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West Ky. man commemorating centennial of Bahá’í leader’s passing in Israel

Bahá’í World News Service
A group of participants approaching the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the holiest spot on earth for Bahá’ís.

A western Kentucky man is representing Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia in a trip bringing members of the Bahá’í faith across the world to Israel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passing of one of its leaders.

The Bahá’í religion, which has more than 5 million followers, was established by a Persian religious leader Baháʼu'lláh in the 19th century and calls for unity among all people and that all religions have an essential worth as core teachings.

The Bahá’í leader ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, the son of Baháʼu'lláh, is credited with spreading Bahá’í teachings across the world in part through his travels to Egypt, Europe, the United States and Canada in the 20th century. He died in 1921.

This week in Israel, Niaz Khadem of Paducah is representing one of 12 regional councils from the United States to celebrate the centennial of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá’s passing.

In an interview, he said he would be visiting with other members of regional councils and national spiritual assemblies from various countries.

“One of the great privileges of being connected to this community is to be able to draw so directly on experiences and learn from people really working in every kind of community, in every culture from around the world,” Khadem said.

Khadem said ʻAbdu'l-Bahá is considered a “perfect exemplar” of his father’s teachings, meeting with people from all walks of life during his travels. ʻAbdu'l-Bahá was a political prisoner in the former Ottoman Empire until a political revolution freed him in 1908.

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Niaz Khadem
Niaz Khadem (right) in Israel with a friend from Panama's national spiritual assembly.

“One of my favorite teachings of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá is a quote he said that ‘work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship,’” Khadem said. “The orientation of the Bahá’í community towards service, towards engagement with the community with a wider community beyond itself, really that came from ʻAbdu'l-Bahá’s example.”

The Bahá’í community of Paducah is hosting a virtual showing via Zoom Saturday of a documentary called “The Exemplar” about ʻAbdu'l-Bahá’s life, with another in-person showing of the film hosted by on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. at Graves County Public Library.

Khadem said ʻAbdu'l-Bahá also emphasized the importance of unity among people of various races, with racial justice and equity being one of the most challenging and ongoing issues in America. Khadem said he believes those who watch the documentary will see that aspect in ʻAbdu'l-Bahá’s life.

"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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