The Bahá’í World Centre
As is the case with three of the other world religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), ties of historical circumstance bind the Bahá’í Faith to the Holy Land. Before His passing, Bahá’u’lláh indicated that the world headquarters for the Faith He had founded would be in the Haifa/‘Akká area in the north of what is now Israel. The region today is home to the spiritual and administrative heart of the Bahá’í Faith.
Every year, thousands of Bahá’ís visit Haifa and ‘Akká as pilgrims and have the privilege of visiting these sites in the company of fellow believers from all parts of the world. At five-year intervals the elected representatives of the national Bahá’í communities gather in Haifa to elect the members of the Universal House of Justice, which administers the international affairs of the Faith from its seat on Mount Carmel.
The final resting places of both Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb lie in the region. The gold-domed Shrine of the Báb, designed by Canadian architect William Sutherland Maxwell, sits on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa, while the majestic Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh is located just across the bay in Bahjí, outside of ‘Akká. Situated in the heart of magnificent gardens, these two spots are the most holy places in the Bahá’í world.
The administrative centre of the Bahá’í Faith is in Haifa. Located on Mount Carmel, just above the Shrine of the Báb and at the top of an arc-shaped path in a monument garden, is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Bahá’í Faith. From this building and others nearby, a staff of more than 600 people from 60 countries administers the international affairs of the Bahá’í world community. The Seat and the buildings that now accompany it, excluding the Archives Building, were designed by Canadian architect Hossein Amanat.
From Haifa, information is transmitted back and forth with national Bahá’í communities, international goals and plans are disseminated, social and economic development projects are monitored, statistics are collected, and international funds are managed. There is also an International Archives Building, within which are housed relics, writings, and artefacts associated with the lives of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
In the early 1990s, a new phase of construction was launched, reflecting the rapid expansion of the Faith. Ground was broken for a series of terraces to extend above and below the Shrine of the Báb and to adorn several other new institutional buildings. The Terraces were officially opened in May 2001 in a programme broadcast on television in many lands and throughout Israel. The Canadian VisionTV network broadcast three hours of the opening ceremonies in two special broadcasts. The spectacular kilometer-long series of terraces were designed by Canadian architect Fariborz Sahba, architect of the “Lotus Temple,” the Bahá’í House of Worship in India.
The enormous contributions of the three Canadian architects William Sutherland Maxwell, Husayn Amanat, and Fariborz Sahba to the Bahá’í World Centre are especially gratifying to Canadian Bahá’ís.
* Adapted from Bahá’í Topics, an information resource produced by the Bahá’í International Community.