bahai club with mayor sanders
(Left to right) Dr. Mary A. Sobhani, Icssa Rubio, Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, Sydney Brannan, and Leah Lane pose for a photo after Mayor Sanders signed a proclamation in honor of Baha'u'llah's 200th birthday. 

Thanks to University of Arkansas – Fort Smith students and community members, Fort Smith will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith.


Students in the university’s Baha’i Club have planned bicentennial celebrations in recognition of the birth of Baha’u’llah, a spiritual teacher who preached a vision of oneness of humanity and the perils of racial prejudice and materialism.


The celebration will take place at 2 p.m. Oct. 21 in room 129 of the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. The event, which is free and open to the public, will include prayers in different languages, a 50-minute documentary on the life of Baha’u’llah, and refreshments and crafts.


“Now more than ever, we need positive models of social change that bring people together rather than divide them,” said Dr. Mary A. Sobhani, Baha’i Club adviser. “This is what we will be celebrating in the days leading up to Baha’u’llah’s birth in October.”


The celebration is an attempt by the club to bring awareness to the positive message of this religion, the second most-widespread religion in the world, behind Christianity. The Baha’í Faith posits that all world religions are the message of one God who has sent messengers to different areas of the world at different times, charged with providing the moral and spiritual stimulus that human beings need to cooperate and advance. Each of these spiritual and social visionaries set out teachings and truths that answered the urgent needs of the age.  


“The core belief of the Baha’i faith is unity, that all of the religions in existence today are facets of one religion of God,” Sobhani said. “As the world now faces its most pressing challenges yet, the Baha’í Club celebrates the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh, born two hundred years ago, as one of these great Lights to humankind, as the One Whose teachings will usher in that long-promised time when all humanity will live side by side in peace and unity.”


“The spiritual teachings of the major religions never change. That’s why, for instance, all religions preach that you don’t murder people and you tell the truth,” Sobhani continued. “It’s the social teachings that do change over time as society advances. For instance, gender equality is one of the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Jesus didn’t teach explicitly about the equality of men and women because society two thousand years ago wasn’t ready to apply this spiritual tenet.”


As part of this effort, the club also approached Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders, who prepared and signed a proclamation in recognition of the bicentenary celebration and presented it to the Baha’í Club Oct. 12, naming the month of October in honor of the global bicentenary celebration.


The Baha’i Club was founded in spring 2016 by student Icssa Rubio, who follows the Baha’i Faith. Since its inception, the club has grown to over a dozen members. Ironically, none of the current members are adherents of the Baha’i Faith, but they are part of the club to endorse its message of diversity and inclusion.


“We wanted to look at ways that we can bring students together and talk about making the world a better place without isolating one group from another group. The club is all about promoting unity, collaboration, spirituality, and learning,” Sobhani said.    


Last year, the club went to the Baha’i House of Worship for North America located in Chicago, and members of the club are also volunteering locally to help improve the community.


Members of the Baha’i Club are:


Bryan, Texas: Abigail Phillips, member.


Fayetteville: Sydney Brannan, vice president.


Fort Smith: Iban Cano, treasurer; Diem Nguyen, president; Megan Orman, member; Jackson Pham, secretary; Perla Rodriguez, member; Michelle Weyrick, member; Karen Villeda, member; David Cooksey, member; Tessa Cooksey, member.


Greenwood: Mercedes Bess, member.


Hackett: Elijah Pitcock, member.


Rogers: Kari Carbajal, member.


For more information about the event or the Baha’i Club, contact Sobhani at 479-788-7979 or


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Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Date Posted: 
Monday, October 16, 2017
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