18 Tir = 9 July

Cyrus the GreatThe image is of Cyrus the Great, an ancient ruler of Persia—modern-day Iran.

“It is said that, in universal history the role of the Achaemenid empire founded by Cyrus lies in its very successful model for centralized administration and establishing a government working to the advantage and profit of its subjects…”

This year, 18 Tir in Iran
(9 July in the Gregorian calendar) is said to be planned to be a day for major protest.

From Tehran Bureau : “As the atmosphere in Iran continues to thicken, with the number of arrests rising daily, and several hangings (reportedly on the charge of having been involved in protests), everyone is looking towards the anniversary of the 1999 student uprising at Tehran University on 18th Tir (9 July). Exactly ten years ago, the students of Tehran University began to protest against the regime’s policy on social freedoms. In reply, scores of Basij militia raided the university halls of residence with the sole aim of extinguishing the protest, beating students, throwing tear gas, throwing people from the third floor windows shouting ‘Ya Zahra’, and causing several deaths including Ezzat Ebrahim Nezhad who, much like Neda, became a symbol of injustice.”

[important update (9 July): unrest continues…]

Video Update:

Here’s another video… Notice the prominence of women…

Also on July 9th, the Bahá’ís of non-Middle Eastern countries will hold memorials for the Martyrdom of the Báb—a profound Holy Day. For members of the Bahá’í Faith in Iran (the country’s largest religious minority), who are being viciously persecuted, the Martyrdom of the Báb is observed this year on August 20th, due to Lunar Calendar reckoning. The Iranian Bahá’ís will most likely hold their memorial services in secret…

From Planet Bahá’í : “The Martyrdom of the Báb took place on July 9, 1850 at noon. An event with no parallel in history save the crucifixion of Jesus, it is commemorated as a solemn Holy Day by Bahá’ís around the world.”

I would love to be able to walk the streets of Iran on that day, when citizens march for their rights, Iranian Bahá’ís pray for their fellow citizens’ safety, and Bahá’ís in other countries pray for all Iranians…

Spiritual Quote:

“Thus, after the martyrdom of the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh appeared. The government arose against Him. The priesthood in Persia opposed Him, subjecting Him to severe persecution. His possessions were confiscated, His relatives and friends were killed, and He was placed in a dungeon. For a long period He was imprisoned, chained and subjected to severest suffering. Afterward, He was exiled to Iraq, or Mesopotamia, from thence to Constantinople, then transferred to Adrianople and finally to ‘Akká in Syria. He spent twenty-four years in the prison of ‘Akká, where He underwent the severest ordeals and privations without a day or night of relaxation and repose. Notwithstanding this imprisonment and suffering, He manifested utmost spiritual power and majesty. Although imprisoned, He withstood two tyrant kings and eventually overcame both.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 371

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Religion & Human Rights

religious_persecution

Two Prickly Folks At The Café

PF1: “How can you say that? God intended for His servants to worship him through well-trained and devoted ministers—people called to His service and anointed with His power!”

PF2: “Bull!  You think God cares about the kind of ministers you have? Bigoted, servile automatons is what they are!!

PF1: “Well, I’d rather listen to one of my ministers than one of your so-called ‘priests’—just a bunch of puny excuses for real  men—

~~~~~~~~~
Your humble observer quickly left the Café before a fist-fight broke out…
~~~~~~~~~

That imaginary “conversation” isn’t all that different from real ones I’ve heard. People displaying highly irreligious attitudes as they fight like animals over what they claim is the “True Faith”.

This kind of religious intolerance can quickly lead to actual violence and, if sanctioned by powerful organizations or governments, roll right downhill into flagrant and physical persecution of whole groups of our human family.

From the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom:

Countries of Particular Concern:

Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam

Lest someone think that concerning themselves with religious freedom is of low value, remember: losing one freedom erodes the security of other freedoms…

International Conventions that need global support:

International Religious Freedom Act of 1998
“The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom shall have as its primary responsibility the annual and ongoing review of the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom and the making of policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress with respect to matters involving international religious freedom.”

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice, and teaching.”

From The Guardian:
“Religious persecution can never be excused, but its causes can be explained. The haunting fear of hidden, unexpected revolution drives every dictator, sooner or later, to savage attacks on those he fears most and understands least. Dictators who claim dominion over a man’s mind as well as his body, whose regimes are based on tyranny and their people’s ignorance of the outside world, are wont to attack religious leaders, who must, at all costs, be discredited.”

Spiritual Quote:

“The activity most intimately linked to the consciousness that distinguishes human nature is the individual’s exploration of reality for himself or herself. The freedom to investigate the purpose of existence and to develop the endowments of human nature that make it achievable requires protection. Human beings must be free to know. That such freedom is often abused and such abuse grossly encouraged by features of contemporary society does not detract in any degree from the validity of the impulse itself.

“It is this distinguishing impulse of human consciousness that provides the moral imperative for the enunciation of many of the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration and the related Covenants. Universal education, freedom of movement, access to information, and the opportunity to participate in political life are all aspects of its operation that require explicit guarantee by the international community. The same is true of freedom of thought and belief, including religious liberty, along with the right to hold opinions and express these opinions appropriately.

“Since the body of humankind is one and indivisible, each member of the race is born into the world as a trust of the whole. This trusteeship constitutes the moral foundation of most of the other rights — principally economic and social — which the instruments of the United Nations are attempting similarly to define. The security of the family and the home, the ownership of property, and the right to privacy are all implied in such a trusteeship. The obligations on the part of the community extend to the provision of employment, mental and physical health care, social security, fair wages, rest and recreation, and a host of other reasonable expectations on the part of the individual members of society.”
Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Mar 03, The Prosperity of Humankind, Section II

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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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