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‘Abdu’l-Bahá is Coming on Tour in the Interest of His Religion

Abdul Baha is Coming on Tour in the Interest of His Religion
Portland Oregon Oregonian
September 1, 1912
Portland, OR

Leader of Religions Movement Which Claims Three Million Followers Soon to Visit Portland — Votaries Term Him “Prophet of God.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá is coming!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá is coming!”

All up and down the length of the Pacific Coast for the past few weeks followers of the great Persian religionist, whom they regard as a prophet of God, have been bearing this message one to the other with shining faces and voices vibrant with love and hope.

With the announcement that out of the East there is to come to this ultimate rim of the West the great teacher, the humble follower of God, who styles himself the “Servant of Humanity,” the leader of a religious movement which claims three millions of followers, men and women who think, students of religious development are putting their ears to the ground and asking “What does this mean?” “Who is this man of the East, this ‘Slave of the Glory’?” “What is his message?”

If the question be addressed to one of his followers, of whom there are several hundred in Portland, the reply will invariably be:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá is a prophet of God. His message is one of love and peace. He has uplifted the standard of the oneness of faith and the honor of humanity. We, his followers, are gathering around that standard and are trying heart and soul to bring about the union of mankind.”

They will tell you that Bahá’ísm is not a church, not a sect, not a creed — that it is the one great universal religion. That it began in Persia almost seventy years ago, the movement being started with the rise of a teacher known as the Báb (the door), a fiery young apostle, whose personal name was Ali Mohammed, who 68 years ago (1844) created an upheaval in the conservative religious world of Persia, attacking the ignorance and vice of the clergy and proclaiming a religious and moral revolution. As he gained, followers the clergy and government viewed him with alarm and he and his followers were made the victims of persecutions, being thrown into prison and, in many cases, put to death with great cruelty. It has been estimated that 20,000, among them many women and children, were put to death during the half dozen years that the Báb was active in spreading his message. After six years Báb became a martyr to the cause he had advocated and was shot to death by a regiment of soldiers in 1850. Not however before he had directed his followers to prepare for One Mightier, of whom he was but the Forerunner.

The One Mightier after two years of exile proclaimed himself and he became known as Bahá’u’lláh (the Glory of God).

Bahá’u’lláh was a young nobleman, Mirza Hosein Ali of Nur, Persia. Before the death of Báb he had become known as a great teacher of the Bábis. Later his vast estates were swept away, he was thrown into prison and threatened with death because of his faith. At the intercession of persons of influence, among them the Russian Ambassador, his punishment was commuted to banishment. He was sent into exile and was a prisoner from one Moslem country to another until he finally lodged with about 150 followers in the Turkish penal colony of Akka in Syria, where after a mission of 40 years he died in 1892.

Into exile and imprisonment with Bahá’u’lláh went his 8-year-old son, Abbas Effendi, sharing the tortures and imprisonment and becoming his father’s chief disciple. For 43 years ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a prisoner in the fortress of Akka, held there by the Sultan of Turkey because his teaching was bringing enlightenment and freedom of thought to all who came within the contact of its power.

On the death of his father ‘Abdul-Bahá became the leader of the Bahá’í movement. From within prison walls he kept alive the faith, never warning in his great task. At the end of 40 years with the fall of the old despotic regime in Turkey and the rise of the Young Turk party he was released from priest and is now free to come and go as he wills.

Last Autumn he visited England and France and was received by religious and social workers, men high in the political world, writers and poets who hung on his words and marveled at the breadth and the beauty of his message. From the pulpits of the established church, from tie platform of the radical City Temple in London, before small groups of religious students and vast assemblies of common people the Persian teacher spoke, carrying his message of the universal religion, of universal, brotherhood and universal peace.

