افتتاح المركز البهائى بادنبر ة Scottish Bahá’ís open new Edinburgh Bahá’í Centre


Written by SV on Tuesday, 24 May, 2011

Edinburgh Baha'i Centre nameplate

Edinburgh — On 23 May, the  Bahá’í holy day known as the Declaration of the Báb which marks the anniversary of the beginning of the Faith, Cabinet Secretary for Justice in the Scottish government, Kenny MacAskill MSP, spoke at the opening of the new Bahá’í centre in Edinburgh. Mr MacAskill joined faith leaders and members of the Scottish Bahá’í community for the reception.

The new centre, at 44 Albany Street, is situated in the historic Georgian New Town district, close to the city’s commercial district and the famous Royal Mile. A stormy night failed to hinder most of the invited guests from sharing this historic occasion with Scottish Bahá’ís.

Kenny MacAskill MSP

Mr MacAskill spoke of the need for religious tolerance and praised Scottish efforts against sectarianism. In a posting to Twitter, he said that the opening was a “great event” at a “great venue” and that the experience was “interfaith as it should be.”

The Bahá’í community was also glad to welcome John Barbour of Inverness, great nephew of early Scottish Bahá’í Jane Elizabeth Whyte. Mrs Whyte hosted one of the Faith’s central figures, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, during a visit to Edinburgh in January 1913. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and head of the Faith from 1892 to 1921.

Guests at the opening of the new Edinburgh Baha'i Centre

Programme

The evening’s programme included music, readings from Bahá’í scripture in Gaelic and English, and remarks by Dr Sepideh Taheri, chair of the Edinburgh Bahá’í Assembly, and by Dr Maureen Sier, vice-chair of the Bahá’í Council for Scotland. Special mention was made of the Scottish government’s work to improve social harmony – a goal at the heart of the Bahá’í teachings. The noted Scottish viola player, Carolyn Sparey, herself a Bahá’í, performed during the evening.

Search for a suitable building

The search for a suitable Bahá’í centre in Edinburgh began in 2003, when the community decided to acquire a building where they could receive distinguished visitors and offer a venue for engaging with Scottish society to discuss ways to improve community life in Scotland.

Events in Bahá’í communities across the United Kingdom raised funds to purchase a building. The first donation came from a group of Bahá’í children who created and sold handmade bookmarks. In the Bahá’í Faith, only members of the community can make financial contributions.

Refurbishment

A suitable building was found in May 2005 and acquired for £1.2 million. Glasgow property developers, Farahbod Nakhaei and Homan Varghaei, also members of the Bahá’í community, were responsible for the centre’s refurbishment.

“For six years,” said Mr Varghaei, “this project has been a big part of my life. The biggest concern was always keeping within budget and ensuring the highest quality in all aspects. Through the process of working with the UK Bahá’í institutions, I gained a deeper understanding of the skills of consultation and the refurbishments did in fact come in under budget.”

The four-storey building is equipped with multi-functional reception and meeting rooms. David Merrick, an Edinburgh Bahá’í, said “Many plans are being made, including serving the wider community by providing an environment where discourse about the betterment of Scotland can take place.”

“After many love-filled months of preparation and service,” said Mr Merrick, “inviting guests, arranging furnishings, cleaning and tidying, washing windows inside and out, the approach of this important public day was exciting, intense and full of apprehension. All who attended, whether guests or friends, felt moved and privileged to be present; absent were the formalities and barriers of official functions; instead, the evening had the happy and relaxed atmosphere of being in the pleasant home of a friend.”

Message from Bahá’í Faith’s world governing council

The Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the Bahá’í world community, sent a message to Scottish Bahá’ís from its seat in Haifa, Israel. The opening of the Edinburgh centre, it said, “marks a significant step forward for the Bahá’í community of Edinburgh, no less for the Scottish Bahá’í community as a whole”.

Centenary of visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Bahá’ís across the United Kingdom are preparing to celebrate the centenary anniversaries of two visits to Britain by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in 1911 and 1913. During His 1913 stay in Edinburgh, home of the Scottish Enlightenment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave many public talks on the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, advocating principles such as the oneness of mankind, the equality of men and women, and the progressive nature of religion. He also toured universities and schools, attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah organised for the city’s poor, and wrote to the famous Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, praising him for his philanthropic works.

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