Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Where people can sense the presence of God

Muslims to Mecca
Jews to Jerusalem
Christians to Bethlehem
Buddhists to Lumbini
and Baha’is to Acre.

The holiest spots on earth to Baha’is are the resting places of Baha’u’llah and the Bab, the founders of the Baha’i Faith and both considered Manifestations of God. They attract thousands of pilgrims and visitors each year to their sacred grounds. By any measure, the sites are beautiful. Stunning formal gardens surround them – the Shrine of Baha’u’llah in the countryside near Acre, north of the city of Haifa, and the Shrine of the Bab, a golden-domed building on the slope of Mount Carmel in the heart of Haifa itself.

Pilgrims and Baha’is throughout the world will tell you that the outward beauty is but a symbol, an expression of love for the Messengers of God who lie entombed there and a beacon of hope for the future of humanity. Although the two shrines have specific meaning for Baha’is, their spiritual nature appeals to others as well.

The Shrine of Baha’u’llah, the resting place of the founder of the Baha’i Faith, is the holiest spot on earth for His followers. It is near Acre, Israel and is the epicentre of a sacred spiritual force that is prevalent throughout the world. Baha’is around the world pray in the direction of this sacred shrine every day from their homes and Houses of Worship throughout the world. The approach to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah is through a beautiful garden that helps prepare visitors for entering the holy place.

"People who are not Baha’is come here and say it is like a piece of heaven falling from the sky," said Taraneh Rafati, who has served for the past 10 years as a pilgrim guide to the Baha’i holy sites. "Whether you are a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, in the holy texts, heaven is described. It is like this," she said, mentioning the peacefulness, the beauty. "You come and feel close to your Lord. It is free of charge, and it is for everyone."

Mrs. Rafati describes that being in the shrines is: "not that we are worshipping the dust or worshipping a wall – it is the connection that the place has with our beloved. We do not go there to worship the flowers. We go to there to pour out our heart."

Half a million people visited the shrine areas last year, many of them tourists wanting to see the gardens and get a close look particularly at the Shrine of the Bab, a famous landmark in Israel that looks out over the city of Haifa and Haifa Bay, and beyond that to the Mediterranean Sea.


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