Following the execution of his teacher Siyyid ‘Ali Mohammad (Bab) in 1844, Bahá'u'lláh was exiled from his home in the Persian Empire to live out his remaining years in the neighboring Ottoman Empire. Bahá'u'lláh’s claim to Abrahamic heritage had proven too much for the Qajar Dynasty who had grown increasingly troubled by his syncretic view of Krishna, Jesus, Zoroaster and other spiritual messengers throughout history. Avowed to fulfill their collective prophecy, Bahá'u'lláh’s teachings’ spread quickly throughout a divided west before planting firm roots in the U.S.
Born Mírzá Ḥusayn-`Alí Núrí in modern day Tehran, Bahá'u'lláh studied under Bab, the founder of the Babism Movement which built on its Shiite roots to develop a message uniquely its own. Determined to fulfill the mission of his predecessor, the displaced leader created a new tradition during his forty-year imprisonment (terms of his exile), one that found power not in absolutist exclusivity, but rather an interconnectivity of all traditions and their shared values. Bahá'u'lláh called his teachings the Bahá'í Faith.
"I have never aspired after worldly leadership. My sole purpose hath been to hand down unto men that which I was bidden to deliver by God..."
Bahá'u'lláh’s son `Abdu'l-Bahá carried his father's message throughout Europe and America to new audiences — receptions that throughout the decades included Queen Marie of Romania and the actor Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from The Office and co-creator of Soul Pancake). The message `Abdu'l-Bahá delivered was clear, value-based, and concisely captured in three core principles.
- The oneness of God: The only source of all creation is God
- The oneness of humanity: All humans are created equal by God
- The oneness of religion: All major religions come from God
On a January morning in 1950, Bahá'í communities gathered around the world to share these teachings commonly referred to as the “three onenesses.” The inaugural World Religion Day had been organized by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (the national Bahá'í governing council) who sought to unify people of faith and to promote and continue Bahá'u'lláh’s message of interfaith social action.
The event was honored in many different ways, but all participants sought to define in very clear terms the Bahá'í notion that all faiths are created by God and that all humans are connected regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. Indefinitely scheduled for the third Sunday of every January, the global event continues to offer an opportunity for all people of faith to gather and connect on their shared values to address the major issues facing humanity.
The US Bahá'í Office of Public Affairs (OPA) has long positioned the protection of God’s creation as a paramount issue among these concerns. Their salient leadership on climate change is one of the many reasons that Blessed Tomorrow is proud to partner with the OPA community.
Here are just a few examples of their climate leadership over the past few decades.
- OPA works with the U.S. Bahá'í community to encourage their participation in Interfaith Power and Light’s annual National Preach-In on Climate Change.
- OPA representatives have served in advisory roles for Interfaith Power and Light.
- OPA representatives have served on the steering committee of the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change.
- OPA representatives regularly give presentations at Bahá'í schools across the country to promote climate leadership at the local level.
- OPA joined over 1,200 other signatories in endorsing the Climate Ethics Campaign’s statement, “Our Nation’s Moral Obligation to Address Climate Change.”
- OPA representatives opened a White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and the Environmental Protection Agency event with a speech on the “Power of Interfaith Collaboration.”
- OPA’s representatives have attended meetings for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to share Bahá'í perspectives on climate ethics and to assist in drafting policy statements.
This short video explains how Bahá'í leaders “helped governments see things from an elevated viewpoint” by changing the way we talk about our “common homeland.”
If Bahá'í leaders were able to have that much influence on global governances, imagine the impact they could have over the next four years.
This year, World Religion Day falls on January 15th, just five days before a presidential inauguration that will solidify Donald Trump’s ascension to commander-in-chief. This makes 2017’s World Religion Day an ideal time to remind Donald Trump and his administration that faith leaders are watching and expecting nothing less than swift action in favor of the climate, the least of these, and the oneness of God’s creation.
World Religion Day events offer many activities including symposiums, festivals, and lectures! Contact your local temple to find one near you and connect with other faith communities to start a collaborative climate effort in your area.
“Nature is God’s Will and is its expression in and through the contingent world.”
Ryan Smith is a writer at Blessed Tomorrow. He received his master's degree in Religious Studies with an emphasis in faith and climate change from the University of California, Riverside.
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