cultivating the roots video

You saw it here first: Here’s the unofficial Cultivating The Roots commemorative video. Tell your friends!

Update: Check it out – a podcast of the talks at the conference!

ascension of baha’u’llah

baha'i sign 1we gathered together just after three o’clock in the morning, local time, at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre. all was quiet and the sky was dark, though streetlamps and the glowing blue and white “Baha’i Centre” sign lit the way for those who arrived for the commemoration of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, one of the main holy days in the Bahá’í calendar.

as I walked in, wonderfully unearthly music wafted from the main hall; a violin and piano duet by two of our Baha’i youth, Marie-Claire and Mathieu Saindon. It infused the building with a mood of rarefied spirituality and expectation—glowing, echoing chords suggesting candles at a vigil, evoking “the fire of Thy love which drove sleep from the eyes of Thy chosen ones” in the early hours of May 29th, 1892, as Bahá’u’lláh, the Blessed Beauty, drew His last breaths upon this earthly plane and ascended into His other Realms. Baha’i pilgrims might recall the image of the oil lamp owned by Bahá’u’lláh which still burns in the night in His room in the Mansion of Bahji.

The program was short but touching; a combination of readings, chanted prayers and music took us through to the reading of the Tablet of Visitation just after 4 AM (daylight savings time)—after which we slowly returned from those spiritual realms into the present moment, and shared greetings and refreshments together. Continue reading

bruce lee: teach the faith, my friend

Betcha didn’t even know Bruce Lee was a Baha’i. Or that he spoke with a Spanish accent. lol. Thanks to NaimFT on YouTube.

Disclaimer: No, Bruce Lee wasn’t actually a Baha’i 😉

rainn wilson

OK I know I posted a little tiny less-than-noticeable link to an interview with Rainn Wilson of The Office fame in a previous article, but I figured since the Baha’i World News Service picked up the story, I might feature it a little more prominently. Rainn Wilson, who plays (and blogs as) Dwight Schrute on NBC’s The Office, is a Baha’i and loving it. He’s no stranger to getting press—I first found out about him when bahaiblog.net posted part of an interview with the Seattle Times about his role—but it’s his recent role in The Last Mimzy that’s causing folks to sit up and take notice. Someone at the U.S. Baha’i News Service had the capital idea to sit down for a chat with him as well—and below is an excerpt, as reprinted by the Baha’i World News Service (BWNS). His story is inspiring, not only for those connected with the performing arts, but for anyone who’s ever gone on a spiritual search.

Funnyman and Baha'i, Rainn Wilson.Rainn Wilson talks about Hollywood, his family and the Baha’i Faith

LOS ANGELES, United States, 24 May 2007 (BWNS) — Actor Rainn Wilson is used to talking to the media – he is part of the award-winning cast of the U.S. television series “The Office,” and his recent role in the movie “The Last Mimzy” brought a flurry of new interviews. Time magazine, TV talk-show hosts and others came calling.

A member of the Baha’i Faith, he seems just as comfortable discussing his spiritual beliefs as he does shooting the breeze about Dwight Schrute, the pompous assistant manager he plays on “The Office,” the American version of a popular British TV show of the same name. […]

Q: Rainn, what was it like to grow up in the Baha’i Faith?

A: When you grow up with a spiritual foundation that asks you to be conscious of the fact that all races are created equal, that men and women are equal and that all religions worship the same (God), it helps you see the world as one family and not get lost in the traps of political, social, and economic belief systems that can lead you astray. I always think of myself as a world citizen. It’s a powerful thing.

Q: You stepped away from the Baha’i Faith in your 20s and returned to it 10 years later. What happened in that decade?

A: I was in New York City, going to acting school, and I was going through a rebellious phase. I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. I was disenchanted with things that were organized. It was a spiritual journey I was on. And this is reflected in and supported by one of the central tenets of the Baha’i Faith, which obliges every spiritual seeker to undertake an individual investigation of truth.

I started at ground zero. I decided I didn’t know if there was even a God. I read religious books of the world. I asked myself, “If there is a God, how do we know what He wants us to do and what He wants for us? Do we read books? Do we buy crystals? Do we follow certain gurus? Do we sit under a tree? Because surely this omniscient creator has some kind of plan in store for mankind.”

Q: And that line of thinking led you back to the Baha’i Faith?

