Archive for April, 2009


Running on Empty

At that hour . . . your religion shall remain an empty word on your tongues. And when these signs appear amongst you, anticipate the day when the red-hot wind will have swept over you . . . or when stones will have rained upon you. Islamic tradition, quoted in the Bahai writings

A fascinating piece of research came my way today, a document based on a survey of over four thousand Iranians both in and out of Iran. Over half the respondents were 20 to 29 years old, demographically the largest age group in the country. While 62 per cent of the men and 77 per cent of the women said their religion was Islam, only 15.6 per cent of men and 22.5 of women said they practised their religion, while overall 38 per cent of all respondents identified themselves as secular.

It was interesting, therefore, to read in our parish magazine today the response of our local vicar to the news that two eminent Christian clerics have suggested there be a general boycott of television because there has not been enough religious broadcasting during the Easter season. The vicar said he was amazed that there was any religious broadcasting at all, given the degree of secularisation that has taken place in the UK. He doubted the ability of religious programmes on TV to turn this around. Getting people to come to church, he said, is not so difficult – it is teaching Christianity in such a way that it transforms the lives of those who hear it.

It is exactly at the point when the world is spiritually running on empty that God provides a top-up of information and education. The universal, eternal principles by which all people are to live are reiterated and refreshed, and the application of those principles made appropriate for that epoch. He does this by providing a great teacher, a Manifestation, who brings God;s current plan for humanity.

That God has, over the whole history of humanity, gradually provided guidance that is fine-tuned to the increasing and nuanced needs of His people seems to have eluded most of us. But it should not be so strange. All education is provided progressively, with more sophisticated concepts being introduced after less complicated ones are learned. Schools are based on this very principle. Yet some people still seem to think the world can run effectively on information that has not been updated in millennia.

Baha’is are currently celebrating the twelve-day festival of Ridvan, the period when Bahá’u’lláh, the begetter of the Baha’i Faith, made public in 1863 something He had known for a decade – that God had chosen Him to be the vehicle for God’s Word for this age, a Manifestation of God. Not perhaps so surprising. given this is an age of secularisation and cynicism and scepticism. Bahá’u’lláh Himself wrote of this very phenomenon:

The vitality of men’s belief in God is dying out in every land; nothing short of His wholesome medicine can ever restore it. The corrosion of ungodliness is eating into the vitals of human society; what else but the Elixir of His potent Revelation can cleanse and revive it? Is it within human power . . . to effect in the constituent elements of any of the minute and indivisible particles of matter so complete a transformation as to transmute it into purest gold? Perplexing and difficult as this may appear, the still greater task of converting satanic strength into heavenly power is one that We have been empowered to accomplish. The Force capable of such a transformation transcendeth the potency of the Elixir itself. The Word of God, alone, can claim the distinction of being endowed with the capacity required for so great and far-reaching a change.

To commemorate Ridvan, on Wednesday evening Moojan and I attended the celebration at the Houses of Parliament – you can read the details of this annual event here.  A happy occasion, though overshadowed by the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and the imprisonment of the seven Baha’is leaders there. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a letter addressed to the reception hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha’is, expressed his `respect and admiration’ for the British Baha’i community which, he said, `makes a contribution to British life out of all proportion to its size’. Too sad, then, that the Baha’is in Iran are unable to contribute to their own country’s progress. But this is what happens when a whole world is running on empty.

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— Dashing Around —

There is a power in this Cause, a mysterious power, far, far, far away from the ken of men and angels . . . It moves the hearts. It rends the mountains . . . It inspires the friends. It dashes into a thousand pieces all the forces of opposition. It creates new spiritual worlds. This is a mystery of the Kingdom of Abha.  Bahai writings

For some, it might be the height of insult to have their entire religious belief system represented by nothing more than a straight line — but for the Baha’is in Egypt it is a cause of great rejoicing. The Baha’i World News Service is reporting today that, after a long struggle, minority religious communities in Egypt, including the Baha’is, will be able to get government documents. No longer will they have to fill in the space on such documents that denotes their religion with one of the three recognized ones — Islam, Christianity, Judaism — they can use a dash — instead.

It means Baha’is, Hindus, Buddhists and others can get the all-important ID card that enables them to undertake basic activities such as enrolling their children in school and university, receiving medical treatment and buying a car.

While this might seem a small victory, or perhaps even a non-victory, it allows them to realise their rights of citizenship. As my English grandfather would have said, it’s a dashed good idea!

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Women Advancing

Baha’u’llah emphasized and established the equality of man and woman … The happiness of mankind will be realized when women and men coordinate and advance equally, for each is the complement and helpmeet of the other. Bahai writings

Moojan and I spent the long bank holiday weekend at the Baha’i spring school, held again this year at Mount St Mary’s College, Spinkhill in Derbyshire. A beautiful location and lovely grounds. We took our five year old grandson Dreyfus with us and he loved it. The children’s classes are always excellent at this school.

When I returned home, among the emails was one thanking me for participating in the commemoration of International Women’s Day in Bedfordshire at the end of March – a week or so late but useful for me because I had been in New York at the Commission on the Status of Women on the actual day itself, representing the Baha’i International Community and the European Baha’i Business Forum (EBBF). International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates the accomplishments of women and draws attention to the continuing efforts to secure full gender equality. The local IWD was sponsored by Bedfordshire Business Women, whose president this year is my friend Pauline Stewart (who, by the way, does an amazing leadership programme called `Walking with Wolves’ ).

The IWD was held at the Sculpture Gallery at Woburn Abbey and women – and a few men – from all over the county attended. The lovely lunch was not eaten by me, as it was held during the Baha’i Fast, but it was a good chance to network and to talk about some of the issues arising out of the CSW. I represented the UK National Committee for UNIFEM, with an exhibition.

Another friend, Judy Oliver, who I have known for years (believe it or not, back in the 80s we used to run a market stall together with a couple of other friends, selling used clothes! – now we sit on the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation – well, Bedfordshire  is a very small county!), came along to the IWD and filmed bits for her latest venture, Local News TV. I was very pleased to see that she used bits of my interview about UNIFEM in the footage.

But while all this is going on here, always in my mind is what is happening to our Baha’i friends in Iran. They are suffering yet another wave of persecution and arbitrary arrests. Do keep up to date with developments on Iran Press Watch.

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Moving along

In other words, man must throughout all the degrees of life evolve and progress day unto day, for life is continuous. Bahai writings

My blog is evolving, just like everything else.

My good friend and mentor in all things blog, Barney Leith, has been helping me upgrade my blog and move it along. I want to thank him here for all his work! If you are not yet subscribed to Barney’s blog, you really should be. Take a look here.

The picture was taken by Sonja Hartmann, a Baha’i delegate from Germany, at the recent United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I thought the little ladybird suitcase I used there to carry my computer and papers around was just perfect for the `travelling light’ theme of this blog. So thanks to Sonja for thinking of it!

Another blog you might like to read is my brother Steve’s, African Wayfarer. Steve has been in southern Africa for 30 years. He is a great guy and you will love his blog and the pictures of African life . Read it here – give him some encouragement to continue!
There is a little more work to on my blog, so please bear with me as I learn the new arrangements.

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