dallaire “deeply concerned” by religious persecution, human rights violations in iran

From the Canadian Baha’i News Service (CBNS):

Canadian Bahá’ís welcome Senator Dallaire’s statement today about Iran’s treatment of Bahá’ís

TORONTO, ON, 26 September 2006 (CBNS) — Lieutenant-General and Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire said he is “alarmed” at the human rights violations being carried out by the Iranian government against Bahá’ís, in a statement released today and welcomed by Karen McKye, Secretary-General of the Bahá’í Community of Canada.

The statement by Lieutenant-General Dallaire follows on the secret letter, recently made public by Amnesty International, from the Chairman of the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to other senior security forces calling for the monitoring of the members of the Bahá’í community of Iran, that country’s largest religious minority. The letter alarmed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, earlier this year.

“Canadian Bahá’ís have been profoundly concerned about the ongoing persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran and the alarming upsurge in short-term arrests, a defamatory press campaign in government media, and other signs that the level of persecution is intensifying in that country,” says McKye.

An excerpt from Lieutenant-General Dallaire’s statement follows:

Dallaire “deeply concerned” by religious persecution, human rights violations in Iran

Ottawa, September 26, 2006 — Senator Roméo Dallaire said today he is alarmed by the picture emerging from Iran that reveals systematic religious persecution and human rights violations against the 350,000 followers of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest religious minority.

While serving in the Canadian Forces, Dallaire commanded the failed 1994 UN mission in Rwanda where 800,000 men, women and children were murdered in 100 days during the worst genocide since the slaughter of Jews in World War II. Appalled at the world’s unwillingness to step in and stop the Rwandan genocide, Dallaire has since championed conflict resolution and international adherence to the rule of law.

Now, Dallaire says the Iranian Baha’i community is under concerted attack by the state and state-supported organizations.

“The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Asma Jahangir, has stated that Iran’s army, Ministry of Information, police and Revolutionary Guards are drawing up lists of all members of the Baha’i community and putting them under surveillance,” Dallaire said. “This inventorying and targeting of citizens, based on their religious beliefs or racial heritage, is the first ugly step toward systematic violence and crimes against humanity.” […]

Read the whole story.

Read related stories blogged at doberman pizza:

contemplating today

shrine of the Báb from afar. photo: Maurice & Marcelle TurgeonToday is (or was) Sunday, the 24th of September, 2006. Just a month plus a couple of days until Ottawa’s Baha’i community begins a new cycle of its program of growth; the same amount of time will pass before I leave for pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa. Both of these are preoccupying me at the moment. Before I leave for pilgrimage, I need to get quite a whack of documentation done up: renew my health card, renew my driver’s license (which will entail taking my G-level exam), get passport photos taken and signed by garantors, to name a few. I need to read up on safe travel guidelines for pilgrims coming to the World Centre, so that I’m not taken by surprise during my visit. Oh yeah: most people are surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been on an airplane. Never meaning “once, when I was one and a half years old and I don’t remember a thing about it”. So that’ll be an interesting experience. And beyond all the material preparations, there are the spiritual preparations for pilgrimage. I’m not sure that I’m fully ready to sit and pray in the Shrines and be able to take it all in. I’m afraid I’ll just be so overwhelmed, or worse, be left unaware of the full magnitude of the experience. I suppose everybody goes through that sort of self-questioning… like ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, when in doubt, pray for strength. It will be given to you, no matter how difficult the circumstances. More about this later.

And then there’s life in Ottawa, and my service goals for the year. I just came back from a tutor meeting tonight (Sunday night—had to skip choir 🙁 ). We went over the latest guidance from the Universal House of Justice, looking at it from the perspective of our roles as tutors.

Note: In this case, for those who may not know, “tutor” is just shorthand for someone who facilitates the sequence of courses offered by the Ruhi Institute, a community development program that focuses on the development of skills of service through the application of spiritual insights that are gained through profound study of the Baha’i Writings. Anyone who has completed said sequence of courses can act as a tutor; most commonly, we say that such a person “acts as a tutor” rather than bestowing a title of “Tutor” upon them. —dj

Much of our discussion focused on how we could be more effective in our service as tutors; for example, focusing on implementing the practice component of institute courses—which transforms the course from a mere academic exercise to a skill-building experience. Lots of food for thought. It should help me a lot in planning how I want to serve in the near future. So far, I plan to put a sizable chunk of my effort into our neighbourhood francophone children’s class. That’s going well so far; I already have an outline of the curriculum done up for the entire school year, up to August, all based on the modified Furutan curriculum provided by the Canadian Spiritual Assembly. That’s mental! And it’s already way past what we were able to do last year. I really feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence and know-how from the past year’s experience of co-teaching this class—and that makes me feel quite optimistic about the challenge of the new year ahead.

