Category Archives Interviews

Baha’i. Persian. Rapper: An Interview with Ahdi

As a huge fan of rap – especially the “conscious” kind – and with a personal passion for listening to global hip-hop artists no matter what language they rap in, I was excited to meet Ahdi, a Persian rapper based in the United States, and who, for over a decade now, has been “spittin’ out lyrics” in Persian relating to racism, drug abuse, the equality of women and men, and other social issues including the oppression of his fellow Baha’is in Iran.

Ahdi recently released a track called ‘Toloue Bamdad (Rise of Dawn)‘ in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, and so with a stack of tracks behind him, I decided it was time to catch up with my dear friend Ahdi, to find out more about him and his music: Continue reading

Year of Living Deeply: A Memoir of 1969 by Robert Atkinson

The particular and the universal: this is the heart of Robert Atkinson’s book Year of Living Deeply: A Memoir of 1969. For many Americans, 1969 was a year of iconic moments such as the lunar landing and Woodstock’s musical festival. Robert’s book, however, shares how these moments transformed him within the context of universal themes about our independent spiritual journeys or search for truth. The book is both soulful and meditative.

Robert agreed to tell us about his memoir and how it all came together:

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

 

As an author of nine books, I’ve always enjoyed writing; it’s been a constant in my life, a way that I’ve found my voice and gotten it out there. I’m a professor emeritus at the University of Southern Maine, where I started the Life Story Center after developing a methodology for life story interviewing, through my earlier books.

My recent books have focused on spiritual development, both personal and collective, with The Story of Our Time: From Duality to Interconnectedness to Oneness, a Nautilus Book Award winner in 2017, Mystic Journey: Getting to the Heart of Your Soul’s Story, and the just released Year of Living Deeply: A Memoir of 1969.

I grew up on eastern Long Island, NY, where the memoir starts out, and have traveled quite a lot, highlighted by my around-the-world Semester at Sea voyage as a faculty member in 2002. I’ve lived in Maine for over 30 years.

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Worlds Within: An Album by Danny Stevenson

Danny Stevenson is a friend I met years ago in Namibia, and some of you may recognize him from his Baha’i Blog Studio Session recorded in the UK called “Crimson Ink”. It’s always great to hear when someone who’s participated in our Studio Sessions series goes on to record their first album, so I was excited when I heard that Danny has released Worlds Within, a devotional album inspired by the Baha’i Writings.

I wanted to find out more about the album and the inspiration behind it, so here’s what Danny shared with me: Continue reading

A is for Allah-u-Abha: A Children’s Alphabet Book by Andrea Hope

Andrea Hope is no stranger to the Baha’i Blog team! In the past, we interviewed her about her spoken word (you can read all about it here). Now she has taken her skills with words to create a book for young children called A is for Allah-u-Abha. Illustrated by Winda Mulyasari, this bright and bold book will help little ones learn spiritual qualities, Baha’i concepts and history such as equality, the Fast, and the station of Abdu’l-Baha as our exemplar.

Andrea lovingly shared how her picture book of poetry came together, the process involved, and what she’s working on now. Here’s our conversation:

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

I publish under the name Andrea Hope, which is my first and middle name. “Hope” comes from my great-grandmother, Virginia Hope Jones, who was the first Baha’i in our family and my spiritual guide. Growing up, I was always quite empathetic toward the plight of humanity. At age 11, I found my first solace in writing poetry with lines like, “If the world were full of blind men what a beautiful sight it would be … we’d be forced to feel, not see.” I remember wondering as a junior youth, “Why would God put me on this earth if there was nothing I could do about suffering?” The Baha’i Faith both relieved and empowered me. I have been working for some time to combine my passion for the arts and children’s education with the needs of the Faith. This has included developing children’s programs for holy days, organizing a theatre performance of the children’s book Rooth Sees a Trooth, creating Baha’i Holy Day memory cards, writing a poetry activity book called I Am & I Can, and now, publishing the picture book A is for Allah-u-Abha. Continue reading

The Ocean of Light International School in Tonga

The Baha’i Teachings stress the importance of universal education, and there are countless Baha’i Writings which emphasize the importance of education. Baha’u’llah Writes:

Arts, crafts and sciences uplift the world of being and are conductive to this exaltation. Knowledge is as wings to a man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone.

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.

It’s no wonder, therefore, that numerous educational institutions have been established by Baha’is around the world, and one of these establishments is a school called the “Ocean of Light International School”, located in the South Pacific nation of Tonga.

I caught up with Soheyla Bolouri, who along with her husband Sohrab, live in Tonga and have been serving on the school’s Board of Trustees since the school’s inception in 1996. Here’s what she had to say: Continue reading

Trust: The Music of Nasim Maani

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with a dear friend named Nasim Maani and her family at the 2019 ABS Conference which took place in Canada. Nasim is a dear friend from when I lived in New Zealand years ago, and although she’s not a professional musician by trade, over the years she decided to channel her passion for music and her passion for the Baha’i Faith into creating Baha’i-inspired music.

We’ve featured some of her music videos here on Baha’i Blog in the past, and I was excited to learn that in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab this Baha’i year, she released two versions of a new song called “Trust” to commemorate this special occasion.

I decided to catch up with Nasim to find out more about this new song and her music in general: Continue reading

Songs of the Spirit Volume 2 – An Upbeat Album & Songbook for All-Ages by Diana Howlett

Diana Howlett’s upbeat and catchy melodies remind me of singalongs from the summer schools of my childhood and sing along is exactly what she hopes you’ll do! Diana is equally passionate about producing songbooks as she is with creating albums and she releases them jointly. Her music thus far has consisted of devotional music based on the Writings (these albums are called Intone O my Servant) and those that are Baha’i-inspired in their content (such as Songs of the Spirit). Songs of the Spirit Volume 2 is her latest work featuring music about holy days, the history of the Baha’i Faith and concepts such as love and unity.

Diana shared with us about how it all came together. Here’s what we chatted about: Continue reading

Website Dedicated to Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet to the Hague – Interview with Creators Jelle & Adib

This December marks the 100th anniversary of Abdu’l-Baha’s Tablet to the Central Organisation for a Durable Peace, better known as the Tablet to The Hague (you can read it online in its entirety on the Baha’i Reference Library here). In His letter Abdu’l-Baha places the attainment of international peace within the context of the need for wider political, economic and cultural change.

But what do we know about this Tablet? What was this Central Organisation? Why is this tablet also know as ‘Tablet to The Hague’? Why ‘The Hague’? When and why was this letter written? Who delivered it? Who received this letter and what was their response? In fact, there are two Tablets to The Hague. While the first letter is generally referred to as the Tablet of The Hague, what about the second one?

To answers some of these questions, a father-son duo have created a special webpage which you can see here. It is an English page on a Dutch website, called bahaigeschiedenis.nl, about the history of the Baha’i community in the Netherlands.

Its makers, Jelle and Adib, graciously agreed to tell us about their work, and here’s what they shared: Continue reading

South-southwest of Pago Pago: A Bible Lover’s Guide to the Baha’i Faith

Bill Hyman is a dedicated Baha’i who has been serving his community in American Samoa for decades. He has been tirelessly promoting the teachings of the Baha’i Faith in all avenues of the media and most recently this includes the release of a book that combines his profound love for the Bible and some personal anecdotes. The book is cleverly titled South-southwest of Pago Pago: A Bible Lover’s Guide to the Baha’i Faith and Bill graciously agreed to tell us about it. Here’s our conversation:

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

I was born in London, England in 1938, and left, at the age of 18, to work overseas for Cable and Wireless Ltd, a communications company, serving in Barbados, Brazil, Trinidad, Jamaica and Belize. I emigrated from Jamaica to Canada and first heard of the Baha’i Faith when serving in Hawaii for a Canadian communications company. I already believed in the Baha’i principles so I was not particularly impressed. My teacher was a converted Methodist minister. I had the view that if this prophet was as important as my teacher was trying to tell me He was, I would have heard about Him long ago. My first wedding was in Hawaii at the Honolulu Baha’i Center though neither my wife nor I were Baha’is at the time. We wanted a religious ceremony and considered ourselves more Baha’i than anything else. I took my bride back to Canada but the marriage did not last long and the resulting trauma made me look back at the Faith again. I needed a stable platform. After more firesides and study I decided to become a Baha’i, partially to check it out from the inside. Both my first wife and I became Baha’is after our divorce, and our second spouses were Baha’is.

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Biography of Hand of the Cause of God, Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan

Iran Furutan Muhajir has written a biography of her beloved father Hand of the Cause of God Ali-Akbar Furutan. The US Baha’i Publishing Trust writes that to read this book, “is to read the story of the Baha’i Faith in the twentieth century and to catch a glimpse of a man who devoted himself wholly and selflessly to the service of humanity.” From his years as a youth and secretary of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran, to the loving manner in which he served as a Hand of the Cause, this book “is not merely the definitive biography of a beloved figure but a gift to the Baha’is of the world.”

It is our esteemed pleasure to share with you what Iran Furutan Muhajir told us about this book, titled Hand of the Cause of God Furutan.

Here’s our conversation:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little bit about the book and why you decided to write it?

My father, Hand of the Cause of God Mr Furutan, was reluctant to write anything about himself. Years ago he had written a short version of his biography called Hikayate Del, The Story of My Heart, which was translated into English from Farsi. However it did not reflect the vast scope of his service in Iran while serving for more than twenty years as the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly from the first day of its inception. For years I asked him to write a little more about his life. After his passing to the Abha Kingdom, I found a seventy page note book in his handwriting in Farsi about some of his events of his life. He had put a note on it that it should go to me after his passing and had given me permission to do what I wanted with it. It took me about three years to research about his life of service and then I sat to write his biography and translated and included his memoirs in it.

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