In The Dawn-Breakers, the Bab quotes a well-known Islamic tradition that states, “Treasures lie hidden beneath the throne of God; the key to those treasures is the tongue of poets.” June Perkins’ book of poems, Illuminations, written in honor of the bicentenary anniversaries of the Births of Baha’u’llah and the Bab, seems to meet that description.
Illuminations contains 19 poems, one story, and is accompanied by the art of Ruha and Minaira Fifita. Some of the poems harken back to the days of The Dawn-Breakers and others are timeless in their setting but as a collection, June has deftly sewn them all together: each poem is a jewel, the collection is a well-arranged piece of jewelry.
June tells us all about her book in this interview and we hope you enjoy our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your work as a poet?
Poetry has been a lifelong friend, through thick and thin, from my youngest brother’s acquired head injury to living through Cyclone Yasi and its aftermath and encountering the trials and joys of life.
I think of poets as canaries flying into the darkness of human experience to emerge with balls of light. Poetry, as well as being a way to make meaning of experiences, is a powerful way to pay tribute to all we might be grateful in our lives, from people to places, to a sense of the Divine, or a Great Spirit, we may call God. Continue reading
When I was a child in early primary school my mother became a Baha’i. We learned as a family about what it meant to be a Baha’i and we didn’t have a conscious awareness of the importance of unity – especially between siblings. My sister and I fought a lot and I was often very cruel to her as the older sister. If we played in the pool, for example, we might splash each other and if at some point I splashed so hard that I made her eyes sting from water and chlorine I would think nothing of it, and her visible suffering would probably only encourage me to splash harder.
In 1984 I was 11 years old when my mother, sister and I attended the dedication of the Temple in Samoa. There were many Baha’is staying in the same hotel as us. I remember playing in the pool with two children whom I had never met before and have never met since – though I’ve heard they live in our region. We chased each other and splashed each other. And over thirty years later I still remember the profound impact of the behaviour of those children on me. Navid splashed his sister Nava and they were having fun, but then the water got in her eyes. Nava indicated that her eyes were hurting and her brother immediately stopped and swam over to her, apologised and checked that she was ok. I had never seen anything like it. He behaved with the same kindness in his interactions with her as he would have with me (a stranger) or with his teacher or with anyone. Kind was the only way he knew how to be. It was a highly developed quality of his soul, not a performance that could be turned on and off depending on circumstances. Continue reading
A blending of cultures and a meeting point of generations is what makes Radiant Heart a special album, even before you begin listening to it. Mother-daughter duo Shidan and Shadi Toloui-Wallace, have created an album with songs in English, Persian (Farsi) and Arabic. Their respective voices, languages and the cultural heritage they draw upon complements each other magnificently.
It’s been a while since we heard from Shidan or Shadi. You may remember Shidan from our interview with her about her album Phoenix of Love, which you can read here. And we last heard from Shadi when she was a guest on our podcast, which you can check out here: Baha’i Blogcast with Rainn Wilson – Episode 27: Shadi Toloui-Wallace
So with the release of this new and unique album, we thought it was time to hear from both of them again, and here’s what they shared with us: Continue reading
I live in a culture very much steeped in alcohol where my choice to not drink or do drugs isn’t the norm and invites a lot of questions. We have a two articles on Baha’i Blog that talk about alcohol (this article explores a social perspective behind why Baha’is don’t drink, and this article explores a health perspective). George Ronald has published a new book that covers this topic more broadly and in more depth: it’s called Eagles in the Dust: Alcohol and Other Chemical Pastimes and it’s by Robert (Rob) Cacchioni. In this interview he tells us a little about his book:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I encountered the Baha’i Faith 20 years ago. As a student of comparative religion, I found its claims bold and intriguing – though questionable. After in-depth study and much debate, I was honored to join the Baha’i community in carrying out Baha’u’llah’s Vision for humanity.
Since embracing Baha’u’llah’s Claim, I’ve striven to understand His Faith and aid others to do likewise. For nearly two decades, I’ve held Baha’i study classes (also known as “deepenings”) and currently run a YouTube channel: Bridging Beliefs. There and in writing projects, I share my personal understandings of Baha’u’llah’s Vision, attempt to resolve purported divides separating the world religions, examine atheist and secular thought and to show the (at times) hidden brilliance of Baha’u’llah’s Teachings.
I currently live in Vancouver, Canada with my wife Jenny and two children, Eli and Layli. I am a lover of learning and the arts – martial and musical. My life’s goal is to (one day) become worthy of the title: Baha’i. Continue reading
Saichiro Fujita (April 15, 1886 - May 7, 1976), one of the earliest Japanese Baha’is. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Saichiro Fujita, known to the worldwide Baha’i community simply as “Fujita,” became the second Japanese Baha’i in 1905 in California.
Fujita first saw Abdu’l-Baha in Chicago when he climbed a lamp post in order to see over the crowd that had gathered to meet Him. When Abdu’l-Baha saw Fujita He said, “Come down Zachias, for this day I would sup with thee.” Abdu’l-Baha was referring and repeating the Biblical story of a short man named Zachias, who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Christ. Together, Abdu’l-Baha and Fujita drove off to home of Corinne True, an early American Baha’i. After resting, Abdu’l-Baha met with Fujita and stated:
So, how is our Japanese Effendi? Recently the government of Japan has undergone a change. A new emperor has come to the throne. The sovereignty of the former Mikado has come to an end… But as you are a believer in God, you have a kingdom which will never collapse and will be everlasting.
