Category Archives Interviews

Baha’i Prayerbook for Children Created by Englisi Farsi

Englisi Farsi is a wonderful resource for parents who wish to teach their children Persian (Farsi), the language of Iran, even if they can’t read or write the language themselves. Using the familiar phonetics of the English alphabet, the learning aid includes a series of lively e-books with an interactive audio and pronunciation guide, giving anyone who reads and speaks English a entryway to the rich and lyrical language that is Farsi. Created by Mona Kiani, Englisi Farsi includes colorful books for young children about animals, virtues, fruits and vegetables. They also have a Baha’i prayer book as well! Mona shared with us how she created these books and about the process of putting together the prayer book. Here’s our conversation:

Baha’i Blog: Hi Mona! Could you please tell us a little about yourself and Englisi Farsi?

I am an English-speaking Australian of Iranian descent with a Singaporean spouse of mixed ethnicity. We are currently speaking Persian and Mandarin to our son. While I could converse fluently in Farsi, I was not fully acquainted with the Persian written word. That is, untiI I started this journey!

I knew in my heart that I wanted my son to know Farsi. My language defines who I am and, in turn, who he is or will be. I wanted my son to have a good start. But I couldn’t find any resource that didn’t require me to master the Persian alphabet. After a period of futile searching, I decided to develop my own teaching tools in Pinglish/Finglish (Farsi in English) for my son — and my husband as well as the English-speaking wives of my Persian brothers.

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The European Baha’i Choral Festival

Participants of the 2017 European Baha'i Choral Festival gather outside the European Baha'i House of Worship in Germany. (Photo: Zarrin Munusamy)

In a few weeks (May 29-June 2), participants from across Europe will come together at the European Baha’i House of Worship in Germany, to join voices and take part in the European Baha’i Choral Festival! This is the second year the event is taking place, and besides the singing and sharing of glorious music with others, the event aims to strengthen the bonds of fellowship and harmony amongst Baha’is and their friends across Europe.

I caught up with the festival’s musical director, Ameli Dziemba, to find out more about the event and to hear about her experiences: Continue reading

Filming the Opening of the Baha’i Temple in Colombia: An Interview with Laura and Kyle

The film team for the dedication of the Baha'i House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. From left to right are Kyle Schmalenberg, Nabil Sami Silva, Laura Friedmann, Raul Cavalcanti Spinassé, and Naim Sadeghian.

Like all Baha’i Blog team members, Laura Friedmann and Kyle Schmalenberg wear many hats and serve their communities in a variety of capacities. Owing to their wealth of media experience, they were invited, along with a few others, to document the opening of the House of Worship in Norte del Cauca, Colombia. You may remember this short film about the preparations that were made, this video of the opening ceremony, or this aerial footage of the gorgeous Temple.

Kyle and Laura shared some of their experiences and impressions about working on this project and we thought you’d be as uplifted by the conversation as we were!  Continue reading

School of the Nations Celebrates 30 Years of Baha’i-inspired Education

School of the Nations is a Baha’i-inspired international school in Macau, and it was established in response to a need for an educational approach that incorporates both academic and moral education. It opened in 1988 with only five students and seven teachers and it has since grown to nearly 100 teachers and over 600 students, from pre-kindergarten to grade 12.

In January 2019, it was featured on the Baha’i World News Service as it celebrated its 30-year anniversary. I was thrilled to catch up with Mona Manouchehri, who assists with curriculum development at the school, to hear a first-hand account of what it’s like to work at a large Baha’i-inspired school. Continue reading

Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors – A New Book by Lisa Blecker

Lisa Blecker is a bit of a celebrity in our household. My three young children have, at various times, all held our board book copy of Blessed is the Spot during prayers and we have read, and sung, The Good in Me from A to Z by Dottie as a family and in our children’s class more times than I can count! When I saw that Lisa had put out a new book called Sweet Neighbors Come in All Colors, I knew it was going to be a hit with our family — and I wasn’t disappointed! It is cheerful, vibrant, sweet, fun and a book the kids ask for over and over and over again!

Because of how much her books have meant to us, I was a little star struck when I approached Lisa to find out more about her book and when I told my six year old that Lisa and I were in touch, she was floored! It was a pleasure to find out more about the book and I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did: Continue reading

Baha’i Choral Composition Blast

We live in amazing times; I’ve become friends and have been able to collaborate with some fantastic people online. Alan and Lorraine Manifold are one such example. It’s been a pleasure to work together with them. For example, Naysan interviewed Alan about his mystery novel (that features a Baha’i detective!) titled Consulting Detective and they wrote an article called “It’s OK to Be a Feminist” that involved some insightful consultations about the equality of women and men and how we write about this weighty teaching on a personal Baha’i-inspired blog — there’s a lot that happens behind the scenes here at Baha’i Blog and if you’re ever curious about the principles and ideas that guide our work, check out our Editorial Values.

I recently learned about the “Baha’i Composition Blast”, a new brainchild of Alan and Lorraine in honor of the upcoming Bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab, and it was fascinating to hear about it. Here’s what they shared with us:  Continue reading

A Seed in Your Heart: A New Book About Louise Mathew Gregory

A Seed in Your Heart is a new biography of the life of Louise Mathew Gregory. You may have heard of her before: she married Louis Gregory at Abdu’l-Baha’s suggestion, resulting in the first inter-racial Baha’i marriage of its kind. Janet Fleming Rose is its author and I was very interested to hear more about her book, and to learn a little about Louise Gregory and her stellar accomplishments and services to the Baha’i Faith. Here’s my conversation with Janet. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did!

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

I was born in Surrey in the south of England, but have lived in various parts of the world: Scotland, Fiji, Maldives, Spain and more recently Israel where I had the privilege of serving for six years at the Baha’i World Centre as Acquisitions Librarian.

I’ve always had a love of books and the ambition to have a book published. I studied modern languages at the University of Edinburgh and trained as a professional librarian. My hobbies and interests include travelling the world, a love of history, a passion for wild flowers, birding, rambling, learning other languages, an interest in other cultures and singing along to Classic FM radio.

For the last 12 years I’ve lived with my husband, Andrew, in St Albans, an ancient Roman city and burial place of the first English Christian martyr, St Alban.

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Roya Mottahedeh’s Circle Baha’i Calendar Design for 176 BE (2019-2020)

A friend recently brought to my attention the beauty of the Baha’i calendar, or the Badi calendar. A few days later I found myself talking about the calendar to someone else who asked me what day and month it was and I’m sorry to admit, I was really caught off-guard. I’ve been teaching my children Jack Lenz’ “Song of the Months” but other than that, we haven’t sufficiently integrated the Baha’i months and days of the week into our lives: Monday to Friday is significant to our family, but we have yet to see the work and school week in terms of Kamal to Istiqlal.
I was excited to see that Roya Mottahedeh has produced another circle Baha’i calendar in honor of this new year, 176 BE. This is her third year designing a stunning circular calendar and I wanted to learn more about the process behind making this calendar and how she approached it. Here’s what Roya shared with me:

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Helping the Homeless Colorado: Working to Put an End to Homelessness

It’s not every day that you meet a teenager who co-founded an organization to help others! But that’s exactly what Matine Khalighi did when he and his friends started Helping the Homeless Colorado, a not-for-profit that works to put an end to homelessness and to assist those in need. I recently met Matine at the Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, and his determination to take action and help people in his community is really inspiring, and I’m so glad I got a chance to hear from him about his organization, how it started, and what he’s learned in the process. Here’s our conversation:  Continue reading

Book About Robert Sengstacke Abbott for Young Readers by Susan Engle

I first collaborated with Susan Engle when we showcased her tiny prayer book and her tiny introduction on the Baha’i Faith — truly, they’re really tiny books! I was excited to see that Susan, an accomplished writer of stories, poems and songs for children, has a new book out! It’s called Robert Sengstacke Abbott: A Man, a Paper, and a Parade. I’m afraid to admit I had never heard of Robert Sengstacke Abbott so I was happy to learn a little bit about him, and to hear about the book, from Susan herself! Here’s what she shared with us:

Baha’i Blog: Hi Susan! It’s great to interview you again! To begin, what inspired you to put this book together?

A friend of mine who lives in the Chicago area, Bonnie Taylor, went to a presentation about Robert Sengstacke Abbott given by his great niece, Myiti Sengstacke Rice. Bonnie has a special passion for race unity (she compiled the book Pupil of the Eye), and when Ms. Rice hoped that someone would write a biography for young people about his life, Bonnie got in touch with me to help make Ms. Rice’s wish come true. There is a very large parade in Chicago every year that Mr. Abbott began especially for African American kids. Millions of kids have attended the parade over the years, but they don’t know much about the man who started it all. I was just retiring from work with Brilliant Star children’s magazine and was feeling in need of creative projects. I’d written several two- and three-page biographies for the magazine over the years, but not a full-length book. I felt a little nervous about taking it on. Bonnie had confidence that I could do a good job, so I said I’d give it a try.

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