Australian Baha'i Sites

Spiritual and multicultural: Holy day commemorations in the regions 

For many years, the Munirih Khanum Project has visited the Victorian community of Golden Plains Shire to mark the Baha’i holy day commemorating the Martyrdom of the Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah. 

The Melbourne-based initiative focuses on visiting Baha’is living in regional and rural communities. Almost every year, its team members travel two hours down the western highway to commemorate this special holy day. 

This year was no different, with the team once again visiting Golden Plains, crock pots filled to the brim with spaghetti and Persian rice, bowls overflowing with salad, and a large cream cake to share. 

Wedged between the cities of Geelong and Ballarat, Golden Plains Shire has fewer than 10 believers. The commemoration, held in the town of Ross Creek, embraced more than 30 people from Melbourne, Ballarat and beyond. Local resident Elham Jamali said the joy-infused event – albeit intimate – welcomed a diversity of guests, with friends whose cultural heritage included Iranian, German, Italian, Serbian, Pakistani, Australian, Tongan, Irish, Indian and Canadian. 

It is so interesting how those who executed the Bab wanted to extinguish his light, but now in a little country town in Australia, Baha’is of so many backgrounds gather together and commemorate His life.

Elham Jamali

“The event was so spiritual as well as multicultural,” she said. “It is so interesting how those who executed the Bab wanted to extinguish his light, but now in a little country town in Australia, Baha’is of so many backgrounds gather together and commemorate His life.” 

Guests gathered in Ross Creek, Golden Plains Shire, for the Martyrdom of the Bab commemoration.

Across the South Australian border, in the community of Alexandrina, more than a dozen individuals gathered in rural Strathalbyn, overlooking the sweeping farmland views and towering eucalypts of the Fleurieu Peninsula. 

The emotionally charged program featured devotions, music and videos, and was instilled with a deep spirit of love and companionship. 

“The hearts of every person in the room felt connected on a spiritual realm,” said community member Mojgan Khadem. “The presence of the invisible hosts really permeated through the entire room.” 

In Western Australia, the southern towns of Albany and Mount Barker joined forces for the special day and welcomed friends from further afield. Close to 20 people attended the program which included a selection of readings, the chanting of prayers, the story of the Bab’s life, and a moving musical performance. 

“Following [the program], the regional friends shared stories about pioneering travels across the world and encounters with Ruhiyyih Khanum over soup and baked goods,” said one of the guests. 

In the Top End, the community of Palmerston hosted the commemoration at a local reserve, with friends from neighbouring Darwin also joining in.

About 15 guests gathered for the event, with the program including the story of the Martyrdom, prayer, and a pot-luck lunch enjoyed under the blue Northern Territory skies. 

Leva Azadi said it was “an amazingly diverse group for only 15 people”, with Australian, Tongan, American, Indigenous, Persian, Dutch, Filipino, and Nepalese friends in attendance. 

The friends gathered following the Palmerston holy day commemoration.

There are no strict formulas or rules when it comes to marking Baha’i holy days. Each individual and community can decide how they wish to mark the special period as they learn to read the reality of their own neighbourhoods.  

The Martyrdom of the Bab marks the day on which the forerunner of the Baha’i Faith, the Bab, was executed in Tabriz, Persia by a firing squad of 750 men. No matter where in the world one resides, whether there are a handful of Baha’is or a hundred, there will be a group of friends gathering to reflect, pray, and remember that fateful day on July 9, 1850. While it was a somber time, the gatherings are often infused with joy, reverence, reflection and, most of all, unity. 

The Bab, which means “the Gate” in Arabic, was a Messenger of God whose role was to herald the coming of Baha’u’llah. 

Thanks for reading.

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Horizons Team

The Horizons Team aims to cast a spotlight on how the Baha’i Faith’s society-building power is being released in ever-greater measures across this vast and diverse country of ours.

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Published in July, 2024, in Baha'i Institutions > Events

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/bahai-institutions/spiritual-and-multicultural-holy-day-commemorations-in-the-regions/

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