In an extraordinary display of solidarity, 10 members of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies, representing eight political parties, gathered for a special session of Congress to speak, one after another, about the life and teachings of Baha’u’llah:
An essential principle of Baha’u’llah’s teaching is that religion must be the cause of unity and love amongst men; that it is the supreme effulgence of Divinity, the stimulus of life, the source of honor and productive of eternal existence. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 394.
Held in honor of the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the event—referred to as a Solemn Session—brought together over 350 people from 20 of Brazil’s 27 states. Included among them were representatives of two major indigenous groups, who had come on behalf of their people to honor the historic anniversary.
“To immerse oneself in Baha’u’llah’s teachings is to be immersed in the purest of humanity’s contributions to the world,” stated Congresswoman Erika Kokay in her remarks at yesterday morning’s event.
“The Baha’i community is, in a very concrete sense, intimately aware of the sufferings of humanity and at the same time of the nobility and beauty of the human condition. It is this beauty that gives us hope for the construction of a just and equal world,” she continued.
The special session, which was originally planned for some 50 minutes, ran for nearly two hours, as a series of representatives of the Chamber of Deputies—the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress—explored Baha’u’llah’s teachings for the betterment of the world and shared aspects of His life. Many of them were deeply moved and emotional as they addressed the diverse audience.
Noting Baha’u’llah’s central teachings, Congressman Chico Alencar spoke about the importance of the constructive contributions of true religion to social progress. Mr. Alencar also highlighted the sufferings of Baha’u’llah, explaining that throughout His life, Baha’u’llah endured oppression in order to bring teachings that would free humanity from it.
Many of the speakers remarked on the extraordinary, rarefied environment of the session.
“The atmosphere of reverence, the respect for the sacred, and the unified attention of all present, struck us deeply,” explained Carolina Cavalcanti, representative of the Baha’i community in Brazil. “Many of the congressmen mentioned how unusual it was that representatives from such divergent political parties could find themselves in such a state of agreement.
“They found that the teachings of Baha’u’llah connected with their highest aspirations. They saw in these principles what is important for promoting the well-being of humankind,” said Ms. Cavalcanti.
In an unusual break in protocol, one of the Congressman presiding over the session, summoned the Secretary of the National Assembly of the Baha’is of Brazil to the podium to address all present.
Congressman Luis Couto, who together with his colleague Erika Kokay had called for the Solemn Session, read out the statement of the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, for the occasion:
Many of the teachings of Baha’u’llah are present in our legal system like the equality of men and women, the elimination of prejudices of race, gender, social class, and others. Some of these ordinances that are part of our Constitution were proffered by Baha’u’llah in the nineteenth century.
“Baha’u’llah proposed a world unifying vision as the solution for many of the current troubles of humanity,” continued the statement. “He did this long before the creation of the United Nations, the European Union, and many other mechanisms of global integration. Actually, his objective was loftier than political and commercial alliances. He envisioned the brotherhood of all religions and ethnic groups through the spiritualization of the human character.”
Yesterday was not the first time the Baha’i Faith was recognized by Brazil’s highest legislative body. In 1992, a Solemn Session was held to pay tribute to Baha’u’llah on the centenary of His ascension.