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Letter to an Angel

What is an angel?

`. . . angels are blessed beings who have severed all ties with this nether world, have been released from the chains of self and the desires of the flesh, and anchored their hearts to the heavenly realms of the Lord. These are of the Kingdom, heavenly; these are of God, spiritual; these are revealers of God’s abounding grace; these are dawning-points of His spiritual bestowals.’ (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 81)

Dear mom,

It is a year since you became an angel.

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Here are some of the things that have happened here in the nether world since you have been there. These are not the big things, like earthquakes or tsunamis or hurricanes, financial crashes or  riots, wars or uprisings, although these things have happened too and have affected many families. These are the happenings that affected our family directly in the midst of all these other events of import. They are not the big things but they are important to us:

I turned 60 and Moojan turned 61! We celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary on 12 June 2011.

Your ninth great grandchild, Cole Worth, was born on 29 January 2011. You would recognise him instantly, as he looks just like your son Steve.

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Your oldest and bestest friend Eileen Norman was so anxious to be with you again that she arrived in the Abhá Kingdom shortly after you did, on 24 February 2011.

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Dotti Wirtshafter also rushed up after you, arriving on 21 June 2011.

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So many other friends have also joined you – Peter Khan, Violette Nakhjavani, Jim Nelson

Your great grandson Dreyfus has learned to play the viola and to dive so that he can touch the bottom of the swimming pool.

Your great granddaugher Aaylieh has graduated from the Monty and gone into K group in the big school and is now very chatty and confident.

Your great grandson Ethan began to walk – he has even become a gardener!

There is another great grandchild on the way – no telling from which family just yet, although you of course already know!

Your grandson Cunningham has graduated from high school and gone to America.

Your grandson Gavin got married and moved to Cairo!

All your other children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are doing really well and are happy, although they all miss you and send you their love.

And all your friends here send love to you too.

Please pray for us, as we pray for you. We love you so much and miss you!!!

Wendi and Moojan

wendi

Skylarks

The wine-cup of Heaven overfloweth, the banquet of God’s Covenant is bright with festive lights, the dawn of all bestowals is breaking, the gentle winds of grace are blowing, and out of the invisible world come good tidings of bounties and gifts . . . The field larks are become the festival’s musicians, and lifting wondrous voices they cry and sing to the melodies of the Company on high, ‘Blessed are ye! Glad Tidings! Glad Tidings!’ `Abdu’l-Baha, Bahai writings

Sixty years ago today, a young couple tried to drive their car from their apartment on North Hobart in Hollywood to the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital, less than a mile away.

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The car wouldn’t start, so the young woman, who couldn’t drive, got out to push. Pushing seems to have been the order of the day, as shortly afterwards, at 11:54 in the morning, she had her first child, a girl.

That night, at Warrenton, North Carolina, an unidentified object was sighted – it flew in a straight line across the sky. The official explanation was that it was a star. I don’t think it was a sign…

That young woman was Carol Morris Worth [Allen], who was 22 years old. She was a singer with The Buddy Worth Trio.

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Music formed the backdrop to her daughter’s life. Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Mel Torme -  one of these was bound to be playing on the `hi fi’ when she got home from school. It was fitting that she was born on the same day as jazz musician Dizzy Gillespie. Here he is singing with Louis Armstrong a song that she learned as a child and which she thought was so sad, though not in this version!

The central part of her girl’s life was the Baha’i Faith. She went to her first Baha’i `Saturday school’ when she was two.

So important were these two things in her life that at one point she thought that everyone in the world was either a Baha’i or a musician or both.

Although she loved school and reading, most of the important things in life she learned from her mother: you can do everything; you can be whoever you want to be; life is fun; working and playing are the same thing; it is important to celebrate things, like buying new underwear; God is wonderful and can be relied on; Baha’u'llah IS the manifestation of God for today; when in difficulty, keep your head down and cling onto the hem of the robe of `Abdu’l-Bahá; `do not dwell on the unpleasant things of life’, fix them; food is for eating; chocolate is great; make others happy; no matter how far apart members of the family are, they are still one family; sing always.

Nearly sixty years later she sent to her granddaughter photographs of her first child to be used in a birthday book. She so wanted to be there to celebrate her daughter’s 60th birthday. She couldn’t quite make it. Like a caged skylark, on 19 September she burst her cage asunder, took to the sky and is now singing in another firmament.

She asked that her passing be marked by the music of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.

I thought it would be good to mark my birthday with the same music.

I miss you so much, mom.

I love you.

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Baha’u'llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, through no crime of their own, spent the better part of their lives in exile and imprisoned, but they never became embittered although they were the victims of injustice. Bahai teachings

Mahvash Sabet had to go to Mashhad.

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Though she was a professional woman – teacher and later head of a number of schools – it was not in this capacity that she was travelling. She had lost her job many years before and was barred from working in public education.

She was the director of an alternative higher education institute but her qualifications in this area were not what took her to Mashhad.

Nor was it her skills in literacy that were wanted. Although as part of her work she had collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran, this job too had stopped.

She was a psychologist but could not practise and it was not for her abilities in this area that she was wanted in Mashhad.

She had taught management but although the Islamic Azad University in her home town of Ardestan teaches this subject, Mahvash would not be able to teach there herself. This talent was not the reason for her journey to Mashhad.

She had been training for Iran’s special education corps, which sent recent graduates to remote areas in Iran to teach in schools. But she was thrown off the programme and her abilities in this direction were not required in Mashhad.

Mahvash had been born Mahvash Shahriyari in 1953. Her home town of Ardestan, some 400 km south of Tehran, near Isfahan, sits in the eastern foothills of the central mountains. It is, by most accounts, an old city, where local farmers grow a special kind of fig and the mulberries and pomegranates much loved by Iranians. Was the family happy there? I don’t know. Years later homes of Bahá’ís in Ardestan would be sprayed with insulting graffiti. When Mahvash was 9 or 10, in the fifth grade, she moved with her parents to Tehran, where she went to school. She must have done well because she went on to university to study psychology and got a bachelor’s degree. She married when she was 20, moved to Hamadan and had two children, a boy and a girl.

So, there stood Mahvash on that day during the Bahá’í fast in March 2008, holding the phone in her hand. The call had come from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and National Security. The voice on the other end demanded that she come to Mashhad. Now.

What could the Ministry of Intelligence possibly want to know that they could not ask her today by phone or email? Why did she need to go all the way to Mashhad, more than 900 km away? Couldn’t they ask her in Tehran?

It seems she was wanted to answer questions about the burial of an individual in the Baha’i cemetery in Mashhad. Why would she know the answers to these questions? Perhaps because she acted as secretary to the `Yaran’, the `Friends’ -  an informal group of seven Bahá’ís who attended to the spiritual and social needs of the several hundred thousand Baha’is in Iran.

So it was that Mahvash, 55 years old, left her home for Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city and a site of pilgrimage to the shrine of the eighth Imam, Reza. What did she pack? Probably just enough clothes for a few days. Definitely a coat, for the temperature in Mashhad on that not-quite-spring early March day did not rise above 7 degrees C. An umbrella? Maybe not, as it rained only one day that whole month – on the 5th. In any case, she would not need her umbrella again.

We do not know exactly what Mahvash did when she arrived in Mashhad but we do know that she did not return home. On that rainy Wednesday, 5 March, she was arrested. No one knew what had happened. She was held incommunicado. She was not allowed to see a lawyer. She had, effectively, disappeared.

***

Eventually Mahvash was transferred to Evin prison. One day she was taken to a public place by Intelligence Ministry agents. A family member had a moment to identify her.

Other than this, no one visited Mahvash. Her  family was not permitted to see her. She was not allowed telephone calls. She had no access to a lawyer.

Then, on 14 May, she was joined by the six other `Friends’. They too had been arrested, at their homes in Tehran. They too were not permitted visitors, phone calls or legal advice.

Mahvash was held in solitary confinement for about four months. She did not know what she was charged with.

In September 2008 Mahvash was relocated within Evin prison to another cell. To her surprise, this was the cell of  another `Friend’, Fariba Kamalabadi, who had also been in solitary confinement,
The five men `Friends’ were in a cell together elsewhere in the prison.

Mahvash’s cell was small, about four metres by five metres in size. Two small metal-covered windows let in some light but not enough to see by unless a light was switched on. Her bed was a blanket on the thinly carpeted concrete floor. Her bed sheet was her chador, her pillow a tightly rolled blanket.

One year passed.

A second year, bar two months, passed.

On 12 January 2010 Mahvash and the other `Friends’ appeared in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court. She was charged with `espionage’, `propaganda activities against the Islamic order’, `insulting the sacredness of Islam’ and `corruption on earth’.

She appeared again on 7 February.

Then, on the eve of the joyous Baha’i festival Intercalary Days, Mahvash’s family was able to visit. Such a wonderful gift for her!

But two days later, on 27 February 2010, Iran’s Attorney-General, Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, stated that Mahvash and the other `Friends’ had confessed. She had not, nor had they.

The next court hearing was on 12 April. Shortly afterwards Mahvash and the `Friends’ were charged with an additional crime: `Aiding, teaching and propagating the Baha’i religion in Iran’. This is the same as `spreading corruption on earth’, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Then, over three days in June, Mahvash and the `Friends’ were tried in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. She pleaded `Not Guilty’. She was not guilty.

Mahvash was returned to her cell at Evin prison to await sentence. It was clear to all the world that the charges against her were trumped up. Would it be equally clear to the judge?

No. Mahvash and the six other `Friends’ were sentenced this week to 20 years in prison.

Twenty years in prison for being a Baha’i.

Each one is a person. Each one has a story like Mahvash. Here are their names:

Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi and Mahvash Sabet.

Here are their faces:

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Today there are many apparently more important and dramatic stories that grab the headlines and find their way onto the main news broadcasts. It is right that we are alarmed and worried about the millions of people who are affected by the flooding in Pakistan, by the potential devastation that a powerful earthquake in Vanuatu and its resulting small tsunami could wreak and by the massive loss of life in the landslides in China.

But there are others, too, who are suffering, not from natural disasters but from human-made ones, people like Mahvash Sabet, a mother, a teacher, a woman of my own generation, who is today sitting in a jail cell somewhere in her homeland, a cell she will occupy for 20 years, because some people don’t like her beliefs.

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Every time I turn to my right, I hear the voice of the lamentation of them that are dear to Thee, whom the infidels have made captives for having believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and for having set their faces towards the horizon of Thy grace and of Thy loving-kindness. And when I turn to my left, I hear the clamour of the wicked doers who have disbelieved in Thee and in Thy signs, and persistently striven to put out the light of Thy lamp which sheddeth the radiance of Thine own Self over all that are in Thy heaven and all that are on Thy earth. Bahai teachings

We are used to seeing billboards along the sides of highways advertising everything from restaurants just around the bend to new TV programmes to political candidates. But sometimes they provide something just a little different.

If you are out and about in central London this weekend, you may well see a mobile billboard travelling the streets and visiting familiar landmarks. Sponsored by United4Iran, a non-partisan global network of Iranian and non-Iranian human rights activists working to promote fundamental human and civil rights in Iran, the billboard highlights the plight of the seven Baha’i leaders who are now in their third year of unjust imprisonment in Tehran. Their crime is to be Baha’is, nothing more. You can read about their imprisonment here.

Their trial is set to continue today, 12 June.

London 11 June 2010

The London initiative is just one of a number of activities being held around the world on 12 June to highlight the situation of the Baha’is in Iran, as well as other injustices perpetrated there. About 70 cities are hosting activities and similar billboards to the one in London will be travelling around World Cup host city Johannesburg and Los Angeles.

Thirty-nine years ago today I married an Iranian, whose family had left Iran at the height of the persecutions against the Baha’is in the mid-1950s. Persecution, torture, human rights violations, injustice, arbitrary arrests, executions, unlawful imprisonments have been features of Iran for almost the whole of this time.

Why would a country wish this to be its legacy?

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They that are just and fair-minded in their judgement occupy a sublime station and hold an exalted rank. The light of piety and uprightness shineth resplendent from these souls. We earnestly hope that the peoples and countries of the world may not be deprived of the splendours of these two luminaries. Baha’u'llah, Bahai writings

The seven Baha’is who have been in Evin prison in Tehran since spring 2008 today appeared in court for a second time. At the first hearing, in January, they were formally charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country and corruption on earth. Both hearings were held in camera, so we do not have many details. It appears that the proceedings today were procedural. The Baha’is –Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi, Mr Saeid Rezaie, Mrs Mahvash Sabet, Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli and Mr Vahid Tizfahm – have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

In light of the long persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, pre-dating the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 by more than a hundred years, the worldwide Baha’i community is convinced that the Baha’is have been charged solely because of their religious beliefs.

We who are judges and magistrates hold justice as the highest of standard of civilization. The principles of the independence of the judiciary, the primacy of the rule of law — which was formulated in Islamic jurisprudence before the twelfth century — fairness, equality, due process, impartiality, trustworthiness, openness and consistency are at the heart of every judicial system worthy of the name. We align ourselves to these principles — without them our own integrity is compromised.

Those of you who are hearing the case of the Baha’is in Iran have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that you too align yourself with these principles. As all trustworthy judges do, you will want to listen to both sides. You will not be persuaded by rhetoric — you will want to ascertain the facts. You will need more than allegations — you will need robust evidence. You will be suspicious of concocted `evidence’. You will consult not only your books but your conscience. You will not allow yourself to be manipulated by vested interests. You will look beyond the prejudices that drive lesser men and hear with your own ears and see with your own eyes. You will recognize that these Baha’is have served the people of Iran, your citizens, and have always had their best interests, and yours, at heart.

We, your judicial colleagues, are willing you to treat your judicial position with respect and to discharge your responsibilities with honour. Your personal integrity and reputation, and the integrity of your judicial system and its reputation, are at stake. No doubt, when you apply the principles we all hold so dear, you will find the Baha’is before you innocent.

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wendi

Singapore and Sarawak

Singapore and Sarawak

. . . whenever thou findest an opportunity thou dost travel and visit the believers, disseminating the fragrances of God . . . Bahai writings

`Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, said that the Baha’i `teachers must continually travel to all parts of the continent, nay, rather, to all parts of the world’. To fulfil this request, Moojan and I left the UK on 19 November to visit Baha’i communities in Asia and the Pacific.

Travel these days is really no more arduous than getting on a bus, although there are the inevitable hold-ups going through security checks at the airport. The main delay, however, was on the train from Sandy to Kings Cross!

A 12-hour flight took us from cold and wet England to hot and wet Singapore. Here we stayed with our friend Phyllis Ghim Lian Chew, her husband Yeo Yew Hock and their daughter Peta. Phyllis, a lecturer in linguistics, is the author of The Chinese Religion and the Baha’i Faith (George Ronald)  and, more recently, Emergent Lingua Francas and World Orders (Routledge).

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They had arranged for us to speak at the new Baha’i Centre in Singapore the evening that we arrived, so, somewhat jetlagged after a 17 hour journey from home, we found ourselves sharing Baha’i ideas and news with 50+ new friends and a couple of Baha’is we had met elsewhere (a not unusual experience).

Singapore was only a stopover on our way to Sarawak, where we arrived on Saturday 21st. We were met by the amazing `Dr John’ (Fozdar), Knight of Baha’u'llah for Brunei, son of the famous Shirin Fozdar, father our own European Counsellor Shirin Fozdar Foroudi, and husband of the truly delightful Grete Fozdar. Their kind and generous hospitality to us has been overwhelming. Every day they have taken us to meet the Baha’is in Kuching and far out of the city into the jungle. Read about the Sarawak Baha’is here.

We attended 19 Day Feasts on successive nights in different parts of the Kuching, where two or more communities came together at each so we could meet as many Baha’is as possible. The Baha’is of this area are mostly Iban (who used to be called Sea Dayak)  and what beautiful, warm people they are. We were also guests at the commemoration of the 84th birthday of Sai Baba.

The highlights of our journey so far have been our visits to the Baha’i communities in Kampong Mujat and Kampong Selampit, villages of the Bidayuh (Land Dayak) people.

Kampong Mujat is well-known to travellers for its historic longhouse but what is well less well known is that most of the people living in it are Baha’is – first, second and third generation.

We walked up through the village to the imposing Baha’i Centre, built by the Baha’is themselves on a hill at the top of the village.

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The Baha’is in Kampong Mujat greeted us with traditional gongs and welcome dances

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The gongs are ancient and a sign of a community’s wealth. Each village or area has its own tunes and dances and the dancers wear their own particular dress. In Kampong Mujat the young men wore bells on their ankles; in Kampong Selampit the girls had bells on the hems of their dresses.

At each village we spoke to the Baha’is about the connection between the growth processes of the Baha’i communities, the Ruhi institute programmes which Baha’is all over the world are undertaking and our overall task of helping to build a new civilization – reminding ourselves that the Baha’i communities we are establishing are ones based on vibrant, learning, engaged spiritual people who are values and principle based and that the skills and habits we are learning — consultation, participation, meeting people in their own homes, educating children and young people, sharing spiritual ideas and practical service – are the very ones the new civilization needs.

At Kampong Mujat the Baha’is hosted a delicious lunch of rice, fish, vegetables and fruit, as well as chicken stew. The fruit included the durian which has a flavour and smell not to be missed (our air tickets from Singapore to Kuching had stamped on them in red `No durians allowed on this flight’, which may give you some idea of the strength of their odour). But most people find them delicious and I thought they were OK in small doses. Mostly we ate rambutans and another forest fruit that tasted like very sweet grapefruit to me.

The longhouse at Mujat is probably over a hundred years old and seems to be about 100 metres long, with many homes and common rooms all attached. It poured with rain while we sat on the bamboo walkway and we never felt a drop. All the people in these pictures are Baha’is.

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The village of Kampong Selampit is divided by a river, crossed by a ferry. We walked up through this village of about a thousand people to the Baha’i Centre, again at the top of the village on a hill. About 600 people in this village are Baha’is and again we were greeted with the gongs and dances of this village.

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The Baha’i Centre was full, as the Baha’is were also commemorating the Day of the Covenant, which began this evening. There were so many beautiful children present, we couldn’t resist having a picture of them.

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The evening concluded with a meal at a Baha’i-owned restaurant on the other side of the river – this time it had Chinese influences, with delicious fish from their own fish pools – and the ever-present durian, this time fried with onion and anchovies. I denied myself the pleasure this time!

Our translator for all this was Maria Peter, a Kuching Baha’i who works withe women, providing training in literacy and women’s advancement. She is a talented, warm and generous Iban woman who has travelled all over the area and knows everyone – they love her too!

Today we also had another very special privilege. We were invited by Kamal Fozdar to visit the new, nine-sided, Sarawak Parliament building.

Sarawak Parliament

As the owner of the construction company that built it, Kamal was able to take us into every room on every one of its nine floor, including the main chamber, the dining area and the rest area for members of Parliament. The art deco main entrance has a distinctive flavour of the Baha’i House of Worship in New Delhi, which Kamal also worked on,

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while the debating chamber has traditional themes woven together – with 9 pointed stars as the main, which also appears on the Sarawak flag.

Sarawak flag

The views from the ninth floor at the top of the building are stunning.

Tomorrow we go to Kampong Triboh.

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`. . . ye walk on My earth complacent and self-satisfied, heedless that My earth is weary of you and everything within it shunneth you.’ Bahai writings

The climate has changed. It wasn’t all that long ago that politicians and the media and many of us were wondering whether the predictions about the future could be right. Was there scientific evidence? Wasn’t it just part of a natural cycle? Were we responsible? The political climate was not to accept responsibility, to carry on carrying on, to continue to act in exactly the same way we had always acted.

