UN resolution calls for end to Iran’s rights violations against Baha’is

Secretariat Building at United Nations HeadquartersUNITED NATIONS — The United Nations General Assembly has called on Iranian authorities to end ongoing human rights violations against the Baha’is in Iran.

A resolution, adopted Thursday by a vote of 85 to 30, with 68 abstentions, expressed “serious concern regarding ongoing severe limitations and restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.”

The United States and Canada voted to support the resolution, Mexico abstained from voting.

The international community noted in the resolution Iran’s attacks on Baha’i places of worship and cemeteries and “other human rights violations, including harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of access to education and incitement to hatred that leads to violence against persons belonging to recognized and unrecognized religious minorities.”

Tens of thousands of Baha’is experience educational, economic, and cultural persecution on a daily basis for merely practicing their faith. At present, more than 70 Baha’is remain imprisoned in Iran for their beliefs.

Baha’is in Iran also experience incitement to hatred and attacks. This photo shows a graffiti marking from a cemetery in Hamadan saying, “death with most severe torture.”

Baha’is in Iran also experience incitement to hatred and attacks. This photo shows a graffiti marking from a cemetery in Hamadan saying, “death with most severe torture.”

SLIDESHOW

“It is hoped that this resolution sends a strong message to the Iranian authorities that ongoing violations against the Baha’i community will not go unnoticed,” said Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community’s United Nations Office. “Any form of discrimination against religious minorities for merely practicing their faith is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The resolution also calls on the Iranian government to release from prison Afif Naeimi, a member of the former group known as the Yaran, which tended to the basic spiritual and material needs of the Iranian Baha’i community. The other six members of the former ad-hoc group were released over the past year after serving 10-year prison sentences given through a legal procedure that lacked any semblance of due process.

The resolution was sponsored by Canada and had 34 co-sponsors.

The long history of the state-sponsored persecution of the Baha’is in Iran is well documented. The Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website compiles thousands of official documents, reports, testimonials, photos, and videos revealing irrefutable proof of relentless persecution. The October 2016 report “The Baha’i Question Revisited: Persecution and Resilience in Iran” also describes the Iranian government’s systematic persecution of the Baha’is.

Baha’i Most Holy Book published in Cebuano

 

A translation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in Cebuano, the second-most widely spread native language in the Philippines, was published last month.
A translation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in Cebuano, the second-most widely spread native language in the Philippines, was published last month.

 

MANILA, Philippines — Gil Tabucanon remembers being a boy, sitting beside his grandmother and listening to her read the Bible in their native Cebuano language.

“I loved the music of the Cebuano Bible. It was ingrained in me as a little boy. The melodies were in me,” Dr. Tabucanon says, describing the tonality of his mother tongue, spoken by about 20 million people in the central Philippines. “I wanted to do that for the Kitab-i-Aqdas.”

After more than a decade of effort, Dr. Tabucanon completed his translation of the Most Holy Book of the Baha’i Faith, which was published last month by the Philippines Baha’i Publishing Trust. This translation makes available to an entire population Baha’u’llah’s book of laws, first penned in Arabic about 1873 while he was still imprisoned within the city of ‘Akka. The Kitab-i-Aqdas was also translated into the Philippines’ most widely spoken language, Tagalog, in 2003.

“Reading or hearing the Word of God in one’s mother tongue touches heartstrings that are only accessible in that language,” explains Adore Newman, the secretary of the Philippines’ National Spiritual Assembly. “This is another bounty of a beautiful translation, to be connected to the Manifestation of God on such a profoundly heartfelt level.”

The Universal House of Justice has written in the introduction to the Kitab-i-Aqdas: “Of the more than one hundred volumes comprising the sacred Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, the Kitab-i-Aqdas is of unique importance. ‘To build anew the whole world’ is the claim and challenge of His Message, and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the Charter of the future world civilization that Bahá’u’lláh has come to raise up.”

Baha’u’llah revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas in this room in the house of Udi Khammar, where he was confined in Akka about 1873. This photo shows the room during the 1990s.

Baha’u’llah revealed the Kitab-i-Aqdas in this room in the house of Udi Khammar, where he was confined in Akka about 1873. This photo shows the room during the 1990s.


