Recently my friend David Sterling, Coordinator of the Annual Holy Days/Holidays Festival at the Mall of America, told me about a his celebration of the Days of Ridvan. This is a sacred celebration for Baha’i around the world, a period to reconnect with the spiritual things of life and the holy bonds of family, friendship, and shared humanity. He shared one of the events with me:
Today is a Baha’i holy day, the 12th Day of Ridvan, the final day of the 12 Day Festival of Ridvan. On the first of those 12 days Baha’u’llah declared His mission, the holiest of all Baha’i holy days. On the ninth day His family joined Him in the Ridvan Garden in Baghdad and on the twelfth day He and His family left Baghdad being exiled to Constantinople. These three days, the 1st, 9th and 12th Days of Ridvan are all holy days where we are asked to abstain from work and school. Wikipedia has a good description of the Garden of Ridvan. There is a second Ridvan Garden in Acre, Israel, recently restored to the time of Baha’u’llah’s visits there.
Our fund raiser raised over $700 for the National Baha’i Fund. This was only one of several such fund raisers in our Twin Cities metro area and in other Baha’i communities across the nation. Only Baha’is can contribute to any of the Baha’i funds whether they are for local, national, international, for special projects, etc. Any other offers to contribute (from outside the Faith) are politely refused.
For our fund raiser in my home after welcoming our dinner guests I read a fund raising story about the Baha’is in Germany after the end of WWII. I chose this story from among several in a collection of fund stories because I was born during the early months of the U.S. entering WWII, Mary Jo, my wife, was born at the end of that war, she and I are both of German descent and it is the Baha’i promise of world peace (and the plan of how to achieve that peace) that brought me to become a Baha’i. After reading the fund story I told our guests of your art glass project, the fact that your gift of your sculptural depiction of the Wellspring of Peace (As-Salam) had arrived earlier that same day and then I brought it into the room from our front porch placing it in the center of the dinning room table. There was considerable interest in your entire 99 Names of Allah art glass project.
Following is the German fund story I read to our guests that day:
“World War II had just come to an end. The scattered German Baha’is were coming together again in West Germany and trying to organize their affairs. They had been living under great pressure during the Nazi regime; the Faith had been banned, Baha’is were not allowed to meet or speak about their beliefs and Baha’i literature had been confiscated. Now that freedom had been restored, the Baha’is realized that the thing they needed most was Baha’i books and pamphlets. Unfortunately, neither printing paper nor ink was to be found in the country in those days.
“People did not even have enough food, and the Baha’is were in the same situation as everyone else. The pre-war German currency had become worthless overnight, and even those who had the money could buy nothing with it.
“The American believers began sending food parcels to their Baha’i brothers and sisters in Germany, often working overtime at odd jobs themselves to be able to afford the gift. The German Baha’is, however, decided that they would rather sacrifice the precious foodstuff that was sent to them if they could receive printing paper and ink instead. This is how they were able to start bringing out Baha’i literature during those difficult times.
“Another project which the German Baha’is undertook right after the war was building a National Baha’i Centre in Frankfurt. The *Guardian asked them to do this and they were not going to disappoint him, no matter how great the sacrifice they had to make.
“The Baha’is of Stuttgart gathered contributions for the Centre in a special way. They made little black cloth bags and each member of the community always carried one of these in his or her pocket. Every single penny which could be spared went into this bag. Baha’is economized in every way possible to save for the Fund. They walked instead of taking the bus, they collected money returning green stamps they received with certain foodstuffs and by deposits they got for their empty bottles. Penny by penny the filled their bags and emptied them out on each Nineteen Day Feast.
“Of the many thousands of people who have visited the Baha’i Centre in Frankfurt, there are probably very few who realize with what tremendous sacrifice it was built.”
*Shoghi Effendi, great-grandson of Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) [Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith] was Guardian of the international Baha’i community at this time.
Gardens are a symbol of the felicity, diversity, beauty, and limitless bounty in heaven, and gardens are an enduring symbol of the Baha’i world view; whatever our faith, this is a symbol we may share. “The world is our country, and we are all it’s citizens.”
All mankind are flowers in a great garden. If all the flowers were the same color, it would be dull and boring. But if there’s diversity, there’s greater beauty.
–Robert Weinberg, Director, Office of Public Information, World Baha’i Center