The climate has changed. Now government after government is trying to figure out how to reduce its carbon emissions, how to adapt to inevitable changes in rainfall, in sea levels, in agricultural production.

The climate has changed. The way we deal with this, as individuals, as communities, as governments, as humanity, will a very large extent, determine the sort of civilization we will live in for many generations.

Engaging in the human discourse on climate change is the responsibility of us all. The Baha’is are calling on world leaders to take climate change seriously, to consider not only the obvious effects
on the physical environment but also the effects on the social environment, on people and the way we live on our planet and in our communities. Here is the statement recently released by the Baha’i International Community and signed by many non-governmental organisations:

Moral and Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change:
Appeal to the World’s Leaders

Drafted by the Bahá’í International Community and signed by many organizations in the lead up to the High Level Event on climate change organized by the United Nations Secretary Genera Ban Ki-moon in September 2009

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, leaders of the world’s religions and other members of civil society urge the governments of the world to participate in the UN High Level Event on Climate Change through representatives at the highest level and unequivocally call on them to:

-  Consider deeply the ethical and moral questions at the root of the climate change crisis – questions of justice and equity that will determine the survival of cultures, ecosystems, and present as well as future generations;

- Recognize that the quest for climate justice is not a competition for limited resources but part of an unfolding process towards greater degrees of unity among nations as they endeavour to build a sustainable, just and peaceful civilization;

- Distinguish their contributions to this High-Level Event by demonstrating trust, justice, solidarity and a vision of prosperity for the most vulnerable populations;

- Demonstrate courage and moral leadership as they articulate the vision and secure the foundations for a comprehensive and legally binding agreement during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC and the 5th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol in December 2009; and

- Ensure that commitments in all arenas of the climate change challenge are guided by ethical and moral considerations so as to inspire the trust and confidence of individuals, communities and institutions to effect the changes needed to build a sustainable civilization.

- We call on the gathered leaders to summon the same spirit and sense of urgency that led to the creation of the United Nations, to forge a climate change agreement worthy of the trust of humankind.

29 July 2009

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The readjustment of the social economic is of the greatest importance inasmuch as it insures the stability of the world of humanity; and until it is effected, happiness and prosperity are impossible. Bahai writings

I have just returned from the EBBF’s excellent conference in the Netherlands, entitled `Window of Opportunity’. I was pleased to be elected the new Secretary General, with Mahmud Samandari the new chairman and George Starcher the treasurer. Daniel Truran was appointed Director General. The Governing Board issued an important statement to coincide with the meeting of the G20 in Pittsburgh. Here it is (and here we are writing it – Arthur Dahl, me, Mahmud Samandari):

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On the Occasion of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh
An Ethical Perspective on the Economic Recovery

A Statement Issued by EBBF (The European Baha’i Business Forum)

Nijmegen, The Netherlands

28 September 2009

EBBF (www.ebbf.org) the European Baha’i Business Forum, an international NGO representing businesspeople across 70 countries and dedicated to inspiring responsible business practices has issued an ethical perspective on the economic recovery:

The unprecedented crisis that shook the world a year ago was a clarion call to review the values and the structures on which the world system and its economy are based. Twelve months later have we made a significant progress towards

• adopting measures to reduce extremes of wealth and poverty?

• closing the gap between the least developed countries and the advanced economies before it becomes an abyss?

• assuring that the poorest of the world be the main beneficiaries of the recovery measures that have cost taxpayers the world over more than US$ 10 trillion?

• tackling the climate issue in a way that a large majority of humankind does not continue to pay the consequences of the consumption excesses of a few?

• using position and office, be it public service, corporate management or NGO leadership, to render service to humanity rather than for personal benefit and enrichment?

If we have not at least set in motion the processes that will lead us in a different direction, no measure of recovery in the stock market or in consumption will save us from an even more devastating crisis in the future, a crisis that would affect us more seriously considering the resources already used to face the last one. Just because the fever is down, we do not stop treating the underlying illness.

