Archive for June, 2009

wendi

Passages

. . . the human spirit is a Divine Trust, and it must traverse all conditions; for its passage and movement through the conditions of existence will be the means of its acquiring perfections. Bahai writings

This week two very well known entertainers passed away:  Michael Jackson, a unique musician, and Farah Fawcett, a popular TV actress.

Two less widely known people also passed away and it is to them that I wish to pay tribute.

The first was Archie Webster, a fellow magistrate who lived in the same village I live in. When I first met him in 1982, I was taken with his broad smile and warm welcome, wise words and excellent example. He had a generous spirit, was kind and helpful, courteous and dignified – spiritual qualities that just oozed out of him as he served the local church and community. I am going to miss him a lot.

The second was David Lewis, a British Baha’i, father of my friend and colleague at George Ronald, Publisher, Erica Leith. David too had a generous spirit, was the very essence of kindness, wisdom and service, was perhaps the most courteous man I have ever met and was dignity personified. His service to the Baha’i community was unstinting. These spiritual qualities shone from his ever-smiling face. I’m already missing him.

These two men – one a Christian, one a Baha’i – shared so many qualities and characteristics, both physical and spiritual. It is a shame that they never met in this life. However, having shared their passage into the next world, I suspect they will recognise the spiritual beauty of each other now that they are there and become friends.

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wendi

Progress

Consider what a vast difference exists between modern democracy and the old forms of despotism. Under an autocratic government the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. Bahai writings

I have not actually left the planet but I have been away from home rather a lot. My niece Courtney Gundry married Andy Primus at the end of May in Tennessee and the wedding was a real family reunion. The EBBF conference `Living Values’ in Acuto, Italy, was sold out. I’ve had tea with the Duchess of Bedford at Woburn Abbey (lovely woman, very big house!), sped up the M1 to the Multi-Faith Centre at the University of Derby, watched my grandson Dreyfus run the relay and tackle the obstacle course (came in 1st!) at te sports day at St Christopher’s school in Letchworth, served the food at the Community Foundation‘s `foal parade’  and talked about UNIFEM to the Women’s Institute in Sunningdale. We have watched our vegetable garden grow – and have eaten some of the lettuce and radishes and strawberries (giving up some to the slugs). All in all a very pleasant summer so far!

But behind all this are other trends: the deepening economic situation, the near melt-down of the British parliament over members’ expenses, international threats in North Korea and Afghanistan, the apparent end of the Tamil Tigers after a horrifying two decades and the depressing problems that continue in the Middle East. The beautiful wedding I attended was in stark contrast to the wedding of two Baha’is in Iran, whose celebrations were interrupted by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence.

The elections in Iran caught my attention – I am always fascinated by elections – and I was particularly interested in this one because of the situation of the Baha’is there. It was amazing to see crowds of people in the streets, some shouting that the Baha’is in Iran should have their rights, others wanting the liberation of women, still others wanting a change from despotic rule. It seemed a change of heart might occur and the country offer its people, including the Baha’is, a wider range of human rights, although I did not hold out much hope of this. A very high proportion of people came out to vote – much higher than we have seen in recent western elections.

Yet voting alone does not create democracy. In common with other commentators on political processes, the Baha’i International Community has identified `three factors that largely determine the state of governance’: `the quality of leadership, the quality of the governed and the quality of the structures and processes in place’. They point out that `there is an emerging international consensus on the core characteristics of good governance’: `democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency and participation by civil society’. Further, the Baha’i International Community recognises that `Governance must be guided by universal values, including an ethic of service to the common good.’ See the whole of the BIC statement on Valuing Spirituality in Development here.

By this definition, most countries have some way to go before they will attain the state of `good governance’ and democracy. Are we making progress?

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