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Baha'i



     Few Stanford students know about Baha'i. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that the Baha'i community celebrated the anniversary of the 1912 Stanford visit of Abdu'l-Baha, son of the founder Baha'u'llah. All religions have some generally unacceptable elements, but the Baha'i message unusually is generous and open-minded.
     Like early Christians, persecuted because Christ proclaimed himself the Messiah, Baha'u'llah and his followers were persecuted because he made a similar claim. About 20,000 were killed. He was imprisoned in Acre, near Haifa, where the principal Baha'i shrine is located, on the slopes of Mount Carmel. When my wife and I were in Haifa, we wanted to visit it, but non-Baha'i are not allowed to enter. There were two Baha'i from New Zealand in the doorway, and they so informed us. When we asked how they knew we were not Baha'i, they said they just knew. I am still wondering about that.
     It is difficult to appreciate the worldwide impact Baha'i had at the turn of the century. I first became aware of it from the writings of the Spanish Neo-Catholic Emilia Pardo Bazán. The fact that Stanford President David Starr Jordan in 1912 invited Abdu'l Haba to Stanford to address the whole student body is testimony of the impact of the movement. The U.S. Bahai movement peaked in the 20s, when headquarters,with a splendid temple, were established in Wilmette, Illinois. The movement grew on campuses like Stanford.
     The Baha'i are still being persecuted in Iran, but we hear little about it. In September of this year, President Gerhard Casper and other university presidents signed a statement expressing concern about the arrest of 36 faculty and administrators of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education in Iran. I have no details, nor do I know the attitude of Khatami toward the Baha'i.

Ronald Hilton - 10/11/99


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