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.

Houthi authorities order the release of all Baha’i prisoners in Yemen

NEW YORK—In a general television address Wednesday in Yemen, Mr. Mahdi al-Mashat, President of the Supreme Political Council in Sana’a, ordered the release of all Baha’i prisoners as well as a pardon for Hamed bin Haydara, whose death sentence was upheld three days ago by an appeals court in Sana’a. 

The Baha’i International Community welcomes this announcement and calls for its immediate implementation. The six Baha’is to be released—who have been wrongfully imprisoned in Sana’a for several years on the basis of their religious beliefs and made to face a series of baseless charges—include Mr. Hamed bin Haydara, Mr. Waleed Ayyash, Mr. Akram Ayyash, Mr. Kayvan Ghaderi, Mr. Badiullah Sanai, and Mr. Wael al-Arieghie. 

Today’s order must lead to the lifting of the 2018 charges against a group of over 20 Baha’is, the returning of all Baha’i-owned assets and properties, and the functioning of Baha’i institutions. Like all other Yemeni citizens, Baha’is should be permitted to practice their faith freely, in keeping with the universal principles of freedom of religion or belief. The Baha’is of Yemen have and will continue to contribute to the life of their country and their fellow citizens.

Naw-Ruz around the world brings hope and spiritual renewal

KUWAIT CITY — During this time of a global health crisis, Baha’is around the world are finding creative means of marking Naw-Ruz—their new year and the first day of spring—while strictly adhering to public health measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This day is a symbol of renewal, an occasion when all can reflect on their spiritual reality and how they can contribute to the well-being of their society.

A group of youth in Kuwait have created a short video exploring how Naw-Ruz has been a unifying event across several religions and cultures.

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A group of youth in Kuwait marked Naw-Ruz by creating a short video exploring how the Holy Day has been a unifying event across several religions and cultures.

Individuals in other countries are recording songs and other media, and bringing joy to those around them in many other ways.

More than 180 people across Belgium and Luxembourg held a celebration together online, all connecting from their homes. This was one of countless such events that took place today across the world. One young man, who was able to connect despite the technical limitations of the refugee facility where he lives, said, “It’s my pleasure to be beside you and other lovely friends. I wish you the best in the new year, I’m so glad for having such friends.”

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More than 180 people across Belgium and Luxembourg held a celebration together online, all connecting from their homes.

These efforts are a response to the message from the Universal House of Justice marking this special occasion, which states:

“However difficult matters are at present, and however close to the limits of their endurance some sections of societies are brought, humanity will ultimately pass through this ordeal, and it will emerge on the other side with greater insight and with a deeper appreciation of its inherent oneness and interdependence.”

The News Service will continue to cover stories on how communities around the world are responding constructively to the current difficult circumstances.

Alabama Public Health: If You Suspect You Have COVID-19

(NOTE: see Alabama Public Health: http://alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/cov-testing.html)

If a person has questions about being tested for COVID-19, they should call their healthcare provider to make arrangements for testing. It is important to call your healthcare provider’s office before going in to let them know you may have COVID-19. This will help the healthcare provider’s office take steps to keep others from getting infected or exposed to COVID-19.

If you do not have a healthcare provider, please call 1-888-264-2256, starting March 14 at 8:00 a.m. In the event the line is busy, please try to call again.

ADPH is no longer requiring patients meet a certain criteria in order to be tested for COVID-19. However, healthcare providers are the only persons who can perform specimen collections and request testing be completed by our State Lab. Healthcare providers evaluating patients should visit COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers.

Testing Process

Healthcare providers in the state of Alabama who want to test someone for COVID-19 have the option of contacting ADPH for testing through the State Lab, or contacting a commercial laboratory to conduct the testing.

Any person that a physician determines should be tested qualifies for testing. We are recommending that those at the highest risk seek testing for COVID-19.

If testing will be conducted through ADPH, the healthcare provider takes a swab from the nose, using the same kind of swab used for flu tests. The specimen is then put in a viral transport media – again, the same thing used to transport specimens being tested for flu and other viruses. The specimen is shipped overnight to the State Lab, where a COVID-19 test kit provided by the CDC is used to check for the virus. Confirmatory testing is done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Results are sent to your healthcare provider.

Information on what type of collection materials healthcare providers should use, and how to package and ship specimens, is available on COVID-19 Resources for Healthcare Providers (see Specimen Collection Guidance for Novel Coronavirus).

The State Lab has the ability to conduct testing on 150 COVID-19 specimens each day. The average time frame to conduct testing at the State Lab is between 24 to 72 hours.

Tests are being “batched” which means more than one specimen is tested whenever possible to reserve the limited supplies we have in order to be able to test more people.