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Baha'i Faith


Hisiger: Enlightening look at the Baha’i faith

  

The humble, yet self-assured manner of Brighton resident Tabby Anvari belies her turbulent past. As a member of the Baha’i faith, the Tehran, Iran, native experienced religious persecution that included imprisonment and martyrdom of relatives.

At 15, Anvari’s mother brought her to the U.S. , in keeping with the custom of well-to-do families to send their children abroad during high school. The difficulty of separation from her family was further compounded by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Not only was her father imprisoned as a consequence of the revolution, but also the political upheaval prevented Anvari from seeing her family for 16 years. Since her initial departure, Anvari has not returned to Iran, though she has been reunited with her parents.

What internal forces sustained her during those lonely days and beyond? For Anvari the answer is clear: the monotheistic Baha’i faith — a faith that permeates every aspect of her life. In this, she joins more than 5 million adherents worldwide and some 340 Baha’i faithful, in Rochester.

Origins of the Baha’i faith

Baha’i, meaning “Follower of the Glory of God,” was founded in mid-19th century Persia by a divine messenger known as the “Bab” or “gate” to spiritual enlightenment. Through his teachings and those of his successors, adherents of the Baha’i faith move toward the ultimate goal of world peace, justice and unity of mankind.

Practice of the faith

A distinguishing feature of Baha’i practice is the seamless flow between prayer and service, or what Anvari calls “the action piece of prayer.” Each is an integral part of the other. Ultimately, both prayer and service facilitate an endless loop of greater achievement and attainment of spiritual goals.

While there is a Baha’i House of Worship, “the concept of prayer is integrated into daily life, it is not limited to a location or day of the week,” Anvari explains. There are, however, nine Holy Days celebrated annually and 19 Feast Days when Baha’is join together in a communal gathering to focus on a particular divine attribute they wish to emulate. “In between,” says Anvari, “we are engaged in many other community-building activities such as the spiritual education of children, with particular emphasis on the empowerment of junior youth (children between the ages of 11 and 14), and the continuous study of various holy texts of the faith.”

Service may take the form of study circles or dinner and discussion get-togethers at members’ homes. The rhythm and posture of learning is a lifelong practice beginning at age 5 until death.

“Life for me as a Baha’i is about recognition of God’s unending love for us and responding to the guidance given to us for today,” says Jaci Ayorinde.  “My joy comes from service and working with others to build a better world.”

Unlike other religions, the Baha’i have no clergy. Instead, they have Spiritual Assemblies ranging from local up to the international level. A Local Spiritual Assembly consists of nine adult members, ages 21 and up, who are annually elected by secret ballot, based upon their spiritual qualities, to serve the faith community as well as the general community.

Anvari has served on a number of Local Spiritual Assemblies in various cities and currently serves as secretary for Brighton’s Local Spiritual Assembly as well as on the Regional Baha’i Council of Northeastern States.

“I once heard it said, ‘No one wants a religion that doesn’t transform you.’ Well, the Baha’i faith certainly has transformed me,” says local artist Carey Corea.

“Consciousness of the oneness of God, the oneness of his messengers and the oneness of the human race have had great spiritual impact on me,” he explains. His faith has informed his art and has allowed him to “have spiritual conversations with people of all religions, races, nationalities and social classes in a spirit of love and fellowship.”

This type of spiritual conversation is second nature to Anvari. Thanks to her parents’ strongly held belief in the Baha’i principle of universal education and investigation of the truth, Anvari had the opportunity to study Jewish, Muslim and Armenian Christian traditions alongside her own faith.

Having first arrived in Rochester 30 years ago, after her husband was recruited by Kodak, Anvari today brings her considerable knowledge and talents to bear as managing director and co-owner, along with her husband, of FACIEN, a marketing services firm on East Avenue, providing strategy and marketing for small and medium-sized businesses.

Arlene Hisiger is a freelance writer in the Rochester area.

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