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.
Early Australian Baha'i Ethel Dawe (1902-1954) Photo courtesy of the the Australian National Baha'i Archives.
The first generation of Australian and New Zealand Baha’is included a number of extremely capable women, who excelled at sharing the teachings of the Baha’i Faith through public speaking and writing, and who also learnt about the administration of the Baha’i Faith by serving on and establishing Spiritual Assemblies and committees, from local to national levels. They included Hilda Brooks, Margaret Dixson, Emily Axford, Maysie Almond, Dulcie Dive, Thelma Perks, and Gretta Lamprill. In celebration of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, this essay reviews the life of yet another of these early heroines, Ethel Dawe.
Ms Dawe was born in Kadina, South Australia on October 17, 1902. She was educated at the Methodist Ladies College, was an accomplished pianist and singer, and her recitations, as well as her participation in Adelaide society, was regularly mentioned in the newspapers’ social columns. In 1931 Ethel heard of the Baha’i teachings from her mother’s aunt, Maysie Almond – who together with her husband Perce had been the first South Australians to accept the Baha’i Faith after hearing Hyde Dunn speak in Adelaide in 1924. Continue reading
On a hot April day in 1863 on the outskirts of Baghdad, Baha’u’llah entered the Najibiyyih Garden on the banks of the Tigris River. He spent the following twelve days accepting visitors for the last time before His departure to Constantinople. As this place was blessed with His presence, Baha’is now refer to it as the Ridvan (Paradise) Garden and commemorating these special 12 days is known as the Festival of Ridvan. Continue reading
We’ve seen a diverse flourishing of online Baha’i-inspired initiatives in recent days and weeks as more and more people self-isolate due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As Baha’is and their friends around the world celebrate the 12 days of Ridvan in creative ways that are in keeping with the recommendations of health authorities, we’re especially excited to share two awesome initiatives which are taking place each of the 12 days of Ridvan to celebrate the whole Festival online. Continue reading
Warning: This article features photographs of people who have since passed away. This warning is provided as a courtesy for Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders who may find this distressing.
In honour of the centenary of the Baha’i Faith in Australia, I wanted to share a tribute to one of Australia’s first Aboriginal Baha’is: Fred Murray (1884-1963), who was also known by his tribal name, Birria, and who is warmly remembered by Baha’is around the world as Uncle Fred. He was a stockman, fruit picker, and riverboat man of the Murray River best known for his acceptance of the Baha’i Faith in 1961 and for travelling to the first Baha’i World Congress in London in 1963. Continue reading