Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah who referred to Him as “the Mystery of God” and “a shelter for all mankind”, however Abdu’l-Baha preferred to be called “Abdu’l-Baha” which means “the Servant of Baha” in reference to His servitude to Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
Light of Unity – A Podcast of Stories About Abdu’l-Baha for Children
In this year’s flourishing of online resources related to Abdu’l-Baha, I have found it particularly poignant to see materials created for children by children. Light of Unity is a nine episode podcast mini-series of stories about Abdu’l-Baha as told by a group of children in Indonesia.
Wendy Yap graciously shared the initiative with us and in this interview, she tells us how it came about, what’s it’s meant for the participants, and what they hope you will take away with you when you listen to podcast:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your community?
Our family of five has made Indonesia our home for the past 7 years. Our small community focuses on English programmes for children and comprises several families from different neighbourhoods in greater Jakarta and Bandung areas.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us about Light of Unity?
We could not be more delighted to share this mini-series podcast. The podcast, titled Light of Unity, was a culmination of three months of work leading up to the centennial anniversary of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha.
As our community was brainstorming on service acts that would befittingly honour Abdu’l-Baha, the idea of having the children tell stories from their children’s class came about. There is at present a treasure trove of stories – stories of The Dawn-Breakers, stories of Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’u’llah and the Bab, and stories told by Abdu’l-Baha and the early believers. This small service project was our way of giving back by adding to the growing collection of Baha’i stories, at the same time, help the children learn about Abdu’l-Baha and His life of service and sacrifice. The pure-heartedness and innocence of the children’s voices, the sincerity and love in their story-telling, the diversity of accents and expressions from their culture and heritage, made the podcast all the richer and more colourful, like flowers of a garden.
Baha’i Blog: How did the podcast come about?
When activities had to be put on hold due to challenges of the pandemic, several communities saw the need for an online space specially for children, a space where they could share prayers and stories. Friendship gradually deepened and the online devotional gathering grew into a community around Baha’i education classes.
A group of parents, connected through this online space, got to work and organised the selection of stories and called for volunteers. Eventually, nine stories from Ruhi Book 3 Grade 1 materials were chosen.They are short stories adapted from the life of Abdu’l-Baha.
It was a few months in the making. 14 children aged 4-11 years old from a myriad of backgrounds, from Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore participated in this project. The parents took time from their busy schedules to help the children learn the stories. Children practised reading out loud at home and during their children’s class. For some of them, although English was not their native language, they worked at it and read confidently.
Baha’i Blog: What was the experience of the children and the parents who participated?
Florian, aged 9, said: “I was afraid in the beginning and nervous that I might miss out on something.”
Ari, father of Tama and Ghita recalled, “They were apprehensive at first, but they understood the value of service and contribution, and were able to complete their recording within a short time.”
The team listened to the recordings of stories over and over to find ways to make the podcast better and more engaging for young and old; worked with the children and their parents to edit some parts of the stories; and fine-tuned the sound quality of the final recordings.
During a candid reflection, the children created word clouds to describe their feelings about the service project. Feelings of worry and nervousness gave way to happiness and pride at seeing their podcasts published.
Aaradhya, aged 9, wants to do it again. She shared, “I feel happy and excited and I’m going to share it with Grandma and Grandpa.”
In this centenary year of the passing of Abdu’l-Baha, these stories drew us closer to the Master and the Baha’i Faith. Around the house, we started hearing snippets of stories; reflections were often shared whenever an occasion arose.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you personally learned in the production of this podcast?
I had a newfound appreciation for the cross-cultural background of the class: the range of pronunciation and accents, even the disfluency made the podcast more distinctive and truly representative of the diversity in our communities.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this podcast?
By introducing young storytellers through this podcast, we hope that many young listeners would be drawn to the podcast and benefit from these stories of hope, faith and reliance on God.
It is also our modest hope that other communities would be encouraged to join in the efforts of publishing more Baha’i stories for children and making them widely available and accessible, in different languages and settings.
Baha’i Blog: What words of encouragement might you have for anyone thinking of creating their own podcast?
With practice and a spirit of learning, working with children to tell stories was a worthwhile and rewarding experience. You do not need to dress up or leave the house. It is less challenging than you think!
On the technical side of things, we were fortunate to have the support of friends from Malaysia who helped harmonise the audio and sound quality of all the recordings, and introduced structure and music to make the listener experience as pleasant as possible.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Wendy, for sharing this with us!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.