- Category: Being unaffiliated
- Created: Sunday, 20 July 2008 00:44
- Published: Sunday, 20 July 2008 00:34
- Written by Jason Anthony, Sacred Spaces
- Hits: 3454
Closed doors at the Bahai Shrine of the Bab in Haifa.
Unenrolled Bahais face a long road to Haifa
Alemash Affaw shared a story one Sunday with some newcomers to the New York Bahai Center, on 11th Street just south of Union Square.
Two pilgrims took a trip to Haifa. As they approached the Shrine of the Bab, the second most sacred place in the Bahai faith, the first pilgrim did a somersault and walked on his hands towards the holy tomb. The other pilgrim was scandalized. "Here at this blessed spot, to be on his hands like a clown!"
But just before the second pilgrim could scold him, the first returned and spoke with a beaming face. "'This place is so sacred, I didn't want to profane the ground with my feet,' he said solemnly, 'and I could only approach it with my head as low to the ground as I could make it.'"
The story shows the importance for pilgrimage among the Bahai, and illustrates a wide tolerance for different forms of worship and ritual. The idea is central to a faith that promises to unite the world's religions and races under the banner of unity.
But not everyone finds that broad-minded tolerance on the road to Haifa. There are serious roadblocks for those who practice as Bahai, but who, for reasons of doctrine or personal disagreement, are not enrolled with the Haifa administration. Although pilgrimage is required for those who have the means financially, only members who are enrolled in the Haifa headquarters gain substantial access to the holiest sites in the faith.
For a religion that stresses unity, this can turn into a very painful form of exclusion.
Read Karen Bacquet's back-story: Unenrolled Baha'is and Pilgrimage