Archive for February, 2009

wendi

Big Apple, Small World

Big Apple, Small World

I am greatly pleased with the city of New York. Its harbour entrance, its piers, buildings and broad avenues are magnificent and beautiful. Truly, it is a wonderful city. As New York has made such progress in material civilization, I hope that it may also advance spiritually in the Kingdom . . . `Abdu’l-Baha, Bahai writings

I have arrived in New York to attend the 53rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which meets every year to `evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide’. I am here with the Baha’i International Community and the European Baha’i Business Forum, trying to share with governments, UN agencies and other non-governmental organisations, our perspective on gender equality: that it is a matter of justice that responsibilities — at home and at work — are shared between women and men; that it is necessary to change behaviours and practices that keep women unequal and therefore societies unable to reach their potential; that to change behaviours requires not only legislation and social restructuring but also a basic change in attitudes and understanding on the part of all people and their institutions. OK, not a small task but many, many individuals and organisations are in fact promoting these same ideas and the Baha’is work collaboratively with them to make these points to governments and officials.

Tonight there was an Ayyam-i-Ha party in the Bronx. This is the four-day (five in a leap year) of Baha’i holiday that sits within the Baha’i calendar of 19 months of 19 days (=361 +4 = 365) and is set aside for celebrations, charity, gift-giving and sharing that precedes the Baha’i month of fasting. The party was one of those events where, before you go, you think you won’t know anyone but it turns out that if you just talk long enough to enough people you will discover many connections. For example, the hostess was a good friend of my sister. One of her guests was a Chinese from Malaysia, now working the New York, who is an admirer of my husband’s work and also a good friend of a man in Canada whose book we at George Ronald are just publishing. His wife is a Lebanese who is the daughter of the man who translated my book `Understanding the Baha’i Faith’ into Arabic.

We had a great time at the party – where we ate both Italian and Korean `spaghetti’ – and continued to seek connections between us, connections that form the unity that is so important if we are to build a community that is peaceful, just and prosperous and where equality between women and men is a `given’.

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wendi

California Here I Come

Turn towards California with a luminous face, a joyous soul, an attracted heart, an enlightened spirit, an eloquent speech and a radiant expression. Bahai writings

On my way to New York to attend the UN Commission on the Status of Women, I have stopped for a couple of days in California. I know, New York is closer to England than LA is, but that’s the way the fare worked out. If I had gone to New York first, then to LA and then flown home to England, the fare would have been nearly double what I have paid.

My father is living out here, along with my stepmother and two of my sisters and their 7 children. We’re having a great time. My dad is Buddy Worth, known locally as the `piano bar legend’ for his many decades of working the nightclubs in the San Fernando Valley as a piano player and his big popular following. Although none of this part of my family are Baha’is and it is not meaningful to them, I am still celebrating the Baha’i holiday of Ayyam-i-Ha (Intercalary Days) with them just by being here and sharing something of their lives. My sister Tina has just had a beautiful little baby girl – her fifth child – Cadence – so it is a double celebration.

California is where I was born, although I left here more than 40 years ago. In many ways it has changed but in basic ways it is still the same. The weather is still wonderful, especially coming from the bad winter snow we have just had at home, and the people are still very nice and friendly to each other, even strangers in restaurants smile at you and chat. I am also impressed with how accommodating people are to children – this is a big change from the UK, where you sometimes get the impression that children are just an irritation to everyone and where people actually tell children not to play in front of their own homes. Here many of the children are playing in front of all the houses on the street and people seem to look after them all.

I don’t think I could live here again, despite the many attractions, but it a great place to visit for a few days.

And to all my friends in California who I should have visited – sorry, two days was only just enough to see my dad and family. Maybe next time!

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Know ye that trials and tribulations have, from time immemorial, been the lot of the chosen Ones of God and His beloved, and such of His servants as are detached from all else but Him . . . The day is approaching when God will have raised up a people who will call to remembrance Our days, who will tell the tale of Our trials, who will demand the restitution of Our rights from them that, without a tittle of evidence, have treated Us with manifest injustice. God, assuredly, dominateth the lives of them that wronged Us, and is well aware of their doings. He will, most certainly, lay hold on them for their sins. He, verily, is the fiercest of avengers. Bahai writings

Right from the beginning of the Baha’i Faith — even before the declaration of Baha’u’llah, in the time of its precursor, the religion of the Bab — the religious leaders and politicians of Iran set upon the new Manifestations of God and their followers and persecuted them. Not content with harassment, they subjected their victims to every sickening form of torture and cruelty: hammering horseshoes into their feet and making them run, gouging holes into their arms and setting lighted candles into them, blowing them out of cannons. The Bab Himself was imprisoned, then executed by firing squad. Bahá’u’lláh was tortured, imprisoned, exiled from His home country and then from everywhere else they sent Him. Finally, in 1868, they sent Him as far away as possible from Iran and forced Him to live in a prison set into a crusader castle built on the east coast of the Mediterranean. Now, a hundred and forty years later, the religious leaders and politicians of Iran are using that fact as evidence of His followers’ collusion with the state that grew up around it in 1948.

Six Baha’is have been in Evin prison in Tehran since May last year, one since last March. Tehran’s deputy prosecutor Hassan Haddad has announced that these members of the `Bahai sect’ are going to be put trial, charged with `espionage for Israel, desecrating religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic’. This is a standard euphemism for `being a Baha’i’.

Diane Ala’i, spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community, emphatically declared that the seven are innocent of all charges and are being held solely because of their religious belief: `The accusations are false, and the government knows this. The seven Baha’is detained in Tehran should be immediately released.’

