Drive along Route 7 in Sterling and you’ll undoubtably see the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center. The modern-looking, sand-colored building opened its doors in 2007. Now, ten years later, the Baha’i community continues to welcome all and take part in interfaith efforts.
Though county residents may be familiar with the building, many know little about the Baha’i faith. Founded by Baha’u’llah in 1844 Iran, Baha’i’s believe in equality and unity. The faith believes all religions share a common foundation and all past prophets came for their own time with Baha’i being the next progressive step. The core principles set by Baha’u’llah include equality of men and women, elimination of all prejudice, compulsory education, international commonwealth, abolishment of extreme poverty and wealth, and an independent search for truth.
“We consider ourselves community builders,” Rahmani said. “Not only community builders for our own local community, but for the entire world.”
Unlike other major world religions, the Baha’i faith has no clergy. Each locality has it’s own nine-member Spiritual Assembly which is elected annually the entire congregation, Loudoun assembly member Bruce Rahmani said. The assembly serves as the administrative body for the congregation. National and international assemblies are also elected annually.
The National Spiritual Assembly in the U.S. is located at the House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois. The Universal House of Justice which governs all of the Baha’i faith is in Haifa, Israel. Members of the spiritual assemblies practice total detachment from their personal views when consulting in meetings. All members follow decisions unanimously and wholeheartedly, Rahmani said.
“We don’t have the partisanship in Baha’i faith,” Rahmani said. “If five individuals said yes and four said no and it passes, all nine follow that decision with total obedience.”
There are Baha’i houses of worship and community centers all over the world to serve its 6 million practitioners. Though prayers and scripture span numerous countries, cultures and languages, the faith does not believe in interpreting Baha’i scripture so no matter where in the world a practitioner may go, the faith will always be the same, Rahmani said.
Although the Northern Virginia Baha’i Center holds religious services Sunday mornings, the center is open to all community members to bring people of all walks of life together. The center rents out space to community organizations for meetings and events. It has been used for weddings, memorials, concerts and plays, assembly member and facility manager Neda Haghighi said.
“The mission of the center is to serve the community, not just being a house of worship or being a place of worship just for the Baha’i’s,” Rahmani said.
The two-story facility offers classroom and meeting spaces,. It also includes a meditation room open to everyone and a lending library that operates on an honor system, Haghighi said.
In addition to inviting community members to share the center space and learn about the faith through its bookstore and library, the Baha’i community also takes part in numerous interfaith efforts. Rahmani serves as the chairman of the Loudoun County Multicultural Committee. They also participate in the Loudoun Interfaith Bridges, which puts on events and forums to bring people of all religions together for dialogue, education and service.
“The purpose of the faith is to serve humanity and establish world peace. And this is something everybody dreams of,” Rahmani said. “Don’t you want to have a future for your kids and your family where everybody can coexist? Where everybody can be living in peace and harmony?”