Although Baha’u’llah’s writings are in both Arabic and Persian, Baha’u’llah used Arabic in those texts where precise meaning was required for the articulation of principles and laws. Baha’u’llah also employed in the Most Holy Book a beautiful prose with elements of poetry, such as rhythm, metaphor, and personification. Shoghi Effendi rendered about a third of the text into English, providing a model for the final English publication. The House of Justice explains that the translation of the remaining text strove for three qualities: “accuracy of meaning, beauty of English, and conformity of style with that used by Shoghi Effendi.”

“[T]he Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the Charter of the future world civilization that Bahá’u’lláh has come to raise up.”

—the Universal House of Justice

In 1992, the first authorized translation of the Kitab-i-Aqdas was published, making it available in English. Writing shortly afterward, Suheil Bushrui explained in his book The style of the Kitab-i-Aqdas: Aspects of the Sublime: “It is now the task of translators in different countries around the world to render the Kitab-i-Aqdas into their own native tongues, basing their renderings upon the authorized English translation but referring as needed to the text of the original. The special difficulties encountered by the English translators are no less likely to pose a challenge to these other translators. Their daunting task is to convey in a foreign language the unique qualities of a book concerned not only with mapping out a new way of life for the individual and society, but with bringing about a future state of ‘true understanding in a spirit of love and tolerance’ throughout the world,”.

Dr. Tabucanon was a young man when he embraced the teachings of Baha’u’llah. A lawyer by profession, he began translating the Baha’i sacred texts into Cebuano with a small book of prayers before working on The Hidden Words, Baha’u’llah’s principal ethical text. In 1999, he translated a compilation of prayers and writings used for the Nineteen Day Feast. He completed the Kitab-i-Aqdas after three attempts, starting from the beginning each time: first in 2004, then in 2009, and finally in 2014.

Translating from English, Dr. Tabucanon found it challenging to ensure the text utilizes the tonality and onomatopoeic nature of Cebuano.

“Translation is not about a one-to-one correspondence from English to Cebuano. There has to be both faithfulness to the original language and the musicality of the vernacular,” he notes. “I learned that as a boy, from my grandmother.”

Probing violent radicalization

MADRID, Spain — The rise of violent radicalization has sparked a sense of urgency in and across many societies. In Spain, where radicalization has become a growing concern, the Baha’i community has sought to contribute meaningfully to the prevalent thinking about this vexing issue.

In addition to approaches that seek to address radicalization at the level of policies, security measures, and technological interventions, there is a need for a deeper, evolving understanding of religion and its constructive role in society today. Representatives of Spain’s Baha’i community underscored this point in a recent high-level exploration of the causes of and responses to violent radicalization. At the core of faith, they argued, is the recognition of our profound oneness.

Co-organized by Spain’s Baha’i community, a conference on 26 October brought together some 70 people—among them officials from Spain’s military and intelligence agencies, other government representatives, academics, journalists, and activists—in a dynamic exploration of this topical subject.

The discussions touched on concepts vital to responding to radicalization: the need for widespread consultative processes that build common understanding among the diverse segments of society; a due regard for the insights of both science and humanity’s great spiritual traditions; the delegitimization of violence as a response to oppression; the effective integration of newcomers; the liberating power of education; and the opportunity for all people to participate in the life of society.

“These are fundamental elements in efforts to overcome violent radicalization, especially when it is religiously motivated,” noted Sergio Garcia, the director of the Spanish Baha’i community’s Office of Public Affairs. Central to efforts to eradicate radicalization is an understanding of religion that allows for its constructive powers to be realized, he argued.

More than 70 people attended a daylong seminar about radicalization, organized by the Baha’i community of Spain in collaboration with several other organizations. The seminar was held on 26 October at the Center of University Studies associated with the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

More than 70 people attended a daylong seminar about radicalization, organized by the Baha’i community of Spain in collaboration with several other organizations. The seminar was held on 26 October at the Center of University Studies associated with the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

SLIDESHOW

Spain’s Baha’i community has been participating in a growing discourse on the role of religion in society, in which radicalization has been an important topic. The daylong seminar at the Center of University Studies associated with the King Juan Carlos University in Madrid was the first in a series aiming to advance understanding about the causes of and responses to religious radicalization.

In the seminar, speakers noted how radicalization is a gradual process that manifests both in a person’s thoughts and actions. Religion has often been misused as a powerful force for directing motivation toward destructive ends, speakers noted.

“In exploring the connection between religion and violent radicalization, it is important to look honestly and objectively at the way religion has been manipulated to give impetus to this phenomenon,” said Leila Sant from the Baha’i Office of Public Affairs in Spain. Ms. Sant highlighted the need for a more robust conversation about religion.

