Dozens of chairs were set up but only a handful of people attended a celebration for the 200th anniversary of the Bahá’í faith, marked by the birth of its figurehead, Bahá’u’lláh.
“Thirty years ago, there were 20 Bahá’ís here and then it slowly diminished,” said Tom Kirby, who’s been living in the region for more than 40 years and has been a follower of the faith since 1965.
He, his wife and Mohammad Saadatmand, who came to Inuvik this year, make up the current population of the faith.
The religion began in Iran in the 19th century, teaching that all other religions are a progression toward the same truth.
“(The Bahá’í faith says) these are all successive stages in the progress of mankind,” said Kirby.
It teaches that Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and the like were all messengers, with the most recent being Bahá’u’lláh, who was born Nov. 12, 1817 and eventually became a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire.
“Every messenger of God that’s come down has been persecuted, and he was too,” said Kirby. “We believe that this is the religion for today that will unite the world.”
Some of the core principles of the faith are unity of humanity, embrace of diversity, equality between men and women, elimination of all forms of prejudice, world peace, a new world order, harmony of religion and science, spiritual solutions to economic problems and principle of an ever-advancing civilization.
Social practices for followers typically involve obligatory daily prayers, annual fasts and a 19-per-cent voluntary payment on any wealth in excess of what is needed to live comfortably.
Actions that are either prohibited or discouraged include gossip, drinking alcohol, sexual intercourse outside of marriage, being involved in partisan politics and begging as a profession.
Saadatmand explained that the goal of the faith, especially in Inuvik, is not so much to teach that it is the only faith to follow, but to encourage people to act as good citizens.
“It doesn’t matter what culture, what race, what religion you are – we are all one,” he said. “That’s how we look at it. The Bahá’í people are always trying to help others, not think about themselves.”
To that end, he is hoping to start up a Bahá’í youth group in town.
Only a couple of people attended the event on Sunday, which consisted of food and an hour-long documentary at the Midnight Sun Complex.
Kirby hopes the afternoon helped educate people in town about the faith.
“If they accept it, fine, that’s wonderful; if they don’t, that’s okay too,” he said. “The important thing is people know what it is, what it means, what it’s about (and) what we’re trying to do.”