Just months after the sentencing of the Baha’i leaders in Iran to 20 years imprisonment, Iran has once again come under international scrutiny for its long-standing persecution of Baha’is. On 21 May, a coordinated series of raids were carried out in various locations in Iran on the homes of Baha’is who have been involved with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).
The BIHE was established in 1987 as a way of providing an education to young Baha’is who have been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian regime. Baha’i Thought has a great article up discussing the raids and the Iranian regime’s violation of a number of universal human rights such as the right to freedom of belief and the right to education.
As Baha’is, it is only natural that the issue of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran weighs heavily on our hearts. It is always distressing to be reminded of how rampant war, persecution and injustice still is in today’s world. In this case, it’s particularly devastating to us – as Baha’is – to see the friends in Iran suffer so terribly for a faith that simply embraces all humanity and affirms the value and worth of each individual. Some of us are even friends or family of those in Iran who have been directly affected, making it all the more heart-wrenching.
A few days ago.,I came across a fantastic essay by Matthew Weinberg (published in 1997) which looks at contemporary human rights discourse from the perspective of the Baha’i Writings. I found it to be a fascinating read and it made me reflect on the way in which I – as a product of the society we live in – talk about and understand human rights.
Every year Baha’is gather to commemorate the Ascension of Baha’u’llah on 13 Azamat according to the Baha’i calendar. Customarily (although this is not a requirement), at 3 in the morning, following an evening of prayer and reflection, Baha’is stand and face Qiblih as one from amongst them reads the Tablet of Visitation.
It was early in the morning of May 29, 1892 (five minutes past 3, to be precise) that Baha’u’llah passed away in the mansion of Bahji outside Akka (present-day northern Israel), after a brief illness. Following His death, a vast number of mourners from all walks of life and religions, grieved with Baha’u’llah’s family and followers.
Image by krypty (Flickr)
As Baha’is, we believe that the foundation of all the divine religions is one. Ever so often, we’ll be putting up posts for our ‘Changeless Faith Series’, in which we look closer at some of the similarities between the divine religions, in an attempt to more fully understand what Baha’u’llah meant when he said “This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”.
It’s certainly been an exciting weekend!
Around the world, on May 22, Baha’is celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab. The Bab was a Messenger of God whose mission was to prepare humanity for the message of Baha’u’llah. The story of the Bab’s life and mission is dramatic and emotion-stirring – filled with persecution, difficulty and, ultimately, triumph. The Bab foretold the coming of a Divine Teacher with a message even greater than His own. Although the Bab’s faith was a religion in itself, the Declaration of the Bab reminds Baha’is of the exciting and remarkable historical events that provided the context for the mission of Baha’u’llah.
The other remarkable historical event that happened this 22 May – or was meant to happen but didn’t – is one that has captured the imagination of many since time immemorial: the end of the world.
Image by birdeye (Flickr)
On one occasion the Buddha asked several of the monks, “How often do you contemplate death?”One of them replied, “Lord, I contemplate death every day.””Not good enough,” the Buddha said, and asked another monk, who replied,”Lord, I contemplate death with each mouthful that I eat during the meal.””Better, but not good enough,” said the Buddha, “What about you?”The third monk said, “Lord, I contemplate death with each inhalation and each exhalation.” Mahaparinibbana Sutta
Last Saturday night, I was out for dinner with an old friend who was visiting from out of town. It was a typical Saturday night at the end of an even more typical week. I’d gone from one weekend to the next without even realising that a whole week had gone by – going from one thing to the next; trying to cross as many tasks off a to-do list as possible; scheduling in new appointments while waiting for Melbourne’s notoriously unreliable trains. Even dinner at a new restaurant seemed old and familiar – I’ve come to know this city like the back of my hand.
But then, I received a call from home that violently pulled me out of my comfortably predictable, routine-filled world in a second – a family member had passed away. In the hours and days that followed, I found myself in unfamiliar territory.
