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.

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.”

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:

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.

What To Do If You Think You Have COVID-19

(NOTE: The following information was culled from national news and Center’s For Disease Control web sites.)

Now that the coronavirus outbreak has affected people in our area as well as in more than 100 countries, awareness of COVID-19 is at an all-time high, making people across the globe wonder if their latest sniffle could be a symptom.

Here’s what you should know about the virus’s symptoms and what you should do if you experience them. Remember that it’s important to take precautions to protect not only your health and safety, but also the health and safety of others.

COVID-19 symptoms are often “mild.” Here’s what to look out for.

Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform PlushCare, says the main symptoms often appear similar to the flu, “such as fever over 100.5, cough, malaise, and occasionally nausea, diarrhea. In more severe cases, shortness of breath, chest pain and pneumonia will be apparent.”

Most people who contract the disease will experience “mild symptoms,” which may be “similar symptoms that you may experience with a cold or mild flu-like illness,” said Kristin Dean, a board-certified physician and medical director at the telemedicine service Doctor on Demand. “Most people experience a mild form of coronavirus with these symptoms being the most common: cough, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion or diarrhea. In some cases, people who are infected will not exhibit any symptoms.”

Coronavirus can present as a common cold in mild cases, with a low-grade fever, chills, headache, fatigue and malaise. It’s important not to ignore these mild symptoms, and it could take anywhere from 2 to 14 days for an infected person to actually exhibit mild symptoms, with the average being about five days.

“An individual may think nothing of these symptoms because they do not significantly change or impact their daily lives,” Eudene Harry, a board-certified physician in emergency medicine and medical director for the Oasis Wellness & Rejuvenation Center in Orlando, Florida, previously told HuffPost.

What to do if you’re displaying symptoms.

The biggest red flag is shortness of breath, followed by a high fever and worsening cough, in which case you should seek immediate medical attention. If you have a history of medical conditions that can decrease your immune system’s response, you’ll want to be extra cautious as well.

“Decreased immunity may be caused by some of the following conditions: being older than age 65, diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer, HIV or taking immunosuppressive medications,” Dean explained.

If you fall into one of those categories and are experiencing any symptoms, contact a health care provider via phone or a virtual video visit to talk it through and discuss the next steps. This is especially important if you have traveled to areas with high community transmission or been in contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19. (Even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms, it is advisable to self-isolate for 14 days after contact.)

Conducting initial consultations through telemedicine networks can help reduce the spread of the virus by allowing health care workers to take protective measures to prepare for a visit from a potentially infectious patient. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, however, call 911 to get immediate medical care.

Whatever you do, try not to panic.

“Most cases of COVID-19 will be mild and resolve on their own similar to the flu,” Anegawa said. “It’s best to stay home and out of public. However, if you have any severe symptoms such as a very high fever, severe cough or shortness of breath, it would be wise to seek in-person care.”

What to do if you’re unable to be diagnosed.

Due to test kit shortages in the U.S., people who show mild symptoms but haven’t been in contact with confirmed COVID-19 patients or visited high-risk areas may not be able to get a diagnosis. But it’s still important to stay home if you aren’t feeling well to help reduce the spread of illness.

“If you suspect you have COVID-19, please do not go to work, school or out in public places until you are directed to do so by a health care provider,” Dean said. “Mild COVID-19, just like other colds you have experienced, will typically resolve on its own by taking care of your health.”

She advised people who are exhibiting mild symptoms to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated and remain isolated from others.

“You can take over-the-counter cold remedies to help treat your symptoms, such as acetaminophen for fevers or headaches, and cough medications to alleviate coughing,” she added. “Since this illness is due to a virus, antibiotics are not effective. Stay in touch with your doctor about changes in your symptoms, and when it’s all right to return to your usual activities.”

Doctors still aren’t certain about how long patients infected with coronavirus are contagious, but one study suggests that those with mild cases are probably not infectious by about 10 days after they first experienced symptoms. Pending more conclusive research, however, it’s best to exercise caution and stay in touch with your doctor.

