Religion — St. Croix
Bahá’ís Celebrate Twelve Day Festival of Ridvan and Hold Elections
The Bahá’ís of the Virgin Islands celebrate the annual Festival of Riḍván (pronounced Rizvan) during the 12 days from April 21 to May 2.The word "Riḍván" means "paradise." From April 21 to May 2, 1863, Bahá'u'lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith, resided in a garden of Baghdad that he called "the Garden of Riḍván." There, Bahá'u'lláh publicly proclaimed his mission as God's messenger for this age. At the time of his proclamation, he was an exile in Baghdad, banished from his native Persia because of his teachings.
The Festival of Riḍván is celebrated by Bahá’ís throughout the world with great joy and fellowship. During these 12 days there are social gatherings, devotional services and elections of local and national Bahá’í administrative bodies. There is no clergy in the Bahá’í Faith. The administration of the Faith is run at the local, national and international levels by nine persons. All adult Bahá’ís are able to vote in local elections. Each year representatives from local communities vote in the national elections. Once every five years, the nine members of the national administrative body called the National Spiritual Assembly vote for nine members to the international administrative group – the Universal House of Justice
Like many other religions, Bahá’í elections are held after discussions of local and national issues, and after quiet reflection and prayer. Following discussions about annual reports, the elections for nine members of the local community to the Local Spiritual Assembly are conducted. The assemblies of Frederiksted, Christiansted, St. Thomas and St. John administer children’s classes, junior youth groups, study circles, devotional meetings and outreach activities in each of these communities. During the elections, after prayer and reflection, ballots with the names of nine persons in the local community are collected and counted. The winners are calculated, and then the results are announced to the community present. Bahá’í elections are conducted without nominations or canvassing. The same process is repeated for the elections at the national level. Local communities send representative or “delegates” to the National Convention. The 44th National Convention will be held the weekend of April 24–25 at the Bahá’í National Center at 129 Contant, St. Thomas.
The main purpose of the National Convention is to elect nine persons to serve on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Virgin Islands for the coming year. National Convention also provides a means for delegates from local communities to make recommendations to the incoming National Spiritual Assembly. The Bahá’í Faith teaches the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of mankind. Bahá’ís believe that in every age, God sends a divine educator, a manifestation of God, whose purpose is to restate and renew the eternal truths of religion, and address the specific needs of the age in which he appears. Thus, the occurrence of the Festival of Riḍván at the height of the spring season bears a special significance for Bahá’ís.
In His writings, Bahá'u'lláh promulgates the equality of men and women, the essential harmony of science and religion, the independent investigation of truth, economic justice based upon spiritual principles, the urgent need for the elimination of all forms of prejudice, universal compulsory education, and international auxiliary language, and a world government for the maintenance of a lasting peace. The Twelve Days of Riḍván is an annual festival and is celebrated with great joy and fellowship. The first, ninth and twelfth days of Riḍván are Bahá’í Holy Days. These Holy Day celebrations are open to the public.
The World Center of the Bahá’í Faith is on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel. For more information on the Bahá’í Faith and local activities including study circles, devotional meetings and children’s classes, call 776-7024 or visit the Web site: www.bahai.org