Bah&

Bah&

Local Bahá’í to celebrate bicentenary of founder’s birth

Local members of the Bahá’í religion will gather Saturday at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the religion’s founder.

The 5 million–7 million Bahá’í worldwide are holding celebrations this weekend to honor founder Bahá’u’lláh, born in modern-day Iran in 1817. Local Bahá’í will hold festivities Saturday from 1–4 p.m. including music and food, painting rocks with symbols of virtues and a screening of the Bahá’í film “Light to the World.”

In 1863, Bahá’u’lláh first publicly announced the mission of ending national and ethnic divisions by founding a monotheistic religion that views the world’s other largest religions — Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism — as progressions of one revelation. The idea was as relevant to the world of 200 years ago as it is today, said Soldotna Bahá’í George Holly.

“Religions don’t just pop up and come about because someone had a good idea, but it’s a need and a response to social conditions of humanity,” Holly said. “So the great need of the time was this emerging global society: recognition that things don’t just take place within our own countries, they take place among our countries now, and there’s such an interdependence. There’s a bunch of issues we all have to face, whatever our religion or our culture.”

Though traveling Bahá’ís spent time in Alaska as early as 1905, according to the website of Alaska’s Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly, a significant membership began growing in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau in the 1930s and started to formally organize in 1943 with the election of the first nine-member Local Spiritual Assembly in Anchorage. Alaskan Bahá’ís have formed more than 60 Local Spiritual Assemblies — the smallest of the religion’s three tiers of organization — according to the Alaska National Spiritual Assembly website.

On the Kenai Peninsula, Holly said Bahá’ís began establishing themselves during during the post-World War Two homesteading boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1970s, he said, the homesteading Bahá’í Iron family donated land near Soldotna to become the Ridgeway Bahá’í Center, where local members of the faith sometimes meet for activities, though their regular meetings are in members’ houses.

At the request of a local Bahá’í, Dena’ina writer and linguist Peter Kalifornsky made one of the first translations of a Bahá’í prayer into Dena’ina in 1975. Since then, Holly said “there’ve been been a number of translations in Alaska over the years, and for the most part they’ve been written by hand on loose pieces of paper.”

Kalifornsky’s translation was published in his 1991 book “A Dena’ina Legacy.” Holly has also made several translations of prayers and songs into Dena’ina and sees the work of preserving and promoting Alaska Native languages as part of his Bahá’í religious activity. Holly, an Athabascan raised Catholic who converted to Bahá’í as a young man, said he sees consistency between Bahá’í’s’ emphasis on unity and traditional Alaskan Native beliefs about humanity. A singer, he writes and performs music in Dena’ina.

“I see (language preservation) a little differently than some of my fellow workers who aren’t Bahá’ís,” Holly said, describing language as “not just a tool for carrying content.”

Working to revive languages that have been suppressed and are in danger of disappearing, he said, is also recovering spiritual ideas of those languages, and preserving for them of the unity of humanity that Bahá’ís seek. Cyndy Langmade, a fellow member of the local Bahá’í community, said her religion “elevates service to worship.”

“One of the things we believe is that any work we do in a spirit of service to mankind is worship,” Langmade said.

That can include passions like Holly’s work in music and language, or careers, like hers as a nurse and emergency medical technician. As part of her medical service, she travels regularly with a Christian mission group.

“When I practiced medicine, it probably looked a little bit different — I’d listen a little more, and probably recommend diet and exercise more, and certainly shied away from using opiates and that kind of thing long before it became unpopular to do,” Langmade said. “…I think of myself as a Bahá’í. I think my friends just think of me as a good person.”

Orthopedic surgeon and Bahá’í Byron McCord of Seldovia also makes yearly service trips as a United Nations Volunteer. Since he closed his surgical practice, these trips have lasted for up to a year, and most are to a government hospital in Malawi, an African nation with about 19 million people and “ten orthopedic surgeons, when I’m there,” McCord said.

In Seldovia, McCord — the only Bahá’í in town — will be renting the Sea Otter Community Center for a showing of the film. He’s presently handing out invitations to friends and acquaintances, inlcuding the pastor at the Christian church he also attends.

“I don’t feel awkward about doing that,” McCord said. “And I’m ok if people come or don’t come. I just think at the least they’ll have information.”

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Soldotna Montessori Charter School Principal John DeVolld explains Montessori materials in a classroom at Soldotna Montessori Charter School on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Soldotna Montessori maxes out

The relocation of Soldotna Montessori is included in a bond package on the Oct. 4 municipal election ballot

Engineer Lake Cabin can be seen in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Nov. 21, 2021. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, that $14.4 million of a larger $37 million package will be used to build cabins in the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Millions designated for cabins in Tongass, Chugach

$18 million is allocated to the construction and maintenance of cabins and historic buildings — of which $14.4 million is destined for Alaska

Puffin sits by a scratching tower in front of his main pad of buttons on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. Owner Geri Litzen says Puffin can communicate by pressing different buttons on the pad to form sentences. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Puffin with the buttons

Verbose Nikiski cat earns TikTok followers

CCFR officials and residents gathered at the section of Gastineau Avenue that sustained damage from the landslide on on Monday, Sept. 26, in Juneau, Alaska. At the time of 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday officials said they were still trying to assess the damage and no cleanup efforts had started yet. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
Juneau set to begin cleanup after landslide

Three homes were damaged; at least a dozen people displaced

Members of the community attend the first part of the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska’s Food Security and Sustainability Series in August 2022. (Photo courtesy Challenger Learning Center of Alaska)
Challenger Learning Center workshop focuses on food sustainability

Gathering, growing and preserving food in the form of plants, fish and other animals will be discussed

Examples of contemporary books that have been banned or challenged in recent years are displayed on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna library hosts Banned Book Club

Books have been challenged or banned for their content nationwide.

Nikiski Middle/High School Principal Shane Bostic stands near a track and field long jump sand pit on Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. The track is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election next month. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Nikiski athletes await upgrade

Funding for long-delayed school projects on Oct. 4 ballot

Lars Arneson runs to victory and a new event record in the Kenai River Marathon on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
A speech, a smartphone and a bike

Circumstances lead Arneson to Kenai River Marathon record

Trees with fall colors populate the Shqui Tsatnu Creek gully as seen from Fourth Avenue on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai to use $770k in grants to remove hazard trees along Shqui Tsatnu Creek

The money will be used to mitigate hazards caused by dead and dying spruce trees over more than 100 acres of city land

Most Read