Avoiding high-risk places, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, keeping a safe distance between people, not touching your face, and coughing or sneezing into elbows instead of hands are all measures everyone can take to help slow the rate of infection ― even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms. Taking care of yourself is one of the most selfless things you can do in the time of a pandemic.

“If everyone with a sore throat goes to the hospital, resources will be used unnecessarily,” said Jake Deutsch, a physician specializing in emergency medicine and co-founder of Specialty Infusion. “Statistically speaking, most people won’t need an intensive-care level of treatment, so make sure those resources are available for people who clearly are more at risk. If you don’t have underlying medical conditions, I’d recommend staying home until you’re not sick. Judge your symptoms and put them in context of your medical problems.”

Ultimately, it’s important to follow guidance from reputable public health leaders like the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best treatment we can provide is making sure people have correct information and can process everything,” Deutsch said.

Hope and support in Italy during a global health crisis

MANTUA, Italy — In a time when many parts of the world are grappling with the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, Baha’is in some of the most affected areas are finding ways to be of service to their societies. Years of experience with community-building activities have equipped them to respond with creativity and resourcefulness to the current circumstances.

In Italy, where preventive measures have now confined most people to their homes, communities continue activities that bring hope. Many such initiatives have temporarily moved online, with people holding video conference calls to provide support to one another, to pray together, and to advance the educational endeavors of the Baha’i community that build bonds of friendship and capacity for service to society.

A teacher of children’s moral education classes describes how she has been working through these conditions: “I prepare some digital and audiovisual material for the class and distribute it online to families. The children do the work at home, and then discuss with their parents and siblings.”

In other countries where schools are closed, Baha’is are remotely helping children with homework assignments. Children are also coming together in small online groups to help one another with their school work.

The educational endeavors of the Baha’i community that build bonds of friendship and capacity for service to society continue to advance in the face of movement restrictions in Italy and other countries as families work together in their homes with online support.

Baha’is in Italy are phoning family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances—simply to offer a voice of encouragement. Many of these calls have led to profound conversations and have strengthened bonds of friendship.

“This moment is making us realize that we are not invincible,” says a member of the Italian Baha’i community. “This is an opportunity for us to reflect on questions that, maybe at other times in our lives we do not spend enough time considering.”

In a letter sent to the Baha’is of Italy on Tuesday, the country’s National Spiritual Assembly says: “We have seen countless examples of solidarity and loyalty among health workers, teachers, professionals of every kind, and responsible citizens, who have readily responded to this emergency, demonstrating the innate nobility of human beings. Our true nature is one of giving, serving, and contributing to progress.”

Transcending differences through a unifying language

BRUSSELS — At a recent European Parliament panel discussion, the Brussels office of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) led an exploration of how institutions and civil society actors can develop language that at once respects diversity and fosters shared identity. This discussion comes at a time when questions of identity and belonging occupy a central place in contemporary discourses across Europe.

The panel, attended by some 40 policymakers and civil society representatives, was hosted by Julie Ward and Samira Rafaela, two members of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI), and chaired by the BIC Brussels office.

Ms. Ward expressed that she welcomed this conversation, giving an opportunity to frame these issues from a new perspective, and remarked on the power of language as a tool for either fostering cohesion or inciting division.

“We should value diversity as a unifying factor,” said Ms. Rafaela, “but how do we address this through language? We need to create language that is respectful towards people rather than laying blame on others. How can a language be developed that fosters a strong sense of loyalty to all of humanity?”

The European Parliament panel discussion on the role of language in fostering a shared identity was hosted by two members of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup (ARDI)—Samira Rafaela (right) and Julie Ward (center)—and chaired by the BIC Brussels office—represented by Rachel Bayani (left).

In a paper prepared for the discussion and distributed to participants at the gathering, the BIC office highlighted that much of the thinking about language has been directed towards celebrating diversity and promoting peaceful coexistence. Language reflects people’s attitudes toward one another and shapes their thoughts. The BIC suggests that, while it is essential to have language that respects differences, overemphasizing this can reinforce the notions of “us and them” that must be overcome.

The panel, therefore, focused on how institutions and social actors can address the root of the issue: that although celebrating diversity and advocating co-existence represent a step forward, a shared identity is needed to chart a path towards harmonious societies.

