News / Middle East

    Baha'is Mark Centenary of US Visit by Religious Leader

    The Baha'i faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century, but its adherents believe the United States has a special spiritual destiny. Baha'is are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of a visit to the United States by Abdu'l Baha, whom they call "The Master."  
    Abdu'l Baha arrived in the United States in April 1912 and traveled across the country by train. During the journey, he declared that America had the potential to "lead all nations spiritually."

    Abdu'l Baha, who was 68 at the time, was the son of the founder of the Baha'i faith, Baha'u'llah.

    "For Baha'is, it marked the first time in religious human history, that a holy member of a prophet of God's family had come to Western shores," says Layli Miller-Muro, a member of the Baha'i leadership assembly in Washington. "Most religions begin in the East, and we don't often have a direct descendent able to come to the West."

    • In 1912, Abdu’l Baha spent from April to December touring North America. He is shown here (at center) with Bahá’ís in Lincoln Park, Chicago, in 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha in the Revell home, Philadelphia, 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha with Agnes Parsons. Parsons was Baha's hostess during his stay in Washington, D.C. in 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha at Dr. Swingles Sanatorium, Cleveland, Ohio, May 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha with the Kinney family in their home, April 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha speaking at Plymouth Congregational Church, Chicago, May 5, 1912.
    • Mirzá Mihdí and Abdu'l Baha were brothers.
    • Abdu'l Baha at Greenacre, August 1912.
    • Abdu'l Baha in California, 1912.


    Many Americans were impressed by Abdu'l Baha's speeches and a number converted, including the ancestors of some of the more than 2,000 people who attended a recent commemorative event in Washington. Miller-Muro said the reception given to Abdu'l Baha is comparable to the way the Dalai Lama often is welcomed in the West.

    "He was on the front page of various newspapers," she said. "He met with diplomats, Alexander Graham Bell, Theodore Roosevelt, and his presence was important because he was known for being a great man of this great religion and it was widely known that he had been imprisoned for over 50 years."
    More than 5 million Baha'is are estimated to live around the world. They believe that all religions are valid as part of a progressive revelation of God's truth, and that Baha'u'llah, who was born in 19th century Persia and is now buried in Israel, was the most recent of God's messengers to humanity.

    "And so it would be silly as Baha'is to say that Baha'u'llah is any better than prophets of the past," Miller-Muro said.

    But Baha'is have had trouble in Islamic countries, mostly Iran, but also Egypt and Afghanistan. Muslims believe their Prophet Muhammed received God's final revelation.

    "Bahai religious groups reported arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, expulsions from universities, and confiscation of property," the U.S. State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report says about Iran. It says that about 300,000 Baha'is live in Iran, and under that country's application of Islamic law, they are considered to be apostates whose blood can be "spilled with impunity."

    "Their theology, their world view, their perspective, is in direct competition with the theological ideology of the Iranian regime," says Joseph Griebowski of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. He calls Baha'is "a wonderfully progressive and engaging religious community" and adds that while Iran is run by mullahs and restricts the liberties of women, Baha'is encourage female leadership and have no clergy.  

    Rosita Najmi organizes regular Baha'i devotional gatherings at her home in Washington and invites non-Bahai friends and neighbors to join in the ritual, which involves reading from inspired writings by a variety of religious and secular authors.

    "The devotional gathering is one way in which Baha'is can interact with people of any or no religious background, as a way to have an exchange of an elevated conversation," says Najmi, who said she is grateful the United States allowed her family to come as religious refugees.

    "If I were in Iran, I would not have been able to go to college or university," she said. "I would have had very limited employment opportunities, and not because I am a woman, but because I am a Baha'i."

    Here, she studied at Harvard, one of America's most prestigious universities.

    "I experience great guilt, and great sadness, for my Baha'i brothers and sisters who really just do not have a choice," she said.

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora