house of baha’u’llah in baghdad destroyed

From the Bahá’í World News Service, we read this morning of the heart-breaking news of the destruction of the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad, Iraq.

houseThe worldwide Baha’i community has learned that the house of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith, in Baghdad, Iraq – a profoundly sacred site known as the Most Great House – has been destroyed. The precise circumstances surrounding the demolition are not yet clear.

Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations said: “This deplorable act has robbed people throughout the world of a priceless piece of their spiritual heritage.”

“While the details are not yet clear, there should be no doubt as to the Baha’i community’s strength of feeling about this terrible and shocking deed”, she continued.

“The Baha’is of the world are, of course, heartbroken by the news. Yet, as always, they remain positive and focused on their efforts to promote peace and contribute to the betterment of their communities”, she added.

The Most Great House was Baha’u’llah’s place of residence for much of the time of His exile from Iran to Baghdad, Iraq. The site is located close to the banks of the River Tigris.

Upon reading of this tragic development, many of the Bahá’ís turned immediately to the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, who himself foretold of the indignities which would befall His House, saying that it would “be so abased in the days to come as to cause tears to flow from every discerning eye”—but that, in time, it would be exalted in the eyes of the world:

Call thou to mind that which hath been revealed unto Mihdí, Our servant, in the first year of Our banishment to the Land of Mystery (Adrianople). Unto him have We predicted that which must befall Our House (Baghdád House), in the days to come, lest he grieve over the acts of robbery and violence already perpetrated against it. Verily, the Lord, thy God, knoweth all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth.

To him We have written: This is not the first humiliation inflicted upon My House. In days gone by the hand of the oppressor hath heaped indignities upon it. Verily, it shall be so abased in the days to come as to cause tears to flow from every discerning eye. Thus have We unfolded to thee things hidden beyond the veil, inscrutable to all save God, the Almighty, the All-Praised. In the fullness of time, the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful. Thus hath spoken the Lord, thy God, ere the day of lamentation arriveth. This revelation have We given thee in Our holy Tablet, lest thou sorrow for what hath befallen Our House through the assaults of the enemy. All praise be to God, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh,
No. LVIII, p. 114-115

Upon reading these words, I was immediately reminded of the concept of crisis and victory as explained by Shoghi Effendi—that with every calamity comes the seeds of a greater victory—which inspired me to put down a few thoughts about how we can rise through the waves of tests.

“be not dismayed…”

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“Be not dismayed if your endeavours are dismissed as utopian by the voices that would oppose any suggestion of fundamental change. Trust in the capacity of this generation to disentangle itself from the embroilments of a divided society. To discharge your responsibilities, you will have to show forth courage, the courage of those who cling to standards of rectitude, whose lives are characterised by purity of thought and action, and whose purpose is directed by love and indomitable faith. As you dedicate yourselves to healing the wounds with which your peoples have been afflicted, you will become invincible champions of justice…”

Excerpt from a Letter to the youth of Paraguay
from the Universal House of Justice , 6 January 1998

relationships: crucial to resilience

hanoi floods - aftermathHumanity is no stranger to adversity and suffering. Maybe it’s due to my own growing awareness of world events, but since the turn of the 21st century, it seems like the world has been confronted with an ever-accelerating chain of shocks—ever more frequent, ever more varied and costly ones. Natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, or the tsunami in the Indian Ocean and off northeastern Japan, or earthquakes in Iran, Kashmir, China and Haiti. Widespread droughts in places like the Western United States and the Sahel, threatening food security and human well-being. Growing social unrest and terrorism, resulting in the deaths of innocents everywhere—from the Middle East to Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. In the face of such enormous suffering, one thing we often end up doing is shutting it out—changing the channel rather than thinking about it. But what happens when our neighbourhood is the one that’s flooded, shot through, or reduced to rubble?

Resilience is the quality of being able to bounce back from crises, to recover quickly from adversity. When tragedy strikes, resilience helps us to regain hope, recover our strength, rebuild our lives and move on. Very often—if not always—resilience depends upon strong family and community relationships. If we are surrounded by support from family, friends and neighbours who are looking out for our well-being, we have a better chance of weathering a crisis.

family in whiteI witnessed something of this in action after Quynh’s father passed away in August 2010. Summoned to return much earlier than intended, I arrived in Vietnam two weeks after his passing, to find the grieving family—especially his beloved wife—in tears. Around them, close family, friends, neighbours and concerned well-wishers circled, first offering words of solace and support, then drawing back to allow time for grief to run its course, then returning when the time was right. At several points during my visit, they gathered at the family home for memorials, to burn incense and offer prayers. These memorials, I learned, were no mere expressions of superstition. Rather, they were signs of solidarity, and a way of providing structure for and sustaining the grieving family. I did my part as a Vietnamese son-in-law, taking up basic tasks to support the family, and in doing so, became part of a network that helped them recover from their pain over the months and years that followed. If that network wasn’t there, or if it wasn’t strong, what would have happened to the family? Nothing good, that’s for sure. But because the community was united in their concern for each other, they rallied around our family, visiting them and helping them to recover from their loss.

