Staying true to their motto of “helping students discover diversity,” the Multicultural Center hosted an event Tuesday discussing the Baha’i faith.
Graduate student Nick Okamoto, a member of the Columbia Baha’i faith, discussed his own thematic overview of the Baha’i faith.
The event also included the film “Education Under Fire,” a short documentary about the ongoing suppression of the members of the Baha’i faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Okamoto is part of the Baha’i community of Columbia and is, to his knowledge, the only active member of the Baha’i religion attending the MU.
Okamoto was born and raised in Hawaii. His father was from a Buddhist background and his mother actively practiced the Baha’i faith. This was Okamoto’s first exposure to the religion he would later claim as his own.
The documentary “Education Under Fire” shows members of the Baha’i faith in Iran being prosecuted for their religion by the Iranian government in 2011. Because these individuals did not practice Islam, they were subjected to unjustified arrests and executions and were denied basic human rights such as property ownership and education. The documentary follows these individuals as they sought equal rights under a suppressive government.
From its humble beginnings as the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions, the Baha’i faith centralizes its teachings on the concept of unity and that humanity, after a turbulent adolescence, will reach unity and just society on a global scale.
The religion does not use a priest or clergy members, but instead follows the Universal House of Justice, a governing body that enforces the rules of the Baha’i faith.
“The primary task of the soul will always be to investigate reality, to live in accordance with the truths of which it becomes persuaded and to accord full respect to the efforts of others to do the same,” according to the Universal House of Justice message to world religious leaders.
Like all other religions, the Baha’i faith follows the teachings of a founder, Bahá’u’lláh, born in 19th-century Iran.
Bahá’u’lláh is recognized world widely as one of the divine messengers, along with Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster and Jesus, and believes that there is one God among all monotheistic religions and that humanity is united under this one God, according to the Baha’i Faith website.
His teachings were not well received however, and he was banished for 40 years. During this time, he traveled to the Holy Land, where he died in 1892.
Now, the Baha’i faith has more 5 million adherents in approximately 236 countries and territories, according to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. These individuals practice the basic values of the faith such as humility and respect of others’ religions.
The importance of education is also established within the values of the religion.
“Universal education is a core principle in the Baha'i Faith, and the value of education is highly esteemed,” Okamoto said.