Sacred symbol raised in Cambodia Temple

Symbol.jpgBATTAMBANG, Cambodia — The sacred Baha’i symbol representing the connection between God, His Manifestations, and mankind was raised within the local Baha’i House of Worship in Battambang, Cambodia on Sunday, and installed at the apex of its dome.

The placement of the Greatest Name symbol marks an important milestone. The symbol is a calligraphic rendering of the word “Baha,” meaning glory. The vertical line represents the Holy Spirit proceeding from God through His Manifestations to humanity, and the twin stars represent the Bab and Baha’u’llah.

Representatives and members of the Baha’i community gathered for a small ceremony on Sunday in a spirit of reverence and prayer as the sacred symbol was lifted 11.8 meters above the ground to the apex of the Temple’s dome. After it was affixed in place, everyone at the Temple gathered for devotions.symbol 2.jpg

In the coming days, a small ornamental case, originally purchased by Shoghi Effendi and containing dust from the inner sanctuary of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, will be placed within the structure of the House of Worship. It will symbolize the profound spiritual connection between the Temple and the center of the Baha’i Faith.

For the global Baha’i community, this first local House of Worship signals a new stage of development. The Temple will be inaugurated on 1 September 2017.

The “Titles” of Baha’u’llah

 

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The lyrics for this selection consist of a number of the titles of Bahá’u’lláh.

‘The Ancient Beauty’ is an album of music performed by Elika Mahony, created in honor of the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh. The 11 songs on the album set the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh to music with piano, cello, santour, guitar and voice.

The album cover has a beautiful laser cut rendering inspired by the inner gate at the entrance to the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and the album includes a short written introduction to the Life and Mission of Bahá’u’lláh.

 

The Vision Of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue

“The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.”

A Statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States

Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America.

A nation whose ancestry includes every people on earth, whose motto is E pluribus unum, whose ideals of freedom under law have inspired millions throughout the world, cannot continue to harbor prejudice against any racial or ethnic group without betraying itself. Racism is an affront to human dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society.

Notwithstanding the efforts already expended for its elimination, racism continues to work its evil upon this nation. Progress toward tolerance, mutual respect, and unity has been painfully slow and marked with repeated setbacks. The recent resurgence of divisive racial attitudes, the increased number of racial incidents, and the deepening despair of minorities and the poor make the need for solutions ever more pressing and urgent. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger.

Aware of the magnitude and the urgency of the issue, we, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, speaking for the entire U.S. Bahá’í community, appeal to all people of goodwill to arise without further delay to resolve the fundamental social problem of this country. We do so because of our feeling of shared responsibility, because of the global experience of the Bahá’í community in affecting racial harmony within itself, and because of the vision that the sacred scriptures of our Faith convey of the destiny of America.

The oneness of humanity is the pivot round which revolve all the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. It is at once a statement of principle and an assertion of the ultimate goal of human experience on the planet. More than a century ago, Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, wrote: “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” It is a principle that issues naturally from the genesis and purpose of human existence. The Word of God as presented in the Bahá’í writings offers compelling insights as in the following examples:

“Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty.”

“Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.”

“All men have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. The Almighty beareth Me witness: To act like the beasts of the field is unworthy of man. Those virtues that befit his dignity are forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all the peoples and kindreds of the earth.”

“Having gone through the stages of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that will witness “the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world — a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life.”

“In no other country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation.”

“For too much of its history and in so many places the human race has squandered its energy and resources in futile efforts to prove the unprovable: that one portion of itself, because of separation by geography, a difference in skin color, or the diversity of cultural expression, is intrinsically distinct from another portion. The ignorance and prejudice on which such efforts are founded have led to endless conflicts in the name of the sanctity of tribe, race, class, nation, and religion. Paradoxical as it may seem, in the consistency of these negative efforts across the spectrum of the race, humanity has proved the exact opposite: it has affirmed its oneness. The proof is in the fact that, given the same circumstances, all people, regardless of ethnic or cultural variety, behave essentially the same way. In the futility of its efforts to classify and separate its diverse elements, humanity has become disoriented and confused. Unaided by the divine influence of religion, people are incapable of achieving a proper orientation to their innermost reality and purpose and are thus unable to achieve a coherent vision of their destiny. It is in this respect that the Bahá’ís find relevancy, direction, and fulfillment in the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of their Faith.”

