In London, UK Secretary of State praises Baha'i ideals
LONDON, England — At a reception held in the Houses of Parliament here, the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has stated his admiration for the Baha'i Faith and its ideals.
The Baha'i principle of the oneness of mankind is one "which we strive to promote in the UK," the Right Honorable Eric Pickles MP told a gathering of more than 100 guests.
"We all have in common our basic humanity and it's this oneness that inspires the Baha'i Faith."
Mr. Pickles was speaking at the Houses of Parliament on 30 April at a celebration of the annual Baha'i festival of Ridvan. Among those present were government officials, parliamentarians, representatives of faith communities and civil society organisations, and foreign diplomats.
"Your message of unity ripples down the ages," Mr. Pickles said.
The activities that Baha'is offer in neighbourhoods and localities, designed to build bonds of community and encourage spiritual renewal, were also singled out for praise from the Secretary of State.
"Your knack in promoting oneness is inspiring – and a little humbling," he said.
Welcoming the guests, Louise Ellman MP – who is the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha'i Faith – said that 'we want to showcase the Baha'i community' and its contributions to UK society, while also raising awareness about the situation of the persecuted Baha'is of Iran.
The Ridvan festival marks the first public declaration by Baha'u'llah – the Faith's Prophet-founder – in a garden in Baghdad, in April 1863. There He informed His friends and family members of His mission to unite the human race and establish universal peace.
"The Baha'i Faith is associated with a garden," said Sahba Besharati, speaking on behalf of the Baha'i community, "the Garden of Ridvan, and the word Ridvan means Paradise – aptly so, since Baha'u'llah's vision was to transform this troubled world into a heavenly garden, where diversity is celebrated, and where the different colours and shapes of the flowers of the garden serve to further enhance the beauty and the harmony of the whole garden."
In 2012, Mr. Pickles launched the 'A Year of Service' initiative at the National Baha'i Centre in London, and last year he hosted a group of Baha'is to celebrate the centenary of the visit to the United Kingdom by 'Abdu'l-Baha – the eldest son of Baha'u'llah and His appointed successor as head of the Baha'i Faith.