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I’ve been busy the last few weeks preparing for a two-week trip to South America. This has meant dealing with practical matters such as airline reservations, hotels, passports and tourist visas, side-trips, foreign currency, preparing my home for our absence, packing my bag and so on.
Necessary as these tasks may be, I realized this morning that I have let logistics distract me from reflecting on the purpose of the trip itself. So I sat down to write this essay about re-orienting my thinking to WHERE and especially WHY I am making such a long trek to help dedicate a new temple.
My husband John, my friend Barbara and I will attend the dedication of the new Baha’i House of Worship near Santiago, Chile. Many years in its anticipation, this is the last of the continental Houses of Worship to be built by the Baha’is—one on each of the world’s continents.
This House of Worship, like all of the others around the globe, has been “built by” Baha’is – but it has not been “built for” only the Baha’is. On the contrary, Baha’is offer these Houses of Worship as gifts to the entire world. Baha’i Houses of Worship, with their nine sides and entrances symbolizing the unity of all religions and the oneness of God, truly welcome everyone.
The concept of Baha’i Houses of Worship originated with Baha’u’llah, who wrote:
Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions… Then, with radiance and joy, celebrate therein the praise of your Lord, the Most Compassionate. – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 29.
Abdul-Baha elaborated further on the true purpose of Houses of Worship:
Thou hast asked about places of worship and the underlying reason therefor. The wisdom in raising up such buildings is that at a given hour, the people should know it is time to meet, and all should gather together, and, harmoniously attuned one to another, engage in prayer with the result that out of this coming together, unity and affection shall grow and flourish in the human heart. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 94.
In its original language of Arabic, a House of Worship is called a Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which translates as “dawning place of the remembrances of God.” That’s the kernel of the WHY for my visit. At the dedication of the South American House of Worship in Chile, each of the 5000 participants from scores of countries, representing the global nature and diversity of the Baha’i Faith, will connect with their own spiritual nature and with others who share Baha’u’llah’s peaceful vision for the future of our planet.
Literally millions of people, from all (or no specific) Faiths, visit the Baha’i Houses of Worship on the six other continents. These visitors find themselves attracted by the beauty, peaceful atmosphere, sincere welcome, warmth and universality of the Baha’i Houses of Worship.
Several years ago John and I visited the Baha’i House of Worship near Kampala, Uganda. The man (not a Baha’i) who drove us there said that he and his family often enjoy a picnic on the grounds, feeling drawn to the beauty and peacefulness so near an otherwise troubled and chaotic city.
In the future these continental and other more localized Houses of Worship will multiply, and their grounds will be surrounded by a constellation of related buildings that will offer social, health and educational services to everyone in the wider community. As I prepare to attend the ceremonies and celebration of the opening of the House of Worship in South America, I realize that the building itself is the outward sign of a great gift to the world, now and even more into the future.
Then, suddenly, I’ll find myself back home. Re-immersed into my everyday life, I’ll try to share my experiences and insights with others. I will probably mention the usual benefits of travel – exploring arts, history, culture, cuisine and friendliness of the locals. But far beyond that, I hope to absorb and express the higher thoughts that will come to me during moments of quiet reflection within the House of Worship, and to make it my own “dawning place.”
Follow the link below for a schedule and access to a live broadcast of the official dedication of the Chilé Baha’i Temple on October 13: