Huntsville City Council Issues Bicentenary Proclamation

In an uplifting and joyful atmosphere, the Huntsville City Council Thursday evening issued a Proclamation honoring the Bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh.

The Proclamation, signed jointly by the City Council and the Mayor of Huntsville, was presented in a regular public session to a nearly packed council chamber and broadcast live on the city television network.

The council president and members of the council took time before the meeting to personally greet the contingent of Bahá’ís supporting the proclamation presentation.

The council session began with the reading of a prayer for humanity by Alicia Tyson as the invocation.  The proclamation was read in its entirety by Councilman Bill Kling, who co-sponsored it with Council President Jennie Robinson.

Tim Tyson accepted the Proclamation for the Bahá’í Community and thanked the Council for its support.

Of special significance was the radiant diversity of the council, the city staff supporting the council session, and the audience which included a number of youth and junior youth from the greater Huntsville community who received special recognition by the City for their service.

Historic Battle of Haifa commemorated in New Delhi

NEW DELHI — On 23 September 1918, during the final year of World War I, Indian soldiers played a decisive role in the Battle of Haifa, Israel. In what is believed to be one of the last cavalry charges in modern military history, the soldiers carried out an attack that allowed the British forces to capture Haifa from the Ottoman army. As they did so, they also ended up ensuring tBattle 1he safety of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

India’s part in this historic battle was commemorated on 20 September 2017 at an event in New Delhi hosted by a think tank, the India Foundation. The event, titled The Centennial Commemoration of the Battle of Haifa, included politicians, civil servants, members of the military and armed forces, some of whom were descendants of the soldiers who fought in the battle, and representatives from the Baha’i community of India.

Addressing the audience, Major Chandrakant Singh, Secretary of the Indian War Veterans Association, said, “In researching the Battle of Haifa, I came upon the fascinating history of the Baha’is and their central figure ‘Abdu’l-Baha. I came to the conclusion that the story of the Battle of Haifa and the story of the Baha’is are so closely interlinked and so inspiring that everyone in India should know them.”

Indeed, safeguarding ‘Abdu’l-Baha was one of the lesser-known outcomes of the battle, explained Brigadier M.S. Jodha, the grandson of the captain who took charge of the Indian forces after the commanding officer was killed. Mr. Jodha described the military intricacies of the battle in his presentation.

‘Abdu’l-Baha had been a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire since His childhood. He was freed from incarceration in the prison city of ‘Akka in 1908 when the Young Turk Revolution led to the discharge of all religious and political prisoners. Following his release, ‘Abdu’l-Baha moved his residence to Haifa, where he was overseeing the construction of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel.

During the early years of World War I, though no longer imprisoned, ‘Abdu’l-Baha faced repeated threats against His life by authorities that were antagonistic toward Him and the Baha’is. The Commander of the Ottoman fourth army corps had even threatened to crucify ‘Abdu’l-Baha if the Turkish army were ever to be displaced out of Haifa.

It was under these circumstances that the dramatic Battle of Haifa unfolded, during which two regiments of Indian cavalry soldiers played a critical role in capturing the city from the well-entrenched Turkish and German soldiers.

“‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke of India as a land endowed with brilliant capacity, and expressed the hope that they would work to unite its peoples.”

— Naznene Rowhani, representative of India’s Baha’i community

Various speakers talked about the dramatic events of the battle as Indian cavalry regiments led a bold uphill charge toward Ottoman artillery positions on Mount Carmel. Though the Indian soldiers—the Jodhpur Lancers and the Mysore Lancers—were armed only with lances and spears and faced machine gun fire as they charged forward, their victory was unexpectedly swift, and Haifa was captured with relatively few casualties.

According to a historical account by Hasan Balyuzi, after the battle, Indian army soldiers were sent to the gates of the house of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. He “was sitting calm and unperturbed in the forecourt of his house.”

