Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

US & World Bahá'í News Feeds

WhatsApp? In Knoxville it’s documenting a neighborhood’s progress

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 7:59am

It started as a way for a small team of Baha’is and friends in Knoxville, Tennessee, to keep one another informed on community-building activities in a neighborhood.

Over time, the team’s WhatsApp thread has become so much more: a means of seeking and volunteering resources for the neighborhood effort, a living document of how activities in the neighborhood have grown, and an encouragement for other community-building efforts in the area.

“Our use of WhatsApp started when Azin Delavari, who came back to the USA from Australia, was talking about how in their community they used WhatsApp to keep a record of home visits and communication flow going,” explains Khoji Bahrami, a Baha’i member of the team.

That way, “Everyone knew which houses had been visited and the outcome,” she says. “So we decided to use it for our neighborhood efforts and to keep the community at large posted.” 

From the initial nucleus, says Bita Rahmanian, another key team member, the thread has attracted youths and other adults involved in the neighborhood, Baha’is in and around Knoxville, institutions and agencies of the Faith, and people outside the area — rooting from the sidelines, as it were.

“It has uplifted us to the point there’s a sense that everybody wants to do something, whether they’re involved in the neighborhood or not,” reflects Rahmanian. “They want to be part of it and they’re all encouraged by what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

It’s easy to see why. Posts to the thread encompass all the core activities of community building, the consultations of those coordinating those activities, and visits with the families of children’s class and junior youth group participants.

Eric and Genevieve Dozier (left) sing during a devotional gathering in Knoxville, Tennessee, that is being documented with the help of WhatsApp. Photo by Bita Rahmanian

Naturally, photos are a large part of what the app is documenting in Knoxville — snaps of people of all ages and backgrounds making their diverse neighborhood a better place: 

  • Studying holy writings in living rooms and around kitchen tables.
  • Holding deep conversations on front porches and along the street. 
  • Enjoying the music of Eric Dozier, visiting from Nashville. 
  • Most recently, sending a team member off to college. 
  • And stepping up, as three youths have, to coordinate activities in her wake.

In sum, a record of relationships built and an ever-increasing number of people engaged in service. Documented for reflection and posterity.


The post WhatsApp? In Knoxville it’s documenting a neighborhood’s progress appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Little Free Library is big sign community building works in Aliso Viejo

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 2:17am

A ribbon cutting to open the Little Free Library built and installed by members of a Baha’i-initiated junior youth group in Aliso Viejo, California, didn’t come out of the blue.

Attended by the mayor and other officials, the July 20 ceremony celebrated a project that emerged from 15 years of community building by Baha’is and friends in this southern Orange County city, incorporated only since 2001.

“In Aliso Viejo, Baha’is and their friends are engaged in a community-building process that cultivates love and translates it into action,” says Teri Knoll-Binaei, who chairs the local Baha’i governing council, the Spiritual Assembly.

A special spark of commitment to “reshaping society around principles of oneness such as love, inclusivity and reciprocity” is shining out of neighborhoods that are the focus of intensive activity, she adds.

All set for the ribbon-cutting ceremony is this Little Free Library built by junior youths in Aliso Viejo, California. Photo by Hebba Fares

The Little Free Library, a first for Aliso Viejo, was built and then installed outside of the Boys and Girls Club in Iglesia Park as a community service by participants in a junior youth group that meets weekly in the Las Iglesias neighborhood.

Little Free Libraries are popping up around the world as a way to make books accessible to as many people as possible. They typically resemble a tiny house on a wooden post and contain three or four shelves of books that anyone can take or donate.

The ribbon cutting was the highlight of a Summer Fun Festival also sponsored by the Baha’is of Aliso Viejo. The free event was open to all ages and included games, face painting, water balloons, art activities, a book fair, and lunch for all.

The festival was publicized in local media, on the Aliso Viejo Baha’i website, and through flyers distributed to the surrounding neighborhood in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club. More than 75 children and adults attended.

After raising funds through a bake sale in their neighborhood, the junior youth group spent three months planning, constructing, decorating and installing the Little Free Library. City officials gave support to the project after the young people presented their idea at a City Council meeting in December 2018.

Upon completion, the junior youths shared the final product by visiting the City Council a second time. The mayor took it upon himself to gather books with the help of members of a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation to stock the library for its grand opening.

