The Baha'i festival of Ridvan
Oneness of humankind, unity, the global family and belonging.
by Caroline Donne
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
This festival takes place between 21 April and 2 May.
- Oneness of humankind
- The global family
- The Baha’i faith is the youngest of the world’s religions. It was founded by Bahá’u’lláh (1817–92), and his followers regarded him as the most recent of God’s messengers, including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The Baha’i faith is centred on the idea that all people belong to one human family and that the time has come to recognize this and to work for the unity of all people. The faith grew out of the Shi’ite branch of Islam in Iran. The coming of Bahá’u’lláh was announced by a young Iranian called the ‘Bab’.
- The festival of Ridvan (pronounced Rizwan) is significant because it celebrates the time when Bahá’u’lláh officially announced that he was the prophet proclaimed by the Bab. The festival takes its name from the garden on the outskirts of Baghdad in which this happened. It became known as the Garden of Ridvan (paradise).
Preparation and materials
- A globe or Google earth on a whiteboard
- A picture of a Middle Eastern garden
- A board on which to write key words like Bahia, Bahá’u’lláh, etc.
- Introduce the idea of belonging. What do the students feel they belong to? Give examples such as school, clubs/societies, group of friends, sports team, or supporters group.
What does it mean to belong? Share some ideas together, such as: to do the same things together; to have the same purpose; to care for the people to whom we feel we belong; to feel welcomed by others. How do you feel if you don’t belong?
Explain that today’s assembly is about a man who came to tell people that they belonged to one another, that they were part of one big family – the human family. His name was Bahá’u’lláh. Refer to the globe and introduce the idea that Bahá’u’lláh said this human family lives in different places, wears different clothes and eats different food, but that it belongs together because it lives in the same world.
Explore what it means to belong to the human family. What do we have in common with one another?
With younger students you could use the following illustration.
Invite six students to the front. Ask them to stand in a circle and hold hands. Now invite another student to the front. Tell the one student (without anyone else hearing) that when you say ‘Go’, he or she must try and get into the circle of six. Now tell the six (without letting anyone else hear) that when you say ‘Go’, they must try to prevent the one student from getting into their circle, but they must not let go of one anothers’ hands.
Say the word ‘Go’. You don’t need to let what happens go on for too long, but the point is to establish what it is like when someone is prevented from ‘belonging’.
Invite comment on what happened and ask the students to consider what it must feel like to be the one prevented from belonging to a group.
Go on to explain that Bahá’u’lláh said the time had come for people to stop fighting and disagreeing and to recognize that they were one big family, created and loved by one God.
The followers of Bahá’u’lláh are known as Baha’is. At this time, they celebrate the day on which Bahá’u’lláh began to tell people that he had been chosen by God to give this important message. The celebration is known as Ridvan, named after the garden outside Baghdad in Iraq where this happened. ‘Ridvan’ means ‘paradise’. The Baha’is, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh, have often been criticized and have suffered because of their beliefs.
Focus on the themes
Explain that this story explains why today many Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day, the day that the Buddha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
In Buddhist temples, there is often a Bodhi tree and lights are placed around it to help people remember the Buddha and how he gained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
Think about the dog tied to the tree. Ask the students to think of themselves as the dog. What are the things or behaviour or desires that spoil someone's life and keep them tied up like the dog (e.g. always wanting what others have, being unkind to others, trying to be better than others)?
Time for reflection
Invite the students to keep a time of quiet.
Invite them to think about the idea of everyone belonging together because we are all human and live in one world. If this is so, how does it mean we should treat one another?
You could use these words as a prayer.
God of all,
Thank you for the world you have made.
Thank you for all the different people who live in it.
We are sorry for the times we forget that we belong to one human family.
Help us to care for one another.