Inspired By: An Album by Heart to Heart

When I heard Heart to Heart’s album, Inspired By, I felt that it was a musical expression of Baha’u’llah’s words “the earth is but one country and mankind its citizen”. Its global and diverse sounds are genuine and a credit to the band’s name. Thankfully the Baha’i community is so interconnected that, with the help of the internet, it was easy to find out more about this musical collaboration. I was able to hear from Alex Christensen about this multi-cultural, rich, and heartfelt album. Here’s what he shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us who is involved in Heart to Heart?

Heart to Heart is a collective of artists living in the Vancouver area who are learning to create music inspired by their own stories and their involvement in community building efforts. For this album, the artists involved were three brothers: Eric, Alex, and Dan Christensen.

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Immortal Youth – A Compilation in Honor of the Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab

Immortal Youth: A Tribute to the Life and Station of the Bab is a new volume released in honor of this year’s bicentennial anniversary of His Birth. Initiated and compiled by the editorial department of the US Baha’i Publishing Trust, this softcover book offers some sacred and authoritative texts of the Baha’i Faith that pertain to the life and station of the Bab. The 118 page book is organized in an accessible manner and is divided into sections covering the birth, declaration, martyrdom, and station of the Bab, followed by a selection of His own prayers and meditations. It includes Writings of Baha’u’llah and the Bab as well as Writings and recorded utterances of Abdu’l-Baha and writings of Shoghi Effendi.

Immortal Youth gathers together passages and Writings found elsewhere into one commemorative book: it is beautifully designed and a befitting tribute to the Bab. While neither an exhaustive or comprehensive collection, the book’s introduction explains that “it is hoped that this book will offer an opportunity for readers to reflect on the life and station of the inaugurator of the Baha’i Dispensation, the towering Figure described by Baha’u’llah as ‘the Primal Point, the Divine Mystery, the Unseen Essence, the Dayspring of Divinity, and the Manifestation of Thy Lordship, through Whom all the knowledge of the past and all the knowledge of the future were made plain.'”  Continue reading

Creative Circles – A Retreat for Those Striving to Serve Humanity Through Art

I had the privilege of meeting the wonderful Gordon Kerr at the recent Ink of Light Baha’i Writers’ Festival, and he told me about an awesome initiative he’s started in the UK called ‘Creative Circles’.

Creative Circles is a small retreat for those striving to serve humanity through art, and it’s a gathering where artists of all types come together from around the world for a week of masterclasses, workshops, presentations, and the sharing of experiences. It’s also an opportunity for artists to explore their interests and nurture their creative talents in an atmosphere of fellowship and support.

I absolutely love the idea of Creative Circles and I wanted to know more, so here’s what Gordon had to say about this great initiative: Continue reading

Aerial Footage of the Shrine of the Bab Now Available in Baha’i Media Bank

As Baha’is around the world prepare to commemorate the Martyrdom of the Bab in a few days, and with the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab around the corner, I wanted to share that five new video clips of aerial footage of the Shrine of the Bab, located in Haifa, Israel, have recently been added to the Baha’i Media Bank, and from what I can tell, it’s the first time video has been added to the collection. Continue reading

My Thoughts on the Concept of Sin in the Baha’i Faith

When it comes to religion, one of the first things that may spring to many people’s minds is the concept of sin; as when hearing about anything resembling rules, the mind can very naturally turn to the logistics of breaking them. However, while the concept of divine law is relatively ubiquitous among religions the specifics vary to different degrees and I’d like to begin this article by offering a Baha’i perspective of divine law and morality.

Then I’d like to briefly explore the concept of sin, not through a meticulous survey of what is described as a sin in the Baha’i Writings, but through a broader consideration of the concept itself. It should be noted that except for the direct quotations of Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah, the text of this article is only my own interpretations and the reader should insert an “in my opinion” after any statement made.  Continue reading

Foreigner – Hussein Ahdieh’s New Book about His Journey from Iran to New York

My dear friend and prolific writer and scholar Hussein Ahdieh has just released a memoir of his experiences as a Baha’i in Iran and an immigrant to the United States. You may recognize his name from the books Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz or The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries. Both books were co-written with Hillary Chapman, and now the dynamic duo have teamed up again for their latest book based on Hussein Ahdieh’s life, called Foreigner. It’s funny, it’s tender, and it sheds a powerful light on what it feels like to be an immigrant.

Hussein agreed to tell us about his book and what inspired him to write it:

Baha’i Blog: Hi Hussein, can you tell us a little bit about your new book ‘Foreigner’, and what it’s all about?