“Now, a new Little Free Library in Aliso Viejo’s Iglesia Park will join the movement to share books, bring young people together and create communities of readers,” says Knoll-Binaei.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony adds an official touch to the donation of a Little Free Library by junior youths in Aliso Viejo, California. Photo by Soheil Eshraghi

The community-building process of which the junior youth group is a part revolves around classes of spiritual education for all ages. Five children’s classes and two junior youth groups meet regularly. Parents of some of the children have been meeting in study circles, designed for people ages 15 and up to initiate and grow such activities for the betterment of neighborhoods and their inhabitants.

Also part of the flow of activity and learning are several prayer gatherings for all faiths. One is a youth devotional in a Las Iglesias neighborhood home.

“With the front door always open, the house is the place for many gatherings and meetings, including barbeques, [Baha’i] Holy Day celebrations, informal get-togethers, and regular consultations with local residents on the needs of their community,” she says.

“During the school year, it also serves as the hub for a weekly ‘homework club’ where children can seek assistance with their daily school work.”

In a nearby park, Baha’is and friends have held five full-day children’s camps that include storytelling, arts and crafts, music, and memorization stations, always organized around a virtue. Each camp draws about 80 children from surrounding neighborhoods.

As a goal for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, the Baha’is of Aliso Viejo also committed themselves to raising the profile of the Faith in their city.

“Their success was realized,” says Knoll-Binaei, “through coordinated efforts [that] included launching a new website, actively participating in social media, participating in two city festivals with an informational booth, holding a well-publicized food drive for a local food pantry, actively participating in the citywide interfaith organization, presenting their service project in front of the City Council on two occasions, and, finally, hosting this ribbon-cutting ceremony with the city’s support.”

The post Little Free Library is big sign community building works in Aliso Viejo appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Kids create art-camp fun in Washington town

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 2:13am

A good thing became even better this August when a family’s annual five-day camp in Mount Vernon, Washington, welcomed local children for a day.

For a few years, Atu Horan, a member of the Skagit County West Baha’i community, has hosted a camp each summer for her daughter and nine nieces.

Last year a few Baha’is helped out by providing games for one of the days.

After reading how Baha’is elsewhere had hosted an art academy for local children, the community decided to focus this year on offering a day of varied art activities, says local Baha’i Kathie Schmidt.

Children from a Baha’i-initiated children’s class and their friends were invited to join, along with all Horan’s nieces.

Twenty-six girls and boys, ages 3 to 14, attended. Horan’s husband, Jeff, and his mother also joined in.

With the support of the Spiritual Assembly — the Baha’i community’s elected governing council — and the assistance of 12 volunteers, seven activity stations were set up to appeal to the varied interests of the kids involved.

The stations included a “We Are Waves of One Sea” collaboration mural, rock painting, creating “veggie bugs” to share at lunch, clay modeling, music, a box castle, and paper doll creations.

It was a fun day for the children and the adults, says Schmidt, adding that the community hopes to build on this success next year.

The post Kids create art-camp fun in Washington town appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

El Paso Baha’is help community heal in wake of mass shooting

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 10/04/2019 - 2:03am

Baha’is in El Paso, Texas, are part of a process of healing that has enveloped the city since a mass shooting Aug. 3 that killed 22 people and wounded 24.

Carmel Heydarian recited a prayer in Spanish on behalf of the Baha’i community at a service the day after the shooting, sponsored by the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest. Her uncle Nosrat Heidarian also offered a Baha’i prayer in English. 

She was amazed at the turnout of up to 5,000 people, in a show of unity dubbed “El Paso Strong.” 

“The program was beautiful: music, readings from different religions, indigenous rituals, accounts of trauma, stories of heroism,” recalls Heydarian. 

Not once did anyone express hatred toward the alleged perpetrator, she says. “Instead, there was forgiveness and love.”

Many such memorials took place around the city in the following weeks. Baha’is organized one of them during their regular visit to a city park, at which they usually share information about Baha’i-initiated activities of community building. 

“On the Wednesday after the tragic event, there were hundreds of people at the park,” says Heydarian. “Even family members who lost loved ones were present.” 

Gathering together a large number of park-goers, the Baha’is offered a prayer. And when photos of the event were passed around, she says, in the background was “a glimmering rainbow.” 


