The Bahá'í faith is a religion followed by approximately six million people in the world, from all countries and all backgrounds. It began in the Near East in the middle of the 19th century.
To Bahá'is all people matter and the world should be run as one country for the benefit of everyone.
Difference is what makes life interesting and we should cherish these differences.
Bahá'ís believe there has only ever been one religion - the religion of God. God sent Messengers to different places at different times so that everyone in the world could hear about Him. There is only one God though people may call God by different names.
People can never understand God they can only learn about Him through creation and His Messengers.
Bahá'ís follow Bahá'u'lláh, the latest in a long line of Messengers sent by God.
The name Bahá'u'lláh means the Glory of God. Bahá'ís also believe that Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Moses and Krishna were also Messengers from God and they all said basically the same thing: people should be honest, truthful, kind, trustworthy and humble.
It was only their social teachings which were different. Now we are part of a world society where new laws are necessary. All these Messengers promised a time when a great Messenger would come to bring peace and Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh was that Messenger and the time for peace is now.
The Bahá'í faith has no clergy and its affairs are in the hands of elected administrative bodies known as 'Spiritual Assemblies'.
Daily Prayer and Worship
Each day Bahá'ís are expected to pray and to read some of the Bahá'í scriptures. They believe that through prayer they can discover how to improve themselves and serve their fellow human beings better. Bahá'ís believe that their purpose is to learn and to develop so that in the next life they will be closer to God.
Bahá'ís meet together regularly to pray, discuss local matters and to enjoy one another's company. This is called a "Feast". Where there are only a few Bahá'ís, this will be in someone's home. In a few places in the world there are large Houses of Worship which are open to everybody, whatever their religion.
Bahá'ís believe in the power of prayer but have no objection to medical practice, seeing them as different aspects of the same God-given healing process.
There is an obligatory prayer which should be said facing the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh which is situated in Akka in Israel. It is in a southeasterly direction from the UK.
Some prayers involve a number of prostrations and movements of the arms and hands. Also minimum-washing facilities may be requested.
Bahá'ís have no objection to using worship spaces used by people of other faiths.
Holy Days and Festivals
The Bahá'í calendar is made up of 19 months consisting of 19 days in each month with the remaining days called the intercalary Days and celebrated as Ayyám-i-Há, a time for spiritual preparation for the fast, hospitality, feasting, charity and giving gifts.
Bahá'ís have no special requirements as far as food and diet are concerned. However Bahá'ís would have to decline any invitations of food or drink during the fasting period (March 2-20 between sunrise and sunset). Some are vegetarians but this is a matter of individual choice. It is not appropriate to give or offer Bahá'ís a gift of alcohol or any foods containing alcohol.
The use of non-medical drugs is not permitted, as they believe both practices are harmful to physical and spiritual health.
Blood Transfusions & Organ Transplants
There is no objection to the giving or receiving of blood transfusions or organ transplants. Donation of organs after death for transplanting to others in need is regarded as praiseworthy.
Termination & Pregnancy
Termination of pregnancy is permitted only where there are strong medical grounds such as risk to the life and health of the mother. It is not regarded lightly and is not permitted as a social or contraceptive measure. Whether it is acceptable in any specific case is for consultation between the patient and the patient's doctor in the light of this guidance.
Bahá'ís have very few, if any, rituals. There is no formal naming ceremony or baptismal service. However, there is no objection to the giving of gifts on happy occasions in accordance with the traditions of the relevant culture as long as they adhere to certain dietary restrictions.
Incurable Illness and Death
There are no specific Bahá'í teachings on withholding or removing life support in disabling or terminal illness where this support is being given to prolong life. It is also left to the conscience of the individual whether or not to subscribe to a 'living will'.
If an illness is incurable, Bahá'ís can accept palliative treatment if they wish. It is up to the patient to decide, in co-operation with their doctor, what course of action to take.
A Bahá'í who is near death does not require the intervention of a spiritual caregiver but they will want their loved ones around them. There is no ritual associated with death.
Death is a transition to a further stage of life akin to the transition made when a baby is born. It is not for one person actively to end the life of another, so euthanasia is not permitted. However, there may come a time when it becomes appropriate to withhold treatment.
Bahá'ís believe that after death the body should be treated with respect. Embalming is not allowed. Cremation is not permitted and burial should take place as near as reasonably possible to the place of death certainly within the distance of an hour's transport.
The body is wrapped in a shroud of silk or cotton and a ring, bearing a specific inscription is placed on the deceased's finger.
There is no objection to necessary post-mortem examination provided these stipulations are met.
Bahá'í patients will be visited by friends, family and by those appointed as spiritual caregivers by the local Spiritual Assembly. They will bring comfort and pray with the patient. Because there are no sacraments the spiritual caregivers do not have a sacramental/priestly role nor do they have any authority over the patient.