Arts reveal beauty in the world, cast light on current situation

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — In these unique times, the arts have been particularly important in stimulating reflection on the spiritual dimension of human life and inspiring hope. Baha’is and their compatriots throughout the world have been drawing on the arts to cast a light on themes that are captivating the public consciousness, such as humanity’s interconnectedness.

“Creative initiatives are providing people a way to reach out to friends and to help relieve their anxiety. Artistic works can increase the feelings of hope, cohesion, and unity in a society,” says Simina, a sketch artist from Romania.

People of all ages, especially youth, have found ways to uplift the spirits of their fellow citizens through music, podcasts, paintings and drawings, theatre, puppet shows, poetry, and digital designs. Such works have focused on revealing the beauty that exists in the world and conveying new perspectives on current circumstances.

Nadiv, a young musician from Kenya, reflecting on the use of the arts to express constructive ideas says: “We’ve been able to address issues of common concern during the pandemic through music, and to bring people together to take part in collective expressions of solidarity. The arts have really been a voice for the voiceless. When you can’t say something directly, you can express it through creative means.”

The arts have been drawn upon by many to show appreciation for those working in essential services and to provide communities with information about health measures.

Meadow, a painter from the United States, says that “by using our hands and our voices, we’ve seen how everyone can create something beautiful and inspiring for others to enjoy. Creativity allows inspiration to flow, lifting our spirits and helping those around us.”

The following is a small selection of the many artistic expressions produced during this period that have been inspired by the Baha’i teachings.

Baha’is in Latin America and Spain have been producing uplifting music videos for youth. This song titled “La fuerza del amor”, meaning the strength of love, encourages young people to translate positive thoughts into actions.
Teachers of children’s moral education classes in Italy have recorded a puppet show on the theme of justice and shared it on the website, “Stelle Splendenti” (Brilliant Stars). This website, one of several initiatives of the country’s Baha’i community, was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic and makes available multimedia resources to help families explore with their children the spiritual qualities most needed at this time.

https://anchor.fm/mitali-singh/embed/episodes/Tahirih-edh2ul/a-a237glt
Three siblings in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands have produced podcast episodes telling stories from the history of the Baha’i Faith that demonstrate perseverance in the face of challenges.

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Young people who have been participating in educational programs of the Baha’i community in Nanaimo, Canada, held an online youth camp and reflected on how they can be of service to others during this time of crisis. This video was made by these youth to explore the theme of humility.

Young people from Minsk, Belarus, have created a video in which they recite poems they have written about seeing the beauty of humanity and of good deeds.

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An artist from the United States has created a video to share painting skills and the spiritual concepts that have inspired her work.

one-man play from Romania titled “Exile to Paradise” explores significant historical events in the Baha’i Faith. Multiple recordings of the actor playing different roles were edited together to convey a seamless narrative.

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A family in the United Kingdom performs a selection of live music on the theme of humanity’s essential oneness. Many such broadcasts have been made throughout the world from living rooms to stimulate reflection on profound spiritual principles.

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An initiative of several musicians in Auckland, New Zealand, titled “Illuminate the World”, has been bringing people together to create musical works that shed light on challenges facing their society.

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Children in Berlin, Germany, who participate in Baha’i education classes, have made drawings on the theme of hope for the residents of a home for the elderly

A collective of artists from Norte del Cauca, Colombia, have produced a lively song with a message about taking health precautions.

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This piece, called “In the Heart of Unity”, is about how hope can spread from heart to heart. It was inspired by conversations among a group of young people who gather weekly online to share ideas about how they can continue to serve their societies under present circumstances.

Series on “Baha’i World” to focus on themes related to global health crisis

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, questions about humanity’s future loom large. The online publication The Baha’i World is, in this context, initiating a series of articles that focus on major issues facing societies as they look ahead.

“The current global pandemic has demanded drastic action,” write the editors. “It has also made evident the need for profound reflection on how humanity will emerge from this crisis. Will we move towards a more just and peaceful world?”

The first article in the series, published earlier today, looks at questions around government’s role in social welfare. Future articles will explore a range of topics such as economics, migration, and agriculture and food security, among others. The new series will join existing articles on peacetechnologyrural development, and humanitarian relief.

A new article on The Baha’i World website entitled “The Role of Public Institutions in Ensuring Social Well-Being” looks at questions around government’s role in social welfare.

The website also features a new pictorial essay depicting the settings most closely associated with the Bab and His Faith.

The Baha’i World began in print form in 1926 under the direction of Shoghi Effendi. In May of last year, the website was launched to house new articles that deal with Baha’i perspectives on contemporary themes. An email subscription service is available, allowing subscribers to be informed when new articles are published.

Looking beyond the health crisis in the Kurdistan region of Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq — Online forums, now a common feature of life in many places, have become a venue for promising conversations in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Baha’is of the region have been organizing weekly forums where academics, social actors, faith leaders, and government officials are examining spiritual principles that have drawn people together in this time of crisis and exploring how these principles can help shape public life in the future.

A running theme has been the oneness of humanity and how society suffers when any one group considers its own needs without thought for others.

“These conversations are allowing us to sincerely and genuinely learn from each other,” said Tahireh Abaychi, representative of the Baha’is of the Kurdistan region. “It’s not that any one of us has the answers. We’re seeing one another through a new lens with the interests of all at heart.”

New perspectives are allowing participants to challenge assumptions that underlie prevalent modes of thought, questioning the idea that self-interest drives prosperity and that progress depends on its expression through unrestrained competition.

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A running theme of weekly online forums among social actors in the Kurdistan region of Iraq has been the oneness of humanity and how society suffers when any one group considers its own needs without thought for others.

The current circumstances, participants noted, are showing just the opposite—an outpouring of generosity that transcends differences is what contributes to the progress of all. Such expressions of good-will, some participants observed, have had their most profound affect in small geographic areas, where people can come to know one another, understand each other’s needs, and take action for the benefit of their fellow citizens.

“What is happiness? What are needs? What is prosperity? These terms can now be redefined,” said another participant. “A culture of consumption promotes the value that our worth is based on how much we can consume and accumulate. But we are now seeing that giving selflessly needs to be an organizing principle.”

Officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, including the director of the ministry’s department of coexistence, noted that these discussions are proving helpful in formulating plans for promoting societal values.

“The government is actively looking at policies that can help our society to come through this crisis more resilient and more attentive to needs. These conversations will help with that process,” said one of the officials from the ministry.

Reflecting on the discussions to date, Mrs. Abaychi says: “The question is how can we ensure that principles which have for so long been at the margins of thought or viewed as idealistic be brought to the center of the public consciousness and policy making?

“This will require a recognition of our essential oneness and many acts of true and selfless generosity—meaning, that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand has given.”

Community banks in Nicaragua take early precautions

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — Before concerns about the global coronavirus outbreak were in the public consciousness, a Baha’i-inspired community banking program in Nicaragua took initiative to implement safety measures for the handling of money and made arrangements for transactions to take place online and by telephone.

“These banks are founded on the Baha’i principles of service and care for the well-being of all,” says the program’s national coordinator. “So, with the economic challenges and the evolving health crisis, we have not only been conscious of continuing vital services that support the economic life of the community but also of ensuring that our operations do not put people at risk.”

The way the program works is by offering training to groups of 10 to 30 people, who then begin to save small sums and make modest loans available to bank members at a reasonable rate. The banks are managed entirely by the members themselves and interest earned is divided proportionally according to the amount each person holds in savings. As a bank grows, it is also able to provide financial support for social and economic development initiatives in the community.

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Photograph taken before the current global health crisis. Community banks in Nicaragua inspired by Baha’i principles are managed entirely by the community members.

Over the last 15 years, the program has grown in Nicaragua to serve several localities and is recognized in the country for its distinctive approach.

“The banks’ experience and underlying principles have informed their response to the global health crisis,” says the national coordinator. “We recognize that we are not just businesses looking to our own affairs but are here to serve the common welfare. We have the responsibility to be an example of sound and safe business practices during these times.”

Local Temple design unveiled in India

NEW DELHI — The design for the local Baha’i House of Worship to be built in Bihar Sharif has been unveiled. In light of the prevailing circumstances, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of India chose to make the announcement online today in lieu of the ceremony that would have marked the historic event.

This will be the second Baha’i temple in India. The House of Worship in New Delhi that has stood as a symbol of hope and unity in the country for decades has become a beloved place of spiritual reflection and renewal for Indians of all faiths and traditions.

“We have personally experienced the power of a space to inspire in the architecture of the Lotus Temple, which many of us have been visiting since we were children,” stated the firm that designed the new temple. “We appreciate that the Baha’i House of Worship in Bihar Sharif needs to offer a setting for the experience of the divine, while being humbly rooted in its surroundings.”

“Bihar is a fertile land and its many villages present a timeless scene of Indian rural life,” says Suditya Sinha, one of the architects. “The House of Worship is coming up in this lush, rural setting. Inspired by traditional architecture and crafts, we chose to use brick made from local earth. The land is literally and metaphorically molded into the form of the temple.”

Drawing on patterns found in the Madhubani folk art of Bihar and the region’s long architectural heritage, the firm created a design with a repeating pattern of arches. The domed edifice will step up from nine arches at the base, multiplying until each segment appears to merge into a single geometry. Openings at the center of the dome and in each ring of arches will reduce the weight of the ceiling while allowing gentle light to filter in.

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Openings at the center of the dome and in each ring of arches will reduce the weight of the ceiling while allowing gentle light to filter in.

Reflecting on the power of prayer, Naznene Rowhani of the National Assembly says: “in the difficult times we are passing through, people are finding more than ever the need to turn to their Creator. Therefore, constructing the temple in Bihar Sharif now has even greater meaning, and we feel that we must continue this process while ensuring the safety and health of all involved in its construction.”

The new temple and its grounds will serve to enhance the connection between service and worship present in the community-building activities of the Baha’is of Bihar Sharif. With its doors open to everyone, the temple will foster a culture of inclusion and cooperation among all people.

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The domed edifice will step up from nine arches at the base, multiplying until each segment appears to merge into a single geometry.

Youth move to the forefront of grassroots response throughout the US

CHICAGO — Young people across the United States who have been engaged in Baha’i community-building efforts are swiftly responding to a host of needs arising in their communities from the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

“There are deep bonds of friendship between people that have for months or years been working together to contribute to social progress,” says Candace Vance, who follows Baha’i social and economic development activities of the country. “Because of this and the love they have for their communities, many young people are finding that they can’t just watch this crisis go by; they’re using the skills and capacities that they have developed through their participation in Baha’i educational programs to assist those in need.”

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A family in Rockwall, Texas, prepared protective masks for non-medical use and left them for neighbors.

A youth from Chicago describes the nature of her group’s efforts. “We’ve developed tools over time to map volunteers and various materials in our neighborhood, and now we’re able to use these to quickly connect people to various necessities, such as collecting and distributing disinfectant wipes.”

Other youth from the area have been creating informative videos about health measures in languages commonly spoken in the community. They are also assisting families that face language barriers to access government services.

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imagesFamilies in Illinois place quotations from the Baha’i writings in public view to bring joy and reflection to passers-by.

Such barriers exist in many other areas, such as in Prince William County, Virginia, where many parents, without access to translators, had been unable to adequately access school programs for their children.

“At first we thought that children missing classes was related to Internet access, but we were wrong,” says a youth from a group that had been engaged in Baha’i educational programs. “It was actually because the parents had no idea of what the school arrangements were.”

These youth, having identified the families requiring additional assistance, are now holding regular online sessions to disseminate administrative information in various languages and to assist their peers with assignments.

In the Triangle area of North Carolina, another group of young people has organized response teams to assist with food distribution, financial aid, and academic tutoring for their neighborhood, where at least six languages are commonly spoken.

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Youth in Delaware prepared a tutorial to assist older adults in their community with ordering supplies online. Other youth in Chicago have been creating informative videos about health measures in languages commonly spoken in the community.

From children in Los Angeles, California, who prepared care packages for their neighbors, to youth in Delaware who prepared a tutorial to assist older adults in their community with ordering supplies online, Baha’is of all ages and in all parts of the country are considering the unique needs of their communities and are reaching out to build friendships and to be of service to their society.

“Now more than ever,” says Mrs. Vance, “we are seeing incredible expressions of generosity and creativity across the country. People everywhere are striving to help one another, to keep everyone safe. We are moved to action when we reflect on the spiritual reality of a human being, which is to give generously to others and to act in solidarity.”