“The oneness of humanity is a spiritual truth abundantly confirmed by science. Recognition of this truth compels the abandonment of all prejudices of race, color, creed, nation, and class — of “everything which enables people to consider themselves superior to others.” The principle of the oneness of humankind” is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression of vague and pious hope…. It does not constitute merely the enunciation of an ideal…. It implies an organic change in the structure of present-day society, a change such as the world has not yet experienced.”

The application of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity to the life of the nation would necessitate and make possible vast changes in the economic status of the non-white segments of the population. Although poverty afflicts members of all races its victims tend to be largely people of color. Prejudice and discrimination have created a disparity in the standards of living, providing some with excessive economic advantage while denying others the bare necessities for leading healthy and dignified lives. Poor housing, deficient diet, inadequate health care, insufficient education are consequences of poverty that afflict African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans more than they afflict the rest of the population. The cost to society at large is heavy.

Evidence of the negative effect of racial and ethnic conflict on the economy has prompted a number of businesses and corporations to institute educational programs that teach conflict resolution and are designed to eliminate racial and ethnic tensions from the workplace. These are important steps and should be encouraged. If, however, they are intended primarily to save the economy, no enduring solution will be found to the disastrous consequences of racism. For it cannot suffice to offer academic education and jobs to people while at the same time shutting them out because of racial prejudice from normal social intercourse based on brotherly love and mutual respect. The fundamental solution — the one that will reduce violence, regenerate and focus the intellectual and moral energy of minorities, and make them partners in the construction of a progressive society — rests ultimately on the common recognition of the oneness of humankind.

It is entirely human to fail if that which is the most important to people’s self-perception is denied them — namely, the dignity they derive from a genuine regard by others for their stature as human beings. No educational, economic, or political plan can take the place of this essential human need; it is not a need that businesses and schools, or even governments, can provide in isolation from the supportive attitude of society as a whole. Such an attitude needs to be grounded in a spiritual and moral truth that all acknowledge and accept as their own and that, like the oxygen that serves all equally, breathes life into their common effort to live in unity and peace. Absence of the genuine regard for others fostered by such truth causes hopelessness in those discriminated against; and in a state of hopelessness, people lose the coherent moral powers to realize their potential. This vitalizing truth, we are convinced, is summarized in the phrase: the oneness of humankind.

So essential is the principle of the oneness of humanity to the efficacy of educational programs that it cannot be overemphasized. Without its broad influence such programs will not contribute
significantly to the development of society. The very fact that businesses are themselves implementing educational programs is indicative of the glaring deficiency of the entire educational system. As we have already said, beyond the mechanisms of education lies the essential prerequisite of a proper attitude on the part of those dispensing curricula and, even more important, on the part of society as a whole. On this basis, education is not only the shortest route out of poverty; it is the shortest route out of prejudice as well. A national program of education, emphasizing the values of tolerance, brotherhood, appreciation for cultures other than one’s own, and respect for differences would be a most important step toward the elimination of racism and, as a consequence, the bolstering of the economy.

The persistent neglect by the governing bodies and the masses of the American people of the ravages of racism jeopardizes both the internal order and the national security of the country.

From the day it was born the United States embraced a set of contradictory values. The founding fathers proclaimed their devotion to the highest principles of equality and justice yet enshrined slavery in the Constitution. Slavery poisoned the mind and heart of the nation and would not be abolished without a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed the young republic. The evil consequences of slavery are still visible in this land. They continue to affect the behavior of both Black and White Americans and prevent the healing of old wounds.

Healing the wounds and building a society in which people of diverse backgrounds live as members of one family are the most pressing issues confronting America today. Her peace, her prosperity, and even her standing in the international community depend to a great extent on the resolution of this issue.

That the virulence of the race issue in America attracts the attention of the entire world should spur this country to an unprecedented effort to eliminate every vestige of prejudice and discrimination from her midst. America’s example could not fail to have a profound influence on world society nor could it fail to assist the establishment of universal peace. “For the accomplishment of unity between the colored and white,” the Bahá’í writings proclaim, “will be a cause of the world’s peace.”

