As most Baha'is know, one of the recent projects of the Baha'i world community is the building of another House of Worship (mashiq'u'adhkar) in Santiago Chile. As was the case in the other temples, it will be an impressive structure, meant more to be a "silent teacher" of the Baha'i Faith than a practical place of worship. As some folks online have pointed out, the mashriq was meant, scripturally, to be the center of local community worship, but the way history has played out, we have ended up building only a few of them world-wide: Wilmette, IL; Germany, Samoa, India, Uganda, Australia. They are generally described as "mother temples", and the hope is that sometime in the future, the majority of Baha'is will have local places of worship. (Right now, the larger communities have Baha'i Centers, which are administrative in nature, although they are used for worship, and the small communities which make up the majority generally meet at somebody's house.) So, the idea of the mashriq'u'l-adhkar and what it means, and what it is supposed to be, has been the subject of some controversy online.
Well, as my good friend Baquia pointed out on Baha'i Rants , some Chileans are less than thrilled at having a Baha'i temple in Santiago, especially in the initially proposed location in Metropolitan Park. I ran across another blog, written in Portuguese, and including links to the Spanish-language press, that speaks about the controversy, as well. Don't be daunted by the foreign language. Altavista has a pretty decent translator, which gives you the sense of what's going on, even if somewhat inelegantly. One thing that struck me is that, unlike Baquia, Marco at Pova de Baha'i denies that there was significant opposition by the Catholic Church, instead insisting that it was largely evangelical Protestant groups, and Muslims that have opposed the building of the temple.
The debate looks to be pretty hot; I myself had a private inquiry by a Chilean journalist, before I even knew anything about the conflict. Besides asking specifics about Baha'i teachings, he also asked me about the economic and social influence of the Baha'i Faith, which tells me that there are rumors down there about the ability of the Baha'is to pull behind-the-scenes strings to get things done. Baha'i institutions offically take a non-political stance, but they generally try to cultivate warm relationships with current governments -- which is not always a good thing, since it has sometimes meant that Baha'is have got themselves hooked up with leaders who are oppressive or otherwise unsavory. However, I don't believe that Baha'i "influence" should be exaggerated -- the Baha'is just hope to have friendly relationships with governments so they are free to practice and promote their religion. (Some might fantasize about converting influential figures, but that remains a fantasy, except in a few select cases.) Overall, Baha'i communities need the government, far more than the government needs them -- and you don't have "influence" unless you have something to trade. A temple like this could bring in tourist dollars to Santiago, certainly, but that doesn't mean that the Chilean NSA gets whatever it wants. In fact, the deal for building the House of Worship in the Metropolitan Park fell through, and they are still looking for a location, even though construction is supposed to start this year.
Both Marco and Baquia, in typical Baha'i fashion, are sanguine about the controversy on the principle that "no publicity is bad publicity" -- at least people are hearing of the existence of the Baha'i Faith.