Australian Prime Minister expresses gratitude to Baha’i community

SYDNEY — It is a hundred years since the arrival of the first two Baha’is in Australia, Clara and Hyde Dunn. As the country’s Baha’i community prepares to celebrate this centenary in a manner appropriate to current circumstances, it has received a warm message of appreciation and encouragement from the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison.

Sent in anticipation of the Baha’i Ridvan festival later this month, the message expresses gratitude for the contributions the Australian Baha’i community has made to society over the last century.

It also calls attention to the role the Baha’i community can continue to play “in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis” that requires the collaboration of all Australians. “During this time of challenge, I know you can draw strength from the Baha’i teachings—and its commitment to the well-being of humanity, especially the most vulnerable.”

Quoting from a statement recently made by the Universal House of Justice about humanity’s “inherent oneness and interdependence”, the Prime Minister echoes its sentiments: “The world is more in need than ever of the hope and strength of spirit that faith imparts.”

In its forthcoming statement on Friday marking the start of the year-long centenary period, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Australia acknowledges the Prime Minister’s message and calls for an intensification of the spirit of service.

“While, at this uncertain time, we may not be able to gather together in person, or travel long distances,” the Assembly writes, “we can pray for the well-being of all, we can look for new and creative ways to serve our neighbors and friends and continue the community building process.”

Webinar: Emerging Evidence for COVID-19 Spread and Treatment

You are invited to hear current information on the COVID-19 virus by virtually attending the third COVID-19 Conversations webinar, Thursday, April 9, 11:30am – 1pm Central.

Please register early here.

The webinar will discuss emerging evidence on SARS-CoV-2 surface and aerosol transmission and stability; emerging and promising treatment modalities for COVID-19, including convalescent plasma and hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine; and the ethical implications and considerations for treating those who are ill with therapeutics approved via an emergency use authorization.

The webinar’s panel of expert speakers:

  • Margaret “Peggy” Hamburg, MD (Moderator) – Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Medicine, and former FDA Commissioner
  • John-Martin Lowe, PhD – Assistant Vice Chancellor for Interprofessional Health Security Training and Education and Associate Professor of Environmental, Agricultural, and Occupational Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD – Chair, Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • R. Alta Charo, JD – Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Speaker presentations will be followed by a Q&A session with the webinar audience.

Also available are free recordings of webinars focused on “The Science of Social Distancing.” Slide presentations are also available for both webinars.- Part 1– Part 2

Flowers Brighten Spirits In Times Of Uncertainty

“Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.” – Bahá’u’lláh

In this time of great uncertainty, every act of kindness is essential to lifting the hearts and spirits of those around us. Field and Forage Flower Farm (Facebook page) in their great generosity, partnered with the Bahá’ís of Huntsville to deliver vases of fresh flowers to the residents of Millenium Senior Living in north Huntsville.

Due to the COVID-19 quarantine policy in place for the protection of these residents and others, flowers were delivered in the entranceway and received with smiles and gratitude by the selfless employees serving the needs of the residents. A huge thank you to Field and Forage for this generous donation!

Children in Luxembourg send love and encouragement to healthcare professionals

ESCH-SUR-ALZETTE, Luxembourg — Children in Luxembourg participating in moral education classes offered by the Baha’i community have been learning about being of service to one’s society. In an expression of this theme, they have been moved to do what they can for those who are making sacrifices during the current health crisis. Many have sent messages of love and appreciation to healthcare professionals and others who are carrying out essential services.

The teacher of a children’s class called Les petites pierres précieuses (Little Gemstones) in Esch-sur-Alzette says, “Our class, which has been meeting online, had the idea of making cards and drawings expressing thanks to those working in essential services during this crisis: doctors, hospital and laboratory personnel, staff of pharmacies and grocery stores, sanitary workers, etc.”

The teacher sent digital copies of the drawings and cards to a hospital and to the National Health Laboratory in neighboring Dudelange along with a message of encouragement. The laboratory shared its joyful response on social media: “This weekend, the National Health Laboratory team received a big message of encouragement from the hands of little artists, coming to us from Esch-sur-Alzette.”

A message posted on Twitter by the National Health Laboritory in Dudelange, Luxembourg, in appreciation for cards and drawings sent by children who participate in a Baha’i moral education class.

Another group of children similarly prepared cards conveying their gratitude and recognition of the selfless acts of those performing vital services. Local doctors and staff of pharmacies and grocery stores warmly received the messages, and many of the recipients were moved to tears.