Baha’i communities in the Greater Rochester region and around the world recently celebrated Ridvan, the religion’s most holy festival, for 12 days in April and May.
The annual festival marks the anniversary of the days Baha’u’llah spent in 1863 along the River Tigris in Baghdad. Baha’u’llah stayed in a garden on the river’s bank for 12 days, during which his admirers in the city came to say goodbye. Baha’u’llah told them he was God’s messenger for a new age foretold in the world’s scriptures. He called the garden they were gathered in Ridvan, meaning paradise.
During this Ridvan period, Baha’u’llah proclaimed the foundational spiritual principles that lie at the heart of his teachings — the arrival of a new stage in the evolution of the life of humanity characterized by peace and an end to violence.
Today, Ridvan is celebrated by Baha’i communities in villages, towns and cities around the world, with gatherings open to all.
This year’s festival commemorated the 200th birthday of Baha’u’llah and The Bab, the twin manifestations that founded the Baha’i faith. Local assemblies were held in Brighton, Clifton Springs, Irondequoit, Newark, Penfield, Pittsford, Rochester and Victor.
Baha’i members voted for their local governing councils the first day of the festival. Delegates gathered to vote for their National Spiritual Assembly, a nine-member council responsible for guiding, coordinating and stimulating Baha’i activities in its jurisdiction, during national conventions in 180 countries and territories. Baha’i elections are distinct for their lack of nomination and campaigning.
The USA National Convention delegate for the Greater Rochester area traveled to Wilmette, Illinois, and will provide updates to local Baha’i members in the coming months.
The Universal House of Justice addresses a message to the Baha’is of the world on the first day of Ridvan every year. This year’s message called attention to the reality that “humanity’s ultimate well-being is dependent upon its differences being transcended and its unity firmly established.” It continued with “every contribution Bahá’ís make to the life of their society is aimed at fostering unity; every community-building endeavor is directed towards the same end.”