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Baha’i shrines chosen as World Heritage site

A United Nations committee meeting has determined that two Baha’i shrines in Israel possess “outstanding universal value” and should be considered as part of the cultural heritage of humanity.

The decision today by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee means that the two most sacred sites for Baha’is - the resting places of the founders of their religion - join a list of internationally recognised sites like the Great Wall of China, the Pyaramids, the Taj Mahal, and Stonehenge.

The World Heritage List also includes places of global religious significance like the Vatican, the Old City of Jerusalem, and the remains of the recently destroyed Bamiyan Buddhist Statues in Afghanistan.

The Baha’i shrines are the first sites connected with a religious tradition born in modern times to be added to the list, which is maintained by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

The two shrines, one near the recognised heritage site of Old Acre on Israel’s northern coast and the other on Mount Carmel in Haifa, are the resting places of Baha’u’llah and the Bab, the founders of the Baha’i Faith.

Baha’is believe that both Baha’u’llah and the Bab were messengers of God; their resting places are sites of pilgrimage for a religious community of some five million believers.

The shrine of Baha’u’llah is the focal point of prayer for Baha’ is all over the world, giving it an importance comparable to the Western Wall in Jerusalem for Jews and the Kaaba in Mecca for Muslims.

Born in Iran, Baha’u’llah was banished to Acre in what was then the Ottoman Empire, where he died in 1892. The Bab was executed in Iran in 1850, and His remains were later moved to Haifa for burial.

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