Archive for July, 2007


Humanity taking Flight

The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

Sustainable development, poverty eradication, peace. Humanity is struggling with these issues daily. Maybe one of the reasons is that humanity hasn’t yet travelled far enough down its road to know how to use the strength of women and their wisdom to tackle them.

This week 1500 Soroptimists from around the world have converged on the amazing conference centre and science centre in Glasgow to learn how they can influence those processes that will make the world more live-in-able for everyone.

glasgow-science-centre Science Centre

Exhibition_Centre Glasgow Exibition Centre.

Don’t know what a Soroptimist is? Meaning, `best for women’, a Soroptimist is a professional woman dedicated to working towards developing the quality of life for women and children. Soroptimists aim to provide a global voice for women on issues that directly affect them – and therefore everyone. They lobby governments, give practical help and finance projects across boundaries.

Today climate change expert Professor Peter Cox offered an excellent, accessible yet scientific analysis of global warming. He confirmed what I had learned the International Environment Forum’s climate change conference last September – climate change has happened, we have caused it, we can mitigate its effects but we have a very small window of time in which to do so.

Peter-Cox-1 Asked about those scientists who disagree with his analysis, he laughed and said that scientists are in the business of not agreeing with each other. Pressed on how many scientists thought as he did compared to those who disagreed, he said it was about the same as the number of people sitting in the audience (1500) compared to the number speaking at the podium (1).

Professor Mary Renfrew, working in the field of mother and infant health research impressed upon us how small things, such as training birth attendants and having them actually attend births, can reduce infant and mother mortality dramatically.



HRH The Princess Royal also attended today and spoke about the importance of working with women in ways they themselves could sustain. I would like to say I have known her for years, which is true, as I met her several times when I was working for Save the Children – she is their patron – in the 1980s. She, of course, has no idea who I am. But I will say I hugely admire her and her dedicated work on behalf of children and their mothers.

The rest of the conference looks set to be just as excellent – a true example of humanity taking to the skies.

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. . . for in the world of God there is no time `Abdu’l-Baha, Bahá’í writings

The reunion of the UK Bahá’í youth of the 60s and 70s is in full swing in London. About 85 `youth’ have travelled from as far away as Australia, the US and Canada, to meet up with `old’ friends. It is great looking at the old photographs of everyone from 40 years ago looking thinner and hairier and much less grey and very familiar. Seeing them now, they look, somehow, exactly the same but less gangly. One younger person said, `What I like about you older people is that you still have the same eyes — still have the same look of anticipation.’

Today we sang all the old songs – `God is One’, `Building Bridges’, and, of course, `Time is a One Time Thing’. How we loved `Time is a One Time Thing’! We thought it so profound but, really, what does it mean?

We’ve travelled a long way in 40 years. Today we looked back but, basically, we are still looking forward. We had a dream in the 60s and 70s of a better world that we would build. OK, we are still not there yet but we are still building it, still travelling towards it: we are still Bahá’ís.

And, for those of you who wondered what happened to the skydiving Lois, she jumped today – and landed safely. There is still time to sponsor her for UNIFEM!

More PS
I am away for a few days in Glasgow for the Soroptimist International Conference so I probably won’t be blogging for a few days. Here are a couple of pictures of the grandchildren, Dreyfus and Aaliyeh, to tide you over!

Dre in the apple tree

Aaliyeh at six months

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Ticket to ride

The power of the Holy Spirit, enlightening man’s intelligence, has enabled him to discover means of bending many natural laws to his will. He flies through the air, floats on the sea, and even moves under the waters . . . Remember not your own limitations; the help of God will come to you. Forget yourself. `Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i writings

My good friend Thelma Batchelor, a regular reader of this blog and known to many of you as the compiler of Pioneer Post since 1988 (!), has sent me this story and her hot tip for all travellers:

In a bit of a hurry, the eve before leaving for the Cyprus Arts & Music Festival on 21st June, I booked flights with BA for Baha’i pilgrimage at the end of October because I was worried about the prices going up the longer I left it.

