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Holy Lands: Iran, Baghdad, Israel

We beseech God – exalted be His glory – to grant awareness and insight to the men of wisdom as well as to those who hold in their grasp the reins of  power in Persia, that they may be able to distinguish the right way from the crooked and devious path and may clearly discern the well-wisher from the ill-wisher with a true and genuine sense of discrimination. Baha’i text

Baha’is see the whole world as their home, as Baha’u’llah said: `The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.’ However, certain parts of the world are, for Baha’is, particularly holy or blessed.

One of them is the Iran, still another is Baghdad and yet another is the Holy Land. Today these places are political enemies but for Baha’is they are the holiest places on earth.

Many people know that the founder of the baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, came from Iran. They probably also know that the Baha’is there have been persecuted throughout their whole history. Indeed, Baha’u’llah Himself, as a follower of the Bab and a leader of the Babi community, was tortured and imprisoned and eventually exiled by the Iranian government.

Forced to leave His homeland, Baha’u’llah went to Baghdad, which was then a city in the Ottoman Empire. Here He proclaimed His mission to humanity in 1863. Thus Baghdad also became holy for His followers.

After ten years in Baghdad, and at the instigation of the Iranian government, Baha’u’llah was further banished across the Ottoman lands until He was sent to the prison-city on the western edge of their empire. It was here that Baha’u’llah died, still a prisoner of the Ottomans, in 1892. It was here that He was buried and here that His followers built a shrine around His resting place. This part of the Ottoman Empire thus also became holy for Baha’is, as it was for Muslims and Christians and Jews.

More than half a century later, the state of Israel was created out of the very territory where Baha’u’llah’s shrine, Christian shrines and Muslim holy places were located.

Strange, then, that one of the allegations against the seven Baha’i leaders – the Yaran (Friends) – still imprisoned in Iran is that they are spies for Israel, on the grounds that the Baha’i shrines are there. Yes, they certainly are in Israel – because the Iranians colluded to send Baha’u’llah there.

Today the seven Baha’i prisoners were supposed to go on trial. A request that the trial be deferred because their legal advisors – whom they have not met – were themselves in prison or out of the country was, at the eleventh hour, granted. The trial is now set for 18 October.

The whole situation is so frustrating for Baha’is. Not just the detention of seven innocent people, not just the repeated postponement of their trial, but the whole situation. Baha’is find it so difficult to explain to the Iranian authorities and to some of the Iranian people that they have just got the wrong end of the stick. Baha’is do not hate Iran, they do not wish to see it fail. They love the country and its people, they wish to see it prosper and develop. They wish that its leadership be just, that all its people be free. Baha’is everywhere pray for Iran’s well-being, freedom and peace.

Actually, that is the same prayer Baha’is pray for the whole world.

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