Speech: Celebrating the Baha'i Community

Mr Deputy Speaker,

I rise today to second this motion, recognising the Baha’i community as a valued part of Australian society, and commend their contribution to social cohesion, unity and community. The Australian Baha’i community is a religious group that is widely spread throughout the country.

The Baha’i community come from all different backgrounds with shared commitments to the teachers of their prophet, Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i faith. The Baha’is have fought – for over a century – to contribute to social cohesion and harmony in Australian society. They endeavour to nurture the spiritual life of children, youth and adults, and like to offer service to the community.

I am fortunate to say that, my own electorate of Mackellar is home to a Baha’i House of Worship. Opening in Ingleside in 1961 it is one of only eight in the world and embodies the union of worship and service.

The House of Worship represents a spiritual centre for the continent as well as the Sydney community, standing as a beacon where, inspired by worship, individuals arise to serve their community. It is a place where anyone is welcome, where anyone can pray, reflect and meditate while hopefully being inspired to selflessly service humanity, such is the Baha’i way. I have visited the House of Worship a number of times and can attest to not only its physical beauty, nestled away in the beautiful natural environment of Ingleside high enough that it looks out over the pacific ocean, but can also speak to the powerful sense of divinity when inside and around the Temple.

When building the House of Worship, the founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u’llah asked that all Baha’i temples be “as perfect as is possible in the world of being”. The physical appearance of the House of Worship is a potent symbol, the outer dome reflecting the inner meaning.

The first Baha’is to arrive in Australia, were John and Clara Dunn, who arrived in Sydney in 1920. From such humble beginnings, the Baha’i community will celebrate its centenary of being in Australia next year. But this year, we are celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of the Bab, the Herald of the Baha’i Faith. The Bab was born in October 1819, in Persia. He was a young merchant when, in 1984, He declared as a Messenger or Manifestation of God.

The Bab’s writing championed spiritual and moral renewal as well as calling on the improvement of the status of women and the situation of the poor. Inspiring thousands of followers to transform their lives and undertake acts of great heroism and sacrifice, the Bab and the Baha’i faith is one of peace, love and respect. Sadly, with his influence growing, the authorities had him executed by firing squad at the age of 31.

It is with great regret that I have to raise the ongoing persecution that the Baha’i community have received in some parts of the world. In Iran, the Baha’is can be subjected to raids on their homes and workplaces, confiscation of property, arrests and long periods of solitary confinement and interrogation. Baha’is have also been persecuted in Yemen, including imprisonment, raids and arrests. They have also been victims of economic persecution and the denial of basic education. I would encourage all people across the world to learn from the teaching of the Baha’i and respect each other, in their own words: “Concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity”.   

As I conclude in support of this motion, let me share with you the immortal words of Baha’u’llah, “Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path”.

As we in this place who act in service of our communities, let us burn with loving-kindness as we try to contribute to a better society, like the Baha’i community.

Thank you.

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