Australian Baha'i Sites

Fusing culture, community and faith to create a unique coming-of-age celebration

At the age of 15, having reached spiritual maturity, young Baha’is have the opportunity to reaffirm their faith in Baha’u’llah. With no prescribed ceremony for this moment, communities and Baha’is everywhere have the opportunity to mark this special occasion in their own unique way.

In Darwin, the community recently gathered to celebrate not only the reaffirmation of a young man named Bahji Obama Fehoko, but fused it together with a celebration of his Tongan culture.

The gathering also featured a formal recognition of all the town’s youngsters – weaving elements of culture, community and faith together to create a unique coming-of-age event.

… the importance of attaining spiritual maturity at the age of fifteen is that it marks that point in life at which the believer takes firmly into his own hands the responsibility for his spiritual destiny. At age fifteen, the individual has the privilege of affirming, in his own name, his faith in Baha’u’llah. For while the children of Baha’i parents are considered to be Baha’is, they do not automatically inherit the Faith of their parents. Therefore, when they come of age, they must, of their own volition, express their belief.

The Universal House of Justice 1

The Darwin Baha’i community’s children and youth have been the pivot of the town’s capacity-building process in recent years. With multiple children’s classes and a robust junior youth group, it was exciting to see the oldest child approach 15. And while every young person must make their own choice regarding their spiritual journey, the community was delighted when Bahji elected to reaffirm his faith.

Following his decision, Bahji’s parents, Toa and Afu Fehoko, shared their intent to create a celebration around his reaffirmation. They decided to fuse their Tongan cultural traditions around reaching maturity with a ceremony highlighting the significance of the occasion for Bahji as a Baha’i while also including the community’s youngsters in the festivities.

After careful planning and with the support of family, friends and the entire community, a very special event was hosted complete with limousine, outfit changes, cakes, tables of honour, speeches, joy, and plenty of dancing.

The two special people who raised Bahji, Toa and Afu, present him with a key and Kitab-i-Aqdas

After Bahji was presented a traditionally carved key symbolising his growing maturity, and a Kitab-i-Aqdas (the central religious text of the Baha’i Faith), there was much applause along with more than a few tears.

Bahji along with some of his junior youth group up on stage

With the ceremony largely done, it was time to celebrate all the kids and youth of the community. One by one they were called to the stage to receive certificates for their participation and completion in the year’s programs. Traditional Tongan leis were presented to each child, with more than a few ‘lolly leis’ – yes, they literally have lollies stitched in!

The community’s youngsters up on stage receiving leis and certificates

The following is a piece Bahji wrote and performed at his reaffirmation. We hope it provides your communities and young ones with inspiration as they too tread along their own spiritual path in search of meaning and purpose.

As I gaze toward the future, I anticipate,
With a foundation so strong, I didn’t hesitate,
“O Man of Two Visions!” those words do inspire,
One eye on the world, one on a vision higher.
The future awaits with its mysteries untold,
But with this foundation, I’ll be bold,
To face what comes, to embrace what’s to be,
With love, unity, and peace, my destiny.

Bahji Obama Fehoko

Footnotes

  1. Universal House of Justice 11 April 1985[]

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Darwin

The Top End Baha'i community includes Darwin and Palmerston communities, is home to many diverse multicultural neighbourhoods, and is part of traditional Larrakia country.

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Published in March, 2024, in Community Stories > Reflections

Available online at: horizons.bahai.org.au/community-stories/fusing-culture-community-and-faith-to-create-a-coming-of-age-celebration/

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