Begun in Persia (now Iran) in 1863, the Bahá’í Faith is a world religion that has members in every country and territory on Earth. Estimates of the world-wide population are between 5 to 7 million.
Members of the religion, known as Bahá’ís, follow the teachings of the Faith’s founder, known as Bahá’u’lláh. Bahá’u’lláh began espousing religious, or spiritual ideas that focus on the essential oneness of the human race and the indivisible oneness, unity and love of God . He, his family and a small band of followers were forced into a series of exiles that led to incarceration in the Ottoman prison city Akka, located just north of Haifa. Although they were initially labeled as heretical outcasts, the followers of the Faith have made many improvements and cultural contributions to the area. The Shrine of The Báb, pictured above, is located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, is a point of pilgrimage for Bahá’ís, and is a popular tourist location (local newlyweds in Haifa now have a tradition of being photographed at the lower gate with the dome of the Shrine in view-it brings good luck!)
Of course not all Bahá’ís live in Haifa, only a few who are on staff with temporary work visas. Bahá’ís inhabit every niche of human society. Part of the strength of the religion is the very diverse background of its members, who come from every economic, racial, national or religious background, yet follow a religion based on love, acceptance, and joyful utilization of that diversity.
The religion continues to grow not only in numbers, but in attributes. Many Bahá’ís follow loosely structured programs of both personal and community growth, learning how to apply principles and the development of attributes to their lives. Bahá’u’lláh told his followers that the human race has reached a point of maturity, both spiritually and intellectually. As there is no clergy or ecclesiastical order in the religion, Bahá’ís build their lives based on some of the following principles;
The oneness of humanity; independent and unfettered investigation of the truth; the progression of a core foundation of religions; religion as the source of unity; the correspondence between true science and true religion; the equality of men and women; the elimination of all forms of prejudice; compulsory education for all; a spiritual solution to economic problems.