On June 13, 2021 the Baha’i Faith community of Huntsville will observe the 64th commemoration of the declaration of Race Unity Day in the United States.
Inaugurated by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in April 1957, the observance, initially named Race Amity Day until 1965, is held annually on the second Sunday in June to “celebrate the Baha’i teaching of the Oneness of Mankind, the distinguishing feature of the Revelation of Baha’u’llah.”
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.”
In 1912 on a visit to America, ‘Abdul-Baha, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah, observed, “Until these prejudices are entirely removed from the people of the world, the realm of humanity will not find rest. Nay, rather, discord and bloodshed will be increased day by day, and the foundation of the prosperity of the world of man will be destroyed. … Now is the time for the Americans to take up this matter and unite both the white and colored races. Otherwise, hasten ye towards destruction! Hasten ye toward devastation!”.
Race Unity Day has been observed locally in Huntsville and other areas in North Alabama for decades with a variety of activities, such as public gatherings with invited speakers, music festivals, community picnics, and acts of service.
There are several activities planned for this year’s observance including a zoom meeting to which the public is invited. The Friday, June 11, 2021 meeting will be an opportunity to reflect and affirm the dignity of the diverse racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds of the human mosaic that constitutes the United States of America. It is an informal talk featuring scientific sources, as well as personal accounts from living in Africa and other countries. All are welcome to attend and contribute to the discussion. For more information for the zoom link, please send in your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Sunday, June 13 Devotional (9am-10am), which will focus on the spiritual nature of the principle of racial unity and justice, is open to anyone interested to attend the zoom devotional gathering. For more information on the zoom link, please send in your inquiry to email@example.com.
“What better time is there to focus on the topic of racism in America than this day. One way to observe these special events -Baha’i Faith National Race Unity Day June 13, U.S. National Race Amity Day & Juneteenth Day June 19- is to have a vision for Racial Harmony & Unity. Seek that vision with a copy of “The Vision of Race Unity: America’s Most Challenging Issue.” Request a copy here.
Other activities will highlight the themes of racial unity and justice through the use of the arts, such as music, storytelling, illustrations, etc., and a package of special materials for children that gives them insight into the importance of racial harmony through stories and artwork.
For other news and updates regarding Race Unity Day activities over the next two weeks, please visit huntsvillebahais.com often.
The National Race Amity Conference May 21- May 23, 2021 was a vibrant conference with dynamic sessions and collaborations across communities, institutions, and faith groups giving us hope and inspiration. You can access the conference sessions at the Attendee Hub – https://cvent.me/rq1VnV (After providing your name and email you will be sent a verification code to enter that will allow you to login to the Attendee Hub).
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — The online publication The Bahá’í World has released two new articles.
“Reading Reality in Times of Crisis: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Great War” looks at how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s analysis of the crises of His time was profoundly distinct from contemporaneous “progressive” movements and thinkers. The author describes how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s warnings about the causes of war could not be understood by societies immersed in paradigms of thought totally different from the ones He presented.
Published as part of a series honoring the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, “Reading Reality in Times of Crisis” joins another recently released article titled “The Cause of Universal Peace: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Enduring Impact.” This latter article looks at the circumstances around ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s participation in the 1912 Lake Mohonk Arbitration Conference and the urgency and timeliness of His message over the subsequent decades. The article also reviews efforts of the Bahá’í community to promote world peace in the decades that followed.
The Bahá’í World website presents a collection of essays and articles that explore themes of relevance to the progress and well-being of humanity, highlight advancements in the worldwide Bahá’í community at the levels of thought and action, and reflect on the dynamic history of the Bahá’í Faith.
The Baha’i Faith National Race Amity Centenary Celebration Conference is right around the corner friends! This conference celebrates 100 years since the first Race Amity Convention, commissioned by Abdul-Baha. As such, on May 21-23, 2021, we celebrate how far we have come in these endeavors, recognizing the efforts of so many in carrying out this work, but we also acknowledge the perseverance required of us as we continue addressing “the most vital and challenging issue” facing America in our time.
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — The newly redesigned website of the worldwide Bahá’í community at www.bahai.org has launched, representing the latest in a series of developments since the site was first created in 1996.
The extensive revamp provides an enhanced visual experience and additional features that aim to make the site’s some 140 articles more easily accessible.
