Archive for March, 2008

wendi

One Path

The Sun of Reality is one Sun but it has different dawning-places, just as the phenomenal sun is one although it appears at various points of the horizon. During the time of spring the luminary of the physical world rises far to the north of the equinoctial; in summer it dawns midway and in winter it appears in the most southerly point of its zodiacal journey. These day springs or dawning-points differ widely but the sun is ever the same sun whether it be the phenomenal or spiritual luminary. Souls who focus their vision upon the Sun of Reality will be the recipients of light no matter from what point it rises, but those who are fettered by adoration of the dawning-point are deprived when it appears in a different station upon the spiritual horizon. `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

Bahá’ís are today celebrating the first day of their new year, Naw-Rúz. They have just ended their fast and begin the new year spiritual refreshed and recharged. Zoroastrians are also celebrating Naw-Rúz.

In fact, these few days see an amazing array of religious holy days and festivals. Yesterday Muslims commemorated the Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Today Jews are celebrating the first day of Purim, which recalls how the Persian Jews were saved from annihilation by Esther, a young Jewish woman. Hindus are celebrating Holi, the Festival of Colours, to welcome the spring.

It is also Good Friday, when Christians commemorate the death of Christ on the cross – on Sunday they celebrate Easter, the day of Christ’s resurrection and the most important Christian festival.

For many people, these are all `different’ religions and, at first glance, they do appear completely dissimilar and even incompatible. What, you might ask, does throwing coloured paint during Holi have to do with Christians mourning the execution of the Son of God? But if you look beyond the particular festivals and practices to the essence of these religions, if you read their holy books, if you consider their purpose and their spiritual message, you will see that those messages are very similar. A study of their scriptures reveals that they deal with the same themes and ideas:

* the oneness of God

* that God is the creator of all existence

* that humanity exists to know its creator and to serve His purpose

* that the highest human response to this is worship and wholehearted submission to God

* recognition that all bounties come from God

* the responsibilities of humanity

* the station of those who respond positively to the message

* the succession of great teachers bringing God’s message to humanity revelations of the divine

Consider, for example, these passages from different holy books:

Hinduism: Lord of the world, Creator of creators the saviour God who overcomes the foeman. (Vedas, Rig Veda – Book 10)

Judaism: Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. (Isaiah 40:28)

Christianity: ‘Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.’ (Timothy 1:17)

Islam: This God your Lord. There is no God but He, the creator of all things: therefore worship Him alone; – and He watcheth over all things. (Qur’án 6, Rodwell)

Bábí religion: ‘I, verily, have not fallen short of My duty to admonish that people, and to devise means whereby they may turn towards God, their Lord, and believe in God, their Creator.’ (The Báb, Selections, p. 156)

Bahá’í: The purpose of God in creating man hath been, and will ever be, to enable him to know his Creator and to attain His Presence. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings, p. 70)

As the Universal House of Justice says,

For a sympathetic and objective reader of such passages what emerges is a recognition of the essential oneness of religion.

And Bahá’u’lláh Himself states that far from being `different’ religions they are `the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future’.

Worth thinking about deeply in this new year.

And happy Naw-Rúz to all my readers!

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wendi

Motion, motion, motion

We have had no rest by day or night since we left you — either traveling, moving about or speaking — yet it was all so pleasantly done, and we have been most happy. Praise be to God! Everywhere and all the time it has been harakat, harakat, harakat (“motion, motion, motion”). `Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í writings

I have been away from these pages for quite a time. So many things have happened since last I wrote that I should have written about but has there been time? I can only say, with `Abdu’l-Baha, that it has been all `motion, motion, motion’!

I went to New York at the end of February to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women (see previous blog). My trip was extended by a visit to my father and family in Los Angeles, after my father was suddenly taken ill with Alzheimer’s. I was so glad to be able to be close enough to travel there without any difficulty and to spend some time with him.

But most of the time I was at the UN. What an experience! Every day was packed with briefings and workshops and side events, in addition to the main discussions of the governments.

UN GA

Some people find the UN very dull, others think it is useless and just a talking shop. I take a different view.

My interest in the UN was cemented by a visit of Winston Evans to my school some time in the early 1960s. When he spoke, I didn’t know he was a Bahá’í – I learned this afterwards – but he was eloquent on the importance on this (relatively) new institution and its role in preventing war. One of my classmates asked him how he could say this, when clearly there were wars in many places. Did we really need the UN? Winston’s reply impressed me: `What would the world be like without the UN? We already know that. Do you want to risk it again?’

At the same, I was already reading in the American Bahá’í News about the Bahá’í Representative to the UN Mildred Mottahedeh. I thought her life must be fascinating and was so impressed that she was participating in what seemed to me to be a very futuristic enterprise. The idea of a world government had been envisioned by Bahá’u’lláh in the 19th century and, well, here was its prototype, up and running and Mrs Mottahedeh was actually sitting in on the sessions. I hoped that one day I could go to the UN myself.

That day came in 1994 when the preparations for the 4th World Conference on Women were being made and I asked the Bahá’í International Community if I could attend the preparatory conference (prep-com – the UN has a language all its own) in Vienna. It wasn’t the UN building in New York but it was the UN, doing its work. I was hooked. After that I attended a host of UN conferences, summits and meetings: the Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen, the Beijing Fourth Conference on Women, Habitat II in Istanbul; the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Sustainable Development, the General Assembly Special Session on Sustainable Development (Rio +5), all in New York at the actual UN building (thrilling!); and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. I found my talent lay in helping to organise the Bahá’ís who were attending and in helping to draft proposed language to enter into the outcome documents of these events – being, as a friend one said, a `text junkie’.

So this is what I now do. I am a volunteer and don’t have to go but I like to. And what really fascinates me is that the governments of the world actually turn up too. They don’t have to either – and some do their best to undermine the whole enterprise – but they do in fact turn up and discuss matters in a courteous and `civilized’ manner, taking turns to speak and treating each other very diplomatically. Some of what they say is clearly untrue, some is all politics and no reality; many governments clearly do not wish to be there and member states often ignore agreements they themselves have entered into – but they actually do come and talk, which amazes me. To me this is a sign of the growing maturation of the governments and peoples of the world. Other than the whole world immediately accepting Bahá’u’lláh, it is our best hope for a peaceful, prosperous, united and generous-hearted world. We aren’t there yet but we have the tools we need to get there.

We may be far from Bahá’u’lláh’s vision of world government but surely we have already taken the first steps towards it. We may not yet have held the great conference of the world’s rulers that will establish world peace once and for all, but surely we have put into place at least the prototype of what Bahá’u’lláh foresaw:

The Great Being, wishing to reveal the prerequisites of the peace and tranquillity of the world and the advancement of its peoples, hath written: The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men. Baha’u’llah

I am very glad to be a little part of it.

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