Prisoners of Conscience

prison

An International outcry is being heard, a globally deep concern about the fate of innocent Iranians—basic human rights denied; imprisoned, killed…

Among these abused Iranian citizens are many Bahá’ís—those who would never  protest against their government, jailed for their spiritual beliefs…

It’s one thing to demonstrate in the street against what you feel are improper elections; it’s quite another to be sitting in your home, praying for your government, and have its agents arrest you…

Recently, at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco—where the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights  was signed in 1948—an event was attended by: “Over 1000 attendees, including local dignitaries, government officials, members of the press and Bay Area Bahá’ís and their guests, gathered to support the cause of justice for the community of Iranian Bahá’ís enduring persistent persecution.”

Listen carefully, if you would understand what evils are being perpetrated, to this two-part video presentation by Dr. Farhad Sabetan, spokesperson for the Bahá’í International Community and
Lecturer of Economics at California State University:


Spiritual Quote:

“It is incumbent upon every man, in this Day, to hold fast unto whatsoever will promote the interests, and exalt the station, of all nations and just governments. Through each and every one of the verses which the Pen of the Most High hath revealed, the doors of love and unity have been unlocked and flung open to the face of men. We have erewhile declared—and Our Word is the truth—: ‘Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship’. Whatsoever hath led the children of men to shun one another, and hath caused dissensions and divisions amongst them, hath, through the revelation of these words, been nullified and abolished. From the heaven of God’s Will, and for the purpose of ennobling the world of being and of elevating the minds and souls of men, hath been sent down that which is the most effective instrument for the education of the whole human race.”
Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 94

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Prayers Make History…

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namaz7There is political foment happening in Iran but it’s not my place to comment on purely political happenings…

Yet, the underlying spiritual struggle, the human suffering, the psychological horror, the emotional drama; these I will address…

From a story on Tehran Bureau: An independent source of news on Iran and the Iranian diaspora  entitled, Prayers Make History, I want to quote various passages that set my mind and heart ablaze:

From A First-Hand Account

“As with other such days, I felt a dual sense of fear and fervor, heightened by the uncertainty of whether people would turn out or not. I arranged to go with friends, because the past month’s experiences have taught me that going alone is unsafe. I remembered to put my name and number on a piece of paper in my pocket so if anything happens to me, my family can be notified.”

“They came in all types: hipster with a rainbow-cannabis medallion resting on his open neck, a family with a ten-year-old child, women in that Islamic Iran archetype black chador, scruffy-looking men, laborers, girls in sunglasses, senior citizens.”

“…phenomenal spectacle, a first in the history of Friday Prayers in Iran (and perhaps in a large part of the Muslim world), men and women were not segregated. Thy prayed side by side. This did not appear to offend the religious-minded; they seemed to accept the situation.”

“Personally, as an atheist, I’ve always found it difficult to socialize with the religious masses. For the first time in my life, however, I really enjoyed being among my religious compatriots. I even tried to behave in such a way as to avoid causing them any discomforrt or disrespect.”

“The word online was that protests would start after prayers were over. …I was intoxicated by the boom of thousands of reverberating voices chanting in unison….We pushed forward, a deluge thickened by people spilling in from alleys on either side where they’d been praying. The drone of chanting carried over from other streets and we felt empowered in the knowledge that thousands more were on the move like us.”

“Suddenly, to our shock, they began firing tear gas in rapid succession — six, seven, eight? I don’t know how many hissing shots landed in quick succession in our midst. Panic ensued, as the crowd’s stampede-like retreat was constricted by the density of the crowd and the lack of space to expand into.”

“My eyes and throat and lungs were on fire. As I inhaled more toxic fumes, breathing became laborious. The muscles in my limbs felt numb, lax…People huddled around, and I went forth too, to get black smoke and cigarette smoke in my eyes to counter the effects of the tear gas.”

“The feeling of suffocation grew inside of me. A new awareness suddenly occurred as well: I may die. At that moment, I physically felt the possibility of death. Then I heard voices. I felt hands pulling me up, hands passing me along, and that’s the last thing I remember.”

The story continues, the man recovers, tells of help given him and his helping others, scenes of violence, bravery, human drama…

Spiritual Quote (about the early history of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran):

“Agitations, trials, woes, afflictions, and torture, arson, expulsion, plunder, beating, vilification, captivity, banishment, imprisonment, destruction of life—none of these could hinder the advancement of this beloved Cause, none could weaken the high resolve of its followers and champions in any part of the world, none could damage or disrupt the structure of its New Order, none could create a cleavage, a division, a schism or any form of sectarianism in the ranks of its embattled hosts. Nay rather, were one to observe with a discerning eye, it would become clear and evident that commotion in itself, the very succession of calamities, upheavals and hardships. and the recurrence of trials, adversities and sufferings have lent an impetus to the power latent in the Cause and reinforced its compelling force and pervasive influence. Indeed as a result of the onrushing tempests of tribulation and the raging hurricanes of tests and trials, the Faith’s scope of operation has been enlarged, its pillars have been raised to loftier heights, its foundation has become more secure, its glory more resplendent, the spread of its influence more rapid, its ascendancy and dominion more conspicuous and evident.”
Shoghí Effendí Rabbání, Fire and Light, p. 36