“Despite the abuse of religion today and throughout history, there is no other phenomenon that reaches into such depths of motivation and inspires human beings to dedicate themselves to a higher cause,” said Dr. Garcia. “It is ultimately the power latent in religion that can transform anger and hatred into love and respect for the inherent dignity of others. The Baha’i writings teach that religion has an essential role in overcoming religious fanaticism, which is described as ‘a world-devouring fire.’”

“Once the religious dimension of radicalization is understood,” explained Dr. Garcia, “then it can be addressed from other social, political, and economic angles such as identity, strategy, political aims, and nationality.”

According to Ms. Sant, the event was a success not only because of the rich ideas that were shared. “This was not a space where people came, gave speeches, and then left. It was a space where a dialogue unfolded and everyone’s understanding advanced together.”

Interfaith Mission Service: An Open Letter to Our Jewish Partners and Our Community at Large

The congregations that form the Interfaith Mission Service (IMS) extend their heart-felt condolences to our local Jewish community, and beyond.  We stand with you in solidarity as we condemn all acts of hatred and violence, especially the rampage against the innocent worshipers at the Tree of Life Synagogue, the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.  We join our Jewish brothers and sisters in their grief.

At the formation of IMS, nearly half a century ago, Rabbi Eisenstat of Temple B’nai Sholom was a founding contributor to the melting pot of ideas and actions that now shape IMS.  Since that time, members of the Jewish community have continued as stalwart partners — always with the goal of peace and cooperation among the many faiths, races, and cultures that enrich our lives here in the Tennessee Valley.

In this time of horror and grief, let us pray in the shared hope that there will be brighter days when love between us will empower us. Let us join as good neighbors and demonstrate our desire for peace and a willingness to pursue it.

In Deepest Sympathy,
Doug Seay
Douglas Curtis Seay
Chair, Leadership Council
Interfaith Mission Service


Dear Huntsville Community,

In light of the horrific attack and tragic murders this past Saturday at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Huntsville’s Temple B’nai Sholom invites you to participate in a 30 minute prayer vigil this Friday at 6:00pm, to be held outside on the steps of our Sanctuary (weather permitting), located at the corner of Lincoln Street SE and Clinton Ave East, at 103 Lincoln Street SE in Huntsville, AL 35801.

We will gather to read the names of those murdered, honor their lives and memories, and offer prayers of healing for their loved ones and the wounded. Please join our local Jewish community as an expression of solidarity with our multi-faith allies, partners, and neighbors.

Local law enforcement has been notified, and uniformed off-duty police officers will also be present. If possible, please bring a candle (and a lighter or matches) for the candlelight vigil.

We hope you’ll join us.
And feel free to stay and visit our 7:00pm Shabbat Service in the Sanctuary!

Thank You,

Rabbi Eric M. Berk and Temple B’nai Sholom’s Board of Trustees

Overcoming prejudice and intolerance essential for a safer world

 

Delegates to the 6th Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions gather for a group photograph. The Congress, hosted by Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was held on 10 and 11 October in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Delegates to the 6th Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions gather for a group photograph. The Congress, hosted by Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was held on 10 and 11 October in Astana, Kazakhstan.

 

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — Faith communities can contribute to a safer world by combating religious prejudice and intolerance.

This message was at the heart of the Baha’i contribution to the 6th Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held on 10 and 11 October in Kazakhstan’s capital city.

“There has not been a time when humanity has needed greater unity and cooperation,” explains Lyazzat Yangaliyeva, a representative of the Baha’i community at the Congress. “It is very timely for a forum that seeks to promote the unity of religions and orients a dialogue between religious leaders toward the betterment of the world.”

“The Baha’i contribution here focused on one of major the causes of division in the world today—religious prejudice.”

In his presentation at a panel on religion and globalization, Baha’i International Community Secretary-General Joshua Lincoln called to mind the current challenges facing humanity. “As any glance at the news will confirm, the nature and future of globalization are uncertain. This week alone, we have received dire warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Monetary Fund about the ecological and financial future of the planet.”

Overcoming barriers to cooperation is essential for progress, he asserted. “The Baha’i writings warn of the dangers of religious fanaticism and hatred. Religious beliefs should never be allowed to foster the feelings of animosity among people.”

“Two concepts that are essential for addressing religious prejudice are dialogue and moral education,” explains Ms. Yangaliyeva. The Baha’i contribution at the Congress focused on these two themes.

