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.

An American Story: Race Amity and the Other Tradition

The Baha’i Community 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.

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.

By illuminating significant past episodes of loving friendship and collaboration that
demonstrably transcended race, the film seeks to light the way out of the morass of
racial prejudice and to fire our enthusiasm for renewed efforts to build community and
continue our ascent toward true equality, justice, and unity. We hope it will serve as a
resource in your interactions with family, friends, and neighbors on this vital subject.

A Widening Embrace extra features released

 

Three new short films to complement A Widening Embrace were made available on Bahai.org today. This scene shows people from a community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the areas included in the documentary.
Three new short films to complement A Widening Embrace were made available on Bahai.org today. This scene shows people from a community in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, one of the areas included in the documentary.

 

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — New features complementing the recently produced documentary film A Widening Embrace were made available online today.

Three short films highlight aspects of the community building endeavors of Baha’is and like-minded friends around the world. Totaling about 32 minutes, the new features cover three themes: nurturing younger generations, exploring the empowerment of junior youth, and communities learning to advance together.

A Widening Embrace, released in April on Bahai.org, tells the story of the transformation of communities unfolding throughout the world by featuring the process in 24 communities representing different realities and contexts. The 77-minute film and its new features were produced in an innovative way, drawing on footage recorded by local teams who documented the efforts of their own communities to effect constructive change.

This scene from Panama is in one of the three additional short films added to complement A Widening Embrace, an innovative production drawing on footage recorded by local teams who documented the efforts of their own communities to effect constructive change.SLIDESHOW
This scene from Panama is in one of the three additional short films added to complement A Widening Embrace, an innovative production drawing on footage recorded by local teams who documented the efforts of their own communities to effect constructive change.

Baseless charges in Yemen signal intensified persecution

 

The Iran-backed Houthi authorities in Sana'a, Yemen targeted some 20 Baha'is with a string of baseless charges on Saturday. (Photo by yeowatzup, accessed through Wikimedia Commons)
The Iran-backed Houthi authorities in Sana’a, Yemen targeted some 20 Baha’is with a string of baseless charges on Saturday. (Photo by yeowatzup, accessed through Wikimedia Commons)

 

SANA’A, Yemen — Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi authorities have, in a court hearing Saturday, targeted some 20 Baha’is with a string of baseless charges. This action comes at a time when the leader of the Houthis has incited the population to violence against Baha’is and other religious minorities.

These absurd charges—which include espionage and apostasy—have been primarily leveled against individuals who hold administrative roles in the Baha’i community, but extend to other Yemeni Baha’is including a teenage girl.

Saturday’s hearing began with only the judge, the prosecutor, and other court officials present; neither the Baha’is being charged nor their lawyers were informed of the announcement. The next hearing is scheduled for 29 September in Sana’a, to which the judge has summoned those absent from the first court session.

“These charges are extremely alarming and mark a severe intensification of pressure at a time when the Baha’i community is already being threatened and the general humanitarian crisis in the country requires urgent attention,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“We have every reason to be concerned about the safety of the Baha’i community in Yemen. We urge the international community to call upon the authorities in Sana’a to immediately drop these absurd, false, and baseless accusations against these innocent individuals, who have been maliciously charged simply because they have been practicing their Faith.”

The religiously motivated accusations by Houthi authorities in Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, at Saturday’s court hearing come amid a systematic effort to oppress Yemeni Baha’is, including through hate speech, arrests, imprisonment, and a death sentence.

“We urge the international community to call upon the authorities in Sana’a to immediately drop these absurd, false, and baseless accusations…”

– Bani Dugal

“The manner in which the Houthis are targeting the Baha’i community in Yemen is eerily reminiscent of the persecution of Baha’is in Iran in the 1980s, during which the leaders of the Baha’i community were rounded up and killed,” Ms. Dugal added.

In a televised speech in March, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthis, vilified and denounced the Baha’i Faith. He incited the Yemeni people to violence, urging them to defend their country from the Baha’is and members of other religious minorities.

Within days of his speech, several Yemeni news sites reiterated these attacks, and a prominent Houthi writer and strategist commented on social media that “we will butcher every Baha’i”. Similar sentiments were expressed by religious authorities in Sana’a, including the Mufti of Yemen, Shams al-Din Muhammad Sharaf al-Din, who was educated in Iran and was appointed by the Houthis last year.

Currently, six Baha’is are imprisoned for their beliefs. Among them, Hamed bin Haydara, detained since 2013, was sentenced in January to public execution for his faith following a protracted and unjust trial. Abdu Ismail Hassan Rajeh, the same judge who presided over Mr. Haydara’s farcical case, is overseeing the trial of the recently charged Baha’is.