The new version of the site opens the way for further additions planned for the coming months and years, which will explore the development of the global Bahá’í community and the experience of those throughout the world who, inspired by the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, are striving to contribute to the betterment of society.
The article below by Kathryn Jewett Hogenson has been added to the special collection, “The Mystery of God,” a selection of pieces brought together to honor the Centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith. You can also visit the Library to see the entire selection of essays and articles on the website. The Library is periodically augmented with pieces from the printed volumes, published from 1926 to 2006.
In the late summer of 1911 in the United States, Albert Smiley found a letter sent from Egypt among the items in his mail. Dated August 9, it was from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, head of a religion which Smiley had only briefly encountered the year before.1 The letter addressed Smiley as the founder and host of the Lake Mohonk Conferences on International Arbitration and praised those gatherings and their goal of establishing arbitration as the means to settle disputes between nations. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated emphatically, “What cause is greater than this!” Explaining how His Father, Bahá’u’lláh, had advocated the unity of the nations and religions, He asserted that the basis of this unity was the oneness of humanity.2 To ensure that His message to the sponsors was received and considered, a second letter was sent on August 22 to the Conference secretary, Mr. C. C. Philips. It began, “The Conference on International Arbitration and Peace is the greatest results [sic] of this great age.”3 In response, the organizers invited ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to take part in the 1912 Conference and to address one of its sessions.4
SYDNEY — Farmers as well as agricultural scientists and policy makers from Australia, Africa and North America have joined the global outcry at the unjust confiscation of lands belonging to Bahá’í farmers in Iran, as the Iranian authorities face mounting criticism over the widespread and systematic persecution of the country’s Bahá’ís.
In an open letter to Iran’s Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi and acting Minister of Agriculture Abbas Keshavarz, figures in the field of agriculture from several countries across the world—including Canada, Ethiopia, Mali, and the United States—say they are speaking out because they “are concerned about the plight of smallholder farmers throughout the world who often face injustice from arbitrary authority.
“These recent land seizures take place within the context of escalating raids on Bahá’í owned homes and businesses in Iran,” they say, expressing their alarm at the latest stage in the ongoing persecution of the Bahá’ís of Ivel who have been displaced and economically impoverished by Iranian authorities solely because of their religious beliefs.
The open letter states: “We understand that Bahá’í families have farmed land in Ivel for over 150 years and that these families have been constructive members of the local community, by, for instance, starting a school for children of all faiths and by carrying out measures to improve the hygiene and health of all community members.
“Despite their contributions to the community,” the letter continues, “they have faced a series of persecutions throughout the years, characterized by mass expulsion and displacement, and the demolition, bulldozing and confiscation of their homes.”
The signatories call on Chief Justice Raisi and Minister of Agriculture Keshavarz to end the persecution of Bahá’ís, saying, “We write as fellow agriculturists to bring attention to this instance of persecution and urge the Iranian authorities to overturn their decision with regard to the farmers of Ivel.”https://www.youtube.com/embed/QzR1tCXgtqo?controls=0A moving video message released on behalf of members of Australia’s farming community draws attention to the plight of Bahá’í families in the Iranian village of Ivel. Claire Booth, a farmer from New South Wales, speaks in the video.
Meanwhile in Australia, a moving video message released on behalf of members of the country’s farming community draws attention to the plight of Bahá’í families in the Iranian village of Ivel.
“Farming is a difficult job at the best of times,” says Claire Booth, a farmer from New South Wales, in the video message. “It’s not made any easier by the frequency of floods, droughts, fires, climate change, and most recently, the impacts of the pandemic.”
The video message describes the role of a supportive government in assisting its farming communities, drawing a sharp contrast with Iran’s harsh treatment of the country’s “peaceful Bahá’í community.”
“We stand in solidarity with our farming brothers and sisters in this country,” the farmers say, “and call on the Iranian government and judiciary to return the land and properties to their rightful owners—Bahá’í farmers in Ivel.”
HARGAWAN, India — Ground was broken this week for the first local Bahá’í House of Worship in India—an edifice from which will emanate the spirit of worship and service that has been fostered over decades in the local area, known as Bihar Sharif. The groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of the construction of this edifice, which is among the seven Bahá’í temples announced in 2012.
