The Baha’i teachings have a grand, unique vision for the entire world.
That vision involves the unity of the planet, the oneness of the races and the harmony of all religions. It also involves, for the first time in human history, the construction of Houses of Worship that welcome everyone in every locality.
The Baha’i House of Worship, also known as “the dawning place of the remembrance of God” (or, in Arabic, Mashriqu’l-Adhkar), focuses on communal unity and prayer, and opens its doors to all, regardless of Faith or lack of it. The Baha’i teachings say that the heart of every village, town and city should eventually have a House of Worship, not only as a dawning point of the remembrance of God, but as a profound symbol of the spiritual heart of every human being and its connection to the divine:
In reality, the radiant, pure hearts are the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar and from them the voice of supplication and invocation continually reaches the Supreme Concourse. I ask God to make the heart of every one of you a temple of the divine Temples and to let the lamp of the Great Guidance be lighted therein. And, when the hearts find such an attainment, they will certainly exert the utmost endeavour and energy in the building of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar. Thus may the outward express the inward and the form (or letter) indicate the meaning (or reality). – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 135.
Up until now, the global Baha’i community has built nine Houses of Worship, one on each continent of the world. The first, initially opened in 1907 in Russian Turkmenistan, suffered severe earthquake damage in 1948, and was later demolished in 1963. Eight “continental” Houses of Worship now exist: in Wilmette, Illinois in North America; in Kampala, Uganda in Africa; in Sydney, Australia; in Frankfurt, Germany in Europe; in Panama City, Panama in Central America; in Apia, Western Samoa in the Pacific Islands; in New Delhi, India in Asia; and one more currently under construction in Santiago, Chile, in South America.
Each of those Baha’i Houses of Worship draw visitors from all religions, backgrounds and ethnicities. They each symbolize the oneness of religion, with their nine-sided designs, and they each welcome any and all people. They belong to humanity.
Some two hundred community members from the region of Battambang in Cambodia gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion, beginning with prayers at dawn. The event coincided with the commemoration of the Twin Holy Birthdays—the Birth of the Bab and the Birth of Baha’u’llah.
Though yet unbuilt, the House of Worship has already become part of the fabric of community life in Battambang, and developments related to its construction are viewed as a collective endeavor, galvanizing the surrounding population. It is, as described by the Universal House of Justice, connecting “two essential, inseparable aspects of Baha’i life: worship and service”.
The groundbreaking commemorated in Cambodia yesterday marks a milestone—the first of its kind—among seven locations announced by the Universal House of Justice in 2012 to raise either a national or local Baha’i House of Worship in the coming years.