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The Race Unity Speech Awards: A Platform for Students to Express Ideas on Improving Race Relations

I wanted to share an awesome initiative spearheaded by the Baha’i Community of New Zealand called The Race Unity Speech Awards. Having started back in 2001, the event is an annual public speaking competition for senior high school students in New Zealand, and although the topic varies from year to year, the theme is always around race. Students are given one or two quotes and several bullet points relating to the particular topic, and asked to consider them when preparing their speeches. Regional heats are held in 14 locations around the country and around 25 of the regional participants gather in Auckland each year for the national semi-finals and finals. The speech awards provide a nationwide platform for students to express their ideas on how we can improve race relations, and the theme for 2019 was “Speaking for Justice, Working for Unity”. In conjunction with the speech awards are also gatherings called Race Unity Hui. These gatherings are also organized to give young people an opportunity to be heard when it comes to race relations issues, and they provide a space for young people to advance the conversation about race relations in New Zealand.

This year’s finals of The Race Unity Speech Awards just took place last month, and Robbie White of New Plymouth Boys’ High School won the competition; he cited examples of past and present New Zealand leaders who have helped to forge unity in New Zealand, and confidently wove the Maori language into his speech (which you can watch here). Nina Gelashvilli, a Year 12 student at Kuranui College in the Wairarapa, was the national runner-up and Michael Echague, a Year 12 student from St John’s College in Hamilton, was a national finalist. I was excited to hear from these three participants about their experience with this incredible event, and here’s what they shared with me:  Continue reading

The Individual, the Institutions & the Community: The Three Protagonists of the Plan by Dr. Janet Khan

In this address called ‘The Individual, the Institutions & the Community: The Three Protagonists of the Plan’ by Dr. Janet Khan, given at the Heroes Teaching Conference held in Brisbane, Australia (6-7 April, 2019), Dr. Khan explores questions such as: How is the relationship of these three protagonists redefined in the Divine Plan? How is this different from what we are observing in the world? What characterizes the relationship between the three protagonists in the Baha’i community? How should those serving the institutions of Bahaullah’s World Order view their function and their role? How do they express this? What is the relationship of the individual, the institutions and the community to the Head of the Faith – the Universal House of Justice? Continue reading

The Individual, the Institutions & the Community: The Three Protagonists of the Plan – Dr. Janet Khan [AUDIO]

In this address called ‘The Individual, the Institutions & the Community: The Three Protagonists of the Plan’ by Dr. Janet Khan, given at the Heroes Teaching Conference held in Brisbane, Australia, 6-7 April, 2019, Dr. Khan explores questions such as: How is the relationship of these three protagonists redefined in the Divine Plan? How is this different from what we are observing in the world? What characterizes the relationship between the three protagonists in the Baha’i community? How should those serving the institutions of Bahaullah’s World Order view their function and their role? How do they express this? What is the relationship of the individual, the institutions and the community to the Head of the Faith – the Universal House of Justice? Continue reading

Libero: A Baha’i-Inspired Album by NAIM

About a year ago, I had the pleasure of talking on the phone to a Baha’i singer-songwriter from Italy named Naim Abid. We hit it off straight away, and we spoke for hours about a wide range of topics ranging from love and loss, to music and the Baha’i Faith.

Over the years, Naim has developed an eclectic vocal style ranging from ska to swing, soul to pop, and from blues to revival, and his wide range of musical talents came to life in a sold-out series of shows called “Crooner Nights”, where he paid tribute to the greats of American and Italian music, by combining the hits and their stories in a mix of theatre and music, with themed costumes, curious tales, vintage image projections and iconic improvisation.

Naim played a crucial role in helping us record some Baha’i Blog Studio Sessions in Italy, and you can see him here in this upbeat Studio Session called “So Powerful (Tanto Potente)”.

As I’ve gotten to know him over the course of the year, it’s become very clear that along with the Baha’i Faith, music and performance are at his core and run through his veins. It’s no surprise then that Naim has combined his passion for the Baha’i Faith and his passion for music into the production of a Baha’i-inspired album called Libero, and I connected with Naim again to find out more about it: Continue reading

“Immerse” by Sophie, Siria & Ashkan

Baha’i Blog’s “Studio Sessions” is an initiative where we invite Baha’is and their friends from around the world to come into a studio and share the Baha’i Writings put to music.

In this Baha’i Blog Studio Session, we’re in New York, USA with Sophie Rutstein, Siria Rutstein and Ashkan Ziaie who sing “Immerse” from the Writings of Baha’u’llah. Continue reading

“Immerse” by Sophie, Siria & Ashkan [Audio Track]

Baha’i Blog’s “Studio Sessions” is an initiative where we invite Baha’is and their friends from around the world to come into a studio and share the Baha’i Writings put to music.

In this Baha’i Blog Studio Session, we’re in New York, USA with Sophie Rutstein, Siria Rutstein and Ashkan Ziaie who sing “Immerse” from the Writings of Baha’u’llah. Continue reading

A Personal Reflection on the Harmful Effects of Backbiting

A young woman whom I’d recently befriended fell pregnant outside of marriage. When she called me, she was in complete shock and beside herself. In her agitation she spoke of her fear of what others would think of her, she was terrified of the name calling she and her unborn child would face. She felt she had besmirched her family name and was petrified of the judgment of her close and extended family, her community and friends.

She comes from a very traditional family, and spoke of how her parents would expect her to have an abortion to “save face.”

This is not a blog post about the rights and wrongs of having a child outside of marriage. It is not a post about abortion. Rather it’s about my horrifying realization that backbiting not only “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul,” but in actuality, it can end a life. Continue reading

Participation: The Role Each One of Us Can Play in the Advancement of Civilisation – Anton Jones

Member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, Mr. Anton Jones, shares his thoughts on the importance of universal participation, and the role each one of us can play in the advancement of civilisation. This address was given at the Heroes Teaching Conference held in Brisbane, Australia, 6-7 April, 2019. Continue reading

Participation: The Role Each One of Us Can Play in the Advancement of Civilisation – Anton Jones [Audio]

Member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia, Mr. Anton Jones, shares his thoughts on the importance of universal participation, and the role each one of us can play in the advancement of civilisation. This address was given at the Heroes Teaching Conference held in Brisbane, Australia, 6-7 April, 2019. Continue reading

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