Monday, 14 July 2008

Bahá’í Shrines chosen as World Heritage Sites

A United Nations committee meeting in Quebec City has determined that two Baha'i Shrines in Israel possess “outstanding universal value” and should be considered as part of the cultural heritage of humanity.

The decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee means that the two most sacred sites for Baha'is - the resting places of the founders of their religion - join a list of internationally recognized sites like the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge.

The Baha'i shrines are the first sites connected with a religious tradition born in modern times to be added to the list, which is maintained by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The two shrines, one near the recognized heritage site of Old Acre on Israel's northern coast and the other on Mount Carmel in Haifa, are the resting places of Baha'u'llah and the Bab, the founders of the Baha'i Faith.

Baha'is believe that both Baha'u'llah and the Bab were messengers of God; their resting places are sites of pilgrimage for a religious community of some five million believers. The shrine of Baha'u'llah is the focal point of prayer for Baha'is all over the world, giving it an importance comparable to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Jews and the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims.

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah near Acre, north of Haifa – the holiest spot on earth for members of the Baha’i Faith – also is part of the World Heritage…The two shrines are noteworthy for the formal gardens that surround them, blending design elements from many cultures. In addition to Baha'i pilgrims, they attract hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists every year.

Mr Albert Lincoln, secretary-general of the Baha'i International Community has said that "
we welcome the UNESCO recognition, which highlights the importance of the holy places of a religion that in 150 years has gone from a small group found only in the Middle East to a worldwide community with followers in virtually every country,” and “the Baha'i community is particularly grateful to the government of Israel for putting forward this nomination”.

Pilgrims describe their experience of these holy places as being able to find something, within the spirit that surrounding these places. It is a place where people can sense the presence of God.


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