Death isn’t generally something we – as humans – tend to think very much about until life forces us to by confronting us with the reality and inevitability of death. Following that phone call, I rushed to cancel all my appointments and to catch the earliest flight back home. Much of the next 84 hours was spent shuttling to and from airports, waiting to board flights and trying (unsuccessfully) to get some sleep in between the turbulence and captain’s announcements. These long, empty hours and my need to make sense of a very emotional situation forced me to do something that I’ve realised we – as a society – simply don’t do enough: contemplate death.
(Photo courtesy: planolight via Flickr)
1. The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.
2. Intrigue or manoeuvring within a political unit or group in order to gain control or power
The fact that the word “politics” – once used simply to refer to the act of governing – has come to acquire the additional meaning listed above says a lot about the world we live in. This definition reflects the assumption that the act of governance in a country or organisation is inseparable from divisiveness, conflict and the struggle for power and status.
But is that necessarily the case?
Image Courtesy of Seafaring Woman
Image by Seafaringwoman (Flickr)
Have you ever thought about all the different spheres of your life? Like most people you probably have work, family, friends, and if you are a Baha’i, your Baha’i life. How do these different parts fit together?
Last year while reading the Baha’i World News service, I came across the idea of “a coherent life”. The idea that these different parts of your life – work, family, friends, your beliefs and your ideals – should all make sense together.
Like most good ideas, a coherent life makes sense intuitively. In fact once you start to think about it, not living your life in this manner seems hypocritical. How can you be one person in one part of your life, and another somewhere else? Yet doing just this is surprisingly easy to do.
Image by a4gpa (Flickr)
I don’t like the word “stress”. It’s a Madison Avenue word. It’s something that can be cured with flavoured coffee and bath bubbles.
These words, spoken by the fictional President Josiah Bartlett, are – in my not-so-objective, The-West-Wing-obsessed opinion – one of the best encapsulations of how our society deals with stress.
We all know what it’s like to constantly have too much to do and too little time to do it. We’re constantly overworked, sleep-deprived, trying to catch our breath and fatigued. We live in a society that is overwhelmingly anxious and unhappy.
But perhaps what is more dangerous than all of that is our acceptance of these levels of stress as normal. Getting by on four hours of sleep and bucketfuls of coffee is something of a badge of honour in many circles. In a world where there are so many things to do, if you’re getting enough sleep, you’re probably just not doing enough. Or that’s what we’re encouraged to believe anyway.
UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2011 Report
Every year, UNICEF publishes it’s flagship report “State of the World’s Children”. This report – read by thousands of people in governments, the United Nations, the media and the general public – typically examines a key issue affecting the welfare of children and strongly influences policy-makers and practitioners working in the field of children’s rights around the world.
So, it is exciting to see how policy-making at both the national and international levels will respond to the bold statement underlying the entire report: Young people, truly, can change the world.
The report , titled “Adolescence – An age of opportunity”, begins to question many of the assumptions that have been made about adolescents by society and implores policy-makers to recognise both the incredibly vulnerability of adolescents, where investments into their well-being and development have not been made, as well as the tremendous capacity of these very same individuals, where those investments have been made. (Download the State of the World’s Children 2011 report or watch the UNICEF video summaring the report.)
Image by matio_svk (Flickr)
I’m a big fan of new years. I’ll admit it. I celebrate the new year as many times in a year as I possibly can. Growing up in a country with four officially recognised ethnic groups, I milked the multiple calendars for all they were worth. I would attend midnight mass every New Year’s Eve. I would line up for my ang bao and scarf down bakkwa every Chinese New Year. Diwali was yet another opportunity for festive fun. (One year, looking for an additional opportunity to celebrate, I attempted to appropriate the Russian Orthodox New Year. This was, however, met with some skepticism from my friends.) So the recent addition of Naw-Ruz as another new year that I get to celebrate has been a source of joy, as you might imagine.
Why the new year fixation? Simply put, I love new beginnings. I love turning a new page in the diary. I find peace in pausing for a breath and thinking about all that has been and marching forward with a plan of attack – boldly stepping into a new day.
Naw-Ruz. A new day.