The responsibility for the achievement of racial peace and unity in the United States rests upon both Black and White Americans. To build a society in which the rights of all its members are respected and guaranteed, both races must be animated with the spirit of optimism and faith in the eventual realization of their highest aspirations. Neither Black nor White Americans should assume that the responsibility for the elimination of prejudice and of its effects belongs exclusively to the other. Both must recognize that unity is essential for their common survival. Both must recognize that there is only one human species. Both must recognize that a harmoniously functioning society that permits the full expression of the potential of all persons can resolve the social and economic problems now confounding a society wracked with disunity.

It is evident that both Black and White Americans in large numbers are feeling deeply disappointed and frustrated by what each group perceives to be a failure of the efforts in recent decades at effecting progress in the relations between the races. To rationalize this failure, both have been reacting by retreating to the more familiar ground of racial separation. As the problems with crime and drug addiction mount, the tendency is to use the seeming intractability of these problems as a measure of the failure of years of struggle on the part of both to overcome the barriers of centuries. Formidable as is the challenge yet to be met, can it fairly said that no significant progress has taken place since the days of the sit-ins at lunch counters across the South?

Similarly, the victims of a protracted and entrenched racial discrimination seek relief in the notion that Black Americans, White Americans, American Indians, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans are so distinctly different from one another that all of them must stake out there own cultural and social territories and stay within them. Would this be sensible? Would it not be a retreat from the reality of our common humanity? Would it not be a formula for the total breakdown of civilization? Those who raise the call for separation preach a grim doctrine indeed. If the nation is seriously to submit to such a view, where exactly will either the Black or the White Americans divide their cultural heritage, one from the other?

Racism runs deep. It infects the hearts of both White and Black Americans. Since without conscious, deliberate, and sustained effort, no one can remain unaffected by its corrosive influence, both groups must realize that such a problem can neither easily nor immediately be resolved. “Let neither think that anything short of genuine love, extreme patience, true humility, consummate tact, sound initiative, mature wisdom, and deliberate, persistent, and prayerful effort can succeed in blotting out the stain which this patent evil has left on the fair name of their common country.”

Both groups must understand that no real change will come about without close association, fellowship, and friendship among diverse people. Diversity of color, nationality, and culture enhances the human experience and should never be made a barrier to harmonious relationships, to friendship, or to marriage. “O well-beloved ones!” Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The tabernacle of unity has been raised; regard ye not one another as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.”

Our appeal is addressed primarily to the individual American, becausethe transformation of a whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it. No great idea or plan of action by the government or other interested organizations can hope to succeed if the individual neglects to respond in his or her own way as personal circumstances and opportunities permit. And so we respectfully and urgently call upon our fellow Americans of whatever background to look at the racial situation with new eyes and with a new determination to lend effective support to the resolution of a problem that hinders the advance of this great republic toward the full realization of its glorious destinity.

We mention the experience of the Bahá’í community not from any feeling of pride and ultimate victory, because that which we have accomplished still falls short of that to which we aspire; nonetheless, the results to date are most encouraging, and it is as a means of encouragement that we call attention to them.

From its inception in 1863 the Bahá’í community was dedicated to the principle of the unity of humankind. Bahá’ís rely upon faith in God, daily prayer, meditation, and study of sacred texts to effect the transformation of character necessary for personal growth and maturity; however, their aim is to create a world civilization that will in turn react upon the character of the individual. Thus the concept of personal salvation is linked to the salvation, security, and happiness of all the inhabitants of the earth and stems from the Bahá’í belief that “the world of humanity is a composite body” and that “when one part of the organism suffers all the rest of the body will feel its consequence.”

Guided and inspired by such principles, the Bahá’í community has accumulated more than a century of experience in creating models of unity that transcend race, culture, nationality, class, and the differences of sex and religion, providing empirical evidence that humanity in all its diversity can live as a unified global society. Bahá’ís see unity as the law of life; consequently, all prejudices are perceived as diseases that threaten life. Rather than considering that the unity of humankind can be established only after other problems afflicting it have been solved, Bahá’ís believe that both spiritual and material development are dependent upon love and unity. Therefore, the Bahá’ís offer the teachings of their Faith and the example of their community for examination, convinced that these can make a contribution toward the eradication of racism endemic in American society. We do so with firm faith in the assistance of our Creator, Who, out of His infinite love, brought forth all humanity from the same stock and intended that all belong to the same household. We believe, moreover, that the day of the unification of the entire human race has come and that “the potentialities inherent in the station of man, the innate excellence of his reality, must all be manifested in this promised Day of God.”

