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Sewickley Bahai community marks 200th birth of religious founder

| Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 1:00 p.m.

As many around the world mark the 200th birthday of spiritual teacher Bahá'u'lláh, the Baha'is of Sewickley will join the festivities with a free film screening for the local community.

“Light to the World” is a 60-minute film about the life and transformative vision of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Baha'i faith. The screening will take place at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 in a space rented from the Tull Family Theater.

Judith Washington, a Sewickley resident and member of the Baha'i Faith, said a half-hour discussion period will follow the conclusion of the film to allow for questions and answers.

“The purpose of the Baha'i faith is to spread these teachings around the world, not necessarily so people will become Baha'is, but people will be aware of them because we think they're so helpful,” she said.

The Baha'i faith is an independent global religion whose purpose is to unite humanity, Washington said.

The Sewickley screening is taking place as part of a worldwide commemoration that marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh, whose name means “The Glory of God.”

The Light of Unity, whose theme is Unity in Diversity, will see festival activities — art exhibitions, music, drama, storytelling, service projects and prayer and devotional programs— taking place during the weekend of Oct. 21 worldwide. Activities are designed to celebrate the transformative impact of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on the lives of families, neighborhoods and communities around the country and the world.

The film won't be released until Bahá'u'lláh's birthday and has been translated into multiple languages for worldwide viewing.

Born Oct. 22, 1817, Bahá'u'lláh was a spiritual teacher who announced in 1863 that he was the bearer of a new revelation from God. Bahá'u'lláh's teachings have since spread around the world, igniting a process of social transformation and community building which is unique in its global scope and in the diversity of its participants.

Washington said only about a handful of Baha'is reside in the Sewickley Valley, but there are more than 5 million Baha'is worldwide in 236 countries and territories. She called it the world's youngest nature religion, but said many people on the planet haven't heard much about it.

“You could go to the Amazon jungle and find a Baha'i or the North Pole, but we don't necessarily have large numbers of Baha'is.”

The Pittsburgh Baha'i community has a larger number of followers and have planned simiilar weekend activities at Winchester Thurston School.

At the national level, in early September, the Baha'í House of Worship in Wilmette, Ill., began hosting a nine-week series of programs on themes applying the principle of the oneness of humanity to contemporary challenges, including environmental justice, race relations, indigenous peoples, human rights, and the harmony science and religion.

Washington believes Bahá'u'lláh's vision of the oneness of humanity is an antidote to the division and prejudice she said is corroding American society.

“So many of the people I talk to feel we urgently need positive models of social change that bring people together rather than divide them,” Washington said. “We Sewickley Baha'is are showing this film in our local community as a way of adding our drop to that ocean.”

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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