About 90 people gathered on Signal Hill on Nov. 2 to celebrate the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Báb through music, poetry, dance, paintings and even quilts. The arts were central to a worldwide celebration of the Bicentenary.
Autumn sunlight streamed through multi-coloured quilted panels at a bicentennial celebration in St. John’s on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 2.
Draped against a wall of windows and a panoramic view of St. John’s Harbour, the panels evoked an intimate sense of history for Bahá’ís and their friends gathered in a conference room overlooking the city.
The panels were inspired by the stained-glass windows of a room owned by the Báb, a 19th century Messianic Figure from Persia Whom Bahá’ís revere as a Messenger of God and the Herald of their Faith.
It was in that room in Shiraz that the Báb declared His Mission to a young seeker in 1844. This “Declaration Chamber” was destroyed by the Iranian revolutionary government in 1979 but is well-known to Bahá’ís through photographs.
About 50 Bahá’ís and 40 guests gathered on Nov. 2 at Memorial University’s Signal Hill campus to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Báb’s birth. The quilts displayed there were a reminder that the Declaration Chamber still exists in the hearts of Bahá’ís.
“These quilts transported us all to the Báb’s room,” said Bob Gagnon, a Bahá’í from nearby Conception Bay South.
The panels were quilted by Lisa-Jo and Jeff van den Scott, who spent a year-and-a-half planning and creating them in honour of the Bicentennial.
The quilts were among several original creative works at the celebration, reflecting a focus on the arts at Bicentennial celebrations throughout the world.
Also on display were original artworks by Toby Rabinowitz, Joan Rendell and Marlys Tilley.
The Inter-Faith Chorale Project sang I Adjure Thee, a piece composed by Jeff van den Scott and based upon a prayer by the Báb.
Lisa McDonald, a friend of the Bahá’ís, choreographed an original dance piece called A New Day, which she, Ashley Clements, Maryam Connors and Dianna Connors performed.
Robert Sarracino and Jasper Edinger performed A Celebration of the Báb, a piece for piano and violin inspired by an Iranian song.
People of many faiths joined in the celebration – including several members of the Inter-Faith Chorale Project and Christian inspirational artist Kathy Stock.
The program included excerpts from Báb’s writings and an ode to Him written by one of his disciples, the renowned Persian poet Tahirih.
Radiance that can never fade
In 1844, a young merchant named Siyyid Ali Muhammad announced that He was the bearer of a message destined to transform the life of humanity.
At a time when Persia – now called Iran – was undergoing widespread moral breakdown, His message aroused excitement and hope among all classes, rapidly attracting thousands of followers. He took the name “The Báb,” meaning “the Gate” in Arabic. Baha’is regard Him as the symbolic gate between past ages of prophecy and a new age of fulfillment.
With His call for spiritual and moral reformation, and His attention to improving the position of women and the lot of the poor, the Báb’s prescription for spiritual renewal was revolutionary. At the same time, He founded a distinct, independent religion of His own, inspiring His followers to transform their lives and carry out great acts of heroism.
The Báb announced that humanity stood at the threshold of a new era. His mission was to prepare the way for the coming of a Manifestation of God Who would usher in the age of peace and justice promised in all the world’s religions: Bahá’u’lláh.
The Báb’s ministry would last only six years – from the time of His declaration in 1844 to his martyrdom before a firing squad in 1850.
At one point, The Báb was imprisoned at the Fortress of Mah Ku in northern Iran. The warden of the prison would not allow a candle into the Báb’s windowless cell.
It is for this reason that Bahá’ís never allow the Shrine of the Báb in Haifa, Israel, to be enveloped in darkness; at night, it is always illuminated.
The golden-domed Shrine stands as a reminder of the Báb’s transcendent victory. The names of those who tortured him, threw him into darkness and executed Him have faded into obscurity. His Shrine stands as a testament to the power of His Cause and the light of His revelation.
For Bahá’ís celebrating at Signal Hill this year, the dazzling sunlight that permeated the celebration room all afternoon was a reminder of the Báb’s triumph over darkness.
“I am the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things,” He once wrote. “I am the Countenance of God Whose splendour can never be obscured, the Light of God Whose radiance can never fade.”