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  • Louis Venters

Dedicating a New Temple of Light in Santiago, Chile

Night view of the new Baha'i House of Worship, in the Andes foothills overlooking Santiago, Chile

Next week, dedication activities will take place for the new Baha'i House of Worship in Santiago, Chile. Hailed as an architectural marvel for its unique, light-filled design and innovative construction techniques, the structure serves as an elegant symbol of--and catalyst for--a process of community-building involving Baha'is and their neighbors of all religions or no religion. It has received a great deal of attention in the local media and in architectural circles farther afield; here is a short video profile recently produced by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. A live broadcast of one of the dedication programs will take place on October 13 and will be accessible worldwide online.

Interior view of the dome, Baha'i House of Worship, Santiago, Chile

Like the other Baha'i Houses of Worship already constructed or in the planning or construction stages around the world, the new temple in Santiago embodies a vision of individual and collective well-being in which personal faith and devotion find expression in action and service; in which a community's collective endeavors are animated by spiritual values; in which the built environment and natural beauty are seamlessly interwoven; in which the ineffable mysteries of religion are harmonized with science, education, and social progress; and in which people of all backgrounds and beliefs find common ground and strive for justice through the practice of consultation.

Rare colorized postcard of the first Baha'i House of Worship, Ashgabat, Russian Turkestan (demolished by Soviet authorities, 1963)

The House of Worship in Santiago will be the first in South America and the last of a series of eight temples serving continental areas that began in the early twentieth century. Each of the previous Houses of Worship, constructed collaboratively through the voluntary contributions of Baha'is throughout the world, represented successive stages of the Faith's global diffusion from its birthplace in Iran.

Once the Santiago temple is complete, attention will turn to the construction of seven more: two designed to serve national areas, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Papua New Guinea; and five designed to serve local areas, in villages in Cambodia, Colombia, the state of Bihar in northern India, Kenya, and Vanuatu. Planning has reached advanced stages in several of these areas, and construction is already underway on the new temple in Battambang, Cambodia. Last year I wrote about how the local temple project in Norte del Cauca, Colombia has precipitated a revival of traditional agricultural knowledge and inspired a new generation of environmental stewards.

From Chicago and Frankfurt to Santiago and Battambang, all these buildings represent not just a fresh take on religious architecture, but a cutting-edge approach to fostering social cohesion in a fractured world.

Model of the local Baha'i House of Worship, currently under construction in Battambang province, Cambodia

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