The Wilmette Institute has several suggestions to help you with your plans for the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh in October 2017.
One: September 8–October 5 Course: Sharing Bahá’u’lláh’s Birthday with Children. To help you and your children and other children in your community, sign up for the Wilmette Institute course Sharing Bahá’u’lláh’s Birthday with Children. The four-week course runs from September 8 through October 5, 2017. It is designed to help parents, teachers, and other adults share Bahá’u’lláh’s two hundredth birthday with children so that they will understand the spirit of His special birthday. The course includes stories, service projects, activities, and songs to help instill in children’s minds and hearts the greatness of the day.
Two: Improve Your Skill in Telling Stories about Bahá’u’lláh. To improve your skills in telling stories to children and adults, check out Druzelle Cederquist’s series of seven short videos on the art of storytelling. Topics include the power and collaborative nature of storytelling; using scenes, sensory detail, story tension, and inner and outer journeys; how stories affect brain chemistry; how stories can effect social change; and more.
Three: October 15 Web Talk Honoring Bahá’u’lláh’s Bicentenary Birthday. Sign up now for a special Web Talk by Dr. John S. Hatcher on Sunday, October 15. Better still, get a group together to listen to and discuss it. This Web Talk is a centerpiece of the Wilmette Institute’s celebration of the bicentenary. The title of Dr. Hatcher’s talk is “What the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh Means to Me.”
Four: A Bahá’í and Visiting Scholar at Harvard Divinity School Speaks on Religion and Nonviolence. Dr. Sasha Dehghani spoke, along with Dr. Cornel West, a well-known philosopher and public intellectual, at the Harvard Divinity School’s own 2017 bicentennial celebration and alumni reunion on April 29, 2017. The topic was “Religion and Nonviolence: Past and Present.”
Dr. Dehghani spoke first, he said, because the audience would likely leave if Dr. West spoke first. Dr. Dehghani drew on his experience as a six year old, hearing about a martyr’s last will and testament asking that his children take candy and flowers to their father’s executioner. His talk centered around his assertion that “Bahá’ís are not willing to hate.” He noted that the Iranian Constitution recognizes pre-Islamic religions—Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity—but not the post-Islamic prophetic religion—the Bahá’í Faith. He also noted two parallels between Bahá’í history and U.S. history: 1844, Tahirih’s declaration about the equality of women and men in Persia and the Seneca Falls Convention in the United States advocating for women’s rights, and 1863, Bahá’u’lláh’s proclamation to the world and Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves. Why is this talk included as a resource for the bicentenary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth? It is a moving example of how to discuss the centenary with friends of the Faith.
Dr. Dehghani spoke for 19:09 minutes; Dr. West, 15:26. From the question-and-answer session following the two presentations, you may want to listen to the them, particularly the answers to the question about whether we are all living in bubbles or closed understandings of reality. Dr. Dehghani gave a thoughtful answer drawing on Abraham Lincoln’s statement drawn from the Book of Mark (before he was elected President) that a house divided against itself cannot stand, tracing the evolution of the concepts of civilization through the series of Manifestations of God, and ending with a definition of democracy of giving a voice to all, which is a goal of the Bahá’í Faith. Again, his answer provides a model of how to avoid politics while presenting the Bahá’í perspective on questions.