by Rowena Eghanian from the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i’s of Greater Dandenong
On 13 November 2021, some 3000 people from across Vanuatu gathered in Lenakel on the island of Tanna for the dedication ceremony of the first local Bahá’i House of Worship in the Pacific.
So what is it about this new temple, or any other Bahá’i temple, that offers hope for the transformation of society and paves a pathway towards universal peace?
Baha’i Houses of Worship (or temples, as they are often called) are places of prayer, contributed for and built by Baha’is, but open to people of all faiths, religions and beliefs.
While the House of Worship forms the focal point of worship in a geographical area, its purpose is not solely to provide a place for prayer.
Through the provision of education, healthcare and other services it is also to support the social and economic progress of the community and afford shelter, relief and assistance to all those in need. All Baha’i temples are built with nine entrances; the sides are symbolic of the essential unity underpinning the great religions of the world.
Baha’i temples are physical manifestations of two essential and inseparable aspects of Baha’i life: worship and service.
In their very essence, the seeds of a House of Worship exist in every community that comes together in praise and worship of God and in service to others.
We are living in a time where many of the dominant currents throughout society are pushing people apart, not drawing them together.
But the followers of Bahá’u’lláh are focused on patiently refining a model laid out in His spiritual teachings.
They are working with others around them to build up and broaden a system of social organisation, drawing people together to build and nurture communities that are havens of unity.
By cultivating environments untainted by prejudices, championing equality and creating programs of education transformative in their effects.
Encompassing both the material and spiritual aspects of life and welcoming all who wish to contribute to the community’s prosperity.
In the stirrings of Divinely inspired social action each person is thereby empowered to become a protagonist in the pathway to universal peace.