Karen Dodson was a Methodist pastor when her brother and his wife sent her literature about the Baha'i religion. "I was reading everything they sent me so I could prove they were wrong," she said, "but I could not disprove what they were saying and came to believe this is God's message for today."
Dodson, a professor at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., was in Salt Lake City this past week to speak at the Baha'i Spring School.Dodson said in an interview that she believes "God is always guiding us. There is a way for us to live in peace and there is a plan to accomplish this." The Universal House of Justice, the international Baha'i governing body, has released a statement to the people of the world titled, "The Promise of World Peace." The Baha'i faith recognizes the essential truths of all religions and recognizes these values as chapters in a book the Baha'i faith being the latest chapter, Dodson said.
Baha'is believe that the world is in need of a fundamental spiritual redirection to transform society, establish world peace and a new civilization through the unity of man. Baha'u'llah, the founder of the faith, was born in Persia in 1817 and died in 1892.
The price Baha'u'llah paid for his beliefs was to spend 40 years in prison. Exiled to Baghdad, Constantinople and finally to Acre, Palestine, Baha'u'llah declared from his Acre barracks, "Fear not. These doors shall be opened. My tent shall be pitched on Mount Carmel . . . . "
Baha'u'llah indeed pitched his tent on Haifa's Mount Carmel, and today on that mountain a magnificent Baha'i temple overlooks the harbor and the Mediterranean Sea.
The temple has nine pillars and doors that represent the nine major world religions and denote the belief that "all mankind is welcome," said Dodson.
The Baha'i religion has some 3 to 4 million believers in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Baha'is in Iran are facing tremendous persecution for their beliefs. They are not allowed to hold property or to obtain education. Their marriages are not recognized and their cemeteries have been desecrated. One hundred twenty believers have been executed in the past few years.
Dodson said that as fundamentalism has grown in strength throughout the world, so has an ecumenical movement gathered momentum. "We feel this is a fresh energy released by God that is accelerating. The Baha'i faith does have a plan for world peace and the ushering in of a new era."
Members of the local spiritual assembly, Shahab Saeed, Alice F. Kasai and Nancy Hutcheon, are preparing for the April 21 commemoration of Baha'u'llah's announcement that he was the one whose coming had been foretold the chosen of God, the promised one of all the prophets. During a twelve-day period, local and national elections are held. A nine-member international council is elected every five years.
Baha'is meet every 19 days and on Holy Days. They are commanded to pray every day, avoid alcoholic drinks and drugs and teach the cause of God.