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Navead Jensen is a member of one of the world’s newest religions.
The Baha’i Faith was founded by Baha’u’lah in Persia in the nineteenth century.
“Baha’ism rises from an earlier variance called Babism,” said Idris Hamid, a professor of philosophy. “And Babism developed within the matrix of shi’i Islam.”
Hamid is the instructor for the course Religions of the West at CSU. While the Baha’i Faith is not specifically covered in the course, Hamid has done some personal studying of the religion’s origins.
Baha’is believe in “progressive revelation,” said Jensen, a graduate civil engineering student and the president of the Baha’i club on campus.
Each period in humanity’s history had a divine manifestation – a messenger who conveyed God’s teachings that humanity was ready for, according to students interviewed and www.bahai.org. These messengers include Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Mohammed, Christ and others.
“Each manifestation is sent down to reveal God’s word when humanity needs it,” Jensen said. “Then over time humanity changes so God sends down another messenger that says, ‘Okay, this is how you have to deal with stuff now.’ Nowadays, the big deal is equality of men and women, equality of the races; so that’s what the Baha’i Faith is all about, new world problems.”
The number of Baha’i students on campus is quite small.
“There’s not that many Baha’is out there,” Jensen said. “There’s like 100 in Larimer County, including Fort Collins. That would be different I guess because it is not something many people have heard of. It is not bad, it is cool, it is just different.”
Baha’i students don’t experience anything as strong as discrimination, despite the persecution of Baha’is in the Middle East.
“It has been misunderstood by many followers of Islam and therefore tremendously persecuted against and many times people are just killed,” said Kathy Wyckoss, the chairperson of the Spiritual Assembly of Baha’is of Fort Collins. “In this country it’s much more subtle. It’s like it would be for anybody, like the Jews or the African Americans, or the Irish. It’s just people don’t understand it.”
Baha’is on campus said they have not experienced anything as strong as discrimination.
“Here in America, that doesn’t seem to happen too much,” Jensen said.
Jensen feels no danger here, but he does hold long-term global concerns.
“I do worry about it, because I really want to go back to Iran, but I can’t, because of that fact. If I go back to Iran and they find out I’m Baha’i, oh, I’ll be totally thrown in jail.” Jensen’s family is from Iran.
While they experience little discrimination, other aspects of campus life can be difficult.
“Some people just hear the name, hear it is a religion and then just stop listening,” said Nathan Losey, a sophomore pre-construction management major.
At a campus with numerous Christian organizations, Baha’i students sometimes enjoy discussing their religion with Christians.
“Living in America, especially in this town, there’s a lot of Christians who believe that Jesus is the only way,” Jensen said. “But actually Baha’is believe in Jesus, so I tell them that and some of them are like ‘Oh, really?'”
In addition, those students who may not be so devout can find differences with followers of any religion.
“A lot of people just aren’t into God. They aren’t into spirituality because they’re caught up in other stuff in their life,” Jensen said. “So some people if I tell them ‘I’m going to go pray,’ they look at me like I’m crazy.”
Perhaps the greatest difference for Baha’i students is their religious obligations. For example, while some students choose not to drink alcohol, Baha’is are forbidden to consume such beverages.
“I think it’s different because Baha’is have a different lifestyle due to (the religion’s) teaching, especially from college life. So that sometimes makes it difficult because some of the laws are such that you are not allowed to have mind-altering stuff, like alcohol,” said Nathan Losey, a pre-construction management sophomore “Sometimes that makes it harder to interact with people at college.”
Jensen and Wyckoss both stressed that their religion was based upon an individual investigation of faith.
“If I met somebody on the street, I always try to bring up the fact that one of the principles of the Baha’i faith is the essentialness of independent investigation,” Jensen said. “Baha’is are all about people independently investigating the truth. I can’t tell them, I can’t say ‘you should be Baha’i because it’s the truth.’ That’s dumb.”
Although they are members of one of the world’s smaller religions, students believe that they possess few differences from other students.
“I’m just a normal dude,” Jensen said.