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V.I. Baha'i Faithful En Route to Israel for Convention

April 23, 2008 — It's an election year. There are nine V.I. delegates to the convention. But this election doesn't involve Hillary or Barack.
This year, seven of nine V.I. delegates from the Baha'i faith will travel to Haifa, Israel, to participate in the Tenth International Baha'i Convention, where they will elect the religion's leadership Tuesday. The conventions are held once every five years.
Delegates of the V.I. Baha'i National Spiritual Assembly will gather with other assemblies from around the globe at the Bahá'í World Centre. The groups will elect the leadership of the faith and deliberate on matters of importance to the interests of a global community.
The Haifa-bound delegates will cast ballots in the election of the Universal House of Justice.
Despite the relative youth of the Baha'i faith — it was founded just 150 years ago — the religion is the second most widely spread in the world, according to Alan Smith, a member of the Baha'i community.
In the Virgin Islands — both U.S. and British — there are about 130 people who practice the religion, and members come from every walk of life, every background: religious, social and ethnic, Smith said.
According to the faith's website, there are more than five million members worldwide, made up of 2,112 ethnic groups, in 118 independent countries.
Basic tenets of the religion include the belief that there is one human family — that there is no such thing as race. Baha'is also believe that all religions teach the same basic truths, that people should consider their brethren ahead of themselves.
Bahai's have their own calendar, which divides the year into 19 months, with 19 days in a month. On the first day of the month Bahai's have a feast, which includes a community gathering and worship.
"This is not a feast in the food sense," Smith said, "but in the spiritual sense. There may or may not be a meal. The real food is sustenance that we get from our fellowship — physical food is a
secondary aspect."
Baha'i faithful do not practice any dietary restrictions, Smith said.
The faithful can consume "all things with moderation," Smith said, but noted, "We do not consume any alcohol."
The faithful also do not take any other drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, Smith said.
The group has no clergy — this responsibility for the selection of scriptures and prayers at services rotates around the community.
Though the religion was founded in Persia (now Iran), its practice there is banned and its practitioners are subject to persecution, Smith said.
"At the convention we will offer prayers for the safety and security of or brethren in Iran," Smith said.
For more information about the Baha'i community in the Virgin Islands, visit vi.bahai.org.
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