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.

global concern rises for baha’is in iran

Things have not improved for the long-suffering Bahá’í community in Iran. In fact, it seems as though the persecution to which they’ve been subjected has increased in recent years. Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the Bahá’ís of the United States, recently summarized the situation, stating that

“[T]he number of Bahá’ís in prison currently stands at 116. It has more than doubled since the beginning of 2011 when the number was 56. This number includes not only the seven-person, former leadership group but also educators and administrators of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, the community’s informal solution to higher education from which Bahá’í youth have been barred for over 30 years, as well as Bahá’ís in Semnan, a town especially targeted by the government of Iran for severe persecution of Bahá’ís.”

The one source of good news seems to be the sustained international reaction condemning Iran for its treatment of Iranian Bahá’ís. After passing its third committee in November, a resolution decrying Iran’s “serious ongoing and recurring” human rights violations was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly just before the holidays, the 25th such resolution adopted on Iran’s human rights violations since 1985.

“This vote signals loud and clear the international community’s refusal to accept Iran’s ongoing and intensifying repression of its own people – or the government’s claims that such violations do not take place,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“The list of abuses outlined in this resolution is long and cruel. Overall, the picture it paints is of a government that is so afraid of its own people that it cannot tolerate anyone who holds a viewpoint that is different from its own repressive ideology.”

“For the Baha’is, there has been persistent and worsening persecution at the hands of the government and its agents,” she observed.

The United Nations resolution was soon echoed by the United States House of Representatives, which passed a resolution on January 1st specifically “condemning the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Bahá’í minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.” Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, outlined the importance of the resolution, saying, “The Bahá’í community is encouraged by the emphasis the U.S. Congress has placed on the human rights abuses in Iran… We are convinced that this continued international pressure has kept the situation for the Bahá’ís in Iran from getting much worse.”

Nor have the United States been the only country voicing their protests at Iran’s continued pattern of repression and persecution. As in previous years, Canada was the main sponsor of this year’s resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations. Academics, artists, media personalities and human rights supporters across the globe, including Brazil, Hungary, Slovakia, India and Australia, have all made the news in recent months by speaking out against the repression of Bahá’ís and other minorities in Iran, adding one voice after another to an ever-loudening chorus shouting in defense of human dignity.

Read more about Iran’s persecution of its Bahá’í minority.

id cards: egypt tightens noose on baha’is

Baha’i blog Baha’i Faith in Egypt reminds us that time is swiftly running out for the Baha’is of Egypt: the new computerized Egyptian identification cards—which allow access to all forms of official government transactions, and which, coincidentally, are impossible for Baha’is to obtain—will soon be mandatory for all Egyptian citizens; inability to produce such an identification card entails a five-year prison sentence. That’s right—soon, every Baha’i in Egypt, whether their families have lived there for five, ten, fifty or a hundred years, will become non-citizens, illegal aliens in their own land. Never mind the property they own, or even the fact that they will still be expected to continue paying taxes to a state that will refuse to grant them the rights of citizenship!

So far, official rationales for this illogical policy have been based not on facts and arguments, but on prejudice, intolerance and slander. An article published in Al-Ahram Weekly, noted that the 16 December 2006 ruling of Egypt’s Supreme Court (blogged here) was “prejudiced by religious scholars and [institutions]”, and that the court “didn’t respond to a single legal argument by the defence”, instead basing its ruling “solely on a public rejection of the Baha’i faith”. The Egyptian government, backed by the Supreme Court ruling, has actively pursued a policy of religious discrimination akin to the campaign of “cultural cleansing” applied against the Baha’is of Iran. Without intervention, Egyptian Baha’is will soon be regarded as non-persons, ineligible for basic rights such as health care, education, financial security (including pensions and bank accounts), and recognition of marriages, births and deaths.

If you’re interested in contacting the Egyptian Embassy in Canada to express yourself about the cultural cleansing of Baha’is in Egypt, here’s some useful contact information:

Egyptian Embassy in Canada
454 Laurier Avenue East
Ottawa, Ontario KIN 6R3
Tel: (613) 234-4931 / (613) 234-4935
Embassy email: egyptemb@sympatico.ca
Ambassador’s email: egypt4931@rogers.com

Egyptian Consulate, Montreal
3754 Cote des Neiges
Montreal, Quebec H3H 7V6
Tel: (514) 937-7781 / (514) 937-7782

You can also find international embassy and consulate information online.

iran to baha’is: convert or stay out of our schools

Once again, Iran’s campaign of persecution towards its Baha’i minority finds its way into the halls of academe; one more year in a row, prospective Baha’i students have been barred from applying for higher education. No, there are no armed guards keeping them from the examination halls; just a row of boxes on paper. Here’s the story from the Baha’i World News Service:

NEW YORK, 31 July 2007 (BWNS) — Iranian Baha’is seeking to enter Iran’s technical and vocational institutes have been effectively barred from admission for the coming academic year, since the application to sit for the entrance examinations leaves them with no option but to deny their faith, which Baha’is refuse to be coerced into doing.