Everywhere ho left a profound impression. His wisdom is said to be a marvel to all who have met him. He shows the greatest familiarity with the Bible and all the holy books of the different religions. He charms men of learning and devotes his life to succoring the poor and unfortunate. When in London at the request of the Lord Mayor he paid a visit to Mansion House and there talked over the conditions of the nation. The great inequalities of life — the extreme poverty of the poor and the luxury in which the people of wealth dwell oppresses ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “This should not be,” said he. This great contrast in life is one of the blots on the civilization of this enlightened age. You must turn your attention more earnestly to the betterment of the conditions of the poor. Do not be satisfied until each one with whom you are concerned is to you as a member of your family.”

Abdu’l-Bahá believes that everyone be he rich or poor should have a trade, an art or a profession and that with this he must serve humanity. “This service,” says the Persian teacher, “is acceptable as the highest form of worship.”
One of the vital characteristics of Bahá’ísm is its inclusiveness. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá points out that each of the world’s great spiritual teachers has taught the same eternal truth, that all religions are one at root and that “the root of all knowledge is the knowledge of God.” When in London he was approached by a student of higher criticism who asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá if he should continue in the church. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied:

Yes, you must not dissociate yourself from it. Know this: the Kingdom of God is not in any society. If you belong to a society already do not forsake your brothers. You can be a Bahá’í-Christian, a Bahá’í-Freemason, a Bahá’í-Jew, Bahá’í-Mohammedan.”

Abdu’l-Bahá teaches that faith without works is not acceptable and when asked by an American friend “which is the best way to spread the teaching?” he replied, “by deeds. This way is open to all and deeds are understood by a [text missing] Join yourselves with those who work for the poor, the weak and the unfortunate. To teach by words require the skill of a wise physician. The work of teaching is not for all.”

Apropos of the teaching of the faith and the methods of spreading it bo [text missing] in this country and the far East it is interesting to know that it is a cardinal principle of the Bahá’í teaching th [text missing] the teaching shall be “without money and without price” — “Freely ye have received, freely give.” There is not paid clergy, no expense fund, no due. All men are free to believe as the wish but all are exhorted to unite I faith and to lay aside the prejudice and superstitions of past ages.

The followers are advised to [text missing] orant and in no way to separate themselves from other people or to denounce those of other beliefs. Bahá’í are urged to be peaceful and law-abiding citizens and taught to be humanitarian above all else. Bahá’u’lláh held that one’s worship should be supplemented by a pure and useful life in the world. Ascetism is discouraged. Men and women are urged to marry and monogamy is also taught. In addition to purely spiritual teaching Bahá’u’lláh ordered many changes in the manners and customs of the people, through the observance, of which the world in general would be helped materially and spiritually. Many of these are familiar to our Western civilization, such as forbidding the use of intoxicants as a beverage, opium and kindred drug habits, mendacity, cruelty to animals, slavery, etc.

Bahá’u’lláh was eloquent against youthfulness and idleness and proclaimed that honorable work done with human kindness was a form of worship. To work is to pray. He taught that people as a whole do not develop to the full their powers, that they are like unpruned fruit trees and must be made to bear more fruit.

The Bahá’í movement stands strongly for the freedom and education of woman and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has delivered many stirring addresses espousing the enfranchisement of women. Speaking of education when in London he said, “The girl’s education is of more importance today than the boy’s, for she is the mother of the future race. It is the duty of all to look after the children. Those without children should if possible make themselves responsible for the education of a child.”

Abdu’l-Bahá’s interest in woman’s work and woman’s progress is well known and when in London he was visited by many leaders, among them Mrs. Annie Besant, president of the Theosophical Society, prominent suffragists, civic and philanthropic workers. During a conversation with a prominent suffragist, ‘Abdul asked her to give her reasons for believing that the women of today should have the vote. The answer was: “I believe that humanity is a divine humanity and that it must rise higher and higher, but it cannot soar with only one wing.”

To this ‘Abdul replied smilingly: “But what will you do if one wing is stronger than the other?”

Then,” came the reply, “we must strengthen “the weaker wing, otherwise the flight will be hampered.”

To this ‘Abdu’l-Bahá replied: “What would you say if I prove to you, that woman is the stronger wing?” And the suffragist responded, “You would earn my eternal gratitude.”