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Where Do Rwanda’s 15,000 Bahá’í Faith Converts Pray From?

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Rwanda hosts about 15,000 members of the Bahá’í faith one of the smallest religious sects in this hilly east African country that is predominantly catholic and with a slightly larger number of Anglicans and moslems.

However, one may wonder where the Bahá’ís of Rwanda congregate from- It is quite easy to access the mosques, roman catholic cathedrals and Anglican churches but not for the Bahá’í temples.

The first settlers of the Bahá’í religion arrived in the region by July 1953 from the United States and Malawi. The first Bahá’í to travel through Rwanda may have been Marthe Molitor c. 1947 after joining the religion in Belgium though she moved on to the Belgian Congo.

The first Rwandan to convert to Bahá’í faith was known as Alphonse Semanyenzi.

The regional National Spiritual Assembly of Central and East Africa was established in 1956, with its seat in Kampala, and embraced Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya, Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi, and other areas.

Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga represented the Universal House of Justice for the 1969 election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Burundi and Rwanda with its seat in Bujumbura.

With the independence of Burundi and Rwanda, the National Assembly was reformed in 1972 for each country. Hand of the Cause Rúhíyyih Khanum visited Rwanda in 1972 and 1973 about when the community was officially recognized by the national government.

History of Bahá’í religion

The Baháʼí Faith was established by Baháʼu’lláh (1817-1892) and later announced in 1863 that He was God’s Messenger for this age. His teachings and sacred writings form the basis of the Bahá’í Faith.

Baha’u’llah, whose name means “Glory of God” in Arabic, was born in Tehran in 1817. Baha’u’llah’s father was a minister in Iran’s government, which supported Shi’i Islam as the state religion.

As a member of Iran’s nobility, Baha’u’llah was offered a government position. Instead, he joined a new religious movement, started by a young Iranian, known as the Bab.

The Babi movement called for revolutionary social changes and championed women’s rights.

Quite controversially, the Bab claimed that his teachings were a revelation from God and predicted that a new prophetic figure, or manifestation of God, would soon appear.

In 1850, the Bab was charged by Shi’i religious officials with heresy and was put to death by firing squad. Subsequent public protests and mob violence claimed the lives of thousands of his followers.

As part of its crackdown on the followers of the Bab, the Iranian government incarcerated Baha’u’llah.

He was kept in an underground prison in Tehran, which Baha’u’llah describes in his writings as filthy, dark and “foul beyond comparison.”

The government released Baha’u’llah in 1853, and exiled him to Baghdad, then part of the Ottoman Empire. It was during this exile that he publicly announced the establishment of the Baha’i faith.

Indeed Baha’u’llah claimed to be the manifestation of God that the Bab had foretold and gained a large following. Ottoman officials later moved Baha’u’llah to the prison city of Akka in Palestine.

He remained there until his passing in 1892. Today, Baha’u’llah’s shrine, now in Israel, is an important pilgrimage site.

A primary theme of Baha’u’llah’s teachings is achieving world peace through the establishment of unity, justice and equality.

Therefore, Baha’u’llah’s teachings specifically advocate for racial unity, gender equality, universal education, and harmony of science and religion.

Baha’is, for example, embrace interracial marriage and education for girls. In fact, the first school for girls in Iran was established by the Baha’is.

The Bahá’í World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akká and Haifa in northern Israel. It comprises the Shrines of Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as well as other holy sites in the surrounding area.

In the vicinity of the Shrine of the Báb there are a number of structures including the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Centre Building, the Centre for the Study of the Texts and the International Bahá’í Archives, all of which are set in extensive gardens.

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Religion

Pope Francis Visits Hungary, Slovakia

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The papal plane that departed from Rome at 6.09am local time, is taking Pope Francis to Budapest, where he is scheduled to land at 7,45am for the first leg of his journey.

Here he will meet with authorities before presiding over the concluding Mass of the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress in the Hungarian capital’s Heroes Square.

He is scheduled to spend about 7 hours in the country before taking a short flight to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, on Sunday afternoon.

That leg of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey will last until Wednesday.

One highlight of his visit to Slovakia wil be the celebration of Mass at the National Shrine of Šaštin, on the feast day of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, Patron saint of Slovakia.

Pope Francis’ pilgrimage, said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin in an interview with Vatican News on the eve of the journey, is a way of entrusting “to Her all those who find themselves in situations of fragility, of vulnerability, of suffering, including physical suffering, as he has been going through in this period, especially taking into account the situation brought on by the pandemic.”

four dimensions of the visit

Presenting the visit to journalists at a briefing in the Vatican, Holy See Press Office Director Matteo Bruni said the visit can be seen as a pilgrimage with four dimensions: a spiritual dimension centered on the Eucharist; an ecumenical dimension when he meets leaders of the other Christian churches and recalls the shared Christian heritage in Hungary and Slovakia that is linked to saints, Cyril and Methodius, who evangelized these peoples; an interreligious dimension represented by the meetings with leaders of the Jewish community in both capital cities; and a missionary dimension during which the Pope will evoke the heroic witness of faith and martyrdom given by Hungarian and Slovak Catholics who suffered persecution under the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

 

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Pope Asks Do We Live Under Law or As Children of God?

