The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Ladysmith are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Báb — a key figure in the Bahai faith. Celebrations will take place around the world on October 29 and 30 to recognize the event.
The Báb, meaning “the Gate” in Arabic, was a figure who lived in the mid 19th century. The Báb lived in Persia (modern day Iran), and was sent to herald the coming of Baha’i prophet, Bahá’u’lláh.
Baha’is believe that all people are one, and that religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism come from the same place to forward the spiritual growth of human kind. In the Baha’i faith, they teach that each religion came to give a specific message to humanity at a specific time.
Although the religion originated in Iran, Baha’is practice their faith around the world. After the Islamic revolution in 1979, Baha’is faced systemic persecution that exists to this day.
Saeed Farahbakhsh was born to a Baha’i family in Iran. He left the country in 1979 to go to school in the Philippines. When he finished his education, the situation in Iran had not gotten better, so he decided to immigrate to Canada in 1983.
Farahbakhsh lived in Saskatoon for years before coming to Victoria to be close to family. He also pursued further education in engineering. He worked for the City of Victoria for three years before getting hired by the Town of Ladysmith. Farahbakhsh was the manager of engineering for the Town for over 10 years.
Throughout his life, Farahbakhsh has been guided by the Baha’i teachings he was raised with, even though he risked persecution in his home country.
“I still have two brothers in Iran. One of them used to work for the government. After the revolution they fired him. His wife was a teacher at the time, and she got fired because both of them were Baha’is. Right now the policy of the government is that no Baha’i could work for the government,” Farahbakhsh said.
The aim of the government is to coerce Baha’is to renounce their faith. Many Baha’is chose to remain with the faith despite the consequences.
“Being Baha’i is your faith, your belief, your ideology, your way of living. You just cannot say ‘okay I am not Baha’i,’ then go on and practice other people’s faith. Being Baha’i is not just a religious practice, it’s a way of living,” Farahbakhsh said.
Farahbakhsh had returned to Iran after being out of the country for nearly 30 years to visit his aging mother. He said the country felt strange to him, and that a lot had changed. Although the government persecutes Baha’is, Farahbakhsh is hopeful Baha’is will be accepted more as time progresses.
“The general attitude of the population is very positive toward the Baha’is… There are still some fanatics that will follow what the regime is preaching, but I would say the rest of the population, their attitude is pretty positive toward Baha’is,” Farahbakhsh said.
Farahbakhsh hopes that people will learn more about the Baha’i faith, and become aware of the persecution they face in Iran.
The Baha’is of Ladysmith will be holding an open house 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm October 29 and 30 at the Diamond Hall – 4962 Christie Road. They will feature Persian textiles and art work with the theme of “Gate to a New World”. They will also screen a film Dawn of the Light that showcases how different people from around the world connected with Baha’i teachings. The screening is 7:00 pm on October 29.