Uppermost on everyone’s mind these days is the COVID 19 crisis. This crisis is different from any humanity has faced before. However, humanity does have some experience to draw on. Throughout history we have always cycled back and forth between periods of crisis and victory and there are many historical examples we can look to for guidance.
In the Baha’i Faith, one of these examples is the Festival of Ridvan. Currently, Bahai’s around the world are celebrating the anniversary of the twelve days that the founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, spent in the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad. It was a time of great sorrow for the followers of Baha’u’llah. The ruling clergy of that time and place feared that his teachings and their impact would cause them to lose the power they held over the people. As a result, Baha’u’llah had been banished to Istanbul, and most of his followers would never see him again. He spent the twelve days before he left meeting with the people, giving them personal messages and roses, and sending more with them for friends who couldn’t be there in person. Most importantly, this was the time he chose to declare his prophetic mission to his followers. In doing so, he brought them great joy and turned a time of tragedy into one of triumph that today is celebrated throughout the Baha’i world as some of the holiest and happiest days of each year.
The Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad
The Festival of Ridvan is a celebration of victory that came out of crisis. I see similar transformations happening in our world today. There is a crisis of poverty demonstrated in areas where social distancing is an impossible luxury because of crowded living conditions, and medical care is unaffordable. Victory arises through people everywhere stepping up to share what they have to help neighbors, friends, and especially strangers who have a need. There is a crisis of prejudice in an increase in racist attacks, as well as fear-driven prejudice against the ill. The victorious response is in the oneness of mankind being clearly demonstrated as, for the first time in history, every country, every state, and every individual has an opportunity to act together for the good of the human race. There is crisis in the impact of loneliness, sorrow, and loss as we are kept separate from our friends and loved ones, knowing that some of those separations will become permanent. Victory can be seen in expressions of hope for a bright future as people come together online to pray, leave messages for each other on windows and sidewalks, and consistently think of how they can have a positive impact on the happiness of others.
As Baha’u’llah offered a light in the darkness to his followers during the Festival of Ridvan, so too can we offer light to those around us. We can remain hopeful. We can continue to put the wellbeing of others first. We can look for ways to nourish souls and hearts. We can remain aware of the needs of others and make sure they are satisfied. Finally, we can concentrate our efforts on devising a means of moving forward in unity when this is all over, so that we do not go back to a world where crisis can so easily arise and divide us.
Katrina Bradley is a member of the Baha’i community. She is embracing rural life from her home near Laramie, Wyoming. She lives with her husband, the last two of her 6 children to remain in the nest, 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, 2 ducks, and 9 chickens.