Category Archives Interviews

Make Me to Grow – An Album by Victoria Jane Leith

Victoria Jane Leith’s album, Make Me to Grow, is subtitled “an immersive experience of melodies, nature and prayers” and that’s exactly what it is. Listening to it transported me to a devotional gathering in a tranquil garden.

You may recognize Victoria from our Studio Sessions “Lion Roar”“Tiny Seed” and “I Loved Thy Creation”, renditions of which are also included on her sweet album.

I am glad Victoria wanted to share with us about her album. Here’s what she said:

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The Alchemy of Peace: 6 Essential Shifts in Mindsets and Habits to Achieve World Peace

Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing’s latest book called The Alchemy of Peace: 6 Essential Shifts in Mindsets and Habits to Achieve World Peace, offers its readers the gift of hope for the critical crossroads which humanity finds itself. It details ways in which we can change our mindsets and our habits in order to actualize our individual and collective potential: world peace.

Sovaida Ma’ani Ewing writes and lectures in the area of global governance, peace, and international security, and she is the founding director of the Center for Peace and Global Governance, an organization aimed at raising awareness and activating political will and action to tackle global challenges. Her experience and expertise on these subjects have led her to write her fourth book, The Alchemy of Peace, and she graciously agreed to tell us about her book. Here’s what she shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about the book?

Think of a garden that has become a wasteland overrun by weeds. Although we are excited about reviving the garden and creating a luxurious paradise of varied flowers, our efforts are being thwarted at every turn. No matter how many creative plans we make and how many seeds we plant, our efforts come to naught, because the weeds strangle all new growth. So, too, it is with our world today. Despite our best endeavors to come up with programs and action plans to create a just and peaceful world, the results always fall short or fail entirely. What’s going on is that even our most inspiring programs and plans struggle against certain unconscious filters through which we view and understand the world. These filters, or mindsets, are like the operating system of a computer: they drive us and constrain us and yet are in the background hidden from view. These mindsets in turn spawn certain dysfunctional habits. If we are to successfully build the sort of world we want, marked by peace and justice, we need to identify these mindsets and habits — the weeds overrunning our global garden — and replace them with constructive and empowering ones that will propel us in the direction of our vision. The core idea of this book is showing how to do this at the global level to propel us towards peace. I call this the “Alchemy of Peace Method.” After laying out the method in general, the book uses the method to identify six prevalent and insidious mindsets and habits that need to be rooted out and replaced by new mindsets and habits to meet the needs of humanity, as we approach maturity in our collective development.

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Through Their Eyes – A New Animation about Meeting Abdu’l-Baha

Baha’i Blog is excited to have recently shared Through Their Eyes, a short animation that brings to life how Abdu’l-Baha touched the lives of certain notable individuals. Viewers get a glimpse of what the Lebanese poet, writer, and artist Khalil Gibran said about Abdu’l-Baha after they met in New York, how the Japanese poet Yone Nogushi described Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings, and also how Abdu’l-Baha’s unbounded love influenced Lady Blomfield, a humanitarian and child rights activist from Great Britain.

As this year marks the 100th anniversary of the passing of Abdu’l-Baha, this film is part of an animated collection created by Flavio Azm Rassekh and PersianBMS which started with Breaking the Chains, a short film about the very first girls schools of Iran that were built by the Baha’i community under the guidance of Abdu’l-Baha.

I got in touch with the film’s creator, my dear friend from Brazil, Flavio Azm Rassekh, to find out more about this new animation and the inspiration behind it: Continue reading

The Spirit of Success – A Baha’i-Inspired Podcast by Yara Ayache

Yara Ayache is an articulate and energetic youth who, in my opinion, is very successful! What is success, and how we can live coherent lives that balance work with service are some of the main topics she tackles in her aptly named video interview and podcast program called The Spirit of Success.

Yara graciously agreed to tell us about herself and her series and we’re delighted to share what she told us:

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A Story of Light – A 19 Day Journey of Music and Storytelling with Luke Slott

In preparation for the release of his new album in honor of the centenary of the Passing of Abdu’l-Baha, Home of Light, singer-songwriter Luke Slott took viewers on a 19 day journey of storytelling and music during the month of the Baha’i Fast.

Luke’s wonderful recounting of the events and stories of the history of the Baha’i Faith, coupled with his beautiful music, was captured in a series of 20 videos called ‘A Story of Light’. I wanted to connect with my dear friend Luke to find out more about this wonderful initiative and to share it with our readers. Here’s what he had to say: Continue reading

New Companion to the Study of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf

Dr. Lameh Fananapazir recently authored A Companion to the Study of the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. If you are unfamiliar with The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (which you can read on the Baha’i reference library here) it is the last tablet of Baha’u’llah and it is addressed to a wealthy cleric who made it his life’s mission to destroy the Baha’i Faith and its followers. Shoghi Effendi translated the work into English and encouraged every Baha’i to study it.

Dr. Fananapazir’s work shares a wealth of sources from other religious texts that will help us to understand the significance of Baha’u’llah’s epistle, which Shoghi Effendi described as a library in of itself.

I am honoured that Dr. Fananapazir agreed to tell us a little bit about the companion he has put together. Here is what he shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I was born during a teaching trip my parents made to Zahedan, a southern eastern province of Iran and spent my youth in Africa, Gambia, Morocco, and Kenya.