‘Foreigner’ tells my story as an Iranian Baha’i immigrant to the United States in a series of moving and humorous episodes set against the backdrop of a changing Iran, the plight of the Baha’is there, and the tumult of the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. It’s a vivid re-telling of a foreigner’s experience — as a Baha’i in a Shi’a Muslim country, as an immigrant in a foreign land, as a poor person in New York City, as a Middle Easterner in the West – it’s full of my experiences with challenges and personalities from all walks of life.

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The Race Unity Speech Awards: A Platform for Students to Express Ideas on Improving Race Relations

I wanted to share an awesome initiative spearheaded by the Baha’i Community of New Zealand called The Race Unity Speech Awards. Having started back in 2001, the event is an annual public speaking competition for senior high school students in New Zealand, and although the topic varies from year to year, the theme is always around race. Students are given one or two quotes and several bullet points relating to the particular topic, and asked to consider them when preparing their speeches. Regional heats are held in 14 locations around the country and around 25 of the regional participants gather in Auckland each year for the national semi-finals and finals. The speech awards provide a nationwide platform for students to express their ideas on how we can improve race relations, and the theme for 2019 was “Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity”. In conjunction with the speech awards are also gatherings called Race Unity Hui. These gatherings are also organized to give young people an opportunity to be heard when it comes to race relations issues, and they provide a space for young people to advance the conversation about race relations in New Zealand.

This year’s finals of The Race Unity Speech Awards just took place last month, and Robbie White of New Plymouth Boys’ High School won the competition; he cited examples of past and present New Zealand leaders who have helped to forge unity in New Zealand, and confidently wove the Maori language into his speech (which you can watch here). Nina Gelashvilli, a Year 12 student at Kuranui College in the Wairarapa, was the national runner-up and Michael Echague, a Year 12 student from St John’s College in Hamilton, was a national finalist. I was excited to hear from these three participants about their experience with this incredible event, and here’s what they shared with me:  Continue reading

Libero: A Baha’i-Inspired Album by NAIM

About a year ago, I had the pleasure of talking on the phone to a Baha’i singer-songwriter from Italy named Naim Abid. We hit it off straight away, and we spoke for hours about a wide range of topics ranging from love and loss, to music and the Baha’i Faith.

Over the years, Naim has developed an eclectic vocal style ranging from ska to swing, soul to pop, and from blues to revival, and his wide range of musical talents came to life in a sold-out series of shows called “Crooner Nights”, where he paid tribute to the greats of American and Italian music, by combining the hits and their stories in a mix of theatre and music, with themed costumes, curious tales, vintage image projections and iconic improvisation.

Naim played a crucial role in helping us record some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions in Italy, and you can see him here in this upbeat Studio Session called “So Powerful (Tanto Potente)”.

As I’ve gotten to know him over the course of the year, it’s become very clear that along with the Baha’i Faith, music and performance are at his core and run through his veins. It’s no surprise then that Naim has combined his passion for the Baha’i Faith and his passion for music into the production of a Baha’i-inspired album called Libero, and I connected with Naim again to find out more about it: Continue reading

A Personal Reflection on the Harmful Effects of Backbiting

A young woman whom I’d recently befriended fell pregnant outside of marriage. When she called me, she was in complete shock and beside herself. In her agitation she spoke of her fear of what others would think of her, she was terrified of the name calling she and her unborn child would face. She felt she had besmirched her family name and was petrified of the judgment of her close and extended family, her community and friends.

She comes from a very traditional family, and spoke of how her parents would expect her to have an abortion to “save face.”

This is not a blog post about the rights and wrongs of having a child outside of marriage. It is not a post about abortion. Rather it’s about my horrifying realization that backbiting not only “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul,” but in actuality, it can end a life. Continue reading

Visiting Abdu’l-Baha: A New Two Volume Series by Earl Redman

Earl Redman is a master storytelling and his books captivate my imagination. He’s the author of Abdu’l-Baha in Their Midst, Shoghi Effendi Through the Pilgrim’s Eye (Volumes I and II), and The Knights of Baha’u’llah. George Ronald recently released a new book, called Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, that makes up the first volume in a two volume series. The books feature stories illustrating how Abdu’l-Baha taught the principles of the Baha’i Faith to others and how He embodied those principles in His interactions. I was eager to catch up with Earl and here’s our conversation:

Baha’i Blog: It’s wonderful to hear from you again, Earl! What have you been up to since we last interviewed you?

Since 2014, my wife Sharon and I have been traveling extensively from Tasmania, through the Pacific, the US, Canada and Alaska, to Iceland, Europe, Tunisia and Israel sharing stories from the two volumes of Visiting Abdu’l-Baha, mostly in small communities who do not get many visitors. And it has been amazing to see the reactions of both Baha’is and their friends to these stories.

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