The post El Paso Baha’is help community heal in wake of mass shooting appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

British Library marks bicentenary, exhibits works of the Bab and Baha’u’llah

Bahá'í World News Service - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 7:00pm
The Library is marking the bicentenary with various initiatives alongside its launch of a new website and exhibition displaying examples of the Faith’s original texts.

Wayne Wilson: A Baha’i perspective on Navajo teachings

US Bahá'í News Service - Tue, 10/01/2019 - 10:20am

Listen as Wayne Wilson, resident of the Navajo Nation, shares his perspective on how traditional Diné teachings intersect with his beliefs as a member of the Baha’i Faith.

The post Wayne Wilson: A Baha’i perspective on Navajo teachings appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

David Rutstein appointed as Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community

Bahá'í World News Service - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 7:00pm
Dr. Rutstein succeeds Joshua Lincoln, who had been serving in this capacity since 2013.

Dawn of the Light

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 2:49pm

Two hundred years ago, the Báb appeared, inaugurating a new Dispensation and preparing humanity for the light of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation.

Dawn of the Light portrays several individuals from different continents as they relate their own personal search after truth and meaning. They share their discovery that God has sent two Divine Manifestations—the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh—Whose teachings are revolutionizing human thought and behavior, changing darkness into light. The film shows glimpses of how this same discovery is inspiring the efforts of many across the globe to serve humanity and to contribute to building a new pattern of life.

The post Dawn of the Light appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Prayerful Voices for Change – A Rich Tapestry

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 09/30/2019 - 2:42pm

Inspired by the power of prayer, women in the community of Del Sur, San Diego support each other by unifying their voices and quenching their thirst for spirituality. They transform their words into action by starting children’sclasses, devotionals and study circles to help their community.

This video is part of A Rich Tapestry, a video storytelling collection that expresses and illustrates how love is being translated into action to address questions of race and culture in the United States. This collection of video stories provides authentic examples of how individuals, communities and institutions are weaving together a rich tapestry of community life in neighborhoods across America.  The strands of this tapestry include efforts to expand and consolidate vibrant patterns of Baha’i community life, to contribute to public discourse on topics of race and diversity, and to take direct social action in collaboration with like-minded groups and individuals.

New videos will be added to this collection regularly, exploring the different facets and threads that weave a rich tapestry of community life. We invite you to view these videos at home and in community gatherings. Share them with friends and neighbors as a way to spark conversations and envision the possibilities for building communities that bridge all racial and cultural differences.

And most importantly, share with us your thoughts, experiences, and ideas for other stories that could be included in this series.

The post Prayerful Voices for Change – A Rich Tapestry appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Rapidly approaching bicentenary galvanizes communities across Asia

Bahá'í World News Service - Sat, 09/28/2019 - 7:00pm
With the historic anniversary four weeks away, a diversity of action is emerging throughout the vast continent.

Dutch parliamentary year begins with interfaith gathering, gives voice to youth

Bahá'í World News Service - Thu, 09/26/2019 - 7:00pm
The prime minister, members of parliament, mayor of The Hague, and faith communities mark the opening of the parliamentary year by reflecting on a vision for the future.

Conferences in Missouri build confidence for individual, collective efforts alike

US Bahá'í News Service - Tue, 09/24/2019 - 4:20pm

Baha’i community-building efforts gained a significant boost in the four Prairie States as a whole — with the Kansas City area in particular poised to reach a new stage — from a set of four conferences last summer aimed at accelerating the growth of those initiatives.

Still, the pledges of action that made this momentum possible were often very personal, sometimes centered on particular neighborhoods. 

Mark Sisson, a Counselor who works with Baha’i communities in several states, addresses a teaching conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Susan Bishop

These conferences were among many around the country this summer focused on intensifying activity in the run-up to the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in October. 

“A highlight of the Kansas City conference was the number of pledges for new core activities, particularly devotional gatherings,” recalls Susan Bishop, secretary of the Regional Baha’i Council of the Prairie States. 

Those 20 new pledges put the Kansas City cluster of communities within reach of a new milestone, with 100 core activities ongoing. They include devotionals, children’s spiritual education classes, junior youth groups, and study circles to build capacity to initiate all those activities.

The conferences also helped increase people’s confidence in informing neighbors about the vision of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Faith, for humanity and inviting them to work alongside Baha’is to make it a reality.

