“A powerful spiritual beacon is now in full blaze at the foot of the Andes.” —Bahá’í Writings
Nearly 5,000 people from around the globe gathered in Santiago, Chile, in October 2016 to celebrate the dedication of the world’s eighth Bahá’í House of Worship. A vibrant program of prayers, talks, music, dance, and drama expressing South American culture took place at the Movistar arena, and moving devotional programs were held at the Temple. Francisco González Pérez, an award-winning photographer and a Bahá’í from Córdoba, Spain, shared his photos and impressions with Brilliant Star.
Q. As a Bahá’í, why was it important to you to attend the dedication of the Bahá’í Temple in Chile?
It was a very special opportunity, a gift. It was an event that gave me the double chance, to participate and to serve, in one of the most important events in the recent history of our dear Cause. It was also the end point to a yearning that began more than 20 years ago: photographing all the continental Bahá'í Houses of Worship.
Q. What was the experience like for you as a photographer?
It has been a wonderful experience . . . to serve alongside other Bahá'ís . . . from different parts of the world: Chile, Brazil, the United States, and Paraguay. The most important thing for everyone was to have a team mentality . . . On the one hand nothing could be left undocumented and on the other hand we should be discreet, almost invisible. We had to understand that this act was a fundamentally spiritual event, and it was very important not to distract the participants.
Q. What were some memorable experiences from the event?
The moment when the International Counselor, Mrs. [Antonella] Demonte, on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dedicated the Mother Temple of South America. The expression of her face, her voice flooding the room, the spiritual atmosphere that enveloped all of us within, turned the Temple into a heavenly place. [And] of course, to contemplate the great diversity of Bahá'í friends from so many countries. The love, joy, and unity that imbued all of us made the dedication a very special day to share . . .
Artistic presentations, both the plays and the musical performances, all of them with great quality, helped all those involved to raise our spirit. It was wonderful how the nearly five thousand participants turned in to have meaningful conversations and to deliver almost 50,000 prayer books to the inhabitants of Santiago de Chile. [The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Chile gave each participant 10 prayer books to share with people they met.]
Q. What are the most important things that you want our readers to know?
The important participation of children in the event, almost 500. Their devotional and exemplary behavior. [And] the importance of the participation of the native peoples of the Americas . . . In one of the performances, several tribes from the Brazilian Amazon, which are usually great enemies, were united for the first time in their history to dance in peace and unity. The Bahá'í Faith had achieved what years of history had failed: to establish strong bonds of unity thanks to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.
Francisco González Pérez of Córdoba, Spain, is an award-winning photographer who has worked for El País and ABC. He is currently Head of Photography and Graphic Editor of CÓRDOBA Journal.