As Baha’i celebrate bicentenary, member shares about the faith
Drawn by the Baha’i belief in the unity of God, the unity of religion and the unity of humankind, Deborah Bisenius said it matched her childhood vision and experience of living in unity and peace in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Her parents were working with the American Baptist Home Mission using “a collective, ecumenical approach” to ministry in an inter-cultural, inter-racial area. They invited neighborhood children for activities in their home.
“In the post-World War II era, there was a worldwide sentiment to repair the world,” she said. “My parents raised my three sisters and me to love the world.”
Deborah continues that commitment, living in Spokane’s inter-cultural, inter-racial East Central neighborhood.
“In the U.S., we have different cultures living together, so we can show the world that it’s possible to live together in unity and peace,” she said. “The Baha’i community in Spokane is like my family.”
This fall, Baha’is worldwide celebrate the founders of their monotheistic faith that now has five million believers in nearly every country and in thousands of U.S. communities.
In Spokane, two community celebrations are planned.
One is at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 28, at the Unity Center of Divine Love and Light, 4123 E. Lincoln Rd.
The other is a 6 p.m. dinner and movie on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Fireplace Room of Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place in Spokane Valley.
Deborah is working with David Gregory, the Spokane Baha’i public information officer, and Spokane Valley community member Joe Urlacher to promote the October events.
Deborah explained that in October 1819 in Shiraz, Persia, Siyyid Ali-Muhammad was born. He later took the title “the Báb,” meaning “the Gate.” He was the herald who prepared the way for Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith. The Báb called people to purify themselves for the coming Day of God.
Baha’u’llah, whose name means the “Glory of God,” announced in 1863 that he was God’s messenger for this age. His teachings and sacred writings are the basis of the Baha’i Faith, she said.
Baha’u’llah proclaimed that God, as loving creator, sends divine messengers or manifestations of God with teachings that enable humanity to know and worship God. These manifestations have appeared throughout history every 500 to 1,000 years, bringing human civilization to ever higher levels of spiritual and material advancement, David explained.
He said Baha’u’llah is the latest in this long line of divine messengers, which has included Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and the Báb.
Deborah said the Báb, who lived from 1819 to 1850, was in prison from 1844 until he was martyred and killed there. The Báb was in prison for saying there was need for reforming the prevailing faith, and for establishing a new religion, code of conduct and an end to sharia law.
There is an account that he was put before a firing squad of 750 men. After they shot, he disappeared and was found in his cell. It was hard to find a second firing squad, but he was martyred July 9, 1850.
“As a teen, I heard his story. Having studied the Bible, I saw parallels with Christ,” Deborah said. “We are to take to heart what we are to do, not spend time bickering about faith. The commandments are to show mercy, love God, listen to guidance, be kind and ‘play well’ together. It’s good for our health and our environment,” she said.
Deborah was 15 when her father was killed in a car accident. When she was 17, she became Baha’i. Her life from there has been a journey.
“Baha’i faith for me has been like yeast in bread, a catalyst,” she said.
Deborah began junior college and transferred to but dropped out of Beloit College in Wisconsin, marrying and living in many locations around the country before settling in Coeur d’Alene. In 1983, she divorced and in 1984 started to study chemistry at North Idaho College.
She married her second husband at a wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Both completed degrees at Eastern Washington University, she in 1988 in chemistry. After her husband graduated in 1989, their son was born. She raised him Catholic and volunteered at Catholic schools to support his education.
Deborah worked in industry and then for 27 years at the City of Spokane. She started as a lab technician, and progressed to working as a chemist in the pre-treatment program to keep industrial chemicals out of the wastewater plant In 2008, she began working on environmental programs at City Hall until she retired in April.
She and a friend have a neighborhood group to gather people to learn about Baha’i. For her, that means being in constant search to understand the human spirit through study and service.
Deborah said the worldwide Baha’i calendar has 19 months each with 19 days. Each month they gather for prayer in homes or public places.
She added that every day Baha’is are to pray, interact with the word of God and contemplate long-term effects of their spiritual habits so they transform themselves and work for “the betterment of the world through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct,” she quoted Baha’u’llah.
Baha’i believe that “the benevolent Divine Being’s guidance continues to unfold, but erodes in the hands of human beings, so it periodically needs to be renewed and updated,” she said.
David pointed out that the Golden Rule of treating others as they would want to be treated has been revealed each time—in the revelations that came to Jews, Christians, Moslems, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists.
Baha’is believe that “the twin Revelators”—the Báb and Baha’u’llah—signal the end of the prophetic cycle and the beginning of the cycle of fulfillment, guiding humans to build an advancing civilization, he said.
“We believe the world will eliminate the barriers created by our troubled history,” he said
“All religions are related, interdependent and from the same Source. All of humanity are ‘the fruits of one tree, the leaves of one branch.’ All forms of prejudice are immoral. Men and women are equal in the eyes of God. Universal unity is necessary, but must be preceded by universal justice,” David summarized.
Baha’is anticipate an end to “fruitless strife and ruinous wars” and believe “the Most Great Peace shall come.”
For information, call 326-0125, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit bahai.us.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2019