By Ron VandenBoom
Dr. Katherine Williams, a local member of the Baha'i Faith, recently returned from a 9-day visit to Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.
She attended the dedication of the International Teaching Center, formal gardens, and several other edifices important to the Baha'i Faith on Mount Carmel on May 22, 2001.
Williams said 990 other Baha'i members from 172 countries were invited to attend the dedication because of their volunteer work in support of the Teaching Center.
Of the 990 invited 849 from 172 countries managed to attend the gathering.
Some of the volunteers represented countries other then their own primarily Arab countries because of all of the turmoil in the Middle East, she said.
The Baha'i Faith was founded by Baha'u'llah during the 19th century in what is now Iran. Baha'u'llah taught that there was only one God and that there is only one human race, and that all the world's religions have been stages in the revelation of God's purpose for humankind.
Baha'u'llah wrote: "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens."
Baha'u'llah was persecuted and exiled from his native Iran and went to the Holy Land in 1868. He and visited Mount Carmel in the 1890s and was also imprisoned across the bay from Mount Carmel.
The site today is the of one of the most holy places for Baha'is.
Williams said the Baha'i Faith has become more recognized and embraced around the world because it serves all faiths and all people.
"The Baha'i Faith is for the world community and the completion of the terraces is the fulfillment of developing the house of the Lord where all people will be able to come and visit and take part in the beauty," Williams said.
Williams said she saw the significance of the event as representing common love and a vision, or reality, of maturation to reach out and be one people.
"It was a symbol of the connection of the commonality or universality of mankind," she said.
Though not an official pilgrimage to the shrine, Williams feel the time spent at Mount Carmel did have some pilgrimage-like qualities and she came away feeling as though the whole world had come a little closer to fulfilling the promises of all those who came before.
Williams acknowledges that there are not a lot of the Baha'i Faith in Havre, but she expects that it will soon be growing as soon as people begin to understand more about it. Just as it has in other countries where it is more visible and highly respected.
Williams is waiting for her chance to return to Israel on a real pilgrimage sometime in the next two years. Pilgrimage visits are smaller then the dedication ceremony because, she said, they want to keep pilgrimages to smaller groups so it can be a more personal experience.
Anyone interested in learning more about can visit the Baha'i Faith Website at www.bahaiworldnews.org or contact Williams at 265-3216.