Bishop tells of a man who, despite his reticent nature, agreed to go with a facilitator from the Kansas City conference to visit a family in a neighborhood of African immigrants. 

And of a woman in St. Louis who heard stories like that and expressed the wish that she had been among those who were willing to set aside their fears.

Participants share ideas in a teaching conference in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Afsaneh Zaeri

One who did swallow his discomfort and go out from the St. Louis conference to meet people in a neighborhood was Mark Stannard, a Baha’i in Columbia, Missouri.

Here is his account:

“I was among the 15 or 20 people who chose to give it a go. I was not totally comfortable knocking on strangers’ doors and had the expectation that many people would not be comfortable talking to a stranger at their door. 

“It gave me strength to have a teammate to go through the experience with as well as an invitation to give them [for a neighborhood gathering to talk about community building]. 

“As we walked down the street trying to get our courage up to go to the first house, we came across a modest home with a well-manicured yard and a couple of men sitting out on the front porch. 

“We asked if they would mind speaking with us for a moment, and the homeowner welcomed us. We probably talked to him for about 20 minutes and learned a great deal about him — particularly how Jesus had taken away his addictions to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes. 

“As we were getting to know each other I remember thinking that although we might not get to a lot of houses at this speed, even one good connection might be more valuable than numerous quicker but less in-depth conversations. 

“We eventually said our goodbyes and moved on to the next home. A woman in her 30s or early 40s answered the door and immediately stepped out onto the porch to talk with us. 

“It turned out that she was a transplant into the neighborhood from upstate New York. She again took time to speak with us about our efforts and about her desire to see improvements in the sense of community in the neighborhood. 

“Again, 20 or more minutes lapsed as we enjoyed conversation centered around her neighborhood and living situation. I could tell that we were not disturbing her, as she was the one doing most of the talking and seemed in no hurry to end the conversation. She indicated a high likelihood that she would be attending [the] community-building gathering. 

“After that we only had time to visit a couple more homes — one where nobody was home and one where we wound up having a brief but friendly exchange with a man who accepted a flyer to the gathering. 

“This experience left me with an improved feeling toward how I might be accepted by strangers. It struck me that we had started relationships with these new people, and that there was something to follow up on and that these people shared our mission.”

The post Conferences in Missouri build confidence for individual, collective efforts alike appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

“Dawn of the Light”: New bicentenary film explores search for truth and meaning

Bahá'í World News Service - Sun, 09/22/2019 - 7:00pm
A feature film commissioned for the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab was released today on

Vahid’s tale, as adapted for storytelling

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 11:30am

This is a story of how the “wisest man in Persia” investigated the new Faith of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in the summer of 1845. Adapted from Amazing Stories from the Dawn-Breakers by Jacqueline Mehrabi and Release the Sun by William Sears, it is one of 23 stories recast by Baha’is in North Carolina (see related story) for use in telling people about the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab in October.

The fame and message of the Bab had spread far and wide. Soon the authorities became alarmed. Day by day the crowds that followed the Bab greatly increased in number. There were now many followers in all classes of society, and many were of important standing — great lords, members of the clergy, military men and merchants.

The king became interested and decided to investigate. He wanted to know if the reports about the Bab were true. So he summoned his trusted friend Vahid, who was a person of great learning as well as honest and trustworthy. Vahid was known as the wisest man in Persia, and the king and government leaders often asked his advice on all matters.

The king told Vahid: “Go at once to Shiraz. Interview the Bab. Find out if these tales of wonder we hear are true. Then report to me what you discover.” Vahid was very pleased to be chosen for this mission, since he had wanted to meet the Bab ever since hearing about Him. During his journey, Vahid devised all the difficult questions he would ask the Bab to test His knowledge.

When Vahid arrived in Shiraz, he met with one of the new believers, who gently warned him not to act proudly when he was with the Bab. But Vahid was used to being the cleverest man around, so this friend knew that he might find it difficult to be humble.

The Bab welcomed Vahid with affection. For two hours, Vahid asked question after question about difficult passages and prophecies from the holy writings. The Bab listened carefully and patiently and then gave such wise answers that Vahid felt embarrassed and ashamed. He then excused himself, saying he would return on another day with the rest of his questions.