Various organizations attending the European Parliament panel discussion provided insights and perspectives into the critical issue of language and identity, themes which occupy a central place in contemporary discourses across Europe.

Pascal Jossi, a representative of an agency that assists firms and institutions to create inclusive organizational cultures, spoke about how the language used to describe differences among people can lead to a sense of othering. “It’s not about finding the best category to place someone in,” he said “but building a new reality in which everybody feels welcome.”

Mr. Jossi shared his experience as someone of Cameroonian descent born in Belgium and raised in Luxemburg, who in each of these places found himself referred to in terms that separated him from the majority. “This kind of tension will remain,” he said, “until we remodel our interactions. I don’t think adding or removing specific words from our vocabulary will alone make language a catalyst for creating an inclusive society; we have to examine what attitudes and assumptions underlie the way we speak to one another so that we can begin engaging in a way that builds trust and unity.”

“We are learning to speak in ways that enable us to establish interdependent and cooperative relationships,” said Mathieu Marie-Eugenie, describing his experience facilitating workshops with youth in the Paris area that promote coexistence and cooperation through poetry and artistic expression. “In an environment of trust and kindness, we are able to tell ourselves ‘I am a person who belongs within humanity,’ or in poetic language, ‘I am a drop, and I am a part of the ocean.’”

“Beyond our individual identities,” said Rachel Bayani, representative of the BIC, in her remarks at the forum, “we need to conceive of an overarching, shared identity, one which can unite, which is based on the understanding that humanity is one and that all the peoples of the world are part of the same human family. This is essential if the splintering of humanity into opposing groups is to give way to greater degrees of unity, and if the rich manifestations of diversity are to be constructively woven into the fabric of social life.”

Attendees of the European Parliament panel discussion in which some 40 policymakers and civil society representatives discussed how to transcend differences through unifying language.

Imprisonment, confiscation, denial of most basic civil rights: A surge in persecution of the Baha’is in Iran

BIC GENEVA — Iranian authorities are preventing Baha’is across the country from obtaining national identification cards, while a series of home raids, confiscations, arrests, and attacks on properties have unjustly targeted Baha’is. These developments are part of a surge in persecution against the Baha’i community in Iran.

Members of several religious minorities in the country face restrictions in applying for a new national identification card, removing a previous facility that allowed the option “other” to be selected instead of one of four recognized religions—Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or Zoroastrianism. The decision to remove that option now prevents Baha’is from obtaining their identification cards, depriving them of basic civil services such as applying for a loan, cashing a check, or buying property.

“Despite continuous claims by Iranian officials inside the country and in UN fora that Baha’is have citizenship rights,” says Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) in Geneva, “the authorities are institutionalizing yet another mechanism which aims to destroy the Baha’i community as a viable entity; thereby extending a four-decade-long and relentless campaign of persecution against Baha’is across virtually every dimension of life—the cultural, social, educational and economic. Even so, the Baha’is of Iran continue to strive to live in accordance with the teachings of their Faith, which uphold truthfulness as ‘the foundation of all human virtues.’ How could Baha’is who apply for their national identification cards, for public sector jobs, or to enroll in a universities be punished simply for being truthful?”

A court has ruled that all properties belonging to Baha’is in the village of Ivel—some of which they have owned since the mid-19th Century—be confiscated on the basis that Baha’is have “a perverse ideology” and therefore have no “legitimacy in their ownership” of any property.

In another troubling development, a court has ruled that all properties belonging to Baha’is in the village of Ivel—some of which they have owned since the mid-19th Century—be confiscated on the basis that Baha’is have “a perverse ideology” and therefore have no “legitimacy in their ownership” of any property. There have been other attacks on Baha’i properties and confiscations of their possessions in the past three months, including one case where a Baha’i home was entirely destroyed.

Moreover, dozens of Baha’is have been arrested, and dozens more have received religiously motivated prison sentences. These sentences amount to a combined prison time of nearly a century, with some individuals sentenced to over ten years of incarceration.

“The Baha’i International Community is alarmed by the recent wave of persecution against the Baha’i community in Iran and calls upon the international community to shine a spotlight on these issues, which represent a major further deterioration”, says Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the BIC.

