Journalists and other media professionals seeking information about the Australian Baha’i community and its activities can:
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Information for media
Name of the religion: The Baha’i Faith
Origins: The Baha’i Faith is an independent world religion. It arose out of the matrix of Islam in Iran, much as Christianity emerged from the matrix of Judaism. It is not a sect or denomination of Islam or any other religion.
Terminology: A member is called a Baha’i (plural: Baha’is). It is also correct to say that someone is a “member of the Baha’i Faith,” a “follower of the Baha’i Faith,” a “follower of Baha’u’llah,” or a member of the Baha’i community of a given locality.
‘Abdu’l-Baha: Abdul ba-HAH
Founder of the Baha’i Faith: Baha’u’llah – the name is Arabic for “Glory of God” – was born in 1817 in Tehran, Iran, and passed away in 1892 in Acre in the Holy Land. The coming of Baha’u’llah was announced by the Bab (1819-1850), who is also considered by Baha’is to be a divine Messenger.
Year of founding: 1844. The first announcement by the Bab of the new religion came in 1844.
Year of arrival in Australia: 1920. The Baha’i Faith was introduced to Australia in 1920 by John Henry Hyde Dunn and Clara Dunn.
- Internationally: The Universal House of Justice, a nine-member institution elected every five years with its seat at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
- Nationally: The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, a nine-member body elected annually, oversees the affairs of the Baha’i Faith in Australia.
- Locally: 200 annually elected Local Spiritual Assemblies oversee local affairs throughout Australia.
Elections are conducted according to guidelines that prohibit nominations and campaigning, and instead require those casting ballots to vote, with a prayerful attitude, for individuals “of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognised ability and mature experience.”
Decision making: Contention is avoided in favour of a consensus decision making process called consultation. There is no clergy. There are no rituals, robes or special clothing.
Funds: Baha’i activities and properties are supported by the voluntary contributions of registered Baha’is.
Number of Baha’is in the world: more than 5 million
Number of Baha’is in Australia: 20,000
Number of Local Spiritual Assemblies in Australia: 200
Number of Baha’i communities in Australia: 400
Description of the religion and key beliefs: The Baha’i Faith is a modern, independent, monotheistic religion established in virtually every country of the world. A central theme of the Baha’i Faith is that humanity is one family, a single people inhabiting the planet Earth, bound together in a common destiny under one God. Baha’is believe that the world’s major religions represent unfolding chapters in God’s teachings for humankind, and that the writings of Baha’u’llah represent God’s guidance for this age.
Key Baha’i principles:
- equality of women and men
- abolition of extremes of poverty and wealth
- elimination of all forms of prejudice
- equal standard of human rights for all people
- harmony of science and religion
Some Baha’i laws:
- strict obedience to the laws of the land
- no participation in partisan politics
- encouragement of community and religious harmony
- prohibition on using alcohol and other mind-altering drugs
- prohibition on backbiting (gossip)
- Daily prayer
- Fasting by adults for 19 days in March from sunrise to sunset.
- Meeting regularly at the Nineteen Day Feast (the term refers to a spiritual “feast” of prayers, consultation and fellowship). Some localities have a Baha’i meeting centre , but in many towns, Baha’is gather in members’ homes.
- Observing nine holy days on which work should be suspended.
- Participating in community building activities: public devotional gatherings, children’s classes, empowerment programs for youth, and study circles
- The spiritual and administrative centre of the Baha’i Faith is permanently established in the Acre-Haifa area of northern Israel, in accordance with the instructions of Baha’u’llah, who arrived as an exile in the Holy Land in 1868.
- The Baha’i Faith is established in virtually every country of the world.
- The Baha’i International Community has been registered with the United Nations as a non-governmental organisation since 1948.
- There are eight continental Baha’i Houses of Worship – in Australia, Chile, Germany, India, Panama, Samoa, Uganda, and the United States.
- The country with the most Baha’is is India, with over a million Baha’is.
- In Iran, where the Baha’i Faith originated, there are now about 300,000 Baha’is, constituting the largest non-Muslim religious minority in that country.