Monday, December 7, 2009

The Bahá'í World Centre at the base of Mt Carmel

Shrine of the Báb and its associated terraces at the Bahá'í World Centre

The Bahá'í Arc from the International Archives building

Bahá'í World Centre

The Bahá'í World Centre is the name given to the administrative centre of the Bahá'í Faith. Based in Haifa, Israel, the Bahá'í World Centre is recognizable by the gardens that dominate the area of Mount Carmel directly above the sea port. The Bahá'í World Centre is also the current destination for Bahá'í pilgrimage.

Many of the locations at the Bahá'í World Centre, including the terraces and the Shrine of the Báb which constitute the north slope of Mount Carmel were inscribed on the World Heritage List in July 2008.[1][2]

The location of the administrative centre was a result of the banishment and imprisonment of Bahá'u'lláh, when he was sent to the penal colony of `Akká in 1868. He lived out the rest of his life and died in that area, passing away in 1892. The location of the Shrine of the Báb was indicated by Bahá'u'lláh to his son `Abdu'l-Bahá during a visit to Haifa. The establishing of the administrative centre on Mount Carmel was indicated also by Bahá'u'lláh in his Tablet of Carmel, which is considered one of the charter documents of the Bahá'í administration.

During Shoghi Effendi's time as the head of the Bahá'í Faith, the British Mandate of Palestine was dealing with a growing conflict between Zionists and Arabs in the region of Palestine. With the failure of the mandate in 1948, and the resulting 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the majority of the Bahá'ís in Palestine left the country and only Shoghi Effendi and a few others remained behind. In 1963 the first Universal House of Justice was elected, with its seat in Haifa, and was recognized by the Israeli government as the legal head of the Bahá'í Faith.

Uniquely, despite the presence of several hundred volunteer staff in Haifa and `Akká, there is no formal community of Bahá'ís in Israel in the sense that there are no Nineteen Day Feasts, assemblies, etc. Additionally, since the days of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'ís have observed a self-imposed ban on teaching their religion to the local population of Israel. Formal declarations of faith by Israelis are not accepted. In a letter dated 1995, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
“ ...the people in Israel have access to factual information about the Faith, its history and general principles. Books concerning the Faith are available in libraries throughout Israel, and Israelis are welcome to visit the Shrines and the surrounding gardens. However, in keeping with a policy that has been strictly followed since the days of Bahá'u'lláh, Bahá'ís do not teach the Faith in Israel. Likewise, the Faith is not taught to Israelis abroad if they intend to return to Israel. When Israelis ask about the Faith, their questions are answered, but this is done in a manner which provides factual information without stimulating further interest.

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