Bahá’í adherents around the world celebrate new year

Hebrew U conference in honor of 'Naw Rúz' begins Tuesday; 600 Baha'is march around Shrine of the Bab in Haifa.

temple bahai Haifa (photo credit: Courtesy)
temple bahai Haifa
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Members of the Bahá’í community marked their new year on Monday with ceremonies and celebrations around the world. An estimated five million adherents celebrated the “Naw Rúz,” which is Persian for “new day,” following a period of 19 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset, ending on the vernal equinox.
Jalal Hatami, deputy secretary- general of the Bahá’í International Community, noted ahead of the holy day that each Bahá’í community’s celebration reflected the unique character of the local culture, which adheres to the Bahá’í principle of unity through the beauty of variety.
There is no Israeli Bahá’í community, although the faith’s spiritual and administrative centers are located in the northern cities of Haifa and Acre, respectively. Some 600 Bahá’ís who are here, most of them volunteers at these centers, conducted a prayer session and short march around the Shrine of the Bab in Haifa.
The Bahá’í faith is a monotheistic religion founded in 1844, when a man in Persia declared himself the Bab (gate or portal) and took upon himself to prepare humanity for the imminent arrival of a religious leader, whose appearance would bring peace and prosperity.
In 1863, the Baha’u’llah declared himself to be that leader, and began spreading the message that humanity was a single race that should be unified. As a result, the Baha’u’llah and his family were in 1868 banished from their native Persia to the Turkish penal colony of Acre, where the Baha’u’llah died. He is buried just north of Acre, making the city the faith’s holiest site.
The Bab was reinterred on Haifa’s Mount Carmel, where magnificent gardens beautify the Shrine of the Bab, the religion’s second holiest site, in a picture of harmony that is one of the creed’s underlying principles.
The Bahá’í have no clergy and elect their managerial echelon in democratic votes.
The largest Bahá’í population today can be found in India.
In honor of the new year, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will hold on Tuesday and Wednesday an international conference on “Modern Religions and Religious Movements in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Babi-Bahá’í Faiths.”
“The circle of Bahá’í believers is expanding every year – especially in the Western world,” Prof. Moshe Sharon, the conference organizer and head of Bahá’í Studies at Hebrew University, said ahead of the conference.
“The number of Bahá’í believers has been increasing by about four percent a year, and in recent years there has been an increased penetration into new areas in eastern Europe.”
Receptions in honor of the Naw Rúz will be held later in the week in Jerusalem and Acre.