Baha'is celebrate new year

23 March 2007

— Baha'is around the world celebrated their new year this week, with those in Vietnam holding a special ceremony to mark the government's issuing a certificate of operation for their activities.

In London, the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha'is hosted a reception at the House of Parliament. British Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a message referring to the "unique contribution" of the Baha'i community.

"The words of your founder, that 'the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,' have perhaps an even greater resonance in 2007 than ever before," Mr. Blair wrote. "The universal challenges of climate change, and its potentially disastrous impact on millions of people across the globe, remind us forcefully that we are all fellow citizens of the world, all sharing in its destiny.

"As we confront these challenges I have no doubt that you, and your fellow Baha'is in other countries, have much to contribute to the debate and the pursuit of possible solutions, drawing on the tradition of working for social justice of which Baha'is can rightly be so proud," Mr. Blair wrote.

Opposition leader David Cameron also sent a message, remembering that Baha'is in some countries face persecution because of their faith. "Freedom to worship and to hold religious belief is a fundamental right which we must always cherish," Mr. Cameron stated.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, about 280 people attended a reception where the government Committee for Religious Affairs presented a certificate giving recognition to Baha'i activities.

The state news agency announced the reception and quoted Ngo Yen Thi, head of the Committee for Religious Affairs, as saying, "The State policy on religion respects and ensures freedom of belief and religion for all Vietnamese citizens as stipulated in the country's first constitution in 1946 and in revised versions."

In Singapore, members of the Baha'i Faith invited hundreds of guests to join them for food, music and cultural dance performances to celebrate the new year. Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan was the guest of honor, according to an article in The Straits Times.

The Baha'i new year - called Naw Ruz, literally "new day" in the Persian language - falls on March 21, and usually is celebrated that day or the evening before. The Baha'i calendar, now in year 164, has 19 months of 19 days each, with intercalary days added to reach the 365 days of the solar year. The Baha'i Faith originated in 1844.

The Faith has about 5 million followers, who live in some 235 countries and territories.

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