I am a graduate of Edinburgh Medical School and was elected as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. I trained in cardiovascular diseases and specialized in electrophysiology at Duke Medical Center, following which I was recruited to study causes of sudden death in athletes and patients with familial cardiomyopathies at the National Institutes of Health where I became the chief of the section of inherited heart diseases. I spent two and half years in Haifa, Israel where I was the director of the health services at the Baha’i World Centre and a visiting professor of molecular genetics at Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.

I retired recently. Following 9/11, I authored a book Islam at the Crossroads, published by George Ronald. This examines the religious and sectarian hostilities, the many issues that Islam and its sister religions, Judaism and Christianity, increasingly face, and their potential solutions in the light of Baha’u’llah’s teachings.

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Coral & Pearls – A New Album of Devotional Songs by Sonbol Taefi

My dear friend Sonbol Taefi has created a new multi-language devotional album called Coral & Pearls. Her voice on its own is rich and her compositions are uplifting, but on this album her music is also adorned by singers from various parts of the globe; the album features Luke Slott, Elika Mahony and Nasime Wattiaux.

With the exception of the title song, the tracks were recorded in New Zealand with acoustic instruments: piano, guitar, santour, percussion and strings ,as well as backing vocals and choral arrangements. The enchanting title song is based on the marriage prayer revealed by Abdu’l-Baha in Persian, and it was developed for a full ensemble piece for recording with the Czech National Symphony.

It’s been many years since we interviewed Sonbol about her album Sea of Mystery (which you can read here), so I was glad for the chance to hear from her again, and to learn more about her latest album. In this interview she tells us how it came together, and offers some words of encouragement to other musicians, or anyone who is beginning to set the Baha’i Writings to music: Continue reading

Trilogy of Consecration: The Courier, the Historian and the Missionary – A New Book by Boris Handal

Author, Boris Handal, whom you may recognize from his previous books, Mirza Mihdi: The Purest Branch, and Varqa and Ruhu’llah: 101 Stories of Bravery on the Move, has just authored a new historical book called Trilogy of Consecration: The Courier, the Historian and the Missionary.

This book presents the lives of three personages closely related to the early years of the Baha’i Faith in Persia: Shaykh Salman, Nabil-i-A’zam and Mulla Sadiq.

Curious to find out more, here’s what Boris shared with us about his new book: Continue reading

The Art of Empowering Others – A Biography of Knight of Baha’u’llah Gayle Woolson

I have been thinking recently about what it genuinely means to empower others and George Ronald has released a biography of someone who did just that: Knight of Baha’u’llah, Gayle Woolson. Her life’s story was penned by Juliet Gentzkow, who very graciously agreed to tell us about her book called The Art of Empowering Others: The Life and Times of Gayle Woolson Knight of Baha’u’llah, and to give us a glimpse of who Gayle Woolson was. Here’s what she shared with me:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

By profession as a teacher of children, counsellor, and hospice worker, I have served in the United States, Guyana, and Haiti. I now live in Palo Alto California, near my son and his family. Limited to home by the pandemic, I continue a part-time counseling practice, Creative Transitions, and dedicate time to family, community building, biographical writing, and research.

Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?

‘The Art of Empowering Others’, a biography of Gayle Woolson (1913-2011), now joins the George Ronald series on the Knights of Baha’u’llah. Gayle was one of nine children born in Minnesota to parents of Syrian origin. In 1930, her father introduced his family to news of a new Faith, brought to his attention by a Syrian friend in St. Paul. Mr. Abas told his children of teachings for a new, spiritual worldwide civilization based on humanity’s oneness. He said the youth had an important part to play in its development. By 1933, Gayle was teaching a children’s class, which became a stepping stone to public speaking. She then participated in her Local Spiritual Assembly’s initial development and became one of the very first youth traveling teachers in the United States, accompanying Ms. Marguerite Reimer (Sears) and Mrs. Mabel Ives. Following a marriage tragically cut short by her husband’s unexpected death, she arose to serve internationally. In 1940, she and another Baha’i became the first to go to Costa Rica, beginning 29 years of service throughout Central and South America. She witnessed the emergence of Baha’i communities and institutions throughout the continent, becoming a Knight of Baha’u’llah for the Galapagos Islands and serving successively on four elected National Spiritual Assemblies and as part of the initial cohort of appointed Auxiliary Board Members for the Americas. As much at home in a Quechua village as in a president’s palace, her heart burned with love for all who crossed her path. She had a simple eloquence that was yet refined. She saw in each person a unique potential destiny needed in the building of a new civilization. In 1975, following five years of service at the Baha’i World Centre, Gayle returned to the United States, where, for 20 years, she taught and also developed her Children’s Public Speaking Program.

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Virtue Cards – A New Resource for Children

Tuaine Hamilton, who some know as Ine, has created a thoughtful and beautifully designed tool for helping children develop their innate qualities and inner gems: virtue cards!

You may recognize Ine from her Studio Session “Listen” or from her interview about her album that bears the same name (you can read it here if you’d like).

I was delighted to hear from her about her virtue cards. In this interview, she tells us why she created them, how they can be used, and what she’s learned in the process of making them. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading