Celebrating 60 years of Baha’i Faith in Western Isles

Rhiannon Sheppard shares her feelings on Naw R�z through a public talk this weekend.
Rhiannon Sheppard shares her feelings on Naw R�z through a public talk this weekend.

FIRST introduced to the Hebrides in 1953, the Bahà’i community in the Western Isles this year celebrates 60 years of the Faith and friendships through a series of events entitled ‘Homecoming’ beginning tonight, Saturday, March 23rd.

Since its introduction, the Bahà’i Faith has existed in the islands, and attracted individuals to its teachings.

Many Bahà’is have visited the islands over the past six decades; Bahà’is have been born here, lived, attended school, worked, married, contributed, and passed away in the islands; and Bahà’is from as far apart as New Zealand and Canada who are descendents of islands, have returned to rediscover their roots and to connect with the local Bahà’i community.

And starting off the 60th anniversary events is a talk by Lewis born Rhiannon Sheppard. Brought up and educated in Lewis, Rhiannon began a nursing career as a health care assistant in Blar Buidhe nursing home, Stornoway, and know works as the nurse Clinical Practice Education Facilitator for the Liver Intensive Care Unit, King’s College Hospital, London.

“Raised on Lewis in a Bahà’i family of mixed Persian and British heritage, and a descendant of several generations of Baha’i;s, I was strongly encourage to independently investigate religion for myself,” said Rhiannon.

“The stark contrast between big city life and my Hebridean upbringing makes me feel very grateful to have been raised in a close knit island community that values spirituality.”

Following from last year’s series of public talks commemorating the Centenary of Abdu’l-Bahà’s Visit to Scotland, the new ‘Homecoming’ series of events begins with a public talk delivered by Rhiannon on Naw Rúz (New Day), the Bahà’i New Year celebrated every year on March 21st.

Rhiannon expanded: “Bahà’i do not have a fixed way of celebrating Naw Rúz; the New Year is welcomed by Bahà’i across the world, and the diversity of forms of celebration reflect the cultural diversity of the Bahà’i community across the globe.

“ Hebridean Naw Rúz celebrations tend to be ceilidhs in the traditional sense, involving the sharing of music, food, stories, gifts, devotionals and fellowships, with Bahà’is and friends alike.

“The broad theme of my presentation will be that of renewal; within this theme, the origins of Naw Rúz, and the Bahà’i calendar, will be explored. I will also be sharing what celebrating Naw Rúz means to me personally, in terms of identity and culture.”

She added: “I am so happy to be able to come home to such a beautiful place to be part of the 60th celebrations. The island Bahà’i community are like my extended family, and so it feels like I’m coming home for a special family occasion.”

Naw-Rúz, The Bahà’i New Year public presentation will take place tonight at An lanntair arts centre, Stornoway, 7-9pm. Admission is free and all are warmly welcome.