In 1844, a 25-year-old Persian merchant named Sayyed ʿAlí Muḥammad Shírází had a realization. He took on the title of Báb, meaning gateway or door, and began to preach through his letters and books of the imminent arrival of a messianic figure, “He whom God shall make manifest.” Much like John the Baptist’s presaging of Jesus Christ, the Báb’s message struck a chord, and within a few years he accumulated thousands of followers. The Persian government, feeling threatened by the new movement, imprisoned and executed him in 1850. The movement grew, however, and in 1863 a follower of the Báb, Baháʼu’lláh, claimed that he, in fact, was that prophet.
Imprisoned and in exile for most of his life, Baháʼu’lláh nonetheless produced over 18,000 written works which comprise, along with the Báb’s revelations, the scripture and teachings of the religion known as the Baháʼí Faith.
The Baháʼí Faith believes in three unities: God, Religion and Humanity. The Baháʼí teach that faith is a progressive thing, that throughout the ages various messengers of God have appeared on Earth—Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammed and so on—with their own revelations. Hence there is an order and unity among all religions and in turn amongst all the races, nationalities and cultures of the world. The “rational soul” of human beings, the Baháʼí believe, enables all of us to recognize our relationship to the creator and that the way to get closest to him through the various religions is by means of prayer, spiritual practice and service to others.
The gift of the Baháʼí Faith is a welcoming religious practice that recognizes and honors all the faiths that have come before it. Indeed, the symbols of many religions may be seen inscribed on the pillars of the various Baháʼí Houses of Worship around the world, from Wilmette, Illinois, to Sydney, Australia, to Haifa, Israel.
Small wonder, then, that members of the Baháʼí faith work against prejudice in all its forms, champion the brotherhood and equality of all races, fight against poverty and take quite literally Baháʼu’lláh’s bidding: “Let your vision be world embracing.”
In pursuing the goal of a world at peace as a result of a unifying concept of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life, Baháʼís work closely with governments and the private sector. The Baháʼí International Community (BIC) is an organization representing Baháʼís, chartered with the United Nations in 1948 and which now has affiliates in over 180 countries and territories.
The BIC strives to “promote world peace by creating the conditions in which unity emerges as the natural state of human existence.” Accordingly, the BIC works with its governmental and nongovernmental partners to develop a united and sustainable civilization, along with human rights, the advancement of women, universal education, the encouragement of just economic development, and the protection of the environment.
The BIC has offices in the UN in Geneva and New York, has consultant status with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and works closely with other agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The gift of the Baháʼí Faith is a vision of world peace and unity amongst all religions, all races and cultures, and active work toward realizing that vision—all in keeping with their prophet, Baháʼu’lláh’s words:
“If the learned and worldly-wise men of this age were to allow mankind to inhale the fragrance of fellowship and love, every understanding heart would apprehend the meaning of true liberty, and discover the secret of undisturbed peace and absolute composure.”