Tag Archives: youth

Update on Arrests in Shiraz, Iran

NEW YORK, 26 May 2006 (BWNS) After their arrests on 19 May in Shiraz, Iran, three Baha’is remain in jail while 51 others have been released on bail. No indication has been given as to when the three will be released. None of those who had been released, nor the three who are still being detained, have been formally charged.

On the day of the arrests, one Baha’i, under the age of 15, was released without having to post bail. At that same time, several other young people who are not Baha’is and who had been arrested with the Baha’is, were also released without bail.

On Wednesday 24 May, five days after their summary arrests, 14 of the Baha’is were released, each having been required to provide deeds of property to the value of ten million tumans (approximately US$11,000) as collateral for release. The following day, Thursday 25 May, 36 Baha’is were released on the strength of either personal guarantees or the deposit of work licenses with the court as surety that they will appear when summoned to court.

Link: Full Story and photo
Link: Information on the situation of the Baha’is in Iran

54 Baha’is Arrested in Iran

Friday 19th May, Shiraz, 54 Baha’is were arrested while carrying out a local project in schools with permission of the Islamic Council of Shiraz.

The charges are not yet clear but the arrests are all the more concerning due to the facts that most of those arrested are youth and this is one of the largest number of Bahá’ís taken at once since the 1980s. Several non-Bahá’í youth who were also involved in the project have been permitted to go free.

The Bahá’í World News Service has today (May 24th) officially reported that only one younger Bahá’í has been freed in addition to all of the non-Bahá’í participants, this disturbing confirmation follows unconfirmed reports that all the Bahá’ís had been released.

The BWNS also reveals that “The arrests coincided with raids on six Baha’i homes during which notebooks, computers, books, and other documents were confiscated. In the last 14 months, 72 Baha’is across Iran have been arrested and held for up to several weeks.”

Link: Full story and photo, 54 Baha’is arrested in Iran. [BWNS]
Link: The Growing Threat to Iran’s Baha’is

Folding paper flowers for religious harmony

SINGAPORE, 11 May 2006 (BWNS)

Young members of the Baha’i community recently gave support to a national interfaith project aimed at bringing Singaporeans of all races and religions together.

About 40 youth gathered at the Singapore Baha’i Center on 15 April 2006 to fold paper lotuses as part of the Project Million Lotus 2006, which is sponsored by the Singapore Buddhist Federation.

The effort aims to have young people of all races and religions make a million paper lotuses as symbols of purity and harmony.

“The idea of folding a paper lotus is taken from the symbolic meaning of a lotus that grows in muddy water and yet emerges into a pure and beautiful flower,” said Lynette Thomas, Secretary of The Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Singapore.

“Every lotus folded is like a wish for harmony that unites all people in Singapore,” said Ms. Thomas. “Each of the nine major religions has been invited to open up their centers for one Saturday to host youth from other communities to come and fold paper lotuses.”

Ms. Thomas said in addition to the 15 April event, Baha’i study circles in the city have also folded lotuses for the project. She said about 4,000 lotuses have been contributed so far by Baha’is.

The 40 young people who gathered at the Singapore Baha’i Center included many from Chung Cheng High School who are not Baha’is.

“Regarding the million Lotus project, I think it is a very meaningful one,” said Sabrina Han, one of the Baha’i youths who participated on 15 April, saying it brings “many youths from different religions together.”

Anita Kuppusamy, another of the Bahai youths who participated on 15 April, said she found that the effort lead to meeting many new friends.

“Though I had a hard time folding the lotuses at first, I got better at it after folding a few,” she said. “The center was filled with energetic youths and I was glad to be one of them.”

The project has received support from Singaporean President S.R. Nathan, as well as from the Central Singapore Community Development Council, Trust Central, the Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) of Singapore, and several Singapore corporations.

The lotuses were scheduled to be displayed at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza on 6-7 May 2006 as the highlight of the “Growing Compassion, Harvesting Harmony,” Singapore celebration of the Vesak Festival.

“The National Assembly is delighted by the initiative shown by the Baha’i youth to be part of this event to foster inter-religious harmony,” said Ms. Thomas. “It has provided them with a great opportunity to learn more about the peace-loving religion of Buddhism and to interact with the Buddhist youth.”

Link: Full story and photographs (BWNS)
Link: How to Fold a Lotus Flower

11 year old Maximillian’s Baha’i Faith Intro

Link: BBC News Video: The Birmingham Baha’i Community

“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.

Guyana Youth try to “Move The World”

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, 9 March 2006 (BWNS)

With an empty Coke bottle for a pint of rum and a white plastic chair the only other prop, the skit performed by five young men and women during a recent meeting of the Future Club here told a story that is unfortunately all too familiar in this vibrant South American country.

A husband drinks too much and beats his wife, shouting and swearing at her for failing to have dinner ready on time. Crying and inconsolably depressed after many such episodes, she decides to take her own life.

However, as performed before an audience of several dozen other young people from every section of this gritty coastal capital one recent day, the young woman’s friends intervene, pleading with her not to take her life.

And so the heroine, played by 16-year-old Rayana Jaundoo, triumphantly throws the poison aside. “I have learned I don’t care what other people do and what other people say,” she says, breaking character and addressing the audience directly. “I can live a positive life.”

Although a little overplayed, it is a happy ending, just the sort encouraged by the young facilitators of an innovative and highly successful youth leadership training program here, known as Youth Can Move the World (YCMTW), which often uses skits, songs and other types of media to drive home its message.

The program focuses on the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, HIV/AIDS, and domestic violence. Since its founding in 1997, YCMTW has offered more than 7,000 Guyanese young people strategies aimed at helping them cope with and avoid such problems.

Its success at reaching youth on the margins has been widely recognized, not only by other youth-oriented NGOs but also by the government-run national university, which has given support to YCMTW.

Much of its funding has come from international development agencies and, most recently, researchers at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland have launched a three-year study on the project’s methods and accomplishments.

“The project in Guyana is quite innovative,” said Roy McConkey, a professor in the health promotion group at the Institute of Nursing Research at the University of Ulster, who is heading up the study. “They manage to do a remarkable amount of work with very little resources.”

Established by the Varqa Foundation, a Baha’i-inspired non-governmental organization based here, YCMTW also emphasizes in its training the importance of — and the possibilities for — personal and community transformation. To do that, the project uses a program of spiritual and moral education produced by the Ruhi Institute of Colombia, which draws quite directly on the Baha’i writings for its motive power.

“From the very beginning of the project, we saw that the only way that genuine change could come about was through community and personal transformation,” said Brian O’Toole, director of YCMTW and chairman of the Varqa Foundation. “We saw that these Baha’i materials were successful around the world.”

Observers say the emphasis on spirituality is an important part of the program.

“The approach of integrating spiritual values, including positive community values, makes it a program with a difference,” said Samuel A. Small, director of the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education at the University of Guyana, which provides end-of-training certification to YCMTW graduates.

“In the [other] youth programs that I know of and have participated in, spiritual values are never part of the core of the curriculum, and personally I believe that because of the tremendous problems that are being brought upon young people today, every effort should be made to help them to see that spiritual values are not taught separately in churches, mosques, temples and so on, but that they are really part and parcel of our every day life skills,” said Mr. Small.

The social problems addressed by the project are by no means unique to Guyana — but they are nevertheless serious concerns in this beautiful tropical country situated on the southern edge of the Caribbean basin.

After Haiti, Guyana has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the Caribbean, which is the world’s second-most afflicted region after Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization. AIDS has become the leading cause of death for people aged 25-44 in Guyana, according to the WHO.

Domestic violence, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse are also major problems here.

The program, which has received funding from UNICEF, the European Union, and the InterAmerican Development Bank among other agencies, seeks to fight these problems mainly by educating young people about the risks associated with each behavior.

The facilitators’ manual, for example, discusses the short and long term effects of alcohol, ranging from poor judgment and lowered inhibitions to cirrhosis of the liver and dependency. It explains clearly how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and discusses a range of protective measures, from less risky types of sex to condom use to abstinence.

The curriculum also promotes the development of social action — such as the protection of the environment — and positive moral values. The section on domestic violence, for example, explains ways in which qualities like honesty, compromise, and forgiveness can improve a relationship.

Spiritual ideas, such as the Golden Rule, are also emphasized, underpinned by quotations from the major world religions.

“It comes out of a Baha’i framework, but we have enriched it with spiritual insights from Islam, Christianity, and Hinduism,” said Dr. O’Toole, who came to Guyana with his wife, Pamela, 27 years ago from the United Kingdom.

The incorporation of religious quotations has resonated particularly well in Guyana, said Dr. O’Toole, owing to the distinctive religious diversity of Guyanese society, which is about 50 percent Christian, 35 percent Hindu, and 10 percent Muslim. The remaining five percent belong to other religions, including the Baha’i Faith.

Young people who have participated in YCMTW training say the discussion of spirituality is an important part of the program.

Susan Coocharan, 17, said the program’s balance between practical education and the holy writings of various religions has given her new tools to avoid risky behaviors.

“I used to think that guys were the only thing in life that matters,” said Ms. Coocharan, a Christian from Essequibo in the western part of the country, who participated in an intensive two-month YCMTW training program in July and August 2005. “But when I came to this program it helped me to develop spiritual qualities and it made me see that guys are not the only thing in life.”

Dhanpaul Jairam, 31, has been involved in YCMTW since March 2005, when he received training to become a facilitator. A Hindu, he has since established a YCMTW subgroup in his home village of Bath Settlement in the Berbice region of Guyana, where he has reached out to young people from every religious background.

At first, he said, the Hindus didn’t want to mix with the others. “But I talked about all of the religions,” said Mr. Jairam, who works as a radio telephone operator for the Guyana Sugar Corporation. “I do have a Bible and a Qur’an. And Hindu writings.”

Because of the emphasis on all religions, Mr. Jairam said, young people of all backgrounds were willing to participate. “That is why I think YCMTW is doing a great job of encouraging youth of all walks of life to make of themselves somebody,” said Mr. Jairam.

Another key feature of the project is its use of youth, themselves, as agents of change. By encouraging young volunteers to establish YCMTW groups in their own villages and neighborhoods, it has grown organically as young people themselves involve their friends and acquaintances.

Troy Ben

jamin, 19, started a 17-member YCMTW group in his village in the remote North Rupunui Region after attending the intensive training program last summer.

“I was very much interested, because some of the topics mentioned were dealing with alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and such,” said Mr. Benjamin, who is himself of Native American — or “Amerindian” background — as are most of the other 500 residents of his village. “And I knew that those problems were kind of arising, and I was facing it in my community as a whole.”

Prof. McConkey of the University of Ulster said using young people themselves to deliver health promotion messages is one of the key innovations of the project.

“In affluent countries like the United States and Great Britain, we rely on professional educators, who may well have a special training or special expertise,” said Prof. McConkey. “But they may lack a relationship with young people. Hence we sometimes wonder why our health promotion messages don’t come through.

“The model that they are using, in which local groups are built up, in which [young] people in those groups have knowledge about each other and their own behaviors,” said Prof. McConkey. “I think in that setting people are more likely to be open about what they actually do.”

To see this story and photos please go to: http://news.bahai.org