One last note, relating to my own personal development: Certain things have been happening lately that have made me look back at the past few years of my life. Right now, I see how far my life has come in the past ten years and I’m almost brought to tears, tears of joy and of gratitude. Fact is, I barely recognize myself now. I feel like my life has done a complete volte-face, or about-face. When I was 16, I never would have thought that one day I would be confidently teaching children’s classes, establishing a successful career doing something I really enjoy, developing healthy, nourishing friendships and relationships with people I love and care about. Whereas I was quietly depressed as a teenager, now I feel like bursting with joy at the prospect of really living a rich and fulfilling life. There’s so much to tell about this that I don’t have the time to share right now, but God willing, I’ll be able to share some of these things with you. Have a good day at work or at school and keep the comments (and emails) coming.

Photo: Maurice & Marcelle Turgeon.

first nations and baha’i youth bond through soccer

A much greater interest in football (soccer) than I’ve ever had before overtook me during this year’s FIFA World Cup. For the first time, I really saw what the ruckus was all about, and saw, despite the divisiveness that can be born from competition, how the communal enjoyment of sport can be a unifying force. That being said, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’d draw your attention to this story from the Baha’i World News Service!

Both teams in prayer before the beginning of the game.First Nations and Baha’i youth bond through soccer

KINGCOME INLET, Canada, 19 September 2006 (BWNS) — It’s not often the players on opposite sides of a soccer team huddle together for prayers before a game.

But neither is it common for outsiders to play in a soccer league that is otherwise composed entirely of Native Canadians.

The Twin Arrows soccer team, made up of young Baha’is from the cities of Victoria, Nanaimo, and Vancouver in British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast recently wrapped up its fifth season playing in a regional soccer league here, which is otherwise made up entirely of First Nations peoples — one of the indigenous communities here.

Established in 1958, the league is composed of teams representing various tribal communities in and around Queen Charlotte Strait, on the northern end of Vancouver Island and also on the mainland.

The Baha’is were invited to join the league in 2002 and since then have managed to fit in well into a league that is as much about community fellowship as it is about high-energy soccer.

“The purpose for our participation is really to build bridges between our two communities,” said Sebastian Titone, 25, a Baha’i from Nanaimo, who is the team captain and head coach of the Twin Arrows. “In Canada, you generally find the native communities on one side and the white/European communities on the other.

“But as Baha’is, we talk about all of us being one people. So we try to be part of cultural events and to make exchanges of friendship. And soccer is really a big part of First Nations community life, and it is one way to engage in community bridging,” said Mr. Titone.

Read the entire story.

how’s that

This weekend was pretty fun. among other things, I hung out at the newly (although unofficially) opened Ottawa Baha’i Centre with a bunch of lucky folks. On Saturday there was an awesome workshop on marriage organized by the local Marriage and Family Life committee, and on Sunday I popped in for the inter-CABS (Campus Association for Baha’i Studies) barbecue. Both occasions gave everybody a chance to tour the building, see the magnificent renovations, and wow at the awesomeness of this pizza restaurant-turned-Baha’i centre. Check out the photos from Sunday, including a stopover at Pejman’s new home in lovely Sector 9, on my flickr photosite.

FYI (posted Sep.18): Anyone interested in the Baha’i Faith and the education of children and junior youth needs to come to the Ottawa Baha’i Centre this Friday, Sept. 22, 2006, @ 7:30 PM. Registration will be open for this year’s set of neighbourhood children’s and junior youth classes. This evening is open to everyone—from every faith, every culture, and every part of the city. EVERYONE. Yes, EVERYONE. Even your mom, and your grandma too. Julie and I will be there to speak briefly about our experience giving francophone children’s classes.

FYI No.2 (posted Sep.22): Come on out to the children’s classes meeting—it’s tonight (Friday)! Also, check out the photos from the Talebifards’ farewell dinner on flickr.

dawson college shooting

Sign for Dawson College Students by spotmenow (cc)at this point, few details about the recent shooting at Dawson College in Montreal have been released. someone, apparently a 25-year-old white male armed with a machine gun, approached the front steps of the College and began shootingindiscriminately, it appears. the shooter entered the college, moved through the atrium, and into the cafeteria. eyewitnesses have been telling their stories; so far, at least one of them has blogged what he saw while the shooting was taking place.