Let’s see who these `spies’ are:

Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi is 46. She is a developmental psychologist and mother of three. Her oldest son studied in the UK and is now in China.

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The oldest is Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, a 75 year old grandad. He used to own a factory but that was shut down in the 1979 revolution. He then ran a mechanized farm on his family lands and that too faced constant harassment. One of his four children also lives in China.

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Father of two, 47 year old Afif Naemi wanted to become a doctor but, being a Baha’i, of course he could not enter university so he became an industrialist instead, taking over his father-in-law’s blanket and textile factory.

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Mr Saeid Rezaie, 51, is an agricultural engineer and is the author of several books on the Baha’i Faith. His two daughters were among 54 Baha’i youth who were arrested in Shiraz in May 2006, while his son of 12 is in middle school.

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Mother of two Mrs Mahvash Sabet is a 55 year old teacher and school principal who, in the old days, collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. Now she heads up the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Baha’i youth. Or should I say `headed up’ – she’s been in prison since 5 March 2008.

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Behrouz Tavakkoli, 57, specialized in the care of those with physical and mental disabilities until he was sacked from his government position shortly after the 1979 Revolution.

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The youngest is Mr Vahid Tizfahm, who at 35, is exactly the same age as my own son Sedrhat. Vahid is the father of a 9 year boy and is an optometrist. He used to own an optical shop in Tabriz, the city where the Bab was executed and my husband was born.

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You can read the rest of their stories here.

I feel a close connection to them all. We share a lot. Most of them are around my age and have children the same age as my own. They are all Baha’is from Baha’i families, like me. They all struggled to get an education and then worked in a position of service to their fellow citizens. And they spent all their free time volunteering for the Baha’i Faith.

The key thing about them all is that they are members of the national-level Baha’i group known as the `Friends in Iran’. Because all Baha’i institutions of governance and administration were banned by the Iranian government after the Revolution, this ad hoc coordinating body assisted the 300,000 Iranian Baha’is. So they are well known. And they emulate the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh.

Their case is going to be heard by the `revolutionary courts‘. Actually, I have a lot in common with the judges there too. I am a magistrate myself. I send to people to prison. I weigh up evidence. I must use the criminal standard of `beyond reasonable doubt’ before I convict. To dispense justice is my responsibility. Here is my message to my judicial colleagues in Iran who sit on this case:

These people have done nothing but serve the people of Iran, your citizens. Now it is time for Iran to serve them. Show us, the rest of the world, that you, as members of the judiciary, meet the universal standards for all who serve in this position. Demonstrate your qualities of listening to all sides, without fear or favour, of weighing actual evidence and dismissing anything that smacks of being concocted. Show us that you adhere to the concept of due process, that you are independent of your executive colleagues, that you hold justice as the fairest fruit of civilization. We, your judicial colleagues, are willing you to treat your judicial position with respect and to discharge your responsibilities with honour. Do not let us, or yourselves, down.

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wendi

Truth Shines

Let the Light of Truth and Honesty shine from them . . . Baha’i writings

A remarkable document has emerged this week. Written in Persian, it has now been translated into English and can be read here.

It is remarkable because of what it says, who has signed it, where it has been posted and the date of its release. Called `We are Ashamed’, it is a rehearsal of the human rights abuses committed against the Baha’i community in Iran for over 150 years and an admission by academics, intellectuals and artists that they have themselves perpetrated such abuses or remained silent when they occurred. It has now been posted on iranian.com, which is an e-zine for Iranians around the world and very popular. Thousands of people will read it.

A map has also come to my attention today. The editor of the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights has been mapping where the recent persecutions of the Baha’i has been taking place. Find it here.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran – a whole generation of people have been born who have never been able to learn the truth of the Baha’i Faith or understand how they have been misled. At the same time, a whole generation of Baha’is have been denied basic human rights, a whole generation has been denied access to higher education, a whole generation has been unable to enter the professions and serve their country as they would like.

While it is well known that the Islamic religious leaders in Iran have always opposed the Baha’i Faith and its followers – indeed, executed its forerunner, the Bab; incarcerated its founder, Bahá’u’lláh; and sent into exile not only Baha’u’llah but his whole family and many of his followers – it is less well known in the West that the Iranian intelligentsia, for the whole of the 20th century, was also antagonistic to the Baha’is. So widespread, so pervasive, so permeating, so cleverly contorted were the lies told about the Baha’i Faith that even liberal academics denounced it.

But truth shines. It always triumphs, in the end. This document is evidence that is possible to look beyond what has been accepted as true for a century and half, and to change.

Which, in fact, is the very purpose of the coming of the Manifestation of God: to help people and their societies change.

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wendi

Striving for Peace

Strive for universal peace, seek the means of love, and destroy the basis of disagreement so that this material world may become divine, the world of matter become the realm of the Kingdom and humanity attain to the world of perfection. Baha’i writings

A medical student
A magistrate
A soldier
An architect
A politician
A mother
A film-maker
An artist
A carer of animals

Some ordinary people – and some pretty extraordinary ones too.

What were they doing on 21 September, World Peace Day? What were you doing? Can you remember? I don’t keep a diary, other than this blog, but I did contribute a diary entry to a little book — Make a Difference in Just One Day – Practical Peace Diaries from Around the World! — and it has just been published as an e-book, so I was able to read what I, along with a whole lot of others, was doing on that day.

Just One Day

If you read the newspapers, or watch TV or get your news from the Internet, you may not see the practical things that so many millions of people are doing to make peace happen – yet there are probably many, many more people striving in some way to make their planet a place of peace than there are those who would destroy it. This little books gives some insights into the hopes, aspirations and efforts of just some of them. Worth reading!

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