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An Anthem for Iranians

An Anthem for Human Rights in Iran
from The Freedom Glory Project


Spiritual Quote:

“The source of human rights is the endowment of qualities, virtues and powers which God has bestowed upon mankind without discrimination of sex, race, creed or nation. To fulfill the possibilities of this divine endowment is the purpose of human existence.

“Human rights can be established in terms of social status when members of the community realize that the gift of life and conscious being obligates them to meet responsibilities owed to God, to society and to self. Mutual recognition by members of the community of the truth that their lives emanate from one and the same universal Source enables them to maintain ordered relationships in a common social body.

“The social body does not create essential human rights. Its office is that of trustee under appointment to act for the community in the preservation of the relationships which represent the moral achievement of the members, and to cherish and protect that unity of spirit which is their highest mutual obligation.

“No social body, whatever its form, has power to maintain essential human rights for persons who have repudiated their moral obligation and abandoned the divine endowment distinguishing man from beast. Civil definitions of political and economic status, if devoid of moral value and influence, are not equivalent to essential human rights but express the expedients of partisan policy. An ordered society can only be maintained by moral beings.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights

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Why is this woman in jail ?

Haleh RouhiThe Iranian authorities say this woman, “Haleh Rouhi Jahromi, [and her friends and co-workers] Raha Sabet Sarvestani and Sasan Taqva were each sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for ‘organizing illegal groups’ and to an additional one year’s imprisonment for ‘propaganda on behalf of groups that are opposed to the Islamic system’.”

From the site, OneCountry.Org, we have this:

“Accounts that have emerged from Iran tell a far different story. According to Diane Ala’i, a Bahá’í International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, the three were in fact engaged in social service projects that most governments would praise.

“’Far from working against the government, the Bahá’ís who were arrested in May 2006 were engaged in humanitarian projects aimed at helping underprivileged young people in the city of Shiraz,’…”

They continue, “In fact, it was a Muslim friend of one member of the group who suggested that the program be instituted to help school children in Katsbas, a poverty-stricken suburb of Shiraz. The project aimed specifically at tutoring children to help them prepare for their end-of-term school examinations.” The group then “…decided to extend their services to include assisting the children to acquire social and moral skills so that they themselves could become the agents of advancement in their own lives and in the society.” The group decided to go even further and “…organized a weekly program offering art classes to young cancer patients at a hospital for children and youth in Shiraz.”

These activities were considered “organizing illegal groups” and “propaganda on behalf of groups that are opposed to the Islamic system”?

Why in the world…?

Because Haleh and Raha and Sasan are Bahá’ís and the current leadership of Iran hates Bahá’ís…
Haleh Rouhi with 'Abdu'l-Baha
That’s Haleh again and she stands in front of a portrait of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. The quote below is from Him…

Spiritual Quote:

“I now wish you to examine certain facts and statements which are worthy of consideration. My purpose and intention is to remove from the hearts of men the religious enmity and hatred which have fettered them and to bring all religions into agreement and unity. Inasmuch as this hatred and enmity, this bigotry and intolerance are outcomes of misunderstandings, the reality of religious unity will appear when these misunderstandings are dispelled. For the foundation of the divine religions is one foundation. This is the oneness of revelation or teaching. But, alas, we have turned away from that foundation, holding tenaciously to various dogmatic forms and blind imitation of ancestral beliefs. This is the real cause of enmity, hatred and bloodshed in the world—the reason of alienation and estrangement among mankind. Therefore, I wish you to be very just and fair in your judgment…”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 407

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Finding Bibi

finding_bibiI covered this story in two previous posts, Women, Stereotypes, and Truth and Exuberant Emancipation !!!.

Not only is it a forthcoming movie about rational rebelling but it also deals with breaking down the barriers to equality for women.

I recommend you check out one of the previous posts to watch the first trailer; then, return to watch the one in this post—they’re similar but definitely not identical.

Also, check out news about the movement forming around the film and make your voice heard…

Spiritual Quote:

“…there must be an equality of rights between men and women. Women shall receive an equal privilege of education. This will enable them to qualify and progress in all degrees of occupation and accomplishment. For the world of humanity possesses two wings: man and woman. If one wing remains incapable and defective, it will restrict the power of the other, and full flight will be impossible. Therefore, the completeness and perfection of the human world are dependent upon the equal development of these two wings.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 317

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The Search For Truth

I search for news that I can comment on while raising the issues to the level of Principle—reaching the truth by climbing out of the mud…

Most media and almost all politics are miring swamps.

From the Bahá’í World News Service: Iranian media attacks on Baha’is and Nobel Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi seek to stir “irrational fears and prejudices”

From The Huffington Post: The Media’s Problem Of “False Balance” Showing Itself In Electoral Map Analyses

From the Lancaster Eagle Gazette: Candidates taking low road: Dirty politics is never helpful

From the Tampa Tribune: Truth, Please

Often, I find refuge from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in fiction. I am a poet and many would claim that poetry is fiction, along with myth and tradition . . . Contemplate these quotes:

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
Stephen King

My favorite author, C. J. Cherryh, spins beautiful tales, taking media, politics, poetry, fiction, and myth to realms that reveal truth more clearly than most any media or political source available.

Consider these quotes from this multiple award-winning author:

“It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.”

“Deal with the Devil if the Devil has a constituency – and don’t complain about the heat.”

“Trade isn’t about goods. Trade is about information. Goods sit in the warehouse until information moves them.”

“We’re in the hands of lunatics.”
“Of financiers. Far worse”

“The interests of all humans are interlocked…and politics is no more than a temporal expression of social mathematics.”

“Ignorance killed the cat, sir. Curiosity was framed.”

Want to join a community that honors and discusses this author’s work? Travel to the Realm of Shon’jir !

Today’s Spiritual Quote:

“Oh! why will man, the disobedient child of God, who should be an example of the power of the spiritual law, turn his face away from the Divine Teaching and put all his effort into destruction and war?
“My hope is that in this enlightened century the Divine Light of love will shed its radiance over the whole world, seeking out the responsive heart’s intelligence of every human being; that the light of the Sun of Truth will lead politicians to shake off all the claims of prejudice and superstition…”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 150

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Religious Minority in Iran

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image credit


About three weeks ago, I posted a story about the arrest and detainment of the leadership of the Baha’i Faith in Iran. It was published here to highlight the plight of people denied the basic human right of Belief.

Six days ago, the Universal House of Justice, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith, sent a letter to the believers in Iran.

I’m posting it here as an example of how religion can support human rights:

TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN

(Department of the Secretariat)

3 June 2008

To the believers in the Cradle of the Faith

Dear Bahá’í Friends,

Almost three weeks have passed since the recent arrest of the members of the distinguished body termed the “Friends in Iran”. No reliable information regarding their circumstances or whereabouts is available. This lack of news and the fact that these dear ones are deprived of access to their families and to legal counsel to defend their rights are causes of deep concern to the Bahá’ís of the world and to all those who seek justice and equity.

What is a source of comfort to our grief-stricken hearts is the courage and steadfastness you have manifested in the face of this crisis. You continue to discharge your spiritual obligations in unity and resolutely adhere to the Divine Teachings. Relying on heavenly grace, you are exerting efforts to protect and safeguard the interests of the Faith. The support that the press and other mass media have given to the oppressed believers in Iran, the advocacy of their cause undertaken by social activists, and the sympathy voiced by Iranian intellectuals evoke our hope and deep gratitude.

Observe how an increasing number of Iranians, who in honouring their ancient traditions, value human rights, believe that the time has now passed for ignorant prejudices to cause division and discrimination amongst people, and recognize that the true exaltation of the nation of Iran is to be attained through unity in diversity. Rest assured that the Iranian people will exert themselves to fulfil such a vision. How regrettable that a small band of those, their hearts darkened by the clouds of prejudice, have yielded to hatred and animosity, are incapable of comprehending the truth that Bahá’ís have no intention but to serve the world of humanity and to assist in the establishment of a spiritual civilization, attribute to you baseless conspiracies, persecute you for your religious beliefs and practices, and seek to inflict harm upon you. Yet, you recall the counsels of Bahá’u’lláh, Who asserts: “That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race.”

Strive, then, to exemplify these words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “It behoveth the loved ones of the Lord to be the signs and tokens of His universal mercy and the embodiments of His own excelling grace. Like the sun, let them cast their rays upon garden and rubbish heap alike, and even as clouds in spring, let them shed down their rain upon flower and thorn.” Despite the current crisis, pay no heed to oppression and cruelty and, inspired by the Divine Teachings, act in the opposite manner. Focus your thoughts on being a source of good to those around you.

Exert every endeavour to serve your fellow citizens—heirs to a culture rich and humane—who themselves suffer from many an injustice. Avoid all divisiveness and conflict, consort with everyone with kindliness and sincerity, and engage with your compatriots in the discussion of ideas and the exchange of thoughts on matters with which they are anxiously concerned. Ignite in their hearts the flame of hope, faith, and assurance in Iran’s glorious future and in the bright destiny of humankind which you well know is sure to come to pass.

We supplicate in the Holy Shrines for the protection of the believers in the Cradle of the Faith.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]