teaching the cause

uh ohIt’s been an eventful couple of weeks. since Marty‘s been away, I’ve had to hold down the fort at work, which has been a challenge and a half. I’m looking forward to seeing his friendly, focused face across my cubicle wall tomorrow morning.

A group of brave champions has been gathering at my place lately to study Book 6 of the Ruhi Curriculum, entitled Teaching the Cause. This “study circle” has been intense so far, with some pretty good discussion. It’s the first time in a while I’ve facilitated this book from beginning to end—a welcome addition to my life, as studying the Ruhi curriculum is always a joy, whether as a tutor or facilitator or as a participant—no matter how you take part in a study circle, you’ll always learn from it. The challenge for us this time around will be to integrate practice components into the group’s study, as it’s the practice of teaching, more than just talking about teaching, that really brings the benefits. Something about it being the source of all courage and all. One of our number is currently on pilgrimage—such a bounty!—which should increase the overall emblazedness of the group several times over once she returns. I’m hoping it will, especially since Ottawa’s next reflection meeting is coming up in two weeks—July 27th!—and this will most probably tie into the aforementioned practice component of our study circle.

Ottawa’s Baha’i community commemorated the Martyrdom of the Báb on the 9th of July; fellow Baha’i blogger Philippe of Baha’i Thought wrote up an excellent post distilling key concepts in the life of The Báb—and in the lives of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—which brought me to a new understanding of the meaning of the Báb’s Martyrdom within the context of humanity’s path towards maturity.

Aaaaaaaand lots of birthdays too. Apart from Catherine‘s birthday on the 5th and my brother Gabriel (freshly back from India) who celebrates his birthday on the 18th, lots of other friends have either had their birthdays this month or will have them soon: Sahba T and Sahba S (no relation), Sarah HT, Dru, Andrea, Shamim from Sherbrooke, and so on and so on… HAPPY COLLECTIVE BIRTHDAY

baha’i choir to perform on parliament hill

Speaking of Baha’i choral music—a Baha’i-inspired choir from Winnipeg, the Abha Voices (see a RealPlayer clip care of the CBC), will be performing during the official Canada Day festivities in Ottawa this year. For those who don’t know, Ottawa’s Canada Day celebrations are annually beamed via national television across the country. That’s therefore a big thing!

Choir dedicated to Bahá’í music to perform on Parliament Hill

WINNIPEG, MB, 13 June 2007 (CBNS) — A choir from Winnipeg, Manitoba, that draws its lyrics from the writings of the Bahá’í Faith has been selected to perform in the official Canada Day program on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The Abha Voices choir, made up of residents of Winnipeg, will travel to Ottawa on Canada Day weekend, along with one choir from each of the other provinces and territories, to participate in the festivities. […]

The Abha Voices, along with the other choirs that have been invited to Ottawa, will perform at selected venues during the weekend. Dates include June 29th at noon in the rotunda in the centre block on Parliament Hill; 8:00 pm the same day at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church; and June 30th at noon at the National Arts Centre. Admission to all performances is free.

Read the full story on the Canadian Baha’i News Service.

Read more about Canada Day in the Capital.

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!

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

baha’i monarch passes away

apia house of worshipHis Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II, reigning monarch of the island nation of Samoa for 68 years, passed away on the evening of May 11th, in a hospital in Apia. He was one of the longest reigning monarchs in the world.

“As an 11 year old school pupil, I marched with my school in Samoa’s annual independence day parade,” recalls John Bryden of Vox Cosmicos, a Baha’i from New Zealand. “Malietoa stood at attention on a reviewing stand in front of the Parliament Building, in the tropical sun, acknowledging troop after troop of marchers who passed by. I think of this when I read the media obituaries praising his record as a pivot of unity for his country, through wisdom and humility.”

In a message to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Samoa, the Universal House of Justice lauded his service to the people of Samoa, a service “distinguished by the high principles, genuine compassion and personal humility that characterized the constancy of his concern for the welfare of all.”

“As the first reigning sovereign to accept the Message of Baha’u’llah,” the House of Justice continued, “he set a record that will forever illumine the annals of our Faith, one that future generations will increasingly extol. His great interest for well-nigh four decades in the Faith’s progress was reflected in the enthusiastic affirmation of his belief whenever the opportunity presented itself and in the abiding joy with which he regarded the construction in 1984 of the Mother Temple of the Pacific Islands in Samoa…”

In your prayers tonight, remember His Highness.

Read the Baha’i World News Service story.

baha’is of canada elect governing body

A little late, but here’s the Canadian Baha’i News Service reporting on the election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada.

Baha'i National Convention, (c) Louis Brunet, elbi.smugmug.comBahá’ís elect governing body at National Convention

TORONTO, ON, 01 May 2007 (CBNS) — Over 150 delegates from across Canada gathered at the Toronto Bahá’í Centre this past weekend, 27 to 29 April 2007, to elect the national governing body of the Bahá’ís of Canada, the National Spiritual Assembly.

The elections were part of the annual National Convention during which locally elected delegates consulted with the National Spiritual Assembly about issues of importance to Bahá’ís, particularly community activities centred on the moral and spiritual development of children and youth.

Elected to the National Spiritual Assembly for a term of one year were Judy Filson, Karen McKye, Gordon Naylor, Borna Nourredin, Enayat Rawhani, Fariborz Sahba, David Smith, Susanne Tamas, and Mark Wedge.

The election, like all elections of Bahá’í institutions, was conducted by secret ballot, with no campaigning or even discussion of individual personalities. Instead, delegates based their individual choices on criteria laid out by the central figures of the Bahá’í Faith.

Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the religion from 1921 to 1957, specifically emphasized the qualities of “unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience.”

A day of preparation for the delegates took place on the Thursday prior to the Convention, in which participants explored their role as delegates and the purpose of the convention. Part of the consultation revolved around a recent letter from the international governing body of the Bahá’í community that emphasizes the spiritual nature of Bahá’í elections and recommends, in addition to the qualities cited by Shoghi Effendi, such criteria as age distribution, diversity, and gender when voting.

Louis Brunet (elbi.smugmug.com) took the photo featured above: he’s posted photos of the national convention [set 1, set 2] on his photoblog.

Read up more about Baha’i elections: