Some Things Bear Repeating . . .

 unity

Spiritual Quote:

“O thou revered maidservant of God! Thy letter from Los Angeles was received. Thank divine Providence that thou hast been assisted in service and hast been the cause of the promulgation of the oneness of the world of humanity, so that the darkness of differences among men may be dissipated, and the pavilion of the unity of nations may cast its shadow over all regions. Without such unity, rest and comfort, peace and universal reconciliation are unachievable. This illumined century needeth and calleth for its fulfilment. In every century a particular and central theme is, in accordance with the requirements of that century, confirmed by God. In this illumined age that which is confirmed is the oneness of the world of humanity. Every soul who serveth this oneness will undoubtedly be assisted and confirmed.

“I hope that in the assemblies thou mayest sing praises with a sweet melody and thus become the cause of joy and gladness to all.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 113

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Law and Terror

law_terrorWhat good is government?

Why do people need government?

How much government is too much government?

Take those three questions to your favorite hangout and you can guarantee at least spirited discussion, if not an actual fight…

As humanity has evolved through the stages of Family, Tribe, City-State, and Nation, various forms of government have been organized. Some worked, some didn’t. Some helped people, some oppressed people.

The United States recently elected a new head of state, Barack Hussein Obama. Many hailed his inauguration as a new force in America and the world. Many are troubled by what he stands for.

I certainly don’t envy his position of power, the problems associated with the day to day administration of a government that must deal, in some way, with terrorist groups or movements; especially for anyone with what appear to be Obama’s beliefs.

People criticize him for his stance on “engagement” rather than acting from advantage, his apparent desire to induce the unity of contending parties, his relative inexperience in the harsh world of Washington politics.

I can only hope he has some chance to make some of the changes that some of his words seem to portent. I want to see the world unified. I don’t want my grandchild to live in a squandered or terrorized world. I don’t want my grandchild’s grandchildren to have no civilization at all, no government organizations or protections.

Mr. Obama recently gave a speech to the members of the CIA. It’s rather remarkable when compared with the attitude of the last American administration. I pray he means what he says and I pray he can influence the powers that be to create what he envisions in this video:

Spiritual Quote:

“The realization of human rights does not involve only action by the government or freedom from unjust government interference or oppression; rather it requires the construction of a progressive social order from the ground level upwards. It demands a new awareness of the reality of human unity and the development among all peoples of an all inclusive notion of community that extends from the family, to villages, towns, cities and localities, to nations, and, most importantly, to the boundaries of the planet itself. Moreover, given that rights cannot exist without corresponding responsibilities, each member of a community has a responsibility to uphold the rights of the other members based on a recognition of their unity and interdependence.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb, Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms

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Why should You care?

cyrus_the_greatWhy should you care that seven innocent people are languishing in prison in Iran with no access to legal counsel?

Well, even if they were guilty, the lack of access to their lawyer—Shirin Ebadi—is criminal. The image on the left is of Cyrus the Great. The following is from Wikipedia :

On December 10, 2003, in her acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Shirin Ebadi evoked Cyrus, saying:
“I am an Iranian, a descendant of Cyrus the Great. This emperor proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2,500 years ago that he ‘would not reign over the people if they did not wish it.’ He promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus the Great should be studied in the history of human rights.”

Why should you care if the prime reason for these people’s incarceration is that they hold a belief in the Bahá’í Faith?

Well, jailing someone for their beliefs is an attempt to induce mind control through force.

Nader Saiedi has written a scholarly yet scathing article called Forgetting They Are Human. In that article (which goes into great depth on the psychology of the people who would use force to control thoughts), he says:

“It is now thirty years that the Islamic regime has been engaged in a brutal, systematic and organized persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. This religious sadism, however, has recently been much more intensified. The Islamic Republic forces elementary school teachers to publicly humiliate the Baha’i children, and with utter inhumanity to insult their religion. This is one of the manifestations of their brand of ‘Islamic Justice’ whose like is rarely seen even among the most despotic and racist contemporary regimes of the world. The reactionaries, led in this ‘holy war’ against these children by the leaders of the Hojjatiyeh Association [a secret anti-Baha’i society], have opened up new chapters in the annals of courage and humanity. These brave warriors are not content with just harassing children, instead they systematically attack the organized lines of Baha’i corpses in cemeteries, and after bravely defeating the dead, burn their remaining bodies.”

Why should you care about this if you don’t live in Iran?

Well, there’s that concept gaining increasing acceptance—the one that stresses our common humanity—that holds us to the high standard of protecting any  human who is dealt with unjustly.

Why should you care, even if you wished they weren’t being treated badly, when you might feel it to be impossible for you to do anything to protect them?

Because you can  do something to protect them…

You can pray for them.

If you don’t believe in prayer, have the courtesy and maturity to respect those who do believe in it.

From an open letter entitled, We Are Ashamed, from a group of more than 200 prominent academics, writers, artists, journalists and Iranian activists throughout the world to the Baha’i community come these words:

“In the name of goodness and beauty, and in the name of humanity and liberty!

“As Iranian human beings, we are ashamed for what has been perpetrated upon the Bahá’ís in the last century and a half in Iran.
We firmly believe that every Iranian, ‘without distinction of any kind, such as, race, color, sex, language, religion, politics or other opinions’, and also without regard to ethnic background, ‘social origin, property, birth or other status’, is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, from the very inception of the Bahá’í Faith, the followers of this religion in Iran have been deprived of many provisions of human rights solely on account of their religious convictions.”

Why should you care about these Bahá’ís if you’re a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or member of any other Faith?

Well, true religion upholds justice and instills unity.

Spiritual Quote:

“All the divine Manifestations have proclaimed the oneness of God and the unity of mankind. They have taught that men should love and mutually help each other in order that they might progress. Now if this conception of religion be true, its essential principle is the oneness of humanity. The fundamental truth of the Manifestations is peace. This underlies all religion, all justice. The divine purpose is that men should live in unity, concord and agreement and should love one another. Consider the virtues of the human world and realize that the oneness of humanity is the primary foundation of them all. Read the Gospel and the other holy books. You will find their fundamentals are one and the same. Therefore unity is the essential truth of religion and when so understood embraces all the virtues of the human world. Praise be to God! this knowledge has been spread, eyes have been opened and ears have become attentive. Therefore we must endeavor to promulgate and practice the religion of God which has been founded by all the prophets. And the religion of God is absolute love and unity.
Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í World Faith

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Religious Persecution

religious_persecutionOur last post brought attention to the plight of seven Bahá’ís in Iran—arrested and held for eight months with no access to legal counsel and scheduled for trial this week on charges of  “…espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic”.

Similarly baseless charges are being leveled against Christians, Jews, Sufis, and many others.

There has been global and swift reaction to this gross example of religious persecution of the Bahá’ís from governments, groups, and individuals.

From a Resolution of the U.S. Congress to strong individual coverage of the situation, people are rallying to aid their fellow humans.

One reason the Bahá’ís are deeply troubled about their incarcerated Friends is a hauntingly similar situation in 1983 when a girl of 16 named, Mona, was hanged with nine other young women—just for being Bahá’ís…

monasstory_picMona

Would that we All  could help in some way to end All 
religious persecution…

Spiritual Quote:

Legislation can and does suppress both acts of religious persecution and the attitude of religious intolerance itself. As Mr. Arcot Krishnaswami indicates in his Study of Discrimination in the Matter of Religious Rights and Practices , “Individuals are inclined to consider wrong what the law prohibits, and right what it enjoins them to do” (p. 63). However, to eradicate religious intolerance at its root, legislation must be supported by education, beginning in primary school.

“Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion,” says Bahá’u’lláh, “so that the promise and the threat, recorded in the Books of God, may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh , 68). Religious education should teach children to manifest the nobility with which they were endowed by a loving God. It should encourage them to cultivate in their own character such divine attributes as compassion, tolerance, justice, righteousness, loyalty, truthfulness, wisdom, and humility. Children who learn to see in all religions the signs of the one Creator, will consider all religions part of a common human heritage, worthy not only of respect but of careful study.

The study of the history and culture, if based on the premise of the oneness of humanity, should lead to a growing appreciation of the diverse religious traditions. This appreciation will be strengthened by interaction with people of different faiths, if the purpose is to promote unity. An everyday familiarity with people of different backgrounds will help each individual to lift the veil of cultural difference and see beneath it the shared humanity of all the peoples of the world. “O people! consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship,” Bahá’u’lláh commands His followers (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh , 22). “Consorting with people hath promoted and will continue to promote unity and concord” (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh , 36).
Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Jan 10, Promoting Religious Tolerance

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Repression . . .

bahai_martyrs

These are dangerous people?