National Spiritual Assembly
of the
Baha’is of the United States

100-year-old pioneering actor reflects on life, faith, and change

KENILWORTH, United Kingdom — When the 22-year old Earl Cameron arrived in England from Bermuda in 1939, most of the people of Caribbean origin whom he met there were struggling to find work.

“It was quite impossible for a black person to get any kind of job,” recalls Cameron, who reaches his 100th birthday today. “The attitude was that they should go back to their own homeland. Some of them were veterans of the First World War, and even they couldn’t get a job. When I look back, that was the condition.”

“Today it’s different and I’m glad I came at that time to be able now to see some of the wonderful changes that have taken place.”

Bermuda-born Cameron, who became a Baha’i in 1963, is taking the opportunity of his centenary to reflect on his life and career as an actor. And his own role in breaking down the color bar for British audiences should not be underestimated. According to the British Film Institute’s Screenonline guide to film and television history: “Earl Cameron brought a breath of fresh air to the British film industry’s stuffy depictions of race relations. Often cast as a sensitive outsider, Cameron gave his characters a grace and moral authority that often surpassed the films’ compromised liberal agendas.”

Discovering the Baha’i Faith

As Cameron continued to work steadily through the early 1960s, he found himself searching for answers to life’s questions. He had been troubled from his time in the merchant navy when he spent five months on a ship travelling to India.

“On this ship there were fights almost every day. I must say they were a very quarrelsome bunch of seamen for the most part! And then I saw Kolkata with all of its hungry people on the streets, and wondered, ‘Why? Why is the world like this?’

Cameron found his questions answered by an old friend from Bermuda who he met again in London. His friend was a Baha’i.

“Everything appealed to me,” Cameron explains. “But we argued backwards and forwards. It took me some time to understand the difference between just an outstanding human being and what Baha’is call a Manifestation of God. When the penny dropped, I realized the difference of a Christ, or a Muhammad, or a Baha’u’llah, and from that moment on I could accept everything I read from Baha’u’llah.”

Fully dedicated to his Baha’i beliefs, Cameron made a dramatic move of another kind, by uprooting with his family to the Solomon Islands to help in the development of the Baha’i community there. When he returned to the United Kingdom 15 years later, he picked up his acting career where it had left off. Continuing to work through his eighties and nineties, he had a major role as a controversial African leader in The Interpreter (2005), which starred Nicole Kidman, as well as cameo appearances in The Queen (2006) with Dame Helen Mirren, and Inception (2010).

Breakthrough into acting

Two years after his arrival, tired of carrying out menial jobs, Cameron had a lucky break: he was asked to cover a role in a popular musical theater show, Chu Chin Chow, when one of the actors in the cast did not turn up for work. His acting career took off and, for the next four decades, his face and rich, golden voice, became a well-known fixture on stage, and then on screen.

“I realized that there were very few parts to be had,” Cameron explains. “I didn’t kid myself. I’d been in the theater for at least eight years by the time I did my first film and I knew it was very limited. But I realized also at the time how fortunate I was to get that very first film.”

That film was Pool of London (1951), considered groundbreaking in its employment of a leading, black character, and in its depiction of an interracial romance.

“It’s a wonderful part,” he says, “and still remains I think the best film I’ve done. It was fully true to life and very typical of England at that time,” he recalls.


Earl Cameron at an event organized by the British Film Institute in October 2016 with a screening of Pool of London (1951)—Cameron’s first film—on the occasion of his induction to the Screen Nation Hall of Fame. (Photo Screen Nation Media 2016: Photography Carl Barriteau)

 

Seminal BBC television dramas that explored racism followed, including The Dark Man (1960), in which Cameron played a taxi driver facing prejudice in his workplace. At the same time, his became a familiar face in many classic television series of the era, including Doctor Who and The Prisoner. He also played opposite Sean Connery as James Bond’s Caribbean ally Pinder in Thunderball (1965).

One film of which Cameron is particularly proud to have been involved with was the dramatization of the story of the Prophet Muhammad, The Message (1976). Cameron played the King of Abyssinia, or Negus, who offered safe haven to early Muslims in the time of the Prophet. The British Film Institute described his performance as a “scene-stealing cameo.”

“How could I possibly turn down such a nice part like that?” he smiles. But despite personal critical and popular acclaim, roles in films were few and far between for black actors.

“Always I had to wait months before I got another part. Now it has changed to some degree and there are many brilliant black actors. But for the most part you have to go to Hollywood to get recognition.”

At one point in his career, Cameron did even consider crossing the Atlantic and trying his luck in American films. “But I was married with five children,” he says. “My wife was white and myself black, and California wasn’t a very welcoming place for mixed marriages. So I thought, ‘No, I’m not going to expose my family to the kind of racism that I was bound to encounter.’ So I forgot about it.”

“I say now that I was very fortunate. Because at that time, I know I would have got caught up in that way of life. So I look back on it and thank God I did not go to Hollywood.”

An extraordinary contribution

In the last decade, Cameron has been the recipient of many honors. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the high accolade of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2009 New Year Honors list, and last year he became the first inductee into the Screen Nation Foundation’s Hall of Fame, which celebrates individuals of African Caribbean heritage who have made extraordinary contributions on screen. He has also been lauded in Bermuda where the main theater in Hamilton was renamed The Earl Cameron Theater in 2012. He is hoping to make a journey there in October for a special presentation.

As he enters his eleventh decade, Earl Cameron is still very much alert, keen to continue acting, and contribute to Baha’i community activities.

“We need to realize that God has a plan for humanity and each individual one of us is somewhat part of that plan,” he says. “God has a plan that this world will become a world of peace. The immediate future seems dire. With the conditions that are prevailing, humanity will sooner or later have no choice but to return to God’s guidance.”

“There’s hardly a minute of my life when I’m not thanking God for my existence on this earth and having found this wonderful Faith. To me if I had lived a million times again and not had the Baha’i Faith it would all be for nothing.”

Religious discrimination explicit in Iran’s penal code

A court in Yazd, Iran has sentenced a man convicted of the public murder of a Baha’i to just 11 years in prison and two years away from home. The court justified the sentence by stating that according to the Islamic penal code, the accused and the victim are not equal for the general purpose of retributive justice. This astonishing provision clearly and deliberately deprives non-Muslims of the legal right to seek justice on equal-footing with the country’s Muslim majority.

Amiri

The murder of Farhang Amiri, a 63-year-old father of four children, occurred in September 2016 in Yazd on the street outside his home in public view. He was brutally stabbed to death by two brothers who immediately admitted to have been motivated by religious hatred.

The younger man was sentenced to half of his brother’s sentence for aiding in the murder. The two men confessed to stabbing Farhang Amiri to death with the explicitly stated intention of killing a Baha’i.

These sentences for the killing of an innocent man clearly demonstrate the inherent discrimination and injustice at the heart of Iran’s penal code, which treats its own citizens on an unequal basis because of their religious belief.

“Such a verdict . Clearly, the legal system encourages violence against Baha’is, the largest religious minority,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “We call on Iranians to consider how their society can possibly advance when the legal system, which should dispense justice, manifests such breath-taking inequity.”

A peaceful, persistent response to injustice

GraduatesThirty years ago, the Baha’i community of Iran embarked on a remarkable endeavor. Denied access to formal education by the country’s authorities after their numerous appeals, they set up an informal program of higher education in basements and living rooms throughout the country with the help of Baha’i professors and academics that had been fired from their posts because of their faith. This gradually came to be known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).

Since its inception, BIHE has helped educate thousands of individuals, many of whom have been accepted into nearly 100 universities around the world to pursue graduate studies. Many BIHE graduates that complete their post-graduate studies abroad will return to Iran to serve their communities.

IN DEPTH: Listen to learn more about the response of the Baha’i community to injustice

For decades, the Baha’i in Iran have tried to peacefully and persistently find a solution to the harsh persecution and injustice they face. Interviews with BIC Representative Diane Ala’i and Education is Not a Crime Coordinator Saleem Vaillancourt explore the concept of constructive resilience and how the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education embodies it.

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Thanks to advances in technology, BIHE’s students are now taught by professors from across the globe. Those who offer their expertise and knowledge to the education of Baha’i youth in Iran, have witnessed first-hand the students’ high ideals and commitment to the pursuit of knowledge.

“The Baha’i response to injustice is neither to succumb in resignation nor to take on the characteristics of the oppressor,” explained Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, quoting a letter from the Universal House of Justice.

“This,” she said, “is the fundamental definition of constructive resilience.”

