the search for values

The Search for Values in an Age of TransitionOn the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations back in October, the Baha’i International Community, the non-government organization (NGO) representing the world’s Baha’i population at the United Nations, published a statement titled “The Search for Values in an Age of Transition“. The statement focuses on “the importance of the oneness of humanity and religious freedom as critical values in the process of UN reform”. From the press release:

“The blurring of national boundaries in the face of global crises has shown, beyond a doubt, that the body of humankind represents one organic whole,” says the statement, which is titled “The Search for Values in an Age of Transition.”

Accordingly, the oneness of humanity must become the overriding focus as humanity searches for solutions to global challenges such as poverty, AIDS, environmental degradation, terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons.

“It is clear that none of the problems facing humanity can be adequately addressed in isolation from one another,” the statement says.

“The increasingly apparent interconnectedness of development, security and human rights on a global scale confirms that peace and prosperity are indivisible — that no sustainable benefit can be conferred on a nation or community if the welfare of the nations as a whole is ignored or neglected.”

Moreover, the statement asserts that the issues surrounding religion and freedom of belief have now risen to a level of “consuming global importance, which the United Nations cannot afford to ignore.”

“While the General Assembly has passed a number of resolutions addressing the role of religion in the promotion of peace and calling for the elimination of religious intolerance, it struggles to grasp fully both the constructive role that religion can play in creating a peaceful global order and the destructive impact that religious fanaticism can have on the stability and progress of the world,” the statement says.

“A growing number of leaders and deliberative bodies acknowledge that such considerations must move from the periphery to the center of debate — recognizing that the full impact of religion-related variables on governance, diplomacy, human rights, development, notions of justice, and collective security must be better understood.”

You can read and study the full text of the statement yourself. Or, if you’re the type who likes indepth reading, you can check out the Baha’i Statement Library, which allows you to search through every statement released by the BIC since the inception of the United Nations in the 1940s.

un general assembly expresses concern on human rights in iran

Here’s news from the Baha’i World News Service regarding the latest resolution adopted by the UN’s General Assembly on the situation of human rights in Iran. A recent story mentioned a similar resolution being passed by the General Assembly’s Third Committee.

UN General Assembly approves resolution expressing concern on human rights in Iran

UNITED NATIONS, 20 December 2006 (BWNS) — The United Nations General Assembly yesterday adopted a resolution expressing “serious concern” over the human rights situation in Iran, including the escalation of violations against Iranian Baha’is. […]

Put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 43 countries, the resolution calls on Iran to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religious, ethnic or linguistic grounds, and other human rights violations against persons belonging to minorities, including Arabs, Azeris, Baha’is, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Sunni Muslims.”

The resolution takes particular note of the worsening situation facing Iran’s 300,000-member Baha’i community, noting “reports of plans by the state to identify and monitor Baha’is,” “an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention,” and “the denial of freedom of religion or of publicly carrying out communal affairs.”

The resolution also expresses concern over the “destruction of sites of religious importance” to Baha’is and “the suspension of social, educational and community-related activities and the denial of access to higher education, employment, pensions, adequate housing and other benefits” for Baha’is.

Read the whole story.

un expresses “serious concern” over human rights in iran

A UN resolution passed yesterday, originally put forward by Canada, made specific mention of the worsening plight of Iran’s Baha’is. From the Baha’i World News Service:

Uniting Nations by shrued (cc)UN expresses “serious concern” over human rights in Iran, including the situation of Baha’is

UNITED NATIONS, 22 November 2006 (BWNS) — A committee of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday passed a resolution expressing “serious concern” over the human rights situation in Iran, including the escalation of violations against Iranian Baha’is.

The resolution passed the Assembly’s Third Committee by a vote of 70 to 48 on 21 November 2006. It will now go to the General Assembly plenary for vote, in December. The Third Committee considers human rights issues for the Assembly.

Put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 43 countries, the resolution calls on Iran to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religious, ethnic or linguistic grounds, and other human rights violations against persons belonging to minorities, including Arabs, Azeris, Baha’is, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Sunni Muslims.”

The resolution takes particular note of the worsening situation facing Iran’s 300,000-member Baha’i community, noting “reports of plans by the state to identify and monitor Baha’is,” “an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention,” and “the denial of freedom of religion or of publicly carrying out communal affairs.”