A: Yes, it brought me back to the Baha’i way of viewing things. I came to realize I did believe in God. I couldn’t conceive of a universe without someone overseeing it in a compassionate way. It just made the most sense to me that God gradually is unfolding a plan for humankind. That there is progressive revelation — the Baha’i belief that God sends Messengers for each day and age. I re-read books about the Baha’i Faith. And I came back to believing that Baha’u’llah was the Promised One and Messenger for this day and age. My quest took me from age 21 to 31. I’m 41 now. […]

Read the BWNS article, or the original US Baha’i News interview. Also, check out his appearance on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, where he mentions (albeit briefly) the Baha’i Faith!

sunny mid-may day

lazy day on the riverahh what a beautiful day today—that made up for the rest of the weekend, which was cloudy and drab and rainy. I rode my new bike (yay!) down to the river and up to New Edinburgh, then back home, stopping at an asian grocery to get soup ingredients along the way. Praised be God for endowing human beings with the smarts to come up with bicycles. I love bikes to pieces. City bus and bike are an ideal combination for me; especially in a place like Ottawa that’s friendly to both cyclists and public transit users, it’s a winning combination. I honestly don’t see why anyone needs a car—besides convenience, impatience or needing to go somewhere crazy like Greely or Barrhaven. Pedestrian-friendly urban development for life. I think I’m going to end up being one of those crazy granola guys who lives in a solar-panelled adobe house in Arizona with five acres of organic permaculture out back.

Hmmmm my house and my life were both badly in need of spring cleaning. My apartment is a little bit cleaner now, and my fridge is a little bit fuller. I’m also on my own (i.e. no flatmate) for the first time in a couple of years, and it’s going better than I had expected—long-time readers of this blog will remember where I ended up last time.

OK random link time. Someone (Kam) posted up the slideshow from the Unravel the Mysteries conference back in 2005 (see my photosets); nice memories… check it out on Youtube, or below. There are several other videos I’ve laid eyes on lately that are worth sharing here, but let’s pace ourselves shall we? In addition, do keep your eyes peeled in the next week or so for a glorious retrospective video from the Cultivating the Roots conference will be posted here soon.

human rights in egypt: the drama continues

Egypt, a country with a long and glorious history dating back to the beginnings of civilization, has been in a very poor state of late, especially with respect to the treatment of its own citizens. Remember last December, when the Egyptian Supreme Court denied Egyptian Baha’is their fundamental citizenship rights by refusing to allow them official ID cards with the mandatory “Religion” field correctly filled out? Well, things just went downhill from there. Hard-hitting Baha’i blog Baha’i Faith in Egypt reports on an Egyptian newspaper interview with Dr. Basma Moussa, an Egyptian Baha’i, who, among other things, discussed the fact that Egyptian Baha’is must pay taxes like any other Egyptian citizen—but are nevertheless deprived of the civil rights granted to other tax-paying citizens. From the blog post:

There must be separation between citizenship and belief—they cannot be interconnected. Each Egyptian citizen must be entitled to ALL citizenship rights. Presently, all Egyptian Bahá’ís are deprived of their citizenship rights simply because of their belief. They are denied government-issued ID cards which are a necessity in order to continue to live in Egypt as a human being. Nothing in normal daily living can be accomplished without these ID cards. […]

In Egypt, it appears to be perfectly acceptable for the government to force the Bahá’ís to pay taxes like all other citizens, but seems to have no hesitation in depriving them of all their civil rights and all services due to them. The authorities cannot demand taxation from Bahá’ís with nothing in return. Is there any justice in this? This fact alone raises a very big question! One would expect that ID cards (and the national ID number) must be used in order to pay taxes!

This atrocious (not to mention ridiculous) treatment of Egypt’s own law-abiding citizens is all the more poignant in light of the news that appeared today about Egypt’s election to the United Nations Human Rights Council. From the Toronto Star:

Despite abuse, Egypt joins rights council: History of torture in African nation makes a mockery of UN, critics say
Olivia Ward, Foreign Affairs Writer

In Egypt, Canadian bank teller Mohamed el-Attar is facing 15 years in jail on spy charges he says he confessed to under torture. Human rights groups say prisoner abuse is routine in the North African country.

In New York yesterday, Egypt won an uncontested seat on the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council, which is meant to defend the rights of the vulnerable worldwide.

What part of this equation doesn’t compute?

“Things like this leave one worried that all the fine things said last year when the council was created aren’t being played out in practice,” says Alex Neve, who heads Amnesty International’s Canadian office.

More than a dozen human rights groups asked the 192-country General Assembly not to vote for Egypt in yesterday’s election to fill 14 seats on the Geneva-based council, charging that the country’s record “is full of serious human rights violations that have been practised widely for long years.”

They named torture, arbitrary detention, election rigging and the use of military courts for trying civilians as reasons not to back Cairo’s bid.

Critics cite Egypt’s win—along with Qatar and Angola, with similarly dubious human rights records—as a sign that the council, created last year to replace the politically charged UN Human Rights Commission which had become known as “the abuser’s club,” is already irrelevant.

Continue reading