HawkinsHugh-PHOTO

I didn’t record the actual date, unfortunately, but it was the watershed in my life. It came when I was sixty-two years old. It was a sudden revelation for me, and an absolute one. The feeling I had at the time was of making a calm transition into truth. My only regret is that it didn’t come sooner.

In November, or perhaps December 2011, I heard a religious programme on Radio 4 one Sunday morning. Part of it was a brief introduction to the Bahá’í Faith. It attracted me immediately through my head and through my heart. The words I heard made complete sense, and I began investigating immediately.

I have spent my working life in Criminal Justice, mostly in the Probation Service and then with Youth Justice. I have been married for forty years and have three grown up children and two beautiful grandchildren. I was born on 10 August 1948 and was raised with my older sister by my mother, who was a District Nurse, in Maida Vale, London. It was a single parent family and we were relatively poor. My father was a well-respected doctor though he played no part in my upbringing, and died when I was six years old. I was fortunate to gain a place at a state-run boarding school and enjoyed reasonable academic success, going on to university and professional training.

I had been brought up as a Christian and had worshipped initially as a Catholic and then intermittently in the Anglican Church. My belief in God throughout my life had been present, but had tended to wax and wane for reasons that I never really understood. I have always loved Jesus and the Christian message. I have been very aware though of being very bored by church services, except on those occasions where the priest was eloquent or charismatic, but this was never really enough for me. I had felt that referring back on modern issues to events two thousand years ago was not always relevant. I also resented the mediation of my faith through the priest. I suspected that the teachings of Jesus had become corrupted over the years. I was therefore very ambivalent.

Having sensed the truth of the Bahá’í Faith via the radio broadcast, I immediately followed up on the Internet and then through books, and was affirmed and reaffirmed as I read on. I was intellectually and emotionally convinced by the depth, wisdom and coherence of the writings of Bahá’u’llah, ‘Abdul-Bahá and the Guardian. To me, the spirituality was evident in it all, and so unlike any secular writing; this was from a deeper root than the world of man.

Through the Bahá’í UK magazine I made contact with a local Bahá’í group. Luz and Farid Moshtael were my local contacts in Rochester. They lent me books, and have been taking me through the Ruhi books, and it is through Luz and Farid that I have experienced the love and fellowship of the Bahá’í community. I can’t thank them enough. I was introduced to the Nineteen Day Feasts in the Gillingham Local Spiritual Assembly, and my children were jokingly dismissive that I had joined a dining club. If I had, on occasion it was a very good one!

The Rochester group is small, so we often link with Gillingham, and through Faran Forghani I have become involved with Medway Inter-Faith Action on whose behalf I helped organise an interfaith pilgrimage around the local faith centres in June 2014. A learning point from this local pilgrimage was to show the common core of religions and therefore the truth of progressive revelation.

To return to my early espousal of the Faith, I declared as a Bahá’í after a few months – I believe it was in May 2012 – which I was able to do without doubt or reserve. My local group celebrated with me at a barbecue they arranged at the home of Atta and Azita Shaeri.

In March 2013 my wife Julia and I went on pilgrimage to Haifa. Though a Christian, she was permitted to take a full part in all the visits and activities, and was deeply touched and gave serious thought to her own spiritual position. The pilgrimage was overwhelming to me: the beautiful gardens and buildings, the company of Bahá’ís from around the world, the artefacts in the International Archives building, the spiritual impact of the Shrines. In that wonderful setting I read some of the prayers of the Báb and was struck by their beauty.

On the morning of our departure, I visited the Shrine of the Báb, and for the first time in my life I was able to sit and pray with what I felt was a true understanding of what prayer should be. I should say that I am an activist by nature and don’t find it easy to pray.

By becoming a Bahá’í I have developed as a person both in myself and in how I treat others, and also in my attitudes to daily life. My way of thinking has changed. My confidence has been raised. I am able to make sense of many aspects of human existence that I did not see before. I have been given insights which have reorganised my approach to criminal justice and the people who are caught up in it. A great impact was made on me by the 2013 letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá’ís of Iran. It is such a wise and humane document.

There have been adjustments to make as for any person becoming a Bahá’í. I gave up drinking beer – which I have always enjoyed. I have never been a great drinker, but this was a big surprise to my friends! I have a struggle with my political affiliations because for many years I was party-politically active and am inclined to heckle at election meetings or to be over-exuberant in expressing my views. I am slowly curbing this and refer occasionally to my Bahá’í friends for support in this endeavour.

I am totally convinced by the Bahá’í democratic ideals and, once understood, the Baha’i views on world government can be seen as an absolute no-brainer. I have had to get my head around the Bahá’í calendar. It is unfamiliar to a person like me who is used to working to a seven-day cycle with church on Sunday. Speaking of the Faith to colleagues at work or neighbours has been interesting. They receive it well, and like and accept many of the Bahá’í principles. With Farid and Luz we have had a couple of fireside meetings for them which went well. At a dinner party I started to talk about the inevitability of world government. My neighbour found it very challenging and almost an affront to him. I wasn’t able to convince him at all.

I will now continue to enjoy the love and fellowship of my Bahá’í friends. I will continue with Ruhi books and perhaps if things work out, help with a group for young people. I will pray and get a deeper understanding of the sacred texts. I will read once more (at least) God Passes By and The Dawnbreakers. I will visit the Guardian’s Resting Place, which I have not yet done. I will talk to others about the Bahá’í Faith and I will try to apply the teachings fully in my daily life. I have been asked to attend Medway Council to lead a prayer meeting for half an hour for their employees. Perhaps this will be the start of something bigger for us here in Rochester.

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Hugh Hawkins

Kent, November 2014

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