TheCity’s Cameron Weymes explores the creative response of Ireland’s Baha’i community to celebrate Naw-ruz, in spite of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion that originated in Iran in the 19th century.
This Friday, Ireland’s Baha’i community will celebrate their New Year, called Naw-ruz, which coincides with the Spring equinox.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis — rather than celebrating with friends and family in Dublin or Cork — many of Ireland’s Baha’is will gather over video call to ring in the new year this Friday.
“People are quickly becoming accustomed to Zoom, Hangouts and Microsoft Team Meetings ahead of Friday,” said Brendan McNamara, an administrative member of Baha’is of Ireland.
“We are planning to have a large video call meeting, even just for a few prayers to mark the beginning of the new year.
“We might have a bit of music and singing together too, to make the most of it in these circumstances,” he added.
The first Bahai in Ireland was George Townshend, a former clergyman and Irish Times writer, who converted to the faith in 1947.
There are now approximately 600 Baha’is in the Republic of Ireland, most of whom are ethnically Irish.
In the 1980s, 25 Iranian Baha’is were granted refugee status in Ireland after fleeing oppression in post-revolutionary Iran.
“Many those who arrived as refugees now have children and grandchildren in Ireland and have integrated into the community here”
“One of the kids ended up playing basketball for Ireland, and another has been elected to the Royal Irish Academy as a distinguished scientist in NUI Galway. They’ve settled well and have become very much a part of the country.”
For Baha’is, Naw-ruz is among the most important religious events in the year.
“Naw-ruz is a joyous occasion of religious significance. It’s traditionally a period of reflection, with 19 days of fasting leading up to the event,” he said.
“We close off the year that has passed and try to put things into perspective and prepare for the year to come.”
However, for Ireland’s Baha’is, this will be a New Year’s celebration like no other.
“It’s been quite extraordinary, we’ve had to cancel all of our contact meetings and make arrangements to stay at home.”
“We’ll be praying for people on the front line of healthcare in Ireland and those less fortunate than us,” he concluded.