The resolution also expresses concern over the “destruction of sites of religious importance” to Baha’is and “the suspension of social, educational and community-related activities and the denial of access to higher education, employment, pensions, adequate housing and other benefits” for Baha’is.

Read the whole story.

photo by shrued (creative commons)

a few notes

An article about a certain Canadian Baha’i lawyer is currently featured on the front page at the Baha’i World News Service website, on the occasion of her joining up with the Baha’i International Community as a representative to the United Nations. You may remember an announcement to this effect being posted here back in January. Way to go, Tahirih!

The illustrious Ilya is leaving for a period of service in Haifa and would like to invite all his peeps to the family home (84 Juniper Road, Chelsea) on Saturday, September 9th, from 7 to 11 pm, to see everybody one last time before he goes. Technically, the occasion will also be a time to commemorate ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Canada in August-September 1912, but you know you want to say goodbye to Ilya too.

Sahar (of reddawn.ca) sends word of an awesome video of a junior youth animator training session in Montreal – this past June, I think. You may recognize some of the people in it… Check it out:

While you’re at it, you can check out another video – this time, of the Tristan Schuurman Junior Youth Project in Ottawa, back in August 2004. You may recognize some of the people in that one, too!

Oh and Sam is back in town. Rejoice! And beware.

iran confiscates baha’is’ properties

From the Baha’i World News Service (BWNS):

Iran confiscates Baha’is’ properties, says UN

Baha’is in Iran face discriminatory housing policies, including “the abusive use of property confiscation,” said a United Nations report released at a news conference last week.

At least 640 Baha’i properties have been seized since 1980, according to Miloon Kothari, the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, who wrote the report and presented it to the news media on 29 June 2006.

“The properties listed included houses and agricultural land, but also Baha’i sacred places such as cemeteries and shrines,” said Mr. Kothari. “The affected owners have allegedly not been given an opportunity to participate or receive prior information related to ongoing confiscation procedures.”

He said, for example, many of the confiscations were made by Iranian Revolutionary Courts, and that some of the verdicts he examined declared that “the confiscation of the property of ‘the evil sect of the Baha’i’ [were] legally and religiously justifiable.”

In rural areas, he said, such confiscations were often accompanied by threats and physical violence before and during related forced evictions.

Mr. Kothari said he was “concerned at the clear evidence of discriminatory conduct with respect to Baha’i property, including housing.”

At the news conference, Mr. Kothari said he continues to receive reports about Baha’is who have had their land confiscated.

Read the whole story.

quick links: baha’is of iran in the media

Baha’i Blog picked up a New York Times story about the Baha’is of Iran. Check out the blog post on bahaiblog.net, or read the original story (be prepared to log in to the NYT web site though).

Also to be perused: The Globe and Mail published a web-only comment about the situation of the Baha’is of Iran, Canada’s most well-known national newspaper, written by Maurice Copithorne, a former United Nations special representative on the human-rights situation in Iran. Here’s an excerpt:

The recent harassment of Baha’is also took the form of 30 mostly negative, and often defamatory, articles that appeared in one of the official Tehran dailies last fall. Asma Jahangir, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, published a statement in March reporting the existence of a confidential letter of Oct. 20, 2005, distributed within the government calling on officials – reportedly on the instructions of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – “to identify persons who adhere to the Baha’i faith and monitor their activities.”

The special rapporteur declares that “such monitoring constitutes an impermissible and unacceptable interference with the rights of members of religious minorities.” She expresses concern that the result of such monitoring “will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of, and discrimination against” Baha’is.

She also said that, since taking up her mandate in July of 2004, she had intervened with the government on a number of occasions regarding the treatment of the Baha’i community. And she called on “the government of Iran to refrain from categorizing individuals according to their religion and to ensure that members of all religious minorities are free to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear.”

[ . . . ] Iran would seem to be one of the handful of countries in which the human-rights situation is now visibly deteriorating. In the past several years, Canada has been taking the lead in promoting a UN General Assembly resolution condemning the human-rights situation in Iran and, no doubt, will do so again this year.

More needs to be done. Iran failed in its efforts to be elected to the new UN Human Rights Council. The April resolution establishing the council instructed it to “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfilment by each state of its human-rights obligations and commitments.” The order in which countries will be called before the council has yet to be determined. Given the growth in Iran of violations of international human-rights norms as set out in a variety of UN instruments, Iran should clearly be among the first group of respondents.

(Updated [11/06/2006]: Reuters AlertNet also has a story available on the arrests of Baha’is in Iran.)