“The root cause of religious prejudice is ignorance,” she continues. “We emphasized how ignorance is addressed through education that raises moral standards, eliminates prejudice, empowers young people to assume their rights and responsibilities in society, promotes a patriotism that recognizes the oneness of humanity, and finally, focuses on service to family, community, and humanity.”

In the panel presentation, Dr. Lincoln spoke about how dialogue must go beyond present patterns of protest and negotiation. “Oppositional debate, propaganda, and systems of partisanship that have long existed are all fundamentally harmful to the task of searching for the truth of a given situation and for the wisest choice of action. The individual participants must instead aim to rise above their respective points of view, to function as members of a body,” he explained.

The conference included two plenary sessions and several panel discussions. Also, in their capacity as religious leaders, the attendees signed on to a 23-point commitment.

The four-person Baha’i delegation included two other representatives of Kazakhstan’s Baha’i community, Askhat Yangaliyev and Serik Tokbolat.

“It has been uplifting for the Baha’i community of Kazakhstan to be able to participate for the second time in this Congress,” reflected Ms. Yangaliyeva afterward. “We noted with appreciation how each faith community was treated with dignity and respect and interacted in a spirit of harmony and fellowship.”

The triennial Congress, organized by Kazakhstan’s government and hosted by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was attended this year by 82 delegations from 46 countries, representing a diverse range of religions and nationalities. Kazakhstan Senate Chairman Kassym-Jomart Tokayev chaired the proceedings. The next congress will be held in 2021.

Reminder: “An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition.”

The Baha’i Community of Huntsville is delighted to share with you news
of the upcoming national broadcast on public television of the
documentary film, “An American Story: Race Amity and the Other
Tradition.”  Watch the trailer here.

The documentary was produced by the National Center for Race Amity and
co-sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the
United States as a means of promoting public discourse on race
relations.

Beginning on November 11 and continuing through November 30, the film
will be broadcast across the nation on PBS through its network of 350
affiliated local stations.

Check with Alabama Public Television for times and broadcast dates.

Baha’i Chair explores overcoming racism

COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND, United States — This year’s annual lecture of the Baha’i Chair for World Peace focused on the subject of race. Held in September at the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park, the lecture is part of an ongoing focus on structural racism and the root causes of prejudice.

“To date, we have held 11 separate lectures or symposia bringing 22 of the most prominent, leading scholars in questions of race to present their findings,” explains the holder of the Chair, Hoda Mahmoudi. “The Baha’i writings explain that until America makes major advances in race relations and in removing structural injustices, the country will not achieve stability, true prosperity, and happiness.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Jabari Mahiri believes that it is time to re-examine the terms on which race is discussed and racial justice pursued. Dr. Mahiri is Professor of Education and the William and Mary Jane Brinton Family Chair in Urban Teaching at the University of California, Berkeley.

In his lecture, titled “Deconstructing Race/Reconstructing Difference: Beyond the U.S. Paradigm,” he proposed that, although race has no basis in scientific fact, it has been one of the most powerful constructs used to divide people, create social hierarchies, and propagate injustice.

Speaking before an audience of 370 faculty, administrators, students, and guests, he argued that it is time to transcend the “black-white binary” and to break out of what he calls “the color bind.” Race artificially and falsely categorizes people and compels them to “perform” according to their race group, he explained. These categories create a hierarchy of status based on race and reinforced by social forces and institutions, allowing injustice and oppression to persist.

Describing numerous ethnographic interviews, Dr. Mahiri explored how transcending the standard categorization of people by race would liberate people to construct identities that are rooted in science and their authentic selves, or their “micro-cultural identities,” which he regards as genuine, fluid, and complex.

Dr. Mahiri also emphasized the universal human identity that binds all people and is scientific fact. Recognizing the oneness of humanity allows for true diversity to flourish.

Reflecting on the event, Dr. Mahmoudi says that the lecture was well received by the audience and stimulated many thought-provoking questions.

“We have seen how this series on structural racism and the roots of prejudice has resonated with the aspirations of so many students on campus who want a more just and unified society,” explains Dr. Mahmoudi. “More and more students are expressing their interest in contributing to the work of the Chair.”

The Baha’i Chair will continue exploring the theme of structural racism and the roots of prejudice and to bring leading scholars in the field to share their findings and insights. It will host a major panel discussion in November where several of the leading scholars in this area will explore solutions to structural racism.