The ceremony brought together local dignitaries, representatives of the Bahá’í community, and residents of the area. The occasion began with prayers and deep prajwalan—the Indian custom of lighting a lamp to signify the attainment of knowledge, purity, and connection with the divine. Children and youth played a special role in the program, contributing to the devotional atmosphere through songs and musical drama.
In his comments at the ceremony, Amod Kumar, the head of the Panchayat (a local civic body) of Hargawan, Bihar Sharif, spoke about his hopes for the temple. “Today our society is divided by caste, religion, and generation. The Bahá’í teachings have contributed to unifying people here, especially children and young people participating in the Bahá’í community’s moral education programs. Now this area has received the House of Worship as a divine gift, and it is hoped that the community here will benefit from this gift and continue to achieve progress and prosperity.”
Naznene Rowhani, Secretary of the Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly of India said, “Unity and harmony in our diverse society has been expressed through India’s proud Vedic tradition of vasudhaiva kutumbakam—the world is one family. … [The temple] will be a shining symbol of vasudhaiva kutumbakam in action—where everybody, regardless of community, caste, color, or creed will be welcome to commune with their Creator. This tradition is affirmed and manifested in Bahá’u’lláh’s words ‘Regard ye not one other as strangers. Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch. So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.’”
The groundbreaking ceremony culminated with the placing of soil collected from villages across the state of Bihar at the temple site. This gesture was evocative of the connection between the thousands of residents of these villages and the House of Worship.
“When hundreds of people—young and old, women and men, farmers, laborers, students, doctors, businessmen—eventually gather together daily in the House of Worship and turn to the Almighty, this will further strengthen the bonds of unity that have formed in this community,” said Rahul Kumar, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Asia.
In her remarks at the ceremony, Ms. Rowhani explained how the Temple will belong to all people of Bihar Sharif. “It is the fervent hope of the Bahá’í community of India that this beautiful edifice will be a place where humanity will enter and find harmony, peace, and spirituality.”
The groundbreaking comes after the unveiling of the design for the House of Worship, which took place last April.
BIC GENEVA — Leading Muslims, government officials, and parliamentarians around the world have joined a growing outcry at the unjust confiscation of properties owned by Bahá’ís in the Iranian farming village of Ivel. The ruling to allow Iranian authorities to confiscate the properties, clearly motivated by religious prejudice, was recently upheld in an appeals court and has left dozens of families internally displaced and economically impoverished.
The American Islamic Congress, the Canadian Council of Imams, Chair of the Virtues Ethics Foundation and one of the leading Islamic scholars in the United Kingdom Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, the All India Tanzeem Falahul Muslemin, and the All India Saifi Association have all issued statements in support of the Bahá’ís in Ivel, expressing grave concern about the confiscation of the properties.
“We are calling for the Higher court in Mazandaran and all responsible personnel to take action and to help the Baha’i community in Ivel get back their properties,” reads the statement from the American Islamic Congress. Echoing these sentiments, the Canadian Council of Imams writes, “We are deeply concerned by the ruling issued by an Iranian Court to confiscate the properties of 27 Bahá’ís in the farming village of Ivel.”
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra from the United Kingdom called on Iran’s Chief Justice, Ebrahim Raisi, “to address this injustice,” adding that “Islam does not permit a government to confiscate land from citizens just because they follow a different religion.”
Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) to the United Nations in Geneva, says, “The sight of Muslim leaders around the world coming to the aid of their Bahá’í friends in Iran in an extraordinary wave of support is a powerful signal to the Islamic Republic that their co-religionists around the world condemn their actions.
“Statements of support from leading Muslims for the Bahá’ís in Ivel, who have lived there for more than 150 years with their Muslim neighbors, show that the Iranian government’s invocation of Islamic law is a thin veil covering its persecution of the Bahá’ís.”
In Sweden, 12 members of parliament and other elected representatives have strongly called on Iran to return the lands of the Bahá’ís of Ivel. The German Federal Government Commissioner for Global Freedom of Religion, Markus Grübel, also called for Iran to recognize the Bahá’ís as a religious community in the country and to end the “discrimination and persecution of Bahá’í communities.”
South Africa’s Legal Resources Centre, an organization known for its human rights work during apartheid, has also issued a letter condemning the property confiscations.
