I’m a Baha’i.
I’ve never heard of it!
It’s a response I hear more often than not, and it isn’t surprising considering the Baha’i Faith is a relatively new religion.
Originating in Iran in the mid 19th century by Prophet Founder Baha’u’llah, the faith is one of the most widely spread religions in the world and hasmore thanfive million adherents worldwide.
Baha’u’llah’s vision was to forge a united global society, founded on justice and based on the premise of an “ever-advancing civilisation”. This idea, He said, would come about through a respect for diversity and the knowledge that all people are equal members of one human family.
It’s a vision that is hard to refute, and one that has given me an enduring, lifelong purpose.
ONE MAN’S BEAUTIFUL SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
It was the 1970s. Kevan Pitcher was a spirited, soul-searching hippy gallivanting across the world in search of deeper meaning. “I grew up having great faith in intellect and science, so it was strange to me that my older sisters, brother and I were expected to go to Sunday School,” the retired Ballarat psychologist recalls.
“My dad did express a certain spirituality. My mother never articulated any spiritual issues to me, but her brothers piqued my seedling spirit in some strange way.”
While he spent the first two decades of his life with no set belief system, Kevan did always believe in a benevolent force, and his investigations into various religions, philosophies and movements reinforced his belief that “something good” pervaded just about every sphere of human activity.
It was in 1976 as a 23-year old traversing Canada’s earthly plains that he first came across the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. “It was at a Seals and Crofts concert. They were a renowned band at the time and following their show, they invited people to stay to hear about the faith,” Kevan says. “At the time I was in the midst of a two-year journey around the world looking to make sense of myself, the universe and everything in it.”
Returning to Australia in 1978, Kevan settled in Ballarat before befriending some local Baha’is and declaring his faith in Baha’u’llah some two years after.
“I needed that time of investigation to satisfy myself that the Baha’i faith was not a false, hollow or hypocritical religion, but a Faith where one’s rational soul adopts the spiritual truth of all God’s messengers and actively works towards promoting the unity of the human race.”
It has been more than 40 years since Kevan first came across the faith. He has since served in numerous capacities as a member of the local Baha’i community, while working with other change-makers in promotion of unity and the betterment of his hometown.
“As some segments of society still focus on difference and fear, one of the faith’s main principles of “unity in diversity” rings loudly in my mind,” Kevan says.
“It is a concept that science continues to discover mirrored in the material universe. It is a concept that is growing in strength within our social world and which Baha’u’llah says will inevitably lead to the establishment of love and fellowship amongst all the people of the world.”
PROMOTING A UNITED GLOBAL COMMUNITY IN BALLARAT
The Baha’i Faith arrived in Australia in 1920, and the first Australian Baha’i woman – Euphemia “Effie” Baker – was raised right here in Ballarat.
The Baha’i Faith’s followers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, with the Ballarat Baha’i community consisting of about 30 adults and 10 children representing 10 different nationalities.
To be a Baha’i means to work towards the oneness of humankind. This is by no means an easy feat. One way in which the community strives to do this is through engaging in a range of spiritual development activities.
These activities include playgroups and classes for the moral education of children, groups focusing on the spiritual empowerment of young people, circles of study for the exploration of spiritual principles, and gatherings of prayer to provide a devotional basis for the entire community-building process.
The aim of each of these programs is twofold – to empower individuals to take charge of their own spiritual transformation and the transformation of society.
A SIGNIFICANT YEAR FOR FAITH TO BE CELEBRATED
October marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah. All around Australia, and the entire world, Baha’is, their friends and communities are celebrating this momentous occasion with festivities of various forms – some extravagant and others more modest.
From intercultural dinners to prayer gatherings, art exhibitions to theatre productions, acts of charity to neighbourhood barbeques, the milestone will be commemorated in every locality around the world where a Baha’i resides, bringing to life the Faith’s underlying message of oneness.
The Ballarat community will be hosting a series of celebrations and events from October 21 to October 29. The celebrations will be punctuated by a children’s festival at the Delacombe Community Hub, and a stage production at the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts.
Entitled The Light of Unity, the production line-up features multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons, singer-songwriters Paige Duggan, Geoffrey and Georgina Williams, and Anna Oliphant Wright, musicians Michael Westlake and Tony Lovett, and contemporary dancer Shermaine Heng.
The children’s festival will be held on October 21 at the Delacombe Community Hub, 16 Nandiriog Drive from 11am to 2pm.
The Light of Unity will be held at WCPA on October 22 from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. Doors open at 2pm. Both events are free.
For all the information about the upcoming events or Baha’i Faith, visit bahaiballarat.org.au