Jan 30th, 2008
The plain of your hearts hath been illumined by the lights of the Lord of the Kingdom and ye have been led to the straight path, have marched along the road that leadeth to the Kingdom, have entered the Abhá Paradise, and have secured a portion and share of the fruit of the Tree of Life. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings
A friend of mine sent me some lovely pictures of cherry trees. The trees are covered with fruit and, surprisingly, with ice.
They got me thinking. The purpose of the cherry tree is to bear fruit and it does this in a most beautiful way. The fruit is delicious and seeds in the fruit will, if sown, produce more cherry trees and, eventually, more fruit.
But a cherry covered in ice is locked up, frozen. If it can be thawed, it might still be edible but it may well rot. It may look beautiful but its purpose is somewhat thwarted. Its seeds, however, may well be mature enough when the ice melts to take root in some fertile soil and grow, thereby producing more cherries in due course. But if the cherries are frozen when the seeds are immature, then they are unlikely to produce any more trees. A generation of cherry trees may well be lost as a result. This is a disaster to cherry farmers and cherry lovers.
Ironic, then, that the frozen cherry trees were in Tehran, the capital of Iran. Here it is that one of the most beautiful fruits of the country – the Bahá’í Faith – is literally frozen. Its teachings would revolutionize the fortunes of the country, would bring it the peace and stability and honour that it craves, yet it is encased in an icy grip that prevents its young people from entering higher education, its older people from accessing the services they need and all Iranians from tasting the delicious fruit of Bahá’u’lláh’s message of the oneness of humanity, of peace and unity.
As I write, three young Bahá’ís, Ms Haleh Rouhi Jahromi (29), Ms Raha Sabet Sarvestani (33) and Mr Sasan Taqva (32), have been detained by the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz since 19 November 2007 and are serving a four-year sentence on charges connected entirely with their belief in and practice of the Baha’i Faith. Amnesty International has issued an `urgent action’ appeal on their behalf. I suspect the Iranian government will pay no heed, though I pray it does.
But in due time, the ice will melt in Iran. Climate change is as inevitable in the political realm as it is in the environment. When the ice melts, the Bahá’í Faith will still be there. Should that Iranian crop of cherries be somewhat diminished by the ice, there are millions of others who are sowing the seeds of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings around the globe and harvesting a new crop.
You can read about this most recent evidence of the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran here.
Evidence that ice around frozen Bahá’í communities can melt comes today from Egypt. You will recall that the Bahá’ís in Egypt were unable to secure the identity cards necessary in that country to access basic services because only three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – are recognized as religions on the new compulsory electronic official papers. Two cases were brought by Bahá’ís: one by a father trying to secure birth certificates for his twins and a second by a young Bahá’í who was suspended from university because he did not have an identity card. Both were seeking to leave the religious affiliation field blank on official documents.
Today, in a compromise ruling, the Cairo Court of Administrative Justice ruled in favour of two cases, deciding that the Bahá’ís did not need to identify their religious affiliation on official documents, thereby enabling Bahá’ís, and others with the same difficulty, to obtain birth certificates, go to school, take jobs and have access to medical and other services and use banks.
Ice thaws. Cherries blossom.