…a developmental psychologist.
…a once-successful factory owner.
…an industrialist.
…an agricultural engineer.
…a teacher and school principal.
…a former social worker.
…an optometrist.


What do they have in common?

They’re members of the same Faith, they’ve been in prison for many months, and they’re going to trial next week with no access to legal counsel.

The charges?

“…espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic”.

What country is this occurring in?

Iran.

Statements by U.S. Government and NGOs

State Department condemns Iranian government’s charges against Baha’is
February 13, 2009

USCIRF calls for justice for Baha’i prisoners in Iran
Statement from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

Congressional Record – February 11, 2009
Representative Frank R. Wolf expressed concern over the upcoming trial of the seven Baha’i leaders

Amnesty International Urgent Action
Amnesty International has launched an urgent action update exclusively devoted to the latest news about the Baha’i leaders in Iran.

Institute condemns charges and upcoming trial against the Baha’i leaders in Iran 
The Institute for Religion and Public Policy issued this statement on February 12, 2009

Baha’i “Spying” Case Strikes New Blow Against Religious Freedom in Iran
Freedom House strongly condemns the Iranian government’s decision to try 7 Baha’is next week

 

Media Coverage

February 12, 2009
World Briefing – Middle East – Iran – 7 Bahais to Face Trial
The New York Times

Baha’i Leaders In Iran Charged With Spying For Israel
RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Czech Republic

Iran Announces Trial of Baha’i Leadership
7thSpace Interactive

Baha’i Leaders In Iran Charged With Spying For Israel
Payvand, Iran

February 11, 2009

Iran to try Bahais for spying for Israel

Agence France Presse – AFP

Iran charges 7 members of Baha’i faith with spying for Israel
Ha’aretz, Israel

Iran vows to try 7 Baha’i leaders as spies
Times Colonist, Canada

Obama’s Two Iran Tests 
Michael Rubin in the corner of The National Review Online

Iran to try Bahais for spying for Israel
Human Rights Tribune, Switzerland

Iran to try seven Baha’is for “spying” for Israel
IranVNC, DC


The official response from the
Bahá’í International Community


Religious Freedom? Human Rights? Equity and Justice?

All these will be on trial with these seven persecuted people . . .

Spiritual Quote:

Statement to the forty-fourth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Agenda item 23: Implementation of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

Geneva, Switzerland
17 February 1988

* * * * * * * * *

“All religions teach that we should love one another; that we should seek out our own shortcomings before we presume to condemn the faults of others; that we must not consider ourselves superior to our neighbors.”

If all people were to follow these norms, as described in the passage we have just quoted from the Bahá’í writings, religious intolerance would cease to be a blot on human affairs. The ideals of the 1981 Declaration would become a reality for the suffering victims of religious persecution.

The Bahá’í International Community believes that binding international norms protecting human rights are of great importance. We are therefore following with great interest the recent discussions in the Sub-Commission and the Commission on the possible elaboration of a binding international instrument dealing with freedom of religion or belief, inspired by the recommendations contained in Mrs. Odio Benito’s excellent study. We are convinced, however, that in this delicate process it is important not to lose sight of the standards already spelled out in the 1981 Declaration. As the Commission’s Special Rapporteur, Dr. Ribeiro, indicated in his report presented last year, these standards can be understood as moral guidelines to those states which voted in favor of the Declaration in 1981.

We also believe that it is useful to focus attention on contemporary manifestations of religious intolerance. We have therefore studied with interest Dr. Ribeiro’s latest report, hope that his mandate will once again be renewed by the Commission, and wish to underline the importance of forging a broad and non-partisan consensus on the elimination of religious intolerance.

While Dr. Ribeiro has chosen to focus on allegations of violations of religious freedom in seven countries, it is important to bear in mind that many countries suffer from the pernicious influence of religious intolerance. Efforts to implement the 1981 Declaration, and to formulate an eventual convention, must be guided by an appreciation for the universal nature of the problem.

In the Bahá’í view, a crucial means for implementing the 1981 Declaration is the development of tolerance among individuals and the abolition of religious exclusivity and fanaticism. Dr. Ribeiro has rightly pointed out that intransigent attitudes, the claim of religious believers to an absolute and exclusive hold on truth, and the denial of the right of everyone to be different are root causes of religious discrimination.

Indeed, human beings have a tendency to view their own beliefs as right, and all others as wrong. They have, we suggest, erroneously interpreted the tenets of their own faiths as advocating such exclusivity, and sometimes as giving them the right to persecute others under the banner of upholding their version of truth. The Bahá’í writings admonish humankind to abandon such intolerant attitudes and replace them with mutual respect and forbearance.

How can religious dogmatism be banished from human minds and hearts? In the first place, we believe that all the world’s major religions have proceeded from the same Source, worshipped alike by Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew and Moslem, as well as members of other religions. The core teachings of every religion—for example, the teaching to love one’s neighbor—are essentially the same, and we submit that they reflect one universal truth.

Understanding of this point will enable each individual, whatever his or her religion, to view other religions with due respect. This perspective fosters tolerance among people of various beliefs, despite the differences that may exist in their outward religious practices. For this reason, we welcome Dr. Ribeiro’s suggestion that interreligious dialogue should be fostered and that such discussions should aim at “emphasizing the similarities among various religions and beliefs rather than their differences.”

While believing, as part of our faith, that all the great religions are united in the fundamental principles that they espouse, the Bahá’í writings advocate the moral obligation of everyone to search for truth independently. Religions and beliefs must never be forced on people. Instead, the Bahá’í writings indicate that each individual should utilize his own powers of intellect, reason and spirit to search for truth.

The principle of independent search after truth can help to heal the wounds inflicted by intolerance in at least two important ways. On the one hand, it induces each individual to act humbly towards others, instead of with an air of superiority, and to respect their right to choose beliefs of their own as a result of their own quest for truth.

On the other hand, we believe that, if people are permitted to question the dogmas handed down over generations, and to seek truth using their own faculties of perception, they will develop a genuine appreciation for religious tolerance.

We therefore welcome initiatives designed to increase respect for different beliefs and understanding among religions. This is why, for example, the Bahá’í International Community has actively participated, along with other non-governmental organizations, in making plans for a Second International Conference on Tolerance for Diversity of Religion or Belief, scheduled to be held in Warsaw, Poland in 1989.
Bahá’í International Community, 1987 Mar 03, Eliminating Religious Intolerance

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Gaza, Israel, and Justice

You can read all our Gaza posts heregaza_israel_justice

Aaron and Julia at the Café


A: You’re totally mad !

J: Why, thank you, sir. It’s been said that to be crazy in an insane world is healthy…

A: The world sure is acting insane but a world government? Let’s just make the elite class even stronger and all become slaves.

J: I’m not talking about a dictatorial government; more like one that the whole human family elects. Just look at Gaza and Israel and the United States and Egypt and a few others. All those people in all those governments talking about justice and the citizens still suffer. The balance of world powers is off and trying to regain equilibrium by violence or embargoes or political fiat won’t ever make the scales come even.

A: Big dreams sweetie but nobody will ever be ethical enough to run a world government and the people won’t ever be smart enough to participate in a global election process.

~~~~~~~~~
Aaron and Julia talked for another hour and didn’t come to an agreement…
~~~~~~~~~

Outside my imaginary café people are saying very similar things and it’s fairly obvious the balance of global power is off-kilter and the citizens of many countries are steaming mad.

Consider the following news items:

From Al Jazeera: Fear and trauma in Gaza’s schools – An article about the adjustments in Gaza’s youthful population

From Bloomberg: Americans Sympathetic Toward Israel on Gaza in Poll – Opinion from the other side of the Big Pond

From The New York Times: The Bullets in My In-Box – A reporter discusses how he tries to maintain a balance within a highly polarized situation

The Gaza Conflict is just the latest in what seems to be an upward spiral of violent conflict and contention. It seems clear to me that the current systems of governance are not bringing us closer to global, or even local, peace.

What if there could  be an organization of human affairs that included all, enslaved none, and truly set the human spirit free?

The Bahá’ís say they’re working toward that dream and that their Universal House of Justice (which happens to be in the country of Israel) is the most important human step yet taken to lead to global peace.

By way of introduction to my Spiritual Quote for this post, I’ll let a Bahá’í poet have her say:

Look to Haifa, all Israel;
~~Look to Israel, Haifa, from Mount Carmel.

Look to Israel, all people;
~~Look to all people, Israel, from The Universal House of Justice on the holy mountain.

Look to the House of Justice, all lands and earth;
~~Look, lands homeless, hopeless, to the hope of justice in the house of man.

Susan Marie Le Mar, PsalmSpeak

Spiritual Quote:

“The physical unification of the planet in our time and the awakening aspirations of the mass of its inhabitants have at last produced the conditions that permit achievement of the ideal, although in a manner far different from that imagined by imperial dreamers of the past. To this effort the governments of the world have contributed the founding of the United Nations Organization, with all its great blessings, all its regrettable shortcomings.

“Somewhere ahead lie the further great changes that will eventually impel acceptance of the principle of world government itself. The United Nations does not possess such a mandate, nor is there anything in the current discourse of political leaders that seriously envisions so radical a restructuring of the administration of the affairs of the planet. That it will come about in due course Bahá’u’lláh has made unmistakably clear. That yet greater suffering and disillusionment will be required to impel humanity to this great leap forward appears, alas, equally clear. Its establishment will require national governments and other centres of power to surrender to international determination, unconditionally and irreversibly, the full measure of overriding authority implicit in the word ‘government’.

“This is the context in which Bahá’ís must strive to appreciate the unique victory that the Cause won in 1963, and which has consolidated itself over the years since then. A full understanding of its meaning is beyond the reach of the present and perhaps of the next several generations of believers. To the extent that a Bahá’í does grasp it, he or she will hold nothing back in a determination to serve its unfolding purpose.

“The process leading to the election of the Universal House of Justice—made possible by the successful completion of the three initial stages of the Master’s Divine Plan under the leadership of Shoghi Effendi—very likely constituted history’s first global democratic election. Each of the successive elections since then has been carried out by an ever broader and more diverse body of the community’s chosen delegates, a development that has now reached the point that it incontestably represents the will of a cross-section of the entire human race. There is nothing in existence—nothing indeed envisioned by any group of people—that in any way resembles this achievement.

“When one considers, further, the spiritual atmosphere that pervades Bahá’í elections and the principled conduct called for in even their simplest operations, one is humbled by a much greater awareness. In the raising up of the supreme governing institution of our Faith, one is witnessing a striving to the utmost of human capacity to win the good pleasure of God, a united and ardent determination that nothing whatever, in either cultural conditioning or the promptings of personal desire, should be allowed to stain the purity of this ultimate collective act.”
Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 92

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Hate, Love, and Religion

More posts on the Gaza situation here…
religion_hate_love

Jill & Olivia at the Café
after two months of not seeing each other


J: So, you signed-up, eh?

O: I became a member, yes…

J: It’s a real religion?

O: Yeah, a world religion.

J: I can’t imagine you in some organization that tells you what you can and can’t do.

O: Well, there are  spiritual laws but there’s nothing that isn’t just good common sense—well, common sense without a materialistic focus—maybe, good spiritual common sense…

J: hmmm… What’s the hardest thing about following all those laws?

O: Funny you should ask; well, not funny for you but just yesterday I had my first real spiritual test…

J: Do tell!

O: Well… it was about the situation in Gaza. I was talking to an Israeli and a Palestinian and they both kept referring to each other as monsters and terrorists and I got pretty worked up and almost started an argument but I remembered that I should treat everyone with kindness so I asked them if they thought any  Palestinians and Israelis were good people…

J: Yeah… So?

O: They both got real quiet and then got up and walked off.

J: How was that a test?

O: ‘Cause, while they were ranting about how evil the Palestinians and Israelis were, I was getting pretty mad and when I remembered a quote from the Scripture, “…should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them…”, I calmed right down and asked about the possiblity of good Palestinians and Israelis.

J: I still don’t understand the test part…

O: I wanted to slap them for what they’d been saying, pretty war-like for me, but I decided to be fair to them, benefit of the doubt and all, and asked about the possibility of good people on both sides. If I’d slapped them, even with my words, we would have been “at war”; but, maybe what I said will make them think and be more fair to each other…

~~~~~~~~~
Jill and Olivia talked for two more hours and explored some of Olivia’s new Scripture…

Here’s what they talked about:

Spiritual Quote:

“O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God’s grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections, the light whereof may shine upon everyone. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and all beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.

“Wherefore, O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha [Light, Splendor], that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourselves, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Will and Testament, p. 14

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