8 December 2007

Uganda: Being a Baha'i Faithful

Kampala — THERE are approximately 300 Baha'i believers in Kampala and the doors to the temple doors are always open to all - Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddha and the Hare Krishna are all welcome, says a believer Mrs. Dawn Belcher.

"The faith accepts the God given authority in each of these religions since we all believe in one Almighty," Belcher says.

Belcher explains that, like either Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohamed; Baha'u'llah's preaching also bore the same content.

"That is oneness of mankind, the coming together of all races, classes, nations, religions in a spirit of understanding and under the guidance of God," said Belcher.

According to the Baha'i faith after death, there is another life for the soul in another world. It is believed that the soul is released like a bird from a cage.

Another locally chosen leader of the Baha'i faith in Kampala Walder Mehari adds that in Baha'I faith, all believers are equal.

"We have no bishop, priest or sheikhs. The affairs of the Baha'i faith are administered by an elected body called Local Spiritual Assemblies which is composed of nine members. There are no contests or campaigns.

All the resident Baha'i community do is - pray and individuals are later picked by secret ballot."

Asked how one lives a Baha'i way of life, Mehari says: "The Baha'i faith sets standard of living conduct. They include love of God, humanity, justice, trustworthiness, honesty, humility and courtesy."

Mehari adds that, the Baha'i faith prohibits habits that are unclean, degrading and damaging to one. They include gossip, backbiting and prejudice.

In the spirit of the ongoing East African Community, OAU and CHOGM, the Baha'i faith believes the entire earth is one country.

"The most significant phenomenon on the international scene has been the process of globalisation. This has been witnessed in Africa's only Baha'i temple here in Kampala.

For example I am an American; we have Iran' Chinese, African and Jewish followers here. Today the world is shrinking as we mix cultures and economies," said Belcher.

True to Belcher's word, especially during the celebration of Baha'u'llah anniversary there were many foreign faces and accents. But all the youth like else where in the world were drinking the same soft drinks, wearing the same clothes and listening to the same music.

According to the Baha'i, this was prophesied by Baha'u'llah 100 years ago when he wrote that: "The earth is, but one country and mankind its citizens."

But Peter Olinga from Ngora, a Baha'i believer, wonders what sort of global civilisation the world is destined for.

"Will it be dominated by a shallow materialism one, in which people's highest aspirations are surrounded by products bearing fashionable trademarks while billions live in abject poverty?"

Baha'i is the world's youngest religion which takes a distinctive approach to social problems. But the faith's scriptures and the activities of its membership in Kampala address everything in the world today; the renewed commitment to family life, environment protection, social and economic justice. Unlike other religions that are splitting into factions the Baha'i in Uganda have maintained their unity.

Meanwhile other worship centers are aggressively calling on people to accept the Lord, the Baha'i faith operates in a different style.

"When one wants to convert, all it takes is to believe that Baha'u'llah is a Messenger of God and the Promised One for this day. They can inform any individual Baha'i or the Baha'i community and they will be lovingly welcomed," says Belcher. In addition to that, even though a Baha'is children are raised as Baha'i - they will need to affirm their belief in Baha'u'llah at 15 years of age.

The quantity of writings produced by Baha'u"llah exceeds all the revelation of previous Messengers of God.

"He wrote in Arabic and Persian in beautiful prose. Other works of his are direct statements on morality and ethics. There is the poetry. And tablets (letters to individuals,) says Mehari. n

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