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In his catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis said we should ask ourselves if we are still living “under the Law” or if we understand that, having become children of God, we are called to live in love.

Pope Francis was explaining St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians at a General Audience, focusing on St Paul’s understanding of the role of the Law for Christians.

St Paul, he said, “has taught us that the ‘children of the promise,’ – that is, all of us, justified by Jesus Christ – are no longer bound by the Law, but are called to the demanding life-style of the freedom of the Gospel.”

He explained that for St Paul, the acceptance of faith is the turning point both for salvation history as a whole and in our own personal stories. At the heart of faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus, “which Paul preached in order to inspire faith in the Son of God, the source of salvation.”

So, he said, for Christians, there is a period “before becoming believers” and “after receiving the faith”; and there is, therefore, “a ‘before’ and ‘after’ with regard to the Law itself.”

In the period before receiving the faith, being “under the Law” has a negative sense, “as if one is watched and locked up, a kind of preventative custody.” This period, he said, “is perpetuated as long as one lives in sin.”

Law as teacher and guardian

The Law, said Pope Francis, makes us aware of what it means to transgress the law and also makes people aware of their own sin. In a certain sense, it ends up “stimulating the transgression.”

But he went on to explain, using St Paul’s image of the Law as a pedagogue, that while the Law had a “restrictive” function, it also served to protect and support the people of Israel, “it had educated them, disciplined them, and supported them in their weakness.”

So, the Pope said, the Law also had a positive function, that was nonetheless limited in time: when children become adults, they no longer need a guardian. Likewise, “once one has come to faith, the Law exhausts its propaedeutic value and must give way to another authority.”

Considering the role of the law

However, he said, the law still exists and is still important. Pope Francis said the role of the law “deserves to be considered carefully so we do not give way to misunderstandings and take false steps.”

And so, he said, “it is good for us to ask ourselves if we still live in the period in which we need the Law, or if, instead, we are fully aware of having received the grace of becoming children of God so as to live in love.”

It is a good question, he said, and added a second: “Do I despise the Commandments?” He also gave an answer: “No. I observe them, but not as absolutes, because I know that it is Jesus Christ who justifies me.”

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Official Image For World Meeting Of Families Released

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The Vatican said on Sunday that it has released the official image for the upcoming World Meeting of Families.

The eagerly awaited 10th World Meeting of Families will take place in Rome from June 22 to 26 June 2022, after the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Sacramental love between a man and a woman is a reflection of the indissoluble love and unity between Christ and the Church: Jesus sheds His blood for Her.”

This is the meaning behind the official image of the Tenth World Meeting of Families.

The work, entitled, “This Mystery is Great” (taken from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, 5:32), was painted by theologian and artist Father Marko Ivan Rupnik, SJ,.

The image portrays the Wedding at Cana, with the bride and groom in the background on the left, covered by a veil. Jesus and Mary are seen united, at the moment when Mary tells her Son, “They have no more wine.”

In the foreground is the steward, with the face of St Paul as portrayed in classical iconography.

It is Saint Paul “who removes the veil with his hand, and referring to the wedding, exclaims, “This mystery is great; but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church!”.

Father Rupnik’s painting is the third official symbol to be published; along with the official prayer and logo, it serves as a pastoral tool for the preparation and journey of families toward the 2022 World Meeting.

The event is being organized by the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life along with the Diocese of Rome and will take place on the sixth anniversary of the encyclical Amoris laetitia and four years on from the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate.

The tenth World Meeting of Families follows an unprecedented formula, being presented as a “multi-centered and widespread” dimension.

Rome will be the main venue, but on the days of the worldwide Church event, each diocese will be able to promote a local meeting for its own families and communities. Every family in the world can be a protagonist.

In his video message last July 2 on the occasion of the presentation of the extraordinary form of the Meeting, Pope Francis emphasized that “everyone will be able to participate, even those who cannot come to Rome.”

The Holy Father urged diocesan communities, wherever possible, to plan initiatives based on the theme of the Meeting: “Family love: a vocation and a path to holiness.”

“I ask you to be dynamic, active and creative in organising this with the families in harmony with what will be taking place in Rome,” Pope Francis said.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to devote ourselves with enthusiasm to family ministry with spouses, families and pastors together.

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