Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One God, many bombs?

The conflict in Israel and Lebanon has some pretty serious religious underpinnings. When the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and the Jewish state of Israel tangle, religion is bound to be a big part of the story.

Overlooked, perhaps, is the plight of the Baha'is caught in the crossfire in the northern Israeli cities of Haifa and Akka.

Baha'i, founded about 150 years ago by a Persian nobleman, teaches that there is one God and that all religions are "stages" in our understanding of the divine. The twin cities of Haifa and Akka are home to the Baha'i World Center, loaded with administrative buildings, libraries and three holy shrines. Local Baha'i Peter Bruss says Haifa is the "spiritual and administrative center for the Baha'i world community."

Now, with Haifa being the subject of some pretty intense bombing, Bruss and other Baha'is are worried about the preservation of their holiest sites and the safety of their fellow believers. To make matters even more difficult for Bruss, his parents-in-law (and three brothers-in-law) live in or near Beirut, Lebanon.

Bruss' family tells him that the fighting is far worse than it was during 15 years of civil war. They are safe, but the family keeps close tabs on one another -- just to make sure.


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