“The world is watching and is appalled by the Iranian government’s blatant injustices towards the Bahá’í community,” says Ms. Ala’i of the BIC. “The innocence of the Bahá’ís is more evident than ever to the international community and Iran is being held accountable for the gross injustices it has inflicted on the Bahá’í community in Iran. The government must take the necessary steps to not only return the lands to the Bahá’ís in Ivel but to end the systematic persecution of the Bahá’ís throughout the entire country once and for all.”
The history of land confiscation and mass displacement of Bahá’ís in Iran is detailed in a special section of the website of the Canadian Bahá’í community’s Office of Public Affairs.
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — The Bahá’í World News Service looks back on a year like no other, providing an overview of the stories it has covered on developments in the global Bahá’í community that have strengthened resilience and offered hope in a time of great need.https://player.vimeo.com/video/495839889Developments in the global Bahá’í community in 2020
Responding to the pandemic
When the pandemic first hit, acts of solidarity throughout the world showed humanity how it could rally around an issue to alleviate suffering. The months since March have demonstrated more clearly than ever that every human being can become a protagonist of change. As people took action, a sense of collective purpose motivated yet more people to do whatever they could to be of service to their fellow citizens—creating a virtuous circle and giving rise to an unprecedented level of collective action.
In March, the News Service reported on the initial response of Bahá’í communities to the crisis as they quickly and creatively adapted to new forms of interaction suited to public health requirements and found ways to be of service to their societies.
In a suburb of New York City, a group of youth engaged in Bahá’í community-building efforts turned their attention to pressing needs arising from school closures.
Children in Luxembourg participating in moral education classes made cards to bring joy to health workers and others carrying out essential services, while children in Berlin, Germany, created drawings on the theme of hope for the residents of a home for the elderly. In Slovenia, the Bahá’ís of Bašelj connected food delivery services catering to restaurants to also deliver to homes. That month also saw Bahá’ís around the world marking Naw-Rúz—their new year and the first day of spring—by strengthening bonds of friendship and conveying messages of hope.
By April, as the spread of the coronavirus had become more apparent, the efforts of Bahá’í communities further intensified. In Canada, participants of a Bahá’í-inspired program for English learners found support in one another through difficult times. In Tunisia, the Bahá’ís of the country joined with diverse religious groups to call for both science and religion to guide an effective response. In the DRC, community ties enabled thousands of people to be kept informed of accurate information and advice, including on what crops to plant to ensure food security. In Kiyunga, Uganda, radio broadcasts prompted conversations across households on the importance of prayer as a source of strength. Bahá’í radio stations elsewhere found a renewed purpose, acting as a source of critical information and an anchor of community life to those living in rural areas.
In the months since April, it has become ever more clear that service to society and collective worship are essential elements in the life of a community that remains hopeful and perseveres in the face of a crisis. In Romania, participants in devotional gatherings open to all are finding their hearts to be “beating as one”. In South Africa, Bahá’í healthcare professionals, seeing potential in every human being to serve their society, have been drawing on the strength of the community to provide support to those recovering from the coronavirus.
In all places, youth have moved to the forefront of the grassroots response to the crisis. In Sierra Leone, young people created a film on preventive health measures, while in Italy youth explored profound themes related to social transformation in a series of short videos. Amid the pandemic and in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion, youth in the city drew on capacities they had gained in Bahá’í community-building efforts to create a disaster recovery network.
Over this period, the arts have played an important role in casting a light on themes that are captivating the public consciousness. Meanwhile, the Bahá’í World publication has released a series of articles on themes related to the global health crisis and major issues facing societies as they look ahead.
Pursuing long-term social and economic development endeavors
In addition to reporting on grassroots Bahá’í social and economic initiatives in response to the pandemic, the News Service also covered more complex projects and efforts by Bahá’í-inspired organizations as they adapted to circumstances arising from the health crisis.
The News Service reported on examples of initiatives to improve food security. In Vanuatu, participants in a Bahá’í-inspired educational program called Preparation for Social Action have been taking steps to not only maintain food supplies for their fellow citizens, but also to encourage others in their country to do the same. In Nepal, with many migrant workers returning home amid the pandemic, a Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly took steps to enhance the community’s capacity to produce its own food.
In Colombia, FUNDAEC—a Baha’i-inspired organization based in Cali—turned its attention to supporting local food production initiatives, while fostering appreciation toward the land and the environment in communities throughout the country.
