that next step

i’ve felt so tired these past few weeks—probably a combination of work, planning for the wedding in Vietnam (including scrambling around trying to collect documents and ferry them from one office to the next, like one of those bad video games), participating in the latest cycle of the Baha’i community’s intensive program of growth, and uhhhh being too lazy to go to the gym and get some exercise like I should be. Less than one month remain now before I fly back to Vietnam to be married—a story some of you may remember reading a few months ago. Planning a wedding is definitely serious business, and it seems like it’s a strong test of a couple’s ability to work together—which, so far, Quynh and I seem to be doing quite well. Although strongly aware of the cultural and temperamental differences between us, we’ve been getting along in a constructive spirit of unity and fellowship. I love it, and I’m really looking forward to experiencing the joy and the challenge of married life, of building that “fortress for well-being”. It definitely feels like leaving a certain phase of my life behind—that phase where I felt I only had to consider myself and what I wanted to do—and beginning a new phase of life which, while it closes some doors, opens up so many more possibilities.

OK I’m hungry now. off to dinner. Please leave wise comments if you wish.

baha’i contributions to haiti

Canadian Baha’is who are interested in making donations to the Haitian Baha’i National Community to help contribute towards relief efforts there should be pleased to hear that online contributions are possible, using the Canadian National Baha’i Fund website, bahaifunds.ca.

The news, found in a recent communication from the Canadian National Assembly to an individual believer, goes like this:

…it is possible to contribute towards relief efforts in Haiti, through the Bahá’í International Fund. As such, you may make your online contribution to the International Fund. Once you have completed the contribution, it would be necessary that you reply to the automated contribution confirmation email, indicating your desire with respect to what portion (or all) that you wish to be directed towards the Haitian relief efforts. Without your follow-up email, the contribution would automatically be allocated to the general International Fund, so please be sure to let us know, in order that we may manually redirect the specific earmark.

If you’re a Canadian Baha’i, it doesn’t take long to register to contribute to the Fund online. Since only Baha’is are eligible to contribute the Baha’i Fund, this can be an important way of helping the Haitian Baha’i Community in its intense, grassroots efforts to rebuild its community and its nation after the recent earthquake, especially in ways that will bring about lasting change based on a strong moral and ethical foundation that engages members of the community as the protagonists of their own development—or redevelopment.

state of the 7 baha’i yaran

News about the trial of the 7 Baha’i Yaran (“friends”, often often referred to as the “7 Baha’i leaders” by the media) continues to float in from across the Internet, championed by the Baha’i International Community’s (BIC) World News Service and helped along by reliable and dedicated sources on Twitter.

Diane Ala’i, the BIC’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, called the trial “highly irregular, very similar to the show trials that have been held in Iran in recent months”, noting that “even the lawyers had to argue their way inside the court—lawyers who in any case had virtually no access to the accused for nearly two years”. A report from the group Human Rights Activists in Iran describes the first session of the trial, held January 12th, 2010:

The first session of the trial of the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran was held in Tehran today. The defendants were arrested over 20 months ago.

In today’s session, the families of the defendants were not allowed to witness the proceedings and their lawyers did not get the opportunity to address the court. The session concluded with the reading of the charges. The prosecutor of this case is an interrogator at the Information Bureau.

The first session was reportedly videotaped by the government. One of the defense attorneys confirmed that the trial will continue. The defense attorneys, however, have not been allowed to review parts of the government’s evidence and have not been allowed to meet with their clients. The charges leveled against the Baha’is over a year ago consisted of spying for foreign governments, acting against the security of the regime, insulting the sacred and “corrupting the earth” which is a charge punishable by death. According to government websites, the defendants have also been charged with collecting classified documents and holding meetings contrary to national security interests.

The website of the “Press Club”, which is a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic’s radio and television, carried a report of the court proceedings a day before trial even started on January 11. This premature report was removed from the website when it caused some embarrassment. This incident showed that the outcome of the trial is preordained and that the reports of the trial proceedings are actually written by government agents prior to the court session.

The court has already discredited these proceedings by blocking the lawyers’ access to the relevant files and preventing them from meeting with the defendants.

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the lawyers defending the Yaran, stated in a Persian-language interview: “If justice is to be carried out and an impartial judge should investigate the charges leveled against my clients, the only verdict that could be reached is that of acquittal,” adding with regret that “Unfortunately, for some time now, the Judiciary has distanced itself from justice.”

World support for the wrongly detained Baha’is poured in on the date of the trial, with representatives from India, Brazil, the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom denouncing Iran’s treatment of the Yaran and the fairness of their trial, and calling on it to respect the universal human right of all Iranian Baha’is to freedom of religious practice. Cherie Blair, wife of Tony Blair, ex-prime minister of the United Kingdom, accused the Iranian government of using the Baha’is as scapegoats in recent post-election protests, and claimed that Iran should be “shamed into respecting basic rights of the Baha’is”.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon called “deplorable” the fact that the Yaran “were detained on the sole basis of their faith and have been denied a fair trial”, in between scathing criticisms of Iran’s refusal to repatriate the body of slain Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, killed in 2003 while in the custody of interrogators.

Human rights organization Amnesty International denounced what it called a “show trial” based on “spurious charges”, calling the 7 Yaran “prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the persecuted Baha’i community,” and called for them to be “immediately and unconditionally set free”.

loyalty to government: iran’s baha’is

According to Baha’u’llah, Baha’is “must behave towards the government of [their] country with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness”… why does Iran persist in accusing the Baha’is of crimes they cannot commit?

The Baha’is of Iran are currently facing a very dark situation; the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran cites a “fear of imminent executions” as Iranian media and government continue to scapegoat Baha’is for the recent unrest during the period of Ashura, a holy period for Shi’ite Muslims. Combine this with the awareness of an upcoming trial of seven prominent Baha’is, who bear charges such as “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic”, charges deemed “utterly baseless” by Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva. Maja Daruwala, director of the India-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, asserted that the trial was “designed to harass and intimidate” and amounts to “persecution” of the Baha’i community.

Learn more about Iran’s persecution of Baha’is.

In every country where any of this people reside, they must behave towards the government of that country with loyalty, honesty and truthfulness. This is that which hath been revealed at the behest of Him Who is the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days.

It is binding and incumbent upon the peoples of the world, one and all, to extend aid unto this momentous Cause which is come from the heaven of the Will of the ever-abiding God, that perchance the fire of animosity which blazeth in the hearts of some of the peoples of the earth may, through the living waters of divine wisdom and by virtue of heavenly counsels and exhortations, be quenched, and the light of unity and concord may shine forth and shed its radiance upon the world.