Fine! I’ve booked flights many times before on-line so didn’t reckon this should be any different. I carefully worked out the times of the flights and the dates from London to Tel Aviv and pressed the button.

Good, I thought, that’s done! BUT when I printed out the e-ticket, to my horror I saw that my ticket was booked in my maiden name (Thelma Halbert)! How on earth did that happen I wondered? Then it occurred to me that in a senior moment I must have typed my name as it was 37 years ago before I was married! Ron Batchelor’s name was fine!

I couldn’t find any telephone number on the e-ticket whereby I could phone BA and tell them what I had done and anyway it was late at night and unlikely that anyone would be there to speak to a frantic senior who was suffering from a senior moment! So the next day we flew off to Cyprus and I tried to forget my silly mistake. Meanwhile friends were telling me that BA would probably have to reissue the ticket and that would mean paying the full price all over again. I was worried!

On my return from Cyprus I immediately phoned BA (Manage My Booking) and spoke to a very nice lady who sympathised with me and thought my mistake was very funny! I did too but I was still worried about how much financially I was going to have to pay for that mistake. She told me that for an extra £25.00 I could change my name from my maiden name to my married name but, in addition, I would have to fax BA my marriage certificate to prove that I was who I was.

Heck, the next day found me scrambling up in the loft and searching for my marriage certificate issued in 1970. I couldn’t find the original but I found a copy so I faxed that to BA along with my booking reference number and waited. A few days later I was informed by email that I had been issued with a new e-ticket. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then, on checking, I discovered that they had now issued two tickets – one to Mrs Thelma Batxhelor (note the x) and the other to Mrs Thelma Halbert.

Not even Ron had a valid ticket this time!

I was back on the phone to BA (Manage My Booking) and pointed out their mistake this time. I was assured that in no time they would rectify their mistake and that I would be notified of the newly amended e-tickets. Again I waited. Each day I checked BA’s Manage My Booking and for five days there was nothing new. I was even informed on-line that I had been checking too frequently and told not to check for another 24 hours at least!

Yesterday, at long last, two correctly amended e-tickets were issued for us both.

My hot top for travellers? Be sure to remember who you are!

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As far as possible, rest thou not for a moment, travel to the North and South of the country and summon all men to the oneness of the world of humanity and to universal peace . . .’ `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

In 1967, when I was 16, my family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, from LA to help promote the Bahá’í Faith. I enrolled in the University of Tulsa, one of only three Bahá’ís. I studied pre-law but acted in the college theatre. There I met Jennifer, who was a drama student from Chicago. We roomed together and in 1968 Jennifer became a Bahá’í, one of about a hundred who became Bahá’ís in Tulsa that year.

Jennifer was on Bahá’í pilgrimage last week and on her way back to Seattle, where she now lives, came to stay with me for a few days. On Friday we were talking about her Galbraith ancestors and looking them up on the Internet. When we realised that they came from Dumbarton in Scotland, we decided we would drive up and take a look at the place.

We left on about 8:30 on Saturday morning. Its 365 miles from my home in Northill, Bedfordshire, so we had rather a long drive. Fortunately, the rain and more rain that affected the north of England a couple of weeks ago had stopped – unfortunately it had moved south to Gloucester, Wiltshire and Worcester bringing terrible flooding. But our trip north was very pleasant indeed and, after a couple of stops for lunch and tea, we arrived about 6:00 in the evening.

Dumbarton was the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde in the 8th and 9th centuries but today is a small, neat and very smart looking town. Its chief claim to fame is Dumbarton Castle, locally known as the Rock. The old medieval castle is virtually gone but the remains of the later structure are still sitting 240 feet up what is the plug of an old volcano.

We arrived too late to do anything but eat dinner, which we did at The Counting House (yes, an old bank turned restaurant) and find a hotel room, which we did at the very comfortable Abbotsford Hotel.

In the morning we climbed the two peaks of the Rock to discover the castle. I rather liked the idea that I was climbing on what had been lava inside a volcano. The views from the top are stunning! Of the building itself, I was most impressed with the cooling system installed into the Magazine, the 1748-built gunpowder store. But looking at the French prison, with all its windows facing the wall of the mountain so that the prisoners could not see the sea or any green growing thing, we were reminded of the Báb imprisoned in the remote castle prison of Mákú.

In the afternoon we drove to the tip of Loch Lomond, walked along its banks for a short time and took an hour-long boat trip, just to live up to the lines of the song. Loch Lomond has the largest surface area of fresh water Loch in the UK – and somewhere in the middle is an island called Galbraith.

After a late lunch back at The Counting House we headed south, travelling the more than 400 miles (and keeping to the speed limits!) home in about seven hours. A very short trip but thought-provoking and a lot of fun!

[tags]Baha’i, Dumbarton, Scotland, travel, Loch Lomond, Maku, the Bab[tags]


Time Traveller

Thank thou God for that by reason of which He hath enabled thee to traverse the seas and countries and come safe to a Spot wherein the lights are shining with great brilliancy. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

Moojan and I have just come back from a few days at the Northern Ireland Bahá’í summer school. It was held in a beautiful location and had a wonderful atmosphere. The talks were inspiring and the company excellent.

The theme of the school was `Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future’ – a sort of time travel. It made me think about my grandmother, Ann Gundersen Morris, whose life more or less spanned the 20th century. She was born in Norway in 1894 and died in Arizona in 1990. She came to the United States in a boat in 1902. When she left the United States to live for a while in Zimbabwe, she travelled from New York to London on Concord. When she was born there were no airplanes, no cinema, no radio, no freezers. Most houses had no electricity, no indoor toilets, no through-house heating. Much of the world was colonized by European countries. Only women in New Zealand could vote in a national election.

When Gramma died we had TV, microwave ovens, email, laptop computers, the Internet, the beginnings of the World Wide Web and the second generation of mobile phones. The UN had over a hundred state members. Women had the vote pretty much everywhere.

By the time she died communism had come and more or less gone, the Berlin wall had gone up and come down, apartheid in South Africa had taken hold and disappeared. The nature of war changed and people had walked on the moon.

The other big change was that the Bahá’í Faith had spread from the middle east to the west and from there to Africa and the Pacific and then to just about everywhere else so that by 1990 there were national Bahá’í governing councils in 151 countries. And Gramma, born a Lutheran in Norway, came to America and there, searching for truth, found it and became a Bahá’í.

She had what Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, called a `world-embracing vision’. She vigorously promoted his teaching of the oneness of humanity. She worked to establish universal peace. She saw that through the teachings of the Bahá’u’lláh the world could be better for everyone – not just more materially or technologically advanced but more equitable, more just, more peaceful.

Gramma travelled from the old world to the new – and from an old world into a new.

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Skydiving for Women

And among the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh is the equality of women and men. The world of humanity has two wings — one is women and the other men. Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible. Not until the world of women becomes equal to the world of men in the acquisition of virtues and perfections, can success and prosperity be attained as they ought to be. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

Lois Hainsworth turned 80 this year. A well known Bahá’í, champion of the rights of women and of the equality of women and men, Lois is going flying, then skydiving, to mark her birthday and to raise money for UNIFEM, the United Nations Fund for Women, in the United Kingdom. It supports projects that promote women’s economic security, human rights and status.

UNIFEM has four strategic goals:

* to reduce women’s poverty and exclusion

* to end violence against women

* to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS

* to achieve gender equality

Lois takes off on 28 July near Stroud, England, where she lives.

If you uphold these principles and want to support Lois in her first (and probably last!) parachute jump, send me your email and I will send you a sponsorship form. Lois, always a high flier, is now risking life and limb to help women around the world. Good on you, Lois! May you live to be 100!

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The Goal of the Journey

A friend asked: `How should one look forward to death?’

`Abdu’l-Bahá answered: `How does one look forward to the goal of any journey? With hope and with expectation. It is even so with the end of this earthly journey. In the next world, man will find himself freed from many of the disabilities under which he now suffers . . . Those who have ascended have different attributes from those who are still on earth, yet there is no real separation. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

On 26 June my husband’s uncle, Mahmoud Afsharian, suddenly passed away. A most remarkable man he was! He was generous and funny. He made us laugh! You were always happy and uplifted in his presence. He loved life and loved being with people. He particularly liked dancing!

When I came to England in 1969 it was to his house that I came. I didn’t know him – I knew his nephew – but he and his wife Victur welcomed me in. When in September 1971 Moojan and I returned from our `honeymoon’ – teaching the Bahá’í Faith in Europe – to discover that the house we had bought was not yet built, it was Afshar, as we called him, who invited us for dinner to see what we could do. We stayed five months.

He travelled through this life with a big heart and a wide smile and enjoyed every minute of it. I am sure, now that he has reached the end of one journey and started his new one, he is still laughing and dancing!

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Flying in the Face of Trouble

You must make firm the feet at the time when these trials transpire, and demonstrate forbearance and patience. You must withstand them with the utmost love and kindness; consider their oppression and persecution as the caprice of children. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i writings

Tomorrow I am off to Italy to attend the Irfan Colloquium, a conference of people from around the world who study the Baha’i scripture in depth – I am not one of them, I just like to be in their company!

But travelling these days can be a little nerve-wracking, especially in light of recent events here in the UK. While we were in Madrid last weekend there was an attack on Glasgow airport. We were, naturally, concerned for the welfare of the people at the airport, travellers and staff and their families. But we also wondered if we would be able to return to Luton airport.

But despite heightened security alerts, our travel arrangements were hardly affected at all. The airplanes kept flying, travellers were calm and patient and understanding and everything went very smoothly. Rather than being destabilized by this attack, people seemed determined to carry on as normal and not to let their lives be disrupted by the acts of a few who in no way represent the teachings of the Quran and Muhammad, teachings which Baha’is honour and respect and to which Baha’u’llah makes many references in His scriptures – and which we will be studying at the Irfan Colloquium in Italy.

So I am not nervous about flying tomorrow – but I will go a little earlier than usual to make time for the extra security measures.

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Travelling in Unity

. . . when travelling and journeying throughout the world, wherever one finds construction, it is the result of fellowship and love, while everything that is in ruin shows the effect of enmity and hatred. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

This weekend I travelled with my husband, daughter and two grandchildren to Madrid for a Momen family reunion. Although we were fewer than 25, we represented nine nationalities (Spanish, British, American, Brazilian, Austrian, Italian, German, South African and Iranian) and family members arrived from Spain, Israel, England, Switzerland, the US, Germany, Austria and Iran. The ages ranged from 87 to 6 months (my granddaughter, Aaliyeh). It was truly unity and `construction’.

While we were together the terrorist attacks on Britain took place, `the effect of enmity and hatred’.

I was reminded of the fable about the sun and north wind, who were having a discussion about which was the more powerful. They could not agree but continued talking until they spied a traveller walking along the road below, his cloak flapping behind him. The north wind and the sun saw an opportunity to demonstrate their powers.

The north wind insisted he could remove the traveller’s cloak more easily than the sun could. He blew and blew with tremendous power, expending all his icy force to make the cloak fly off the traveller’s back. But as the icy wind struck the traveller, he merely pulled the cloak more tightly around himself. Eventually the north wind, realizing he had not succeeded, challenged the sun to do better.

The sun took up the challenge. It simply came out from behind the clouds brought by the north wind’s blowing and beamed gently and benignly on the traveller, enveloping him with warmth. The travelling, amazed at the sudden change in the weather, grew so hot that he took his cloak off . The north wind had to admit that the gentle power of sun was greater than his own.

Force and violence are destructive and cannot provide a long-term solution to problems – they generally make things much worse. Love and unity, on the other hand, are constructive and much more powerful that violence. This is the basic message of Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and it is this lesson that the Momen family has learned.

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