The Baha’i International Community learned recently that the 2007 form for the entrance examination for undergraduate courses under the technical and vocational education system indicates that only one box may be marked for religion.

The applicant is given three choices – Zoroastrian, Jewish, or Christian – and if none of the boxes is marked, the form explains, the applicant will be considered Muslim. This is unacceptable to Baha’is.

“Under this system, Baha’is cannot fill out the application without a de facto denial of their faith, which is against their religious principles,” said Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations.

“Accordingly, Iranian Baha’is will not be able to take this entrance examination, and so they are effectively blocked this year from obtaining technical and vocational education in Iran.

Read the whole article.

iran steps up secret monitoring of baha’is

From the Bahá’í World News Service:

Iran steps up secret monitoring of Baha’is

19 August 2006 letter from Iran's Ministry of the InteriorNEW YORK, 2 November 2006 (BWNS) — In an ominous move, Iran’s Ministry of Interior has ordered officials throughout the country to step up the surveillance of Iranian Baha’is focusing in particular on their community activities.

The Ministry has requested provincial officials to complete a detailed questionnaire about the circumstances and activities of local Baha’is, including their “financial status,” “social interactions,” and “association with foreign assemblies,” among other things.

The Ministry’s order came in a letter dated 19 August 2006 and addressed to provincial deputies of the Department of Politics and Security in Offices of the Governors’ General throughout Iran.

The 19 August letter, which was recently obtained by the Baha’i International Community, asks these deputies to order “relevant offices to cautiously and sensitively monitor and supervise” all Baha’i social activities.

The letter is the latest in a series of threatening documents that outline a secret national effort to identify and monitor Baha’is in Iran.

Read the whole story.

dallaire “deeply concerned” by religious persecution, human rights violations in iran

From the Canadian Baha’i News Service (CBNS):

Canadian Bahá’ís welcome Senator Dallaire’s statement today about Iran’s treatment of Bahá’ís

TORONTO, ON, 26 September 2006 (CBNS) — Lieutenant-General and Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire said he is “alarmed” at the human rights violations being carried out by the Iranian government against Bahá’ís, in a statement released today and welcomed by Karen McKye, Secretary-General of the Bahá’í Community of Canada.

The statement by Lieutenant-General Dallaire follows on the secret letter, recently made public by Amnesty International, from the Chairman of the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to other senior security forces calling for the monitoring of the members of the Bahá’í community of Iran, that country’s largest religious minority. The letter alarmed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Asma Jahangir, earlier this year.

“Canadian Bahá’ís have been profoundly concerned about the ongoing persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran and the alarming upsurge in short-term arrests, a defamatory press campaign in government media, and other signs that the level of persecution is intensifying in that country,” says McKye.

An excerpt from Lieutenant-General Dallaire’s statement follows:

Dallaire “deeply concerned” by religious persecution, human rights violations in Iran

Ottawa, September 26, 2006 — Senator Roméo Dallaire said today he is alarmed by the picture emerging from Iran that reveals systematic religious persecution and human rights violations against the 350,000 followers of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest religious minority.

While serving in the Canadian Forces, Dallaire commanded the failed 1994 UN mission in Rwanda where 800,000 men, women and children were murdered in 100 days during the worst genocide since the slaughter of Jews in World War II. Appalled at the world’s unwillingness to step in and stop the Rwandan genocide, Dallaire has since championed conflict resolution and international adherence to the rule of law.

Now, Dallaire says the Iranian Baha’i community is under concerted attack by the state and state-supported organizations.

“The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief, Asma Jahangir, has stated that Iran’s army, Ministry of Information, police and Revolutionary Guards are drawing up lists of all members of the Baha’i community and putting them under surveillance,” Dallaire said. “This inventorying and targeting of citizens, based on their religious beliefs or racial heritage, is the first ugly step toward systematic violence and crimes against humanity.” […]

Read the whole story.

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