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I first encountered it as a part of my job responsibilities at the United Nations, while reading an interview with Rainn Wilson. Rainn was about to endorse the U.N.’s ‘WMD – We Must Disarm’ campaign against nuclear weapons leading up to the International Day of Peace on September 21 that year. I had not heard about Rainn before either –although I knew his TV series ‘The Office’, so I thought I better do a quick background check on him to see whom the U.N. would be affiliating ourselves with.
And there it was. That weird-sounding word: Baha’i. “What is that?” I asked myself.
One of my colleagues at least knew it was a religion, and described it to me as very liberal and open-minded — but that was it. What Rainn said in the interview sounded fine to me, and he definitely passed my U.N. background check, so I just went on with my work and did not think about it any longer.
After the campaign Rainn invited me to a fundraiser event for Haiti – before the dramatic earthquake happened there.
I had never been to Los Angeles and thought this event would be a great excuse to get away from New York for a bit. David Langness, our pro bono PR consultant at the UN at the time, and his wonderful wife Teresa attended the event as well as many other Baha’is (I later learned).
What I noticed there was this warm welcome, appreciation, almost love and care from these people towards me, a total stranger from another part of the world. They were interested in me, asked questions and made me feel part of the group. I was asking myself: What is it with ‘these’ people? Why do they act like that? Who are they? I had never had such an intense feeling before, so I just knew there was something about them.
On one of the following days David and Teresa invited me for dinner at their house. I brought a bottle of wine although I did not drink myself at that time anymore, but I had learned that this is what you do in the U.S. Except not at a Baha’i house, I discovered that night. Teresa and David did not say a single word to convince me or teach me about the Faith, they just said they did not drink because of their Faith.
Curious, I started asking questions about the origin of the Faith and its principles. I wanted to find out what it was with ‘these’ people who were so welcoming, caring, interested in me and invited me to their home.
That day a deep friendship was born. I knew I wanted to get know Teresa, David and ‘these’ people better, wanted to be in touch with them, wanted to become friends with them. This amazing couple who had taught me first about the Faith opened up a whole world of contacts with other amazing people – Baha’is from all over the world with interesting backgrounds and progressive ideas and warm spirits. We have kept in touch all this time and there has always been this deep connection of friendship and love. Perhaps this quote from the Baha’i writings explains it best:
The advent of the prophets and the revelation of the Holy Books is intended to create love between souls and friendship between the inhabitants of the earth. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 363.
By now my first Baha’i friends are not the only ones. At this point I have met so many Baha’is around the world – in my home country, Germany, and in many other lands. I share this closeness and deep friendship with them that usually begins to evolve the minute I meet them.
To me, the adventure and exploration of the Baha’i Faith began with the people — these amazing, loving, caring, talented, genuinely kind and welcoming people whom I have been feeling so drawn to and enjoy spending time with. This is what the Faith is about for me – the people. Their faith seems to transform them to some of the most wonderful human beings and the best friends you can ever meet in life.