While making my way back home on a humid, muggy Friday, I passed by the local Baha’i Centre — well, not exactly passed by; upon realizing that it was packed with people, I stopped and walked in to say hello and to find out what was going on.
Many of you will have heard so far about the recent arrests of six Baha’i “leaders” (“delegates” or “coordinators” would be a more appropriate title, but isn’t quite as simple to explain) in Iran; in an act remarkably similar to the mass arrests and executions of Baha’i leaders in the 1980s, they were arrested on the 14th of May and — it was thought — taken to one of the most notorious prisons in Tehran. Apparently they are now being held in communicado, their whereabouts being unknown. The only official response from the Iranian government on the issue? They were arrested for “security issues” and not because of their religious beliefs — an allegation which the Baha’i International Community categorically rejects as being “untrue” and “utterly baseless”. This is only the most recent — and probably best publicized — among many recent violations of the rights of Baha’is. Amongst other things, Baha’i schoolchildren have endured harrassment in Iranian schools, a fact pointed out by the Baha’i International Community over a year ago.
And it’s to address this issue that that night, at the Ottawa Baha’i Centre, around thirty Baha’i junior youth and their parents gathered for animated and pointed discussion, as well as workshops to encourage the junior youth to respond to the injustice aimed at their Iranian counterparts. Suggestions were exchanged, ranging from creating and circulating official petitions to preparing presentations to be given at school to arranging devotional meetings where they and their friends could hear stories and pray for the well-being of Iran’s Baha’is. One suggestion struck home, however – that, more than just praying for their well-being, the junior youth present could make special effort to teach the Baha’i Faith in the name of those children in Iran who are shamed and harrassed for their Faith – those children who are denied that same privilege of sharing the life-giving Message of Bahá’u’lláh with their peers.