You can follow the story by checking with CBC / Radio-Canada. The French content is being updated quicker than the English in this case, so I recommend Radio-Canada for best results. See their in-depth coverage. 20 people were reported injured. As of midnight, two deaths were confirmed; the shooter as well as an 18-year-old woman.

Once I began to read about the story I just got so sad, angry, incensed. I suppose it hit home because I have connections to Montreal; I was born there, I’ve spent some time there, and I have friends there. But it affects me on a human level as well, and it frustrates me to see people flip out like the Dawson College shooter did. Weirdly, I feel like I can empathize with everybody in this story—the victims who had to endure this horribly traumatic experience; the families who were worried to death that something terrible had happened to someone dear to them; and yes, even the shooter, who appeared (from what little we know) to have been so badly traumatized, wounded or deprived during his life that he decided to inflict his pain on others. It makes me angry both that someone would choose to do such a callous, atrocious, cruel and senseless thing, and that the family, the community, the society and the world he lived in seems to have been so unable to provide the support, the fellowship, and the education he may have needed to learn how to live and act in accordance with his own nobility as a human being and to reflect divine qualities and attributes, rather than abasing and degrading himself with conduct that not even animals would engage in.

Sorry. I don’t make a habit of posting rants. Prayers are in order for all those involved—prayers for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing. Also, prayers for unity are in order. I feel that one of the most fundamental reasons why tragedies like this happen is lack of unity. we all know the world is in trouble and needs help, but it seems like nobody can—or will—agree on what to do about it. as long as we come to the discussion table with our hidden agendas and vested interests, as long as we fight each other trying to prove each other wrong instead of working together to investigate and understand the truth, as long as we mistrust one another and set ourselves apart from others, tragedy upon tragedy will keep dogging us like the waves of a slowly rising sea. without unity, no social progress is possible; the longer we quibble, the more people will hurt.

Ninety-four years ago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá arrived in North America and paid a visit to Montreal, staying in a home not very far from the place where Dawson College stands today. Here’s one of the things he said while he was here:

“…the oneness of the world of humanity shall be realized, accepted and established. When we reflect upon this blessed principle, it will become evident and manifest that it is the healing remedy for all human conditions.” (source)
dawson college shooting

let’s talk about chastity, let’s talk about you and me

Like many of my Baha’i friends who aren’t yet married, I wonder about what it takes to create a successful marriage. I wonder whether I’m strong enough, spiritual enough, or lucky enough to be able to make a “fortress for well-being” with another person and to make it last. I wonder why so many marriages end up in divorce, and fear the possibility of having to tread down that painful path. Marriage doesn’t sound like something I should have so many worries about—so why do I worry?

Recently posted on one of my many subscribed mailing lists was a quite thought-provoking article about Baha’i marriage which, if it didn’t answer all of my questions, at least showed me a new way I could look at them. It’s called Creating a New Bahá’í Marriage Culture, written by Raelee Peirce, a Bahá’í who works as a Parent Coach in North Carolina. The article explores how parents can help give their children a positive view of marriage and relationships. A short excerpt follows to give you a taste of it:

A list of “Do-Nots” is not a great way to inspire or create acceptance of this law. Instead, we should be emphasizing the joy of sex and what a fantastic gift it is within the marriage relationship when our children are young. We need to share with our preschoolers the idea of marriage and we need to discuss the concept of finding a husband or wife when our children are in grade school rather than entertaining the idea of boyfriends and girlfriends. We need to create a family culture that does not include our children or youth engaging in frivolous boy-girl relationships. For example, when a six-year-old talks about “liking” another of the opposite sex, one should not consider it cute and exclaim to others that Jamal has a little girlfriend. As a Bahá’í parent we need to say, “Jamal, it’s wonderful that you like Emma; it’s great to have lots of friends. One day when you are much older you will find a girl to be your wife and have a beautiful Bahá’í family!”

Read the article. What do you think? Does it make sense to talk to our children about marriage and relationships from an early age? What about the idea of having boyfriends and girlfriends—where does that fit in? What about the lessons we learn from popular Western culture (consciously or not)—shouldn’t everyone have as many boyfriends or girlfriends as possible to ‘try things out’ before settling on Mr. or Mrs. Right?

[Update- Sep.23, 2006]: If reading that article piqued your curiosity, then check out a related article on dating within religious communities on another Baha’i blog, Correlating.

Please leave comments on this post—it’d be nice to read people’s reactions to this article. If you have personal comments you’d like to leave for me, feel free to e-mail me!

Also, speaking of chastity, Mees has something to say on the matter.

photo by boliyou (creative commons)