Truth is paramount to followers of scientist's Bahá'í faith

By Edward Luce in New Delhi Published: August 2 2003 5:00 | Last Updated: August 2 2003 5:00

The little-known Bahá'í faith, practised by David Kelly, places a great emphasis on "truth-telling" and will come under the spotlight of the Hutton inquiry. Advertisement

Lord Hutton said yesterday he would probably call a member of the faith to explain its beliefs "and how they may have influenced Dr Kelly".

The faith, which has about 6,000 followers in Britain, considers the truth to be one of the most important divine virtues: "The individual must be educated to such a high degree that he would rather have his throat cut than tell a lie, and would think it easier to be slashed by a sword or pierced with a spear than to utter calumny or be carried away by wrath," according to the Baha'i writings.

The faith originated in Iran in the mid-19th century. But almost half of its 5m followers today are in India. Anil Sarwal, head of India's Baha'i movement, says its appeal to Indians derives from its emphasis on universalism and on overcoming social differences, such as caste, which deeply divides Indian society.

Abdul Baha, son of the founder of the religion, said: "If only men would search out the truth, they would find themselves united." Mr Sarwal, who is also head of New Delhi's celebrated Lotus Temple, the largest Baha'i place of worship in the world, says this would provide little clue as to what led Mr Kelly to take his own life. "For every Baha'i truth-telling is important," he said. "But we do not know enough about the circumstances that led to this tragic event."

Mr Sarwal added that the Baha'i teachings strictly forbid adherents to join political parties or make political statements. But they are encouraged to be loyal to their governments. "Ours is a religion that teaches universalism but that does not mean you should not be loyal to your government," he said.

The Baha'i faith, which recognises the validity of all religions and prophets, also places great store in the United Nations, which it believes is a vehicle for realising "global oneness". Followers are encouraged to help spread and promote the UN charter, which affirms universal human rights and values.

Indian Baha'is emphasise the lotus because it symbolises similar values. "Rising pure and unsullied above stagnant, muddy waters, Indians have seen this flower as worthy of emulation, teaching them to be detached from material preoccupations," says the temple brochure. Tolerance is a firm principle of the Baha'is, who set high store by the value of education.

"Schools must first train their children in the principles of religion . . butthis in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry," says the Baha'i text.

©Copyright 2003, The Financial Times (UK)

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