Fujita came from a prominent Japanese family and had heard of the Baha’i Faith from Mrs. Helen Goodall in San Francisco several years prior to his personal meeting with Abdu’l-Baha. Once a notorious party-hopper, Fujita became a Baha’i and received a tablet of praise from Abdu’l-Baha. Not believing it to be about himself, Fujita dismissed it. After received two more tablets from Abdu’l-Baha, Fujita began to realize he truly was the recipient of Abdu’l-Baha’s warm words and he asked what he could do to better serve the Faith. When they met, Abdu’l-Baha asked him to finish his engineering education in order to be able to work for Him in Haifa. For seven years, Fujita lived with the Trues and finished his schooling. He then travelled to Haifa where he lived, with the exception of a few years in Japan during World War II, until he passed away in 1976 at the age of 90, and is buried in the Baha’i Cemetery at the foot of Mount Carmel.
I call Prince Edward Island off the east coast of Canada home. Recently my community gathered on Zoom to study the 9 May 2020 message from the Universal House of Justice. The letter contains important guidance about navigating through this difficult time, but one particular point struck a chord with me, and I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. The section I’m referring to is this:
…while certain possibilities have been temporarily closed, others have opened up, and new means have emerged for strengthening existing patterns of activity. Flexibility has proven to be an asset, but so has vigilance in ensuring that the primarily local character of community activities is not diluted; efforts to nurture flourishing communities within neighbourhoods and villages and across clusters must continue.
Like most of us, I have embraced a more insular lifestyle in the interest of protecting myself and the more vulnerable members of my community. As someone who lives alone, over the last few months I have joined a few online communities and participated in a number of virtual events. Some are local initiatives: holy day commemorations, Nineteen Day Feasts, devotional gatherings and opportunities to study messages like the May 9 message from the House of Justice; others have been regional—I even attended a Zoom wedding this spring! But many have been international in scope, and while they enrich my life significantly, they also require a considerable investment of time and energy, which begs the question: is my participation online diluting efforts to nurture a flourishing community at the local level? How can I find ways to take what I am learning virtually and use it to invigorate my role within my own community? In exploring these questions, another arose: what exactly am I learning? Perhaps identifying the skills I am developing in these online communities, and what I find so enriching about participating in them will help me to identify practical ways that I can better support local activities too. Continue reading
Former member of the Universal House of Justice, Mr. Hooper Dunbar, is currently facilitating an online study called ‘Reading the Writings of Shoghi Effendi’.
Mr. Hooper Dunbar served as a member of the Universal House of Justice for 22 years, and the youth who had the honor of volunteering at the Baha’i World Centre while Mr. Dunbar was serving on the Universal House of Justice may be familiar with his weekly Thursday night study sessions on various Baha’i topics. In the spirit of those Thursday nights, Mr. Dunbar has started this weekly study class online called ‘Reading the Writings of Shoghi Effendi’, which you can either join live, or watch recordings of them at your own convenience. Continue reading
I do not remember when I first heard the story of the life of Tahirih but once I learned it, I couldn’t forget it. Susan Hansen has created a book for children called From Behind All the Veils that introduces who Tahirih was, her remarkable qualities, and her esteemed place not only in Baha’i history, but in the advancement of all humankind. Susan graciously agreed to tell us about her book:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a teacher of multi-lingual students at an elementary school in Texas. I am also the mother of four adult children. I was born in Iran to a Baha’i family. My ancestors on my mother and father’s side were early Babis who later became Baha’is. So I have personal connections to the stories of The Dawn-Breakers. I also lived in Venezuela as a Baha’i pioneer for twelve years and was constantly inspired by the depth of Faith and sacrifice of those who had responded on their own to the Message of Baha’u’llah.
I’m really excited to share a special arts initiative by the Ballarat Baha’i Community. In honour of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia
, we have invited renowned Ballarat musicians Geoffrey and George Williams to create a virtual choir
using a choral piece based on the Writings of Baha’u’llah. It is a song that they composed for the bicentenary of the Birth of Baha’u’llah in 2017 and now, as a virtual collaboration, my Baha’i community is really hoping the song can foster connection, bind hearts, and induce joy and happiness during a time when feelings of isolation and sadness are rife around the world.
The choral piece is taken from Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face…Be an ornament to the countenance of truth…a breath of life to the body of mankind.
The end result is bound to be spine-tingling, and my community and my friends are so excited to see the final production. Submissions are encouraged from everyone. Whether you believe in God or not is irrelevant. Whether you have a lot of experience singing or not is irrelevant. Whether you are Baha’i or not is not the point. One thing is for certain – knowing that people will be coming together to sing words centred around generosity, gratitude, compassion and joy is sure to bring about some much-needed relief amidst a global crisis, not to mention the inspiration we are all bound to gain. For as Baha’u’llah says:
We, verily, have made music as a ladder for your souls, a means whereby they may he lifted up unto the realm on high.
I’ve included some details on how to participate in the virtual choir below but before I get to that, I wanted to share how this project came about and what I’ve been reflecting on in the process. Continue reading
Wendi Momen has compiled four devotional books perfect for couples, mothers, fathers and families. These small paperbacks with watercolor floral covers contain sacred writings, poetry and prose on universal themes. George Ronald Publishers reissued Family Worship, To be a Mother and To be a Father and released, for the first time,To Be Married.
I will shamelessly admit that I judge books by their covers and these four make a beautiful and enchanting set before you even open them for meaningful study and worship. I was eager to find out more about them and Wendi lovingly obliged. Here’s our conversation: Continue reading