha’is liken the birth of Baha’u’llah to a “spiritual springtime destined to bring about the unity of humanity.”

It is a faith which has slow traction in Tauranga but which enjoys huge growth in India and South America. Baha’is claim to be the second most widespread religion in the world with communities in nearly every country.

For more information or to register for the festival email sharon.dickison@gmail.com