what can i do?

youth at the forefrontWhile 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.

national baha’i magazine online

Interesting news: Baha’i Canada, the national Baha’i magazine, is now available online—all you need to do is log in with your name and Baha’i ID number and you’re getting Baha’i Canada online! Sweet! Heartbeat (the regular supplement on the Fund) and Vanguard (the regular youth supplement) are available, as well. What are you waiting for—go check it out!

maxwell international school: forced to close, or ready for rebirth?

most of you will have already heard the news about the planned closure of the Bahá’í-inspired Maxwell International School, which was quick to spread when it broke back in mid-November. you may not have heard, though, of the recent grassroots efforts by students, parents and local community members to gather enough support to allow the school to stay open under a different administrative and financial structure. Victoria, B.C.’s A-Channel recently reported on the situation.

Learn more on the Maxwell International School‘s website, or on the Save Maxwell International School Facebook group (if you’re into that sort of thing!)

human rights

I missed out on posting something on the United Nations Human Rights Day (Dec. 10th), but figured I’d give at least a peep to show that a) I’m not dead and b) I care about human rights issues. I have at least one other human rights post in draft, but it’s not done yet 😛

I’ve been listening to some talks by Member of the Universal House of Justice Paul Lample lately, in which he speaks about the degeneration of language—and how, instead of representing or describing reality, language has come to be used to manipulate reality. He used the term “human rights” as an example. For example (to paraphrase), one nation (Nation A) may speak out in a global forum, decrying the violation of human rights in a certain other nation, and demanding redress or international condemnation. Said other nation (Nation B) could very well snap back and, instead of addressing the allegations leveled against it, decry the human rights abuses occurring in the accusing nation—since there are generally some form of human rights abuses occurring in every nation on earth at any given time—and demand that international condemnation be focused on the accuser rather than the accused. Remind you of anyone?

Human rights are not subjective; they’re very clearly and specifically laid out in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The problem in the above case would seem to be that, since there are human rights violations occurring at some level in all parts of the world at any given time, Nation B may feel entitled to reframe Nation A’s allegations of Nation B’s human rights abuses as hypocritical and unjust. In debating terms, this is known as ad hominem tu quoque, or the “you too” fallacy—changing the subject of debate by accusing one’s opponent of hypocrisy, thereby ignoring the original question.

Human rights is a question of justice, and goodness knows there’s not much of that to go around nowadays—although I feel we can safely say that some places have a little more to go around than others. Let’s just say that a nation whose government goes around today bulldozing cemeteries and systematically targeting the members of particular sections of its population for arbitrary arrest, detainment, property seizure, unwarranted expulsion from employment and from educational institutions, denial of pensions, harrassment and execution, isn’t a place you would go to find shining examples of the respect of human rights. and it’s always informative—and sobering—to read up on what human rights groups worldwide have to say about such places. If only we could put ad hominems aside for a day or two and face reality…

video: international environment forum

couleurs d'automneAs blogged here earlier, the 11th Conference of the International Environment Forum (IEF) took place in Ottawa this weekend, and many of my friends within the Baha’i community showed up there. I’ll probably blog a little more about it later, but for now, you might want to check out the conference yourself: presentations and notes of the plenary and workshop sessions are available in PDF, DOC and MP3 formats, along with the conference schedule and official photo gallery; as well, videos of most of the presentations are available on Youtube! Here’s a list of links—share them with whoever may be interested!

    • The science of climate change, with a specific focus on the Arctic region
      John Stone2 3
    • Ethical challenges of climate change
      Arthur Dahl2 3
    • From the Arctic to the Small Island Developing States: Ethics and Adaptation
      John Crump2 3 4
    • The spirit of climate change
      Heather Eaton2 3

  • Faith-based NGOs and the Common Good
    Ted Reeve2 3
  • Governance of Energy from the Local to the Global – A Necessity for Climate Change Mitigation
    Sylvia Karlsson2
  • The Bahá’í International Community at the United Nations: Global Focus on Climate Change and Sustainable Development
    Tahirih Naylor2 3
  • PANEL—Reflections on Value-based Approaches to Environmental Action: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead