Over 50 people joined the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Bahá’í Faith’s annual reception yesterday, which took place online this year.
The celebration of the Twin Holy Days, commemorating the births of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Herald and Prophet of the Bahá’í faith respectively, focused on the theme of hope and resilience.
MPs, journalists, interfaith representatives and Bahá’ís gathered to listen to music, storytelling and stories of the community building activities that have continued providing hope even during the months of lockdown.
Alistair Carmichael, MP, opened the programme of behalf of the APPG. In his speech, he spoke about the current pandemic and how communities across the UK have been responding to it. He said: “In every situation there are always some positives to be found and I think that the reawakening of the strong sense of community and a willingness of people to look out for the rest of their neighbours, their families, the magnificent effort we’ve seen in communities coming together...Just looking after each other, has been one of the positives for me.”
He went on to praise the Bahá’í community’s efforts in serving others and to highlight the privilege of freedom of religion and belief that the UK enjoys, specifically drawing attention to the constructive resilience of the Bahá’ís in Iran and Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.
Lord Greenhaulgh, the Minister for Communities, tweeted his well wishes for the celebration.
A representative of the National Spiritual Assembly, the elected body that helps to guide the UK Bahá’í community, spoke about finding hope in times of difficulty. She said: “There is a greater urgency to work for higher degrees of unity – and what is positive is that the incontestable truth of humanity’s oneness is becoming more apparent to larger and larger numbers.
“It is perhaps by looking at how to sustain this spirit of collective strength, especially in small settings and neighbourhoods, that the Bahai community has been learning about the many creative opportunities there have been in recent times, to strengthen friendships and foster a spirit of unity, through its community building activities and educational programmes, even during such challenging times as we’ve been experiencing.”
A story of the life of Baha’u’llah, which demonstrated the resilience shown by Him during a life consisting of great turmoil, was followed by accounts from young members of the Bahá’í community who are contributing to building patterns of community life in their neighbourhoods. These young people shared stories from London, Manchester and Edinburgh, explaining how they used this period not to pause their activities, but to re-focus so they were still able to serve their friends and neighbours while navigating the global health crisis. As a result, each individual felt that they had developed even closer bonds of friendship than previously, highlighting the power of unity and service in drawing populations closer together even during moments of crisis.
The young person from London spoke about the impact of lockdown on the young people they have been mentoring for four years, he said: “It was incredible to see how this period of lockdown had really fostered an appreciation of their local communities, and inspired in them the desire to help make their neighbourhoods better places to live.”
This was echoed by both Edinburgh and Manchester’s representatives. The youth from Edinburgh, where activities included supporting children to acquire virtues like love and kindness, said: “Everyone has seized the opportunity to serve others, which helps us in building vibrant and supportive communities. I’m sure these bonds of friendship and community resilience will endure.”
Similarly, the young person from Manchester, where the young people had been baking cupcakes for a local homeless shelter, shared that “The process of community building is never centred around grand gestures, but daily acts that try and build strong bonds of unity within our community.”
The APPG for the Bahá’í faith raises awareness of the Bahá’í community and its contributions to British society, raises awareness of the work of the community in the realms of national conversations on social cohesion and the role of religion, and also seeks action in respect of the persecution of Bahá'ís in Iran and other instances where Bahá'ís are subject to discrimination on the grounds of their faith.