In her presentation, a representative of India’s Baha’i community, Naznene Rowhani, recounted stories of some of the Indian soldiers who met ‘Abdu’l-Baha two days after the battle and were invited by Him to have tea. “It was a picturesque and striking scene,” she said. “‘Abdu’l-Baha, sitting with representatives from India, Persia, the Kurdistan region, Egypt, and England, some dressed in military suits, others wearing turbans and Indian caps, and all receiving sweets from His own hands.”

Ms. Rowhani also related the comments made by ‘Abdu’l-Baha to two Indian officers—Mir Mumtaz Ali and Rasidar Rahim Sher Khan—who met with Him: “He told them that when they returned to India he wished for them to engage in another kind of warfare, a war against self and passion. He said that ‘he who gains victory over his self is the real conqueror, has proved his power, and will become the recipients of God’s blessings.’ ‘Abdu’l-Baha spoke of India as a land endowed with brilliant capacity, and expressed the hope that they would work to unite its peoples.”

Decade of unjust imprisonment ends for Mahvash Sabet

SabetBIC NEW YORK — After enduring ten years of unjust imprisonment and harsh treatment, Mahvash Sabet’s sentence has come to an end. She is one of the seven members of the former leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran known as the Yaran, who were jailed on false and baseless charges.

During her confinement in Iran’s notorious Evin and Raja’i Shahr prisons, Mrs. Sabet distinguished herself by the loving care and kindness she extended to her fellow prisoners. Journalist Roxana Saberi, who shared a cell in Evin with Mrs. Sabet and fellow Yaran member Fariba Kamalabadi, has written about how their compassion touched the lives of other inmates, as well as a touching recollection of how they cared for her during her hunger strike.

While in prison, Mrs. Sabet, a former teacher and school principal who also worked with the National Literacy Committee of Iran, found solace in writing poetry. Her remarkable compositions were collected and adapted into English, published in a volume entitled Prison Poems in 2013 that was widely praised for its literary quality and profound subject matter.

As has occurred with prisoners of conscience, writers, thought-leaders, and poets who have been wrongly imprisoned throughout history, the power of Mrs. Sabet’s ideas and beliefs was only amplified by her persecution.

The plight of its author attracted attention to this deeply moving collection of poetry, inspiring PEN International to feature Mrs. Sabet in a campaign to defend persecuted writers. Her poems also inspired a musical composition by award-winning composer Lasse Thoresen, performed at an international music festival in Oslo earlier this year.

Mrs. Sabet, now 64 years old, was arrested in March 2008. The six other members of the Yaran were imprisoned in May of the same year. All seven members were held without communication with the outside for weeks, were subjected to solitary confinement, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardships.

“Although Mrs. Sabet is being freed from prison, she will still not achieve full freedom,” said Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in New York. “She will return to a society where Baha’i youth are deprived of access to higher education and public jobs, where attacks on small Baha’i-owned shops are increasing, cemeteries are being desecrated, Baha’is are vilified in state sponsored media on a daily basis and where they are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for their beliefs.”

The other imprisoned members of the Yaran are also expected to complete their sentences in the coming months. They include Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, 55; Mr. Jamalodin Khanjani, 83; Mr. Afif Naeimi, 55; Mr. Saeid Rezai, 59; Mr. Behrooz Tavakkoli, 65; and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, 43.

“We hope that their release will start a new chapter for the treatment of the Baha’is in Iran and that the government will begin to remove the obstacles in its way to abide by the promise it has made of ‘creating justice for all Iranians equally,'” said Ms. Dugal.