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diversity, cause of love and harmony

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tulips in rockcliffe park

The diversity in the human family should be the cause of love and harmony, as it is in music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. If you meet those of different race and colour from yourself, do not mistrust them and withdraw yourself into your shell of conventionality, but rather be glad and show them kindness. Think of them as different coloured roses growing in the beautiful garden of humanity, and rejoice to be among them.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá

worldwide support for “five years too many” campaign

5 years too manyAs the Five Years Too Many campaign continues, support for the Yarán—the seven wrongfully imprisoned Bahá’í leaders in Iran—continues to pour in from around the world. One of the most impressive things I’ve found so far is the unofficial Five Years Too Many tumblr, which has been gathering photos of men and women of all ages and races, from many different nations, holding up their hands in solidarity with the Yarán. It’s been quite touching to see the groundswell of support in such a visual way!

Beyond a simple grassroots campaign, however, the Five Years Too Many campaign has continued to gather prominent voices at official events the world over. Here’s some of the latest news since my last post on the subject:

five years too many

The plight of these seven is representative of the countless Iranian men and women who have been jailed for defending their freedom and human rights. Our message to the seven is this: The world has not forgotten you, and we will continue to fight for your freedom and that of other Iranian prisoners of conscience.

Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran

It was five years ago today. Six law-abiding Iranian Bahá’ís, members of a committee devoted to looking after the minimum needs of the long-persecuted Bahá’í community in their homeland, were arrested in early morning raids by government agents. Their whereabouts unknown, the six—along with a seventh compatriot who had been arrested earlier—were held incommunicado, while their captors cooked up charges: they were being held “for security reasons”, and they were somehow linked to “Zionists”—baseless charges that have been debunked and denied many times since. After languishing in crowded prison cells for over a year and a half—during which the number of unjustly imprisoned Bahá’ís continued to grow, and during which trial dates were repeatedly set and postponed—they were finally called to appear in court. Their trial, however, quickly turned out to be a sham—a televised “show trial” that was closed to observers, during which their legal counsel was obstructed and denied the right to speak. In the end, the seven were sentenced for 20 years’ imprisonment—the longest sentence given to any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

Support for the Bahá’í Yaran—”Friends”—has poured in from around the world, along with outrage at the gross injustice to which they continue to be subjected. Earlier this year, the U.N. General Assembly adopted its 25th resolution condemning human rights violations in Iran, and academics, artists, media personalities and human rights supporters across the globe have become increasingly vocal in calling for the rights of Iranian Bahá’ís to be respected. Today, on the fifth anniversary of the arrest of the Yaran, a worldwide campaign is underway in support of human rights in Iran, gathering what may be unprecedented support and attention.

Five Years Too Many is its name—since even one day is one day too many for these innocent souls, well-wishers of their government and lovers of their country and their kind, to be imprisoned. Many prominent voices have already joined the campaign: Senator Bob Carr of Australia; actor Rainn Wilson and journalist Roxana Saberi, the latter of whom was imprisoned with the two women among the Yaran; Omid Djalili, comedian; Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, and Mahnaz Parakand, an Iranian lawyer who assisted in the Yaran’s defense; Markus Löning, the German Government’s Commissioner for Human Rights Policy, and MP Erika Steinbach; Lloyd Axworthy, former Canadian Foreign Minister; prominent British jurists such as Sir Desmond de Silva QC, Cherie Booth (Blair) QC, and Michael Mansfield QC; and a number of high-level UN human rights experts, including El Hadji Malick Sow, Heiner Bielefeldt, and Rita Izsak. Major events have already taken place in Rio de Janeiro, Frankfurt, BerlinSydney, Washington DC, London, Paris, and Toronto, and more are happening as you read these lines.

Learn more about the Five Years Too Many campaign, about the Yaran, and about the persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís from cradle to grave.

Video: Five Years Too Many from Media Makes Us.

five years too many