All over the world, Baha’i communities are preparing for the 200 year anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, which will be celebrated on 21 and 22 October 2017.
Already in the month leading up to this significant occasion, commemorations have been held in a growing number of countries.
Following the tribute of India’s President in April, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and newly-elected President Ram Nath Kovind have released messages for the occasion of the two hundred year anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah.
“Baha’i Faith gives the world a vision of universal brotherhood,” wrote Prime Minister Modi in his letter to the Baha’i community of India. “Its messages of love and respect aim to make the world a beautiful place that celebrates harmony and peace.”
Speaking of the Baha’i community in India, he wrote: “Since the revelation of the Prophet Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Faith has found wholehearted acceptance in India, where one of its most dynamic communities has flourished since then.” And he further commented that institutions such as the Baha’i House of Worship—referred to as the Lotus Temple—”epitomize” the “spirit of fellowship and universal brotherhood.”
President Ram Nath Kovind, who assumed office at the end of July this year, addressed his own message to the Baha’is, writing, “India’s well-being depends on the ever greater commitment among its citizens to the principle of unity in diversity … The exertions of the Baha’i community offer hope that the goal of oneness can be achieved.”
Other officials in India—including the former President, the Vice President, high-ranking members of the national government, and the Chief Minister of one of the states of India, and a number of local officials—have also released statements in honor of the bicentenary.
In Pakistan, Member of Parliament Asiya Nasir hosted a gathering at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services in honor of the upcoming bicentenary. In her work, Ms. Nasir has been involved with initiatives for interfaith coexistence and harmony, and the celebration held on 12 September 2017 was no exception.
Over 100 parliamentarians, diplomats, and religious leaders were invited to attend the gathering, the theme of which was based on a well-known passage from Baha’u’llah: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 167.
Ms. Nasir was among a number of speakers at the event whose presentations highlighted this crucial theme.
“This event brought together representatives from many diverse religious groups—Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Baha’i—to celebrate unity,” said Marzieh Kamal, a representative from the Baha’i community.
The conference was organized following a message from the Federal Minister of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony in Pakistan to the Baha’i community.
“Peace and unity are the pivotal teachings of the Baha’i Faith, and the Baha’i community of Pakistan are a peace loving community,” wrote Federal Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf in a letter dated 16 August 2017. “Their contribution towards the betterment of individual, society and the country are truly admirable and have been in harmony with efforts being made by our Government of Pakistan.”
Federal Minister Yousaf concluded his message by offering well wishes to the Baha’i community and expressing his confidence in its continued efforts to work for the peace, progress, and prosperity of Pakistan.
More tributes in honor of the bicentenary from local and national leaders from diverse parts of the world continue to be received by Baha’i communities, most recently from Australasia, Central Asia, and South America.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English has addressed a message to the Baha’i community of his country. “Many in New Zealand and around the world will be celebrating this very special anniversary, and I hope you enjoy the festivities with your family and friends,” he states in his letter.
Earlier in the year, in his message to the Baha’i community of Australia on the occasion of Ridvan, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote an uplifting tribute, acknowledging this special bicentenary year.
“Australia’s Baha’is are a community of warmth and welcome; a community of music and charity; a community that rejoices in its identity and yet extends its counsel of respect and equality to all,” wrote Prime Minister Turnbull in April. “We are truly citizens of the world and our shared commitment to friendship, inclusion and harmony is what lies at the heart of our success.”
In Kazakhstan, the Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs and Civil Society, Berik Aryn, addressed a letter to the Baha’i community there, writing:
“We hope that the followers of the Baha’i Faith will, through their spiritual service, promote the further consolidation of the strong relationship between government entities and religious groups, as well as between the different faith groups in Kazakhstan.”
In Argentina, a number of local and regional officials in the province of Santa Fe have sent video greetings to the Universal House of Justice and to the city of Haifa.
Other gestures from officials in Rosario, Argentina, have included a number of municipal and provincial decrees, radio interviews, a flag-raising celebration, and messages of greeting.