For more information on the situation of Baha’is in Iran, visit the website of the Baha’i International Community, which includes archives of Baha’i persecution in Iran.

Akka mayor and religious leaders honor ‘Abdu’l-Baha at ceremony

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Last Monday, the mayor of Akka, Shimon Lankri, and dignitaries representing the city’s religious communities and other local organizations gathered to honor ‘Abdu’l-Baha at a tree-planting ceremony coinciding with the start of the construction of His Shrine.

“For Baha’is, diversity is beauty,” Mr. Lankri said in his remarks at the ceremony. “Like the flowers and plants of a garden, their worldview is that diversity creates beauty. I think this worldview is true, and we embrace it here.”

The ceremony, held on the site of the Shrine, was attended by around 50 guests including leaders of the Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze communities, officials of local government, and academics from educational institutions in the area. David Rutstein, Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community, and Hossein Amanat, architect of the Shrine, were among several representatives of the Baha’i community who were also present.

After a viewing of the design concept for the Shrine and a recitation of prayers revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Mr. Lankri and Dr. Rutstein gave brief remarks before carrying an olive tree together to a chosen location. Guests helped plant the tree in a spot in the garden where it will be able to grow for years to come.

“The spirit of ‘Abdu’l-Baha shines through a hundred years later,” says Dr. Rutstein. “Seeing the many segments of Akka’s population coming together in their happiness that ‘Abdu’l-Baha is returning to their city—this calls to mind how He worked to create unity here.”

Shimon Lankri, Mayor of Akka, and David Rutstein, Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community, carry an olive tree during a ceremony coinciding with the start of the construction of the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

A momentous endeavor begins: Groundwork being laid for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Work has begun on the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. The chosen site near the Ridvan garden in Akka has been prepared, and the construction of the building’s foundation is progressing.

During the Ridvan festival last April, the Universal House of Justice made an announcement that exhilarated the Baha’i world: the time had come to raise a befitting Shrine that would be the final resting place for the sacred remains of ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Enthusiasm has mounted over the months since with the announcement of the architect and the unveiling of the design concept for a unique edifice that will honor a figure with a distinct station.

The site for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the vicinity of the Ridvan garden (bottom right).

While these developments occurred, construction work began with a thorough examination of the site’s ground composition and drainage, involving exploratory drilling at 29 points.

Next, to allow work with heavy machinery to progress on the soft soil even in damp winter conditions, a 50 centimeter platform of compacted stone was laid across the whole circular area—170 meters in diameter—that will enclose the Shrine and surrounding landscaping. Concrete piles have been driven 15 meters deep, on which the foundation of the central structure is now being built.

In April 2019, the Universal House of Justice announced that the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha would “lie on the crescent traced between the Holy Shrines in Akka and Haifa.”

At the same time, preparations have begun for the next stages of the project: detailed architectural and landscaping plans to realize the design concept are being drawn up, and a search for suitable sources of building materials is well under way.

Collaboration with local authorities has been essential, whether in obtaining the necessary permits, fostering understanding of the project among neighboring residents, or working with the Israel Antiquities Authority to ensure that the rich history of the area is respected and preserved.

Throughout the design process, care has been taken to account for environmental factors. The Ridvan garden, located on a low-lying plain by the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, is protected by walls and earthworks that were built several years ago to help secure the gardens against flooding. The Shrine will be built on a gently sloping berm that will raise the central structure several meters to account for rising sea levels.

‘Abdu’l-Baha spent the last years of His life in Haifa and was interred there in a vault within the Shrine of the Bab.

‘Abdu’l-Baha was a resident of Akka for four decades. He arrived as a prisoner and an exile alongside His Father, Baha’u’llah. Despite the many tragedies and adversities He suffered there, He made Akka his home and dedicated Himself to serving the people of the city, especially its poor. In time, He came to be known and revered throughout the region.

He spent the last years of His life in Haifa, and upon His passing was interred there within the Shrine of the Bab. When His earthly remains are transferred to the permanent Shrine, Akka will witness the return of a figure Who left an indelible mark on that city.

The News Service will continue to cover the developments of this momentous endeavor through articles and brief notices, which will be collected in a new section of the website.