By GWEN OREL
This month, members of the Bahá’í faith all over the world will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Báb, Herald of Bahá’u’lláh.
The Báb, explained Ollie Hartsfield, a member of the Bahá’i Faith Community of Montclair, is to members of her faith what John the Baptist is to Christians: the one who announced the coming of a manifestation of God.
The Bahá’i Faith Community of Montclair will hold a celebration on Sunday, Oct. 27, from 3 to 5 p.m., at the Montclair Women’s Club, 82 Union St. Jazz musician Mike Longo will perform, and there will also be poetry and stories about the life of the Báb. Hartsfield is hoping non-Bahá’i neighbors will attend the free event. “What Bahå’is really are trying to do is help build community, so people of different backgrounds and perspectives can come together and help make these ideals come to pass,” she said.
She herself was raised Christian, and converted to Bahá’i after moving to Montclair 34 years ago.
The Bahá’i Faith teaches that all religions are one in purpose, and so are people. The faith rejects racism and nationalism, with the goal of a unified world. “Developing a deep-seated consciousness of the oneness of humanity is the only hope for remedying the vast problems of a fractured world,” the Bahá’i website states. The religion has, according to bahaiteachings.org, close to eight million followers.
“The teachings say that in America race, unity is the pressing issue,” Hartsfield said. “Until that is established, America won’t be able to achieve its spiritual destiny.
“That for me as an African American is very powerful, that a religion would specifically focus on that issue.”
The name the Báb means “the Gate.” He was born Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirázi in Persia (now Iran) in 1819, and took the title of the Báb in 1844, at age 24. Using numerology, he predicted the coming of “He who would make God manifest,” who would then usher in a time of unity among world religions. The Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892) founded the Bahá’i faith 13 years after the death of the Báb.
The Báb was arrested by the Persian government and executed in 1850.
Montclair has a long history with the Bahá’i Faith Community: the son of the Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’-Bahá, visited in 1912.
The Báb’s mission, Harsfield explained, was to “prepare people for a new Divine messenger, whose mission would be about world unity. We almost see this as the early days leading up to the start of the Bahá’i faith.”
The writings of the Bahá’u’lláh see Jesus as a messenger, as well as Moses, Mohammad, Buddha, she said. They are seen as individuals with a human aspect, and also manifestations of God. “In each era, God sends a new messenger to further unfold His will,” she said. “The Bahá’u’lláh is the Divine messenger for this day to help humanity move to its maturity that it’s been moving to since its existence began.”
“It’s a time to reflect on ‘what does this mean to the world and what does it mean now today,’ and enjoy each other’s company,” Hartsfield said. “We hope it sparks future conversations after this event. Actions, not words, should be our purpose.”