Bahá'ís are a minor monotheistic religion, originating in Persia/Iran, where they continue to suffer persecution. They were founded by a Persian, called Bahá'u'lláh, and are headquartered in Haifa, Israel. They have a global presence, and claim six million members (although this number is disputed), many of them still in Iran. It split (violently) from the Bábí Faith in around 1863.
The first specific Bahá'í reference to Shetland occurred on April, 11th, 1916, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá, said the following in his Tablet to the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada
- "Therefore, O ye believers of God! Show ye an effort and after this war spread ye the synopsis of the divine teachings in the British Isles, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, Rumania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino, Balearic Isles, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, Malta, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides and Orkney Islands."
Presence in Shetland
Bahá'ís have deliberately settled and colonised many parts of the world, including islands as remote as Samoa and the Falkland Islands. This makes them the most dispersed religion after Christianity. The Shetland Islands are no exception to this conscious colonisation. However, most of their membership consists of people who have settled in the islands; conversion rates amongst Shetlanders remain low.
The first Bahá'í assembly in Scotland was in Edinburgh in 1948. In 1953, members made a conscious decision to colonise a number of different areas of Scotland, with Brigitte Hasselblatt being the first member in Shetland. Charlie Dunning followed shortly afterwards, and both were visited by Ian Semple in July 1955.<ref>http://bahaihistoryuk.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/ian-semple-1928-2011/</ref> In April 1954, the religion's leader Shoghi Effendi said the following in a speech -
- "...On the eve of this Ridván Festival marking the opening of the second decade of the second Bahá’í century, and coinciding with the termination of the first year of the World Spiritual Crusade, I hail with feelings of joy and wonder the superb feats of the heroic company of the Knights of the Lord of Hosts in pursuance of their sublime mission for the spiritual conquest of the planet. The first twelve months of this decade-long enterprise unexampled in its scope, significance and potentialities in the world’s spiritual history and launched simultaneously, amidst the climax of the world-wide festivities of a memorable Holy Year, in the American, the European, the African, the Asiatic and the Australian continents, have witnessed the hoisting of the banner of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh in no less than a hundred virgin territories of the globe. The total number of the newly opened sovereign states and dependencies comprising Principalities, Sultanates, Emirates, Sheikhdoms, Protectorates, Trust Territories and Crown Colonies, scattered over the face of the earth, represents almost seven-eighths of all the territories, exclusive of the Soviet Republics and Satellites, destined to be opened in the course of an entire decade. The northern frontiers of a divinely guided, rapidly marching, majestically expanding Faith have been pushed, in consequence of the phenomenal success recently achieved by the vanguard of Bahá’u’lláh’s crusaders, beyond the Arctic Circle as far as Arctic Bay, Franklin, 73 degrees latitude. Its southern limits have now reached the Falkland Islands in the neighborhood of Magallanes, the world’s southernmost city. Other outlying outposts have been established in places as far apart as Sikkim at the foot of the Himalayas, the Lofoten Islands in the heart of the European Northland, Fezzan on the northern fringe of the Sahara Desert, the Andaman Islands and the Seychelles, the penal colonies in the Indian Ocean, the three Guianas and the leper colonies on the Atlantic Coast, the Faroe and Shetland Islands, the wind-swept and inhospitable archipelagos of the North Sea, Hadhramaut on the sun-baked shores of the Arabian Peninsula, St. Helena isolated in the midst of the South Atlantic Ocean and the Gilbert Islands, the war-devastated, sparsely populated Atolls situated in the heart of the Pacific Ocean..." [continues...]<ref name=Shoghi>http://www.bahaijpn.com/library/guard/mbw_e.htm</ref>
In 1964, Gloria Faizi, wife of Abu'l-Qásim Faizi, visited Fetlar, Unst, Yell, Whalsay and the Out Skerries, with an eye to evangelisation. (Abu'l-Qásim Faizi was a "Hand of the Cause", i.e. a select high up leader of the faith and administrator. They are appointed by the sect's leader)
In 1972 the local assembly of the Bahá'ís of Lerwick was first elected.
In 1981, a "Hand of the Cause" Rúhíyyih Khánum visited the Shetland Islands.
In 2003, the Lerwick congregation celebrated its anniversary, and there was an exhibition about the religion in the town hall.
The community regularly receive visiting teachers, such as Rita Bartlett.<ref>https://bahaihistoryuk.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/rita-bartlett/</ref>
There are three junior youth groups run by Bahá'ís in Shetland.<ref>http://www.shetlandlive.com/magazine/read/bahai-youth-groups_31.html</ref>
Bahá'ís believe that there is a truth in all religions, but their religion has the whole truth. They are derived from esoteric forms of Islam, and consider Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed etc to be prophets.
They are very keen on One World Government, global peace, environmental causes, and promote the international language Esperanto, as part of their agenda for a New World Order.
They believe in "the unity of God, the unity of religion, and the unity of humankind."
Bahá'ís wishing to publish books about the Bahá'í Faith must first submit their work to their respective National Spiritual Assembly for approval through a review process.
There are problems with retention, as well: from the mid-1960s until 2000, the US Baha'i population went from 10,000 to 140,000 on official rolls, but the percent of members with known addresses dropped to fifty percent. Many so called members may have joined at some point, and entered another religion, without resigning. There is thus much dispute about actual membership. British Census figures indicate about 5,000 in the UK, and 400 in Scotland.
- Shetland Bahai Youth
- Shetland Bahais on Shetland Live
- Bahai Exhibition, Lerwick Town hall