Yesterday marked a milestone – the official dedication in Battambang Cambodia of the first local House of Worship in the world designated as such. The building has been constructed to translate into reality Bahá’u’lláh’s call in his book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas:
O people of the world! Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands in the name of Him Who is the Lord of all religions.
Bahá’u’lláh’s word indicate the universality of the concept. Such Houses of Worship are open to every human being and the words of all sacred scriptures are read in them. The lead set by the people of Battambang is itself an indication of universality. Battambang was designated for the building of a local House of Worship due to the progress of their area in combining worship and service.
Although the House of Worship in Cambodia is the first local House of Worship to be built, it follows the painstaking completion over the course of decades of the erection of continental Houses of Worship in each of North America (1953), Africa (1961), Australasia (1961), Europe (1964), Central America (1972), Pacific Islands (1984), Indian Sub-Continent (1986) and South America (2016).
The Houses of Worship all share a common conceptual framework (a central hall surrounded by nine doors). Yet the architectural forms already emerging are diverse, as are the expressions of worship witnessed in each of them. The languages spoken in them are the languages of humanity and the music varies from place to place – with local and universal forms combined. The following is drawn from the words written by the Universal House of Justice to mark the dedication of the House of Worship in Battambang.
… even within the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh His message had reached as far as Asia’s south-eastern peninsula. It was a message that summoned all peoples to work for unity and peace, and its urgency has only intensified in the intervening years. Does not disunity fuel the crises and conflicts that afflict the world? Does it not exacerbate the pain and hardship experienced by so many? God be praised that the pure-hearted people of Cambodia, who have themselves suffered much, are responding with such enthusiasm to the call of [Baha’u’llah]. Drawing on the power of unity, they are making strenuous efforts to uplift souls through spiritual and material education and are enabling populations to develop their capacity for service. Indeed, the believers in Cambodia are among those on the frontiers of learning in the Bahá’í world’s efforts to build communities on enduring foundations.
… Its design, the work of an accomplished Cambodian architect, reflects the grace and beauty of that nation’s culture; it uses innovative techniques but blends them with forms traditional to the region; it unquestionably belongs to the land from which it has risen. Even before its dedication, the Temple has succeeded in elevating the consciousness of those who reside in its shadow about a theme that is integral to the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár—the inseparability of worship and service in the life of a community. …
Below is a selection of four videos exploring the experience of Houses of Worship in different continents. The first link goes to a news story with an embedded video of the dedication of the House of Worship in Battambang.
Construction of the House of Worship Battambang
From the Dedication of the Baha’i House of Worship Chile
Music from the Baha’i House of Worship of North America
(This article is the 146th in a series of what I hope will be 200 articles in 200 days for the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The anniversary is being celebrated around the world on 21 and 22 October 2017, The articles are simply my personal reflections on Bahá’u’lláh’s life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)