The present system, including the measures that have been taken during the previous months, is based on past experience. While past performance is no guarantee of future results, we can be certain that using old remedies will certainly lead to another – graver – crisis.

There is still a window of opportunity to act – and much more needs to be done.

World leaders, whether political, corporate or of civil society, must have the courage to undertake deep-seated and far-reaching changes. Legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard the interests of humanity as a whole. Humanity should not be made to suffer for the preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine. The economy has globalized but we are still bound by 19th-century mental constructs of nationalism and sovereignty.

A favourable sign in this context has been the process of widening the circle of leaders of government debating an expanding agenda of economic and related issues at their periodic summits. We humbly invite them to consider that their national interests would be best served if they took the interest of the whole planet into consideration. They must be bold and reach a consensus on measures that would improve the world economic system and then invite all the other nations to participate.

`All need to give up their narrow self interest when the future of humanity is at stake. If no one moves there can be no change or progress. We call upon the leaders to exercise the vision, courage and trust that are required to respond to the expectations of the world’s people who are looking for a new, just and prosperous world,’ said the EBBF Governing Board.

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wendi

Holy Lands: Iran, Baghdad, Israel

We beseech God – exalted be His glory – to grant awareness and insight to the men of wisdom as well as to those who hold in their grasp the reins of  power in Persia, that they may be able to distinguish the right way from the crooked and devious path and may clearly discern the well-wisher from the ill-wisher with a true and genuine sense of discrimination. Baha’i text

Baha’is see the whole world as their home, as Baha’u'llah said: `The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.’ However, certain parts of the world are, for Baha’is, particularly holy or blessed.

One of them is the Iran, still another is Baghdad and yet another is the Holy Land. Today these places are political enemies but for Baha’is they are the holiest places on earth.

Many people know that the founder of the baha’i Faith, Baha’u'llah, came from Iran. They probably also know that the Baha’is there have been persecuted throughout their whole history. Indeed, Baha’u'llah Himself, as a follower of the Bab and a leader of the Babi community, was tortured and imprisoned and eventually exiled by the Iranian government.

Forced to leave His homeland, Baha’u'llah went to Baghdad, which was then a city in the Ottoman Empire. Here He proclaimed His mission to humanity in 1863. Thus Baghdad also became holy for His followers.

After ten years in Baghdad, and at the instigation of the Iranian government, Baha’u'llah was further banished across the Ottoman lands until He was sent to the prison-city on the western edge of their empire. It was here that Baha’u'llah died, still a prisoner of the Ottomans, in 1892. It was here that He was buried and here that His followers built a shrine around His resting place. This part of the Ottoman Empire thus also became holy for Baha’is, as it was for Muslims and Christians and Jews.

More than half a century later, the state of Israel was created out of the very territory where Baha’u'llah’s shrine, Christian shrines and Muslim holy places were located.

Strange, then, that one of the allegations against the seven Baha’i leaders – the Yaran (Friends) – still imprisoned in Iran is that they are spies for Israel, on the grounds that the Baha’i shrines are there. Yes, they certainly are in Israel – because the Iranians colluded to send Baha’u'llah there.

Today the seven Baha’i prisoners were supposed to go on trial. A request that the trial be deferred because their legal advisors – whom they have not met – were themselves in prison or out of the country was, at the eleventh hour, granted. The trial is now set for 18 October.

The whole situation is so frustrating for Baha’is. Not just the detention of seven innocent people, not just the repeated postponement of their trial, but the whole situation. Baha’is find it so difficult to explain to the Iranian authorities and to some of the Iranian people that they have just got the wrong end of the stick. Baha’is do not hate Iran, they do not wish to see it fail. They love the country and its people, they wish to see it prosper and develop. They wish that its leadership be just, that all its people be free. Baha’is everywhere pray for Iran’s well-being, freedom and peace.

Actually, that is the same prayer Baha’is pray for the whole world.

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