EDMOND, Okla. — A group of people weary of a divided world are about to celebrate unity.
The public is invited to local observances marking the births of the twin manifestations, the Bab and Baha’u’llah at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, honoring the Bab; and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, honoring Baha’u’llah. Both observances will be at the Edmond Baha’i Center, 321 E. Campbell Drive, said Terri Angier, a member of the Baha’i faith. Donations will not be accepted.
The Bab and Baha’u’llah’s birthdays are observed one day apart.
Born in 1819, the Bab is considered a central figure of the Baha’i Faith and a forerunner to Baha’u’llah, much like John the Baptist to Jesus, said Angier of Edmond. The Bab is considered to be a Baha’i profit. The Bab declared his mission to be the Gate to Baha’u’llah in 1844.
“The followers of the Bab are called Babis and they were urged by the Bab to look for the next messenger of God who will bring a message of unity, and referred to Baha’u’llah as ‘He whom God Shall make manifest,’” Angier said. “The Bab’s resting place is on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.”
Baha’u’llah was born in 1817, and is considered the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith, Angier said. Baha’is believe Baha’u’llah fulfilled all of the Bab’s prophecies, and brought the principles of universal peace and unity of all religions, races and nationalities, she added.
Baha’u’llah declared His mission in 1863 and was exiled from place to place until He was sent to the prison-city of Akka, today’s Israel. He died in 1893 and was buried in Akka, Israel.
A DEEPENED SPIRITUAL IDENTITY
Edmond Baha’i peacefully blend into the community. Verbus Counts, 72, is a semi-retired IT professional, who grew up in a South Carolina Christian environment and attended church for most of his childhood. His career took him to the Washington, D.C. metro area, Hawaii and then to Iran in 1974 where he married his first wife, who was a Persian Baha’i. She introduced him to the Baha’i faith, Counts said. The couple lived in Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong and Hawaii before his career took him back to Washington, D.C.
“So I was able to go all the way around the planet exploring, traveling and talking to people — getting a good sense of people of all different kinds,” Counts said.
In Washington, D.C. the couple began to have conversations about starting a family. His wife said it would be nice if the family could be of one faith. She asked Counts to decide the faith of their family.
“At this point I had been exposed to the Baha’i and the Baha’i writing, but I hadn’t really ever investigated it seriously,” Counts said. “And I was relatively okay with what I’d seen at that point. That required me to do some very serious investigation into the Baha’i life and the Baha’i faith.”
He found the Baha’i chain of reasoning to be intriguing. Baha’i writings helped him to understand his spiritual nature. He also found more meaning in Jesus Christ, Counts said.
A strong teaching of the Bab and Baha’u’llah is that they strongly complement the messengers of the past, he said.
“So as I explored this, I was finding I was in agreement with everything I was reading,” he said of his spiritual journey that began about 40 years ago.
Counts said he found himself not having to give up what he believed in Christianity, but to deepen his understanding.
EMPOWERMENT FOUND IN FAITH
Adasie Ferdiwsian gets a lot of questions about her faith as a third-generation Baha’i. She immigrated to the United States from Guyana. The 35-year-old has been an educator of the Baha’i faith for 10 years, and lives in Edmond. Her grandfather traveled to different cities in Guyana teaching the Baha’i faith. Her parents taught her of the Baha’i virtues of unity and love. Thirty percent of Guyana people are Baha’is, she said.
“My mom was so young — she became a Baha’i,” Ferdiwsian said. “I was born into the faith when I was 15 years old.”
She was asked if she wanted to become Baha’i or investigate other religions, she said. Guyana is a diverse country with six different races. She saw a lot of racism while growing up, she said, but her faith taught her to accept everyone as one.
“That helped me to overcome that part of my country,” she said.
Anissa Angier-Dunn, 28, and the K-12 staff education director for Edmond Public Schools said the Baha’i faith promotes peer unity and harmony. There is no room for racism or prejudice based on skin pigment, she said.
“All that does is hinder any progress that we want to make,” said Dunn, the daughter of Terri Angier.
Although Angier-Dunn was raised within the Baha’i faith, independent investigation is a serious principle of the Baha’i faith. It became completely her own initiative to explore faiths, and understand their essence and historical meaning.
“That’s on me as an individual,” Angier-Dunn explained. “And I remember though I was raised in a Baha’i household, it was very much, think for yourself — read the text — research on my own. And I was doing that in my early teens.”
She confirmed her belief as she was learning about other world faiths.
“And I kept coming back to the unity that Baha’i teaches of all those different faiths,” she said. “I also remember I had a question about the religious texts and I was trying to ask the adults around me. And they said, ‘You can look that up, and we will help you look that up, but it’s up to you to read and understand, and interpret.’”