“Of course, the Baha’is are not the only ones that have responded non-violently and positively to oppression, but they are finding a different way of doing that, which is more focused on their role in serving the community around them together with others,” said Ms. Ala’i.

Despite efforts by the Iranian authorities to disrupt BIHE’s operation by raiding hundreds of Baha’i homes and offices associated with it, confiscating study materials, and arresting and imprisoning dozens of lecturers, it has grown significantly over the past three decades. It relies on a variety of knowledgeable individuals both in and outside of Iran to enable youth to study a growing number of topics in the sciences, social sciences, and arts. Overall, not only has BIHE survived thirty years, it has thrived.

Studying at BIHE is not easy. Because it’s not a public university, there is no funding available, and many students hold down full-time jobs. It is common to travel across the country to go to monthly classes in Tehran. Sometimes, students will have to commute from a home on one side of the city to the other in the middle of the day, because these are the only spaces available to hold classes. Despite these logistical challenges, students meet high academic standards.

“I have talked to BIHE students who said when their teacher was arrested and put in jail and all their materials were confiscated, they would get together for class just the same,” said Saleem Vaillancourt, the coordinator of the Education is Not a Crime campaign, which brings attention to the issue of denial of education to the Baha’is in Iran. “These students continued studying together, despite the fact that they didn’t have a teacher. This was their attitude, it didn’t seem remarkable to them. They just said this is what we have to do, because they had a commitment to the process.”

Universal education is a core belief of the Baha’i Faith, and when the authorities in Iran sought to deny Baha’i students this critical and fundamental right, the Baha’i community pursued a peaceful solution—never for a moment conceding their ideals, never surrendering to their oppressor, and never opposing the government. Instead, for decades, it has been seeking constructive solutions, a show of its longstanding resilience.

In Iran, persecution of the Baha’is is official state policy. A 1991 memorandumapproved by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei states clearly that Baha’is “must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Baha’is.”

Other forms of persecution torment the Baha’is in Iran as well. An open letter dated 6 September 2016 to Iran’s President from the BIC draws his attention to the economic oppression faced by the Baha’is there. The letter highlights the stark contradiction between statements espoused by the Iranian government regarding economic justice, equality for all, and reducing unemployment on the one hand, and the unrelenting efforts to impoverish a section of its own citizens on the other.

“The Baha’i community in Iran wasn’t going to let itself go quietly into the night. It wasn’t going to allow itself to be suffocated in this way,” said Mr. Vaillancourt.

A distinctly non-adversarial approach to oppression fundamentally characterizes the Baha’i attitude towards social change. The Baha’i response to oppression draws on a conviction in the oneness of humanity. It recognizes the need for coherence between the spiritual and material dimensions of life. It is based on a long-term perspective characterized by faith, patience, and perseverance. It at once calls for obedience to the law and a commitment to meet hatred and persecution with love and kindness. And, ultimately, this posture has at its very center an emphasis on service to the welfare of one’s fellow human beings.

“I think we see in the world today the breakdown of communities that people would not have thought could happen so easily. We’ve come to realize that living side by side is not enough. We need to live together and know one another, and the best way to know one another is to start working for the betterment of society,” said Ms. Ala’i.

“As the Baha’is in Iran have begun to do this in a more conscious way, other Iranians have come to know their Baha’i neighbors and understand that much of what they had heard about the Baha’is from the government and clergy were lies. As they have become more involved in the life of the communities where they live, the Baha’is have witnessed an immense change in the attitude of other Iranians towards them.”

The Baha’i response to oppression is not oppositional and ultimately strives toward higher degrees of unity. Its emphasis is not only on collective action, but on inner transformation.

This strategy is a conscious one employed by the Baha’i community. Going beyond the tendency to react to oppression, war, or natural disaster with apathy or anger, the Baha’i response counters inhumanity with patience, deception with truthfulness, cruelty with good will, and keeps its attention on long-term, beneficial, and productive action.

The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education embodies all of these elements.

“BIHE is an extraordinary achievement,” commented Mr. Vaillancourt. “Perhaps the least known, longest-running, and most successful form of peacefully answering oppression that history has ever seen. It sets the best example I know of for this particular Baha’i attitude to answering persecution or answering the challenging forces of our time, where we try to have an attitude, posture, and response of constructive resilience.”