Melissa Charepoo has created several children’s books that make the significance of Baha’i holy days accessible to a young audience. You may remember her books about Ayyam-i-Ha, the Fast and Naw-Ruz. She also wrote The Life of Baha’u’llah and most recently she’s released The Life of the Bab. In this post we wanted to focus on her new book titled The Bab and Baha’u’llah: The Twin Manifestations of God. Continue reading
Author Linda Ahdieh Grant and illustrator Anna Myers have teamed up to create a moving children’s story about courage and the life of Tahirih. Titled I Love My Name and published by Bellwood Press, this book is aimed at elementary school aged children. I was able to hear from both Linda and Anna about their work, this book, and how they hope it will inspire its readers. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about your book?
I Love My Name is the story of an 8 year old girl who one day at school discovers a previously unknown source of courage. This girl’s name is Tahirih and she loves her name very much. One day, she overhears her friends making fun of her name. This saddens her and she turns to her teacher. The teacher, instead of using his own words to cheer her up, shares the story of the heroine after whom she was named.
We’re excited to share a new animation called ‘Breaking the Chains: The Story of the Girls School in Iran‘, an animated short film which tells the historical role Baha’is played in bringing education to girls in Iran in the early 1900s. The animation explains how in the early 1900s, only 5% of the population of Iran had access to basic writing skills, and knowledge of the sciences were kept exclusively to men. Breaking this cycle of oppression was no small feat, and that’s when Tahirih and Abdu’l-Baha come into the story.
The animation is in both English and Persian/Farsi, and it was made by my dear Brazilian-Persian friend, Director and Producer Flavio Azm Rassekh, in collaboration with PersianBMS.
I caught up with Flavio to find out more about it, and here’s what he shared: Continue reading
Saichiro Fujita (April 15, 1886 - May 7, 1976), one of the earliest Japanese Baha’is. Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community.
Saichiro Fujita, known to the worldwide Baha’i community simply as “Fujita,” became the second Japanese Baha’i in 1905 in California.
Fujita first saw Abdu’l-Baha in Chicago when he climbed a lamp post in order to see over the crowd that had gathered to meet Him. When Abdu’l-Baha saw Fujita He said, “Come down Zachias, for this day I would sup with thee.” Abdu’l-Baha was referring and repeating the Biblical story of a short man named Zachias, who climbed a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of Christ. Together, Abdu’l-Baha and Fujita drove off to home of Corinne True, an early American Baha’i. After resting, Abdu’l-Baha met with Fujita and stated:
So, how is our Japanese Effendi? Recently the government of Japan has undergone a change. A new emperor has come to the throne. The sovereignty of the former Mikado has come to an end… But as you are a believer in God, you have a kingdom which will never collapse and will be everlasting.
Fujita came from a prominent Japanese family and had heard of the Baha’i Faith from Mrs. Helen Goodall in San Francisco several years prior to his personal meeting with Abdu’l-Baha. Once a notorious party-hopper, Fujita became a Baha’i and received a tablet of praise from Abdu’l-Baha. Not believing it to be about himself, Fujita dismissed it. After received two more tablets from Abdu’l-Baha, Fujita began to realize he truly was the recipient of Abdu’l-Baha’s warm words and he asked what he could do to better serve the Faith. When they met, Abdu’l-Baha asked him to finish his engineering education in order to be able to work for Him in Haifa. For seven years, Fujita lived with the Trues and finished his schooling. He then travelled to Haifa where he lived, with the exception of a few years in Japan during World War II, until he passed away in 1976 at the age of 90, and is buried in the Baha’i Cemetery at the foot of Mount Carmel.
A youth studying the spiritual empowerment of junior youth in Montero, Bolivia. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)
Oftentimes, I find myself reading chronicles from early Baha’is, immersing myself in their stories of complete selflessness, utter sacrifice, and staunch devotion to the Cause of God.
I find myself thinking that my humble undertakings serving the Baha’i Faith pale in comparison to what they endured in a bid to spread the Message of Baha’u’llah.
…ye must in this matter—that is, the serving of humankind—lay down your very lives, and as ye yield yourselves, rejoice.
But what does it mean to lay down our lives? I think that this is one of many metaphorical references found in the Baha’i Writings to giving up one’s life and it makes me ask myself, what does it symbolically look like for me to give up my life to the beliefs I hold dear? And how can I do so rejoicingly?
We’d like to share with you a little about a book titled Mirza Mihdi: The Purest Branch in honor of the 150th anniversary of his passing. Written by Boris Handal, this biography tells the dramatic story of Mirza Mihdi, the beloved son of Baha’u’llah, who fell from a skylight in the roof of the prison where he, his family and many other Baha’is were imprisoned. He was severely and mortally injured. When Baha’u’llah offered to save his life, Mirza Mihdi chose instead to sacrifice it so that the doors of the prison might open and those who longed to see Baha’u’llah could attain their hearts’ desire.
During their imprisonment in Akka (in present-day Israel), Mirza Mihdi often spent his evenings on the roof top, immersed in prayer and meditation, where one could breathe cleaner air, as well as watch and listen to the sound of the waves crashing in the bay. After twilight, Mirza Mihdi would count his steps in order to avoid the open skylight but one evening he was so enraptured by his prayers that he stumbled, lost his balance and fell onto a wooden crate on the floor below.
In the last hours of his life, Mirza Mihdi spoke with Baha’u’llah in private. And while we do not know everything that was said, we do know that Baha’u’llah offered to save him. However Mirza Mihdi wished that pilgrims might be able to attain Baha’u’llah’s presence. At that time, many of the Baha’i pilgrims who travelled on foot to see Baha’u’llah had to content themselves with the sight of His hand waving a handkerchief from the prison’s window.
At the tender age of 22, Mirza Mihdi passed away on 23 June, 1870 — 150 years ago to this day. Continue reading
Oneworld Publications has released a book detailing the persecution of the Baha’is called 175 Years of Persecution: A History of the Babis & Baha’is of Iran by Fereydun Vahman. The book recounts how Iran’s largest religious minority has been persecuted by the state since its inception to the present and such a comprehensive study has never been published before. Baha’is and Babis have been made scapegoats for the nation’s ills, branded enemies of Islam and denounced as foreign agents. Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Baha’is have been barred from entering the nation’s universities, more than two hundred have been executed, and hundreds more imprisoned and tortured.
Fereydun Vahman writes that Iran is now at a turning point. A new generation has begun to question how the Baha’is have been portrayed by the government and the clergy, and are calling for them to be given equal rights as fellow citizens. Continue reading
Ellsworth Blackwell (August 1, 1902 – April 17, 1978). Photo courtesy of the Baha'i International Community. Source: Baha'i World, Vol. 17.
Ellsworth Blackwell (1902 – 1978) was an African-American Baha’i who was dedicated to sharing the principles of the Baha’i Faith in America, Haiti, Madagascar, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In this article I would like to share a challenge he faced when confronted with racism within the Baha’i community, and how his commitment to justice, combined with wholehearted co-operation with the governing or administrative bodies of the Baha’i Faith, allowed this instance of prejudice to be resolved while maintaining a unified spirit.
Ellsworth became a Baha’i in 1934, and in 1937 he decided to serve at the Wilmette House of Worship (the Temple was not entirely completed until the 1950s, but it was open to visitors and Baha’is volunteered as tour guides). He had the capacity to be a tour guide, but was informed that it was “policy” that African-Americans could not be tour guides. This example of discrimination was of course not in keeping with the Baha’i teachings on the elimination of prejudice. This quotation from Abdu’l-Baha amply elucidates the Baha’i view:
… as to religious, racial, national and political bias: all these prejudices strike at the very root of human life; one and all they beget bloodshed, and the ruination of the world.
Alhan Rahimi is the author of Mulla Husayn: The Story of the Declaration of the Bab for Young Children and Ridvan Garden: The Story of the Festival of Ridvan for Young Children and she has also penned and published The Moon Was There: Glimpses of the Bab’s Childhood for Young Children. As a parent of little ones, I am so grateful to Alhan for creating these materials. Here’s what she shared with us about her book about the childhood of the Bab:
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write this book?
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to make the moon your main character?
Not being able to have any illustrations of the Manifestation of God was the main reason for thinking of a some other way to illustrate the story. And why the moon? Well, I think it’s special that the moon, which can be seen from everywhere on this planet, is the same moon that witnessed the Bab’s childhood!
Baha’i Blog: Who is the book’s target audience?
Children under the age of 5. However, anyone can enjoy reading it!
Angelina Diliberto Allen has written a vivid and striking biography of John David Bosch, an early American Baha’i. Based on her extensive research, we learn about how John discovered and embraced the Baha’i Faith under the tutelage of Helen Goodall, and his deep and lasting friendships with such luminaries as Thornton Chase, Hands of the Cause Amelia Collins, Roy Wilhelm, and Louis Gregory. We learn about how, along with his wife, Louise, he helped establish a Baha’i school in northern California. We hear about his encounters and his letters to Abdu’l-Baha. And we learn what it was like to be in Haifa in the hours and days following the passing of Abdu’l-Baha. Baha’i history comes to life in the pages of this book and it’s called John David Bosch: In the Vanguard of Heroes, Martyrs, and Saints. Angelina graciously agreed to tell us about her book and how it all came together:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was raised in a Baha’i family—and, like most Baha’is in America, I can trace my Baha’i ancestry back to the time when Abdu’l-Baha came to America in 1912. I guess that means that we can all trace our Baha’i ancestry, in one way or another, directly to Baha’u’llah! When I was a child, my family pioneered to Argentina and to several countries in Central America. As an adult, I pioneered to Southern Africa—mainly Swaziland and Botswana. I currently live in California where I have been a public high school English teacher for over 30 years. When I think about who I really am, I think I am like any Baha’i who has a longing for others to know this Cause. We all have moments when we wonder about how we could more effectively convey to our friends and neighbors the miracle of this Day and the bounties of becoming a Baha’i. Many of our friends wonder what it means when a person becomes a Baha’i: What’s different about it? What does “being a Baha’i” really look like? What happens? So, I wrote this book as a way to explain the extraordinary thing that can happen when an ordinary person becomes a Baha’i.