Some of the efforts covered in the area of education include the following: In Bolivia, a Bahá’í-inspired university has been supporting staff and students through challenging times and has given thoughtful consideration to identifying technologies suitable for present circumstances. In the Central African Republic, Indonesia and India—among other places—Bahá’í-inspired community schools have found creative ways of adapting, gaining insight into the role of teachers in times of crises. In the United States, constructive conversations among individuals, officials, and the police on racial equality have helped to create shared purpose among different segments of society toward improving systems of public safety.
Participating in the discourses of society
This past year, the News Service covered a variety of stories on the efforts of the Bahá’í community to contribute to social discourses.
In Jordan and other countries, Bahá’í communities have been creating spaces for journalists and different social actors to explore how the media can play a constructive role in society. In Indonesia, a series of seminars has tapped into a strong desire among officials, academics, and others to explore fundamental principles of a more peaceful society. In Canada and Austria, a podcast series and video blog respectively have been drawing insights from religion to provide new perspectives on issues of national concern. Participants of roundtable discussions in Kazakhstan and the Kurdistan region of Iraq have been exploring how spiritual principles that have drawn people together in this time can help shape public life in the future. In Chile, the Bahá’í community has been creating spaces alongside the constitutional process to examine with their fellow citizens the foundations for a materially and spiritually prosperous society.
In Australia, a two-year process of gatherings among diverse segments of society culminated in the release of Creating an Inclusive Narrative, a publication that offers insights on forging a common identity. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and India, remarkable gatherings brought together chiefs to examine how to transcend traditional barriers and prejudices that keep people apart as they build toward lasting peace.
The Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity has been promoting gatherings for university students in which young people explore together questions concerning social change.
Persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran and Yemen
At a time when the international community has been battling a global health crisis, the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran and Yemen has not relented.
A United Nations resolution, passed earlier this month by the General Assembly, condemned Iran’s ongoing violations of human rights, including those of the country’s Bahá’í community. This year Iranian authorities have escalated their persecution of the Bahá’ís through scores of baseless arrests, denial of the most basic civil rights, and restrictions in applying for a new national identification card. These actions have placed great pressures on individuals and families already facing a health crisis.
In Yemen, a court upheld a religiously-motivated death sentence against a Bahá’í earlier this year. Although he and five other Bahá’ís were later released from their wrongful detainment, the Bahá’í International Community remains gravely concerned and has called for the safeguarding of the rights of all Bahá’ís in Yemen to live according to their beliefs without risk of persecution.
Bahá’í Houses of Worship
The News Service covered stories this past year on how Bahá’í Houses of Worship have adapted to the pandemic while infusing wider segments of society with the spirit of collective worship and service. Stories also reported on advancements in the construction of Houses of Worship in Kenya and Papua New Guinea.
The beginning of this year saw the first steps being taken to prepare the site and lay the groundwork for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Coinciding with the start of construction, the mayor of ‘Akká and representatives of the city’s religious communities gathered to honor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at a special ceremony.
Although certain operations had necessarily slowed or stopped when the pandemic hit, progress continued to be made with the approval of local authorities at each stage. By April work on the foundations was giving shape to an imprint of the design’s elegant geometry. In September the foundations were completed. By November, the first vertical elements were being raised.
BAHÁ’Í WORLD CENTRE — Since the completion of the foundations for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the first vertical elements are now being raised. The subterranean portion of the structure, which will lie beneath the circular geometry, is also beginning to take shape.
Work is advancing to lay the concrete platforms that will provide stability to the landscaping berms on either side of a central plaza.
The selection of photos below provides a view into the work currently underway.
As with the central foundations, many support piles were driven deep into the ground, and these are now being capped with a layer of reinforced concrete in several stages to create platforms for the landscaping berms.
A close up of a portion of the structure.
The design of the Shrine incorporates two sloping berms enclosing the central plaza. An intricate trellis above the plaza connects the berms to the inner part of the structure. A concrete platform is being prepared for each berm, providing stability to the landscaping that will sit above.
“Void former” blocks are fitted together to separate the concrete platform from the soil.
Once “void former” blocks are put in place, reinforcement bars are laid for the concrete pour.
As one segment of the platform is completed, preparation continues on the next. The construction of concrete platforms for the berms is nearing completion.
Step by step, the construction of the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continues.