On his way to the second interview, Vahid was confident and had his questions clearly in mind. But as soon as he entered the Bab’s presence, Vahid went into a daze and found his mind completely blank. Later, to his great surprise, he realized that the Bab was speaking, and was answering his unasked questions. He came out of his daze but could not collect his thoughts, and begged to leave.

Then came a third interview. This time, thought Vahid, I will find out for sure whether the Bab is the Promised One or not. Without saying anything, I will silently ask Him to explain certain holy verses for me. If He does this, I will believe in Him!

As soon as Vahid was ushered into the Bab’s presence, a sense of fear seized him. His knees began to shake. Even though he had been many times in the presence of the king without feeling the slightest trace of timidity, Vahid was now so awed and shaken that he could not remain standing.

Learning to share stories of the Bab is what brought these people to the Baha’i Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Nancy Hendershot

The Bab took his hand and seated Vahid beside him. “Seek from Me,” He said, “whatever is your heart’s desire. I will readily reveal it to you.” But Vahid could not speak. He just sat, unable to say a word.

The Bab smiled at him. Then He called for his pen-case and paper began to write a commentary on the holy verses Vahid had wanted Him to explain. When the Bab read to Vahid what He had written, tears streamed from Vahid’s eyes. He was overcome with happiness and felt dizzy. He had to have drops of rose-water sprinkled on his face to keep him from fainting. At that moment he knew, without any doubt, that the Bab was indeed the Promised One.

Vahid then discharged his responsibility to the king, writing a detailed and personal account of his investigation of the Bab. 

Vahid himself did not return to the capital. He began to summon the people to accept the new Messenger of God. Such was his enthusiasm and fervor, that other learned doctors decided Vahid must have suddenly lost his mind, or have been bewitched by the Bab.

When the report was given to the king that Vahid had investigated the Bab, found His Cause to be the truth, and had accepted it himself, the king told his prime minister that no one was allowed to say anything bad about the Bab again and should show respect for the Message He had brought.


The post Vahid’s tale, as adapted for storytelling appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Tales of early believers come alive following NC workshops

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 11:30am

“Soul-stirring stories” about early believers have been swirling around North Carolina’s Triangle area for a number of months. 

The inspiration springs from the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in October.

The confidence to tell such stories was born of a workshop held May 19 at the Durham Baha’i Center for 36 area residents. 

To prepare for the workshop, several people spent weeks rewriting and modernizing 23 vignettes from the lives of the Bab and the followers He had attracted starting in 1844, says Kathy Heady (here’s one example). 

The goal, she says, was to “help the friends in Durham and the wider Triangle cluster [also covering such cities as Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Cary] not only to recall some of the soul-stirring stories found in The Dawn-Breakers,” an account of the origins of the Baha’i Faith, “but also to build their capacity to share these stories and incorporate such storytelling into their community-building activities.”

Three more workshops were held around the Triangle over the summer. And judging from feedback, the trainings were a success.

“One participant insightfully observed,” relates Heady, “that the workshop taught him how reflecting on the spirit and sacrifice of the early believers must be ‘at the heart of how we should tell the stories of the [early believers] during this … bicentennial year’ and that he believed such reflection would be a ‘key to helping make the listener care.’”

Other participants shared how they were moved by the experience and inspired to find opportunities to tell the stories in whatever spaces they find themselves.

Young people share stories of the Bab outside the Baha’i center in Efland, North Carolina. Photo by Emily Shepherd

“The workshop was absolutely wonderful,” Talia Dalton reflected after the Durham workshop. “It was a great experience for me to come out of my shell a bit and speak in front of loving, kind people comfortably! The stories were wonderfully put, and very clear.”

Added Nancy Hendershot, who attended a workshop in Raleigh, since May each monthly Baha’i Feast in her section of Raleigh has included a story component, “which has helped keep the bicentenary on everyone’s mind.”

At her suggestion an interfaith gathering Aug. 4 at the IAR Mosque in Raleigh was “devoted to sharing stories that inspire and give courage.” She told one story linking Tahirih, a woman who was one of the Bab’s foremost disciples, to other women important to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Another time, a group of youths gathered around a fire at the Efland Baha’i Center to tell stories. According to Emily Shepherd, a youth was inspired to read The Dawn-Breakers after hearing them. 

The post Tales of early believers come alive following NC workshops appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.


Subscribe to Northern Illinois Bahá'ís  aggregator - US & World Bahá'í News Feeds