A story about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and a reflection on the sacrifices He made to travel to, and around, the West. Continue reading Beyond Kingship
It is not an official commemoration on the Bahá’í calendar, but sixty years ago today “The Guardian of the Cause of God”, Shoghi Effendi, who was entrusted with the authority to guide the worldwide Bahá’í community and to interpret the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, his great-grandfather and grandfather, passed away, unexpectedly early, having fallen victim to an Asian flu pandemic.
There would be little point in trying to pen an adequate blog post about who Shoghi Effendi was, the workload he carried, the challenges he faced and the victories he won. His wife, Hand of the Cause of God ‘Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum’s biography of his life, The Priceless Pearl, runs to 482 pages and Earl Redman’s story of his life through the recollections of those who met him, Shoghi Effendi through the Pilgrim’s Eye, contains two volumes totalling 879 pages, and both of those publications make it clear that this life was so full of sacrificial endeavours that – even were the records of all his efforts to exist – no number of volumes would contain adequate testimony to the service he rendered humanity in the course of his lifetime.
Newcastle upon Tyne shares a special connection with many of the celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh that have recently been taking place around the world.
In the summer of 1886 a talented 24-year-old Cambridge natural sciences graduate, with an interest in oriental and middle-eastern affairs, and a flair for languages, and who was still also completing studies in medicine, was reading an 1866 publication in which its author, Arthur de Gobineau, provided eye-witness accounts of the gruesome persecutions faced by the followers of the Báb (the Prophet forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh) in Persia.
A reflection on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh
Eleven days ago, Bahá’ís across the planet celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of the Prophet-Founder of our Faith, Bahá’u’lláh.
In every country where the law does not forbid such things, the Bahá’ís held local celebrations over the impact that Bahá’u’lláh has had on their lives, their communities, and the planet. It would take several pages to adequately summarise everything that happened here in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) to mark this anniversary, let alone the celebrations across a whole nation or across the world, but a glimpse of the global celebrations can be viewed here – I am likely to write more about these celebrations in the coming days or weeks.
Tomorrow night the Bahá’í community of Newcastle-upon-Tyne will be having a special prayer meeting for the Bahá’ís in Iran, as the seven sacrificial souls pictured above enter their third year in prison and the Iranian Bahá’í community as a whole face continued persecution.
Referred to as leaders for ease of reference, the prisoners served as an informal body called the Yaran, or “Friends,” and attended to the spiritual and social needs of the Baha’is in Iran. The seven have been held in Tehran’s Evin prison since they were arrested in 2008 – Mrs. Sabet on 5th March and the remainder of them on 14th May.
The Bahá’í World News Service reported on 10th May that:
“No court hearing was held until 12 January this year when they appeared in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court. Charges including espionage, propaganda activities and “corruption on earth” were all denied. Further appearances took place on 7 February and 12 April.
“In the three trial sessions that have so far taken place, no evidence has been provided whatsoever of wrongdoing – making it all the more obvious that the prisoners are being held only because of their religious belief,” said Ms. Dugal.
“If their freedom is not immediately granted, at the very least they should be released on bail. Steps should be taken to ensure that their trial is expedited and conducted fairly, in accordance with international standards,” she said.
Severe prison conditions
Friday marks the second anniversary of the group’s imprisonment, and details continue to emerge about the severe conditions under which they are being held. It is known, for example, that the two women and five men are confined to two cells which are so small that they restrict adequate movement or rest.
“They have neither beds nor bedding,” said Ms. Dugal.
The place has a rancid smell, and they are permitted to have fresh air for only two hours each week. They have a light that if turned off during the day makes it impossible for them to see anything.
“Contact with their loved ones is restricted to one 10-minute telephone call a week, or visits which are mostly conducted through a glass barrier,” Ms. Dugal said.
“Such inhumane conditions show no regard for the principles outlined in international agreements for the treatment of prisoners, which provide that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” she said.
“The prisoners’ own requests for modest improvements to their conditions remain unaddressed, and as a consequence their health is suffering.
“These people are innocent, and there is no reason they should be made to suffer like this,” she said.
According to the journalist Roxana Saberi – who shared a cell for three weeks with two of the Baha’i prisoners – the women are confined in a small space. “They roll up a blanket to use as a pillow,” she said. “The floor is cement and covered with only a thin, brown carpet, and prisoners often get backaches and bruises from sleeping on it. … When I was with them, we were allowed into a walled-in cement yard four days a week for 20 to 30 minutes.”
Today, April 10th, is our 6th wedding anniversary, or our “sugar” anniversary according to British tradition. I decided that today I would share a couple of things from our wedding that will give an insight into the Baha’i wedding ceremony.
The war on Iraq is a sad state of affairs whatever your perspective on the rights or wrongs of the invasion and the continuing presence of foreign forces to assist in the rebuilding of the country, but this video, which claims to show US soldiers teaching Iraqi children a little English, is heart-destroying.
Here’s a novel site I just found, they have several free video clips of relaxing scenes, such as plants waving in the breeze, the sea crashing against some cliffs, sunrises, sunsets, and the classic fireplace videos. You can enjoy a few moments of something different and you may well wish you could book a holiday in Hawaii afterwards.
Here’s a cute video that may bring a smile to some faces, particularly Persian faces…
“Eleven-year-old Maximillian Afnan is a member of the Birmingham Bahai community. He gives us an insight into this relatively unknown religion.”
This is a nicely made introduction to the Baha’i Faith presented by Maximillian Afnan which is available from the BBC News website, it lasts just 1 minute and forty seconds, particularly pleasing are the camera angles from an eleven year old’s perspective.
Most UK viewers should be able to watch this clip in high quality, viewers outside the UK might not be able to watch it.