Join us for prayers, and a study of The Advent of Divine Justice

Join us tomorrow, Sept. 24, 11 a.m. at the Baha’i Center , 3209 Pulaski Pike, Huntsville, for prayers, and then stay as we begin a study of an important literally masterpiece from the Baha’i Writings, The Advent of Divine Justice.
Members of all faith traditions are welcome to the devotions, AND for the study sessions!
Study of The Advent of Divine Justice is considered a priority of every Bahá’í. Composed in 1938,  it is one of most important of the Bahá’í writings to understand. It is addressed to the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, whose community it extols as the “chief remaining citadel” of the Faith. Much of the book addresses the “faults, habits, and tendencies which they have inherited from their own nation” that they must “weed” out, and addresses the “distinctive qualities and characteristics” of the Faith they must “patiently and prayerfully” cultivate. The study sessions identify the “most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá’í community,” defines a “chaste and holy life,” and delineates the “spiritual prerequisites of success” in teaching. The themes are especially addressed to the Bahá’í youth and places all the actions of the American Bahá’ís in the context of the destiny of America. Understanding and living by the standards set in The Advent of Divine Justice are fundamental to building an inclusive community based on virtue and holiness and to fostering the process leading to entry by troops.”

The study material is available here

 

Leaders continue to honor bicentenary

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Tributes in honor of the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh from local and national leaders from diverse parts of the world continue to be received by Bahá’í communities, most recently from Australasia, Central Asia, and South America.

Australian Prime MinisterIn New Zealand, Prime Minister Bill English has addressed a message to the Bahá’í community of his country. New Zealand Message“Many in New Zealand and around the world will be celebrating this very special anniversary, and I hope you enjoy the festivities with your family and friends,” he states in his letter.

Earlier in the year, in his message to the Bahá’í community of Australia on the occasion of Ridvan, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull wrote an uplifting tribute, acknowledging this special bicentenary year.

“Australia’s Bahá’ís are a community of warmth and welcome; a community of music and charity; a community that rejoices in its identity and yet extends its counsel of respect and equality to all,” wrote Prime Minister Turnbull in April. “We are truly citizens of the world and our shared commitment to friendship, inclusion and harmony is what lies at the heart of our success.”

In Kazakhstan, the Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs and Civil Society, Berik Aryn, addressed a letter to the Bahá’í community there, writing:Kazak Message

“We hope that the followers of the Bahá’í Faith will, through their spiritual service, promote the further consolidation of the strong relationship between government entities and religious groups, as well as between the different faith groups in Kazakhstan.”

In Argentina, a number of local and regional officials in the province of Santa Fe have sent video greetings to the Universal House of Justice and to the city of Haifa.

Other gestures from officials in Rosario, Argentina, have included a number of municipal and provincial decrees, radio interviews, a flag-raising celebration, and messages of greeting.

The bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh will be observed by the Huntsville Bahá’í community Saturday evening, Oct. 21, 2017.

Nations and governments join in honoring bicentenary anniversary

As the two hundred year anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh‘s birth approaches on October 21, leaders around the world from the international to local level are honoring the momentous occasion with special tributes.

SingaporeRecently, Singapore’s Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, addressed a message to the Bahá’í  community of his country:

“Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings of unity and peace are cherished values in our multi-racial and multi-religious society,” stated the message, dated 31 July 2017. “I am heartened that the Bahá’í  community is active in inter-faith engagements, and continues to promote understanding, dialogue and interaction among people from different religions.”

“Your efforts will go a long way in enhancing mutual respect in a multi-faith society and strengthening Singapore’s social harmony,” it continues.

The Prime Minister’s tribute is among a number that have already been received by Bahá’í communities around the world. In Vietnam, in honor of the upcoming bicentenary celebrations, senior government officials, including Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee, met with representatives of the Bahá’í community and expressed appreciation for the community’s contributions towards the country’s development through activities that are improving living conditions and promoting education.

Germany

The Government of Germany issued a stamp in honor of Bahá’u’lláh’s  200th birthday anniversary.

Since the message from the President of India earlier this year, similar tributes have now been received from the Vice President and several other high-ranking members of the national government, as well as the Chief Minister of one of the states of India and other officials.

At the local level, the City Council of Rosario, Argentina, passed a government resolution honoring the bicentenary anniversary and recognizing Haifa as its sister city. In the United States, the city governments across the nation have or will be passing proclamations and resolutions calling attention to the Bicentenary, urging its citizens to work for the realization of peace, justice, and solidarity, and calling to mind the service by the Bahá’ís in local communities in honor of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh.