The decision as to whether to bring children, either with or without a caregiver, is for parents to make after considering all the factors involved, including the abilities of their children to participate in pilgrimage and to comprehend the experience. Although children are permitted to accompany their parents on pilgrimage, parents are discouraged from bringing children under ten years of age.
If parents wish their children under 18 years of age to accompany them during pilgrimage, an invitation must be requested for them by returning FORM A of the leaflet below, duly completed, to the Department of Pilgrimage at a time closer to their pilgrimage. The children will then be included in their parents’ invitation and will be counted in filling the pilgrimage quota. Parents should not, therefore, bring children for whom pilgrimage dates have not been assigned.
Once a child has passed his/her ninth birthday, he/she is a full participant in the pilgrimage programme. Upon reaching the age of nine, a child is permitted to visit the International Archives Building, the only part of the programme that is specifically restricted according to age. This means that couples who bring children under the age of nine with them will have their visits to the International Archives Building scheduled for alternate times so that one of them will be available to care for the child.
Regrettably, there are no means at the Bahá’í World Centre to provide childcare or a special programme for children. Staff serving at the World Centre have full-time assignments which make it impractical for them to take on additional responsibilities, and current budgetary considerations preclude adding additional staff for this purpose. Therefore, arrangements for childcare and other services are the responsibility of the parents and must be planned prior to arrival in the Holy Land.
There may be occasions on which parents who bring very young children will miss portions of the programme, and there is always the risk that a child may become fractious and disturb a meeting, in which case the parents would be asked to remove the child. In that event, pilgrims are asked to comply with such requests, as children cannot be allowed to disturb others or damage property.
Please note that any child or children for whom a caregiver has been designated will not be included in the pilgrimage quota and, consequently, their names will not appear on any pilgrimage invitation, although they will be registered (along with the caregiver) at the Pilgrim Reception Centre upon arrival. Moreover, the child/children will not be allowed to participate in any part of the pilgrimage programme, formal or informal, with the exception of visits to the Shrines.
Parents may request to bring their child/children accompanied by one caregiver (Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í) by returning the form included in the leaflet below, duly completed, to the Department of Pilgrimage at a time closer to their pilgrimage. The caregiver must be 18 years of age or older; it is also essential that the child/children be comfortable with the caregiver and willing to stay alone with him/her for long periods of time. The caregiver must also be in good health and physically able to cope with the challenges of caring for young children for the duration of the pilgrimage. He/She is expected to devote his/her full attention to the needs and care of the child/children that is being accompanied and, therefore, will not be allowed to participate in any part of the pilgrimage programme, formal or informal. In coordination with the parents, the caregiver may visit the Shrines at the times they are open to the general public (if non-Bahá’í) or to the Bahá’ís (if the caregiver is a Bahá’í). Thus, the caregiver will not be counted in filling the pilgrimage quota nor, if a Bahá’í, be subject to the rule under which he/she would not be able to apply for pilgrimage before the lapse of three years.
Children under the care of a caregiver may not remain in or around the Haifa Pilgrim House, the Bahjí Visitors' Centre, or the Pilgrim Reception Centre, even if accompanied by the parents and/or caregiver. Only in special circumstances, such as in an emergency, may the children be allowed to stay for a short time.