The National Spiritual Assembly of Bahá’ís of Bermuda elected new members last week.
It is an exercise that takes place during the annual Riḍván festival.
The 12-day festival, one of the holiest holidays for the Bahá’í Faith, was observed from April 19 through May 1 this year. Blythe Walker, one of the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly members, reflects on what Riḍván represents.
“The Bahá’í Faith began, appropriately enough, in a colourful garden called the Garden of Riḍván, which means paradise,” he said.
“Bahá’u’lláh’s momentous declaration inaugurating the Bahá’í Faith took place over a 12-day period in this garden before his banishment to Constantinople – now Istanbul – the capital of the Ottoman Empire.”
He continued: “During that fateful springtime, Bahá’u’lláh’s symbolic sojourn in the verdant Riḍván garden ensued after weeks of tragically sorrowful times for his friends, followers and family.
“But in the midst of all that fear and sadness, Bahá’u’lláh proclaimed the mission of his new faith, and that profound announcement transformed the occasion of his banishment from tragedy to triumph.”
Because Bahá’ís have no clergy, the Spiritual Assembly refers to the elected councils that govern the Bahá’í Faith and carry out their affairs on behalf of the community.
“At this time every year, Bahá’ís worldwide celebrate the occasion and begin a new administrative year by electing local and national governing bodies,” Mr Walker said.
“Once again, pandemic restrictions necessitated an electronic online voting process. As always, votes were cast privately, without nomination or electioneering, following prayerful reflection by 19 democratically elected delegates, members of the adult Bahá’í community on the island.”
Bermuda’s newly elected National Spiritual Assembly members are: Georgia Symonds, Cheryl Peek-Ball, Bavand Etemadi, Oswald Hinds, Blythe Walker, Tanisha Edwards, Read Currelly, Anthony Ball and Shyama Ezekiel-Fagundo.
In addition to the election of members, the assembly also elected four local spiritual assemblies in Pembroke, Paget, Hamilton and Smith’s parishes.
“As Bahá’ís gather to pray and privately cast their ballots for the institutions that will help inspire and guide them through the year, they affirm their faith’s teachings on the oneness of humanity, symbolically renew their covenant with Bahá’u’lláh, and redeem that momentous declaration in the Garden of Riḍván, affirming the structure of a living, unified global community established in Bahá’u’lláh’s name,” Mr Walker added.
Bermuda is one of 170 countries where the Bahá’í Faith can be found. Originating out of Iraq on April 21, 1863, the Bahá’í Faith is one of the world’s “newest independent religions”.
The faith is based on the teachings of unity and spiritual renewal revealed through Bahá’u’lláh, the Divine Educator.
Bahá’u’lláh taught that there is one God, who has revealed His will to humanity through different people. As such, Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, the Bab and Bahá’u’lláh are all believed to have proclaimed the same message at different times in humanity’s history.
These people are all manifestations of God according to Bahá’u’lláh, who also taught that all of the manifestations of God have the same foundation and spiritual purpose. No one of them is superior to another.
Bahá’u’lláh used the sun as an analogy to describe the oneness of God. He likened God to the sun, the unique source of life in the universe; he likened the manifestations of God to the rays of the sun. All the rays are derived from the same source and point humanity back to it.
Bahá’u’lláh also taught that every human being has a unique purpose to help bring about a unified world. His teachings are recorded in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh or The Hidden Words.
There has been opposition to Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings in some parts of the world, specifically Islamic countries. However, the faith continues to grow. The fundamental principles of the oneness of God, oneness of religion and oneness of humanity resonate with the hearts of many.
In addition to those core beliefs there are other social teachings that inspire Bahá’ís to live peaceful and tranquil lives. Some of these teachings include freedom from prejudice, equality of the sexes, harmony between religion and science, the value of education and the elimination of poverty.
“The teachings offer progressive principles and guidance for the world’s seemingly intractable challenges while reaffirming the spiritual verities outlined by the prior messengers of God,” Mr Walker said.
For more information on the Bahá’í Faith and the Bermuda National Spiritual Assembly visit www.bermudabahai.org