Over the weekend of Oct.21 and 22, millions of members of the Baha’i religion around the world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman and the founder of the faith, who is considered a prophet by the Baha’is.
Locally, Baha’is in Rancho Santa Fe and surrounding communities will gather at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club Sunday, Oct. 22 for a luncheon to celebrate the bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s birth, an event that is free and open to the public as well as Baha’is.
Considered one of the youngest of the world’s major religions, the Baha’i faith teaches the unity of the human race, with such tenets as the equality of the sexes, that science and religion go hand in hand, and that all religions share a single deity, said Nava Ghalili, a Rancho Santa Fe resident and one of the organizers of the Oct. 22 luncheon.
The religion was founded in the 19th century in Persia, which today is the nation of Iran.
The Baha’i faith has no clergy and is governed by elected councils at the local, national and international level.
In the Baha’i tradition, each member of the faith has his or her own personal relationship with God, said Ghalili. “There is no middle man.”
In the administrative district that includes Rancho Santa Fe, there are about 60 or 70 members of the Baha’i community, said Ghalili, and there are about 3,000 Baha’is throughout San Diego County.
The religion’s international governing body is called the Universal House of Justice, which is based in Haifa, Israel. The bicentenary is the first time the international body has asked Baha’is around the world to celebrate such a milestone simultaneously, said Ghalili.
“This is very special,” she said.
Also working on the bicentenary luncheon is Chris Weixelman, a resident of the Bel Etage community near 4S Ranch, who joined the Baha’i faith in 1980, when he lived in Boulder, Colorado.
Weixelman is helping create the event program, as well as setting up the audio and video equipment. The celebration may also include live music, he said.
Although Baha’is strongly believe in the unity of all mankind, they also recognize the diversity of the different cultures of humanity.
“We Baha’is hold that diversity very dearly, we keep that and cherish that,” he said.
That’s why he is so excited at the prospect of millions of people from all walks of life coming together to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s birth. “To me that’s just amazing,” Weixelman said.
Weixelman, a father of four, said all of his children, aged 19 to 27, have embraced the Baha’i faith. One of the things that drew him into the faith, Weixelman said, was the concept of “progressive revelation,” meaning that each major religion has built on the religions that came before it.
“We are one people, there is one God and all religions stem from one religion,” he said.
Ghalili said the central body of the Baha’i faith has created a video about Baha’u’llah’s life and principles, which may be shown at the celebration. Also, speakers will talk about “what Baha’is are doing to live out these principles and serve our communities with them,” she said.
Along with special events such as the bicentenary, the Baha’is have a number of ongoing programs for children, teens and adults, both to discuss the tenets of Baha’i faith and Baha’u’llah’s teachings, as well as public service.
Baha’is are involved with social issues on a governmental level, said Ghalili, but they stay away from partisan politics. “We’re not involved in anything that might separate one person from another.”
“The point is to bring people together with the recognition we are one,” Weixelman said. “If you can reach out to your neighbors... and really care about them, you create a change in the fiber of the community.”
Anyone interested in attending the Oct. 22 luncheon, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, 15150 San Dieguito Road, Rancho Santa Fe, is asked to RSVP at SD5Bahais@gmail.com or 858-376-7095. For more information on the bicentenary celebration, visit https://bicentenary.bahai.org/.