In doing our little tour of Kampala during our last days off, we came to learn a lot more about something we knew very little about.
The Baha'i Faith.
I'd always assumed this lesser known religion was one of the more crackpot belief systems out there. Something crazy but on the cusp of legitimacy. Like Scientology. Or being pro-Bush.
I knew something of the fact it had some followers in Iran. Who had been, or were being, prosecuted.
R even knew someone who was a follower of the Baha'i faith. In fact, even I knew her. Allegedly.
(She was one of the people I met whilst in a chemo-induced stupor and as such, I have no physical memory of her. I've been shown the photos, but you can't prove anything...)
But we knew nothing really about it.
Turns out, it's actually quite a nice religion, as religions go. I mean, don't get me wrong, we're both confirmed atheists, but if we weren't, we both agreed this wouldn't be a bad way to turn.
Their principles just sound, well, lovely. It's an inclusive sort of belief system, one that acknowledges all earlier religions and reckons this is just the latest link in the chain, all stemming from the same source. And they're all for justice, peace and equality. Including that of women, which makes a nice change.
Here are the founding beliefs of Baha'ian faith:
All humanity is one family.
Women and men are equal. Look, it's right up there, number two in the list of priorities... cool!
All prejudice — racial, religious, national, or economic — is destructive and must be overcome. Most religions manifest themselves in prejudice against other religions... so this can only be a good thing.
We must investigate truth for ourselves, without preconceptions.
Science and religion are in harmony.
Our economic problems are linked to spiritual problems.Oh Yes.
Abolishing the extremes of poverty and wealth
The family and its unity are very important.
There is one God.
All major religions come from God.
World peace is the crying need of our time.
You said it... About the only two principles I don't agree with personally are the ones with the word God in them. But hey, that's just me...
So, not only do they have a fundamentally sound set of principles which only leaves you wondering just who would want to persucute someone as nice as the people that practice such beliefs, they only have seven temples in the world and one of them is in Kampala.
A few miles out of town, high up on a green and pleasant hill, amid the birdsong and far from the traffic-choked city streets, serenely sits a round chapel like building that hugs itself to the ground.
We were let in to look around, with strict instructions not to speak once inside. It was strangely empty, except for some austere seating and beautiful Persian carpets. We suppressed the urge to giggle (we'd be crap at being religious) but left feeling generally impressed with the whole Baha'i thang.
Far from crackpot, it seems to be one of the most sane religious movements around.