Archive for the ‘baha’i’ tag
By Robert C. Henderson
Once again our hearts are broken by acts of senseless violence—murders driven by the cancerous madness of racism. And once again the scene is a church, where God fearing souls gathered for Bible study and worship—spiritual fellowship and love, were taken from their families and friends in the vain hope of prompting a racial holy war.
While families and friends grieve and forgive, people of good will and faith offer support and prayers, and politicians make statements, Americans would benefit from deep reflection on the underlying cause of racial division, the heavy price we pay for hate, and the rising sun of racial amity and concord slowly illuminating the darkness of our divided past.
For devastating as they are, these savage acts of violence against innocent souls can neither alter nor prevent the slowly growing acceptance of the oneness of humankind and the reordering of social life to accommodate the requirements of equality.
Throughout America, studies show that interracial cooperation is rising in virtually every aspect of social life. Interracial children are among the fastest growing populations in the country. Faith communities, work places, social organizations, and neighborhoods are all rapidly diversifying; while significant percentages of all groups are marrying people of different colors.
We weep for Charleston, but we must never lose sight of the real change gaining momentum in America: race hate is dying and race amity is our future.
To focus our reflections we offer a few excerpts from “The Vision of Race Unity—America’s Most Challenging Issue,” a statement by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.
(The statement can be read in its entirety at www.usbahai.org)
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. –The Baha’i Writings
Racism is the most challenging issue confronting America. A nation whose ancestry includes every people on earth, whose motto is E pluribus Unum, whose ideals of freedom under law have inspired millions throughout the world, cannot continue to harbor prejudice against any racial or ethnic group without betraying itself. Racism is an affront to human dignity, a cause of hatred and division, a disease that devastates society…
Notwithstanding the efforts already expended for its elimination, racism continues to work its evil upon this nation. Progress toward tolerance, mutual respect, and unity has been painfully slow and marked with repeated setbacks. The recent resurgence of divisive racial attitudes, the increased number of racial incidents, and the deepening despair of minorities and the poor make the need for solutions ever more pressing and urgent. To ignore the problem is to expose the country to physical, moral and spiritual danger…
Having gone through the stages of infancy and turbulent adolescence, humanity is now approaching maturity, a stage that will witness “the reconstruction and demilitarization of the whole civilized world–a world organically unified in all the essential aspects of its life.”
In no other country is the promise of organic unity more immediately demonstrable than in the United States because this country is a microcosm of the diverse populations of the earth. Yet this promise remains largely unrealized even here because of the endemic racism that, like a cancer, is corroding the vitals of the nation…
The application of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humanity to the life of the nation would necessitate and make possible vast changes in the economic status of the non-white segments of the population. Although poverty afflicts members of all races, its victims tend to be largely people of color. Prejudice and discrimination have created a disparity in standards of living, providing some with excessive economic advantage while denying others the bare necessities for leading healthy and dignified lives. Poor housing, deficient diet, inadequate health care, insufficient education are consequences of poverty that afflict African Americans, American Indians, and Hispanic Americans more than they afflict the rest of the population. The cost to society at large is heavy…
The persistent neglect by the governing bodies and the masses of the American people of the ravages of racism jeopardizes both the internal order and the national security of the country.
From the day it was born the United States embraced a set of contradictory values. The founding fathers proclaimed their devotion to the highest principles of equality and justice yet enshrined slavery in the Constitution. Slavery poisoned the mind and heart of the nation and would not be abolished without a bloody civil war that nearly destroyed the young republic. The evil consequences of slavery are still visible in this land. They continue to affect the behavior of both Black and White Americans and prevent the healing of old wounds…
Our appeal is addressed primarily to the individual American because the transformation of a whole nation ultimately depends on the initiative and change of character of the individuals who compose it. No great idea or plan of action by the government or other interested organizations can hope to succeed if the individual neglects to respond in his or her own way as personal circumstances and opportunities permit. And so we respectfully and urgently call upon our fellow Americans of whatever background to look at the racial situation with new eyes and with a new determination to lend effective support to the resolution of a problem that hinders the advance of this great republic toward the full realization of its glorious destiny…”
Robert C. Henderson is an elected member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the Baha’i Faith’s senior national administrative institution. Dr. Henderson also serves as a Developer and President of the Philanthropic Division of Baharicom Development Company, co-builder of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE)/Uhurunet submarine cable system. In its planned configuration, the 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable will stretch from France to South Africa and will be operational in the first half of 2012, connecting 23 countries and providing broadband capacity grants to thousands of schools, hospitals and social development projects.
A few years ago I was standing in Nelson Mandela Square in the center of a large shopping mall in Sandton, South Africa admiring the famous 20 ft. statue of Mandela.
As I stood there, one after another Afrikaner families walked up to the statue and took photographs of their blond haired blue-eyed children. One could not help but think that the parents of these children were not raised to admire Mandela, but to fear him and what they had been taught he stood for.
Nevertheless, on this warm evening, they patiently coaxed their children to stand straight and tall at the feet of the great man.
What powers of spirit and vision could bring such transformation? Perhaps it was the unimpeachable integrity of moral stamina undiminished by 27 years of imprisonment.
Or the indomitable will inspired by the vision of social justice that he bent to the task of exorcising the spirit of apartheid—employing the tools Truth and Reconciliation instead of bloodshed to shepherd a nation, conceived in social injustice, to a united future.
Nelson Mandela birthed a new South Africa and in so doing revitalized the spirits of moral excellence and social justice among people in every land. Like South Africa, we all have much yet to do in the quest for truth, reconciliation, and unity. But thanks to Mandela, we have a model to follow. A model of true faith steeped in patience, an unbending vision of social justice without shortcuts or compromise.
Mandela was committed to religion as a powerful agent of change. “Without the religious institutions, he explained at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions in Cape Town, “I would not be here today.”
“You have to have been in a South African jail under apartheid where you could see the cruelty of human beings to each other in its naked form. “…Religious institutions and their leaders gave us hope that one day we could return.”
He explained that Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Jewish religious groups were instrumental in providing him and other young blacks with an education – and later in giving comfort to political prisoners and their families.
As grateful recipients of Mandela’s precious gifts to humankind, perhaps each one of us might arise and struggle to return the favor in the name of our many faiths. We must work together to carry on the mission that Nelson Mandela gave his life to: to build a world inspired by love and guided by the principle of true justice, that we are all one family—bound together by bonds and ties that are stronger than blood. Nelson Mandela his gone from us now, but his spirit must live on in our hearts and guide our service to God, to our nations, and to one another.
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions shares congratulations to Dr. Joshua Lincoln on his recent appointment as Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community. The Centre will be undoubtedly blessed by his wealth of engagement in global interfaith relations.
The Baha’i community has been central to the work of CPWR from its beginnings. One of CPWR’s three incorporating founders and first Chair of the Board, Charles Nolley, comes from the Baha’i community. He and four other Baha’is were prominent signatories of the 1993 declaration Towards A Global Ethic.
For more information on Dr. Joshua Lincoln, read the news release here.
Those who seek to cause religious conflict are small in number but highly motivated, organized and funded. While there are billions of people who are engaged in their own faith tradition, many have not yet learned how to live or work together well with those of different traditions.
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation decided to tackle this challenge through organising a year-long Fellowship that brought together young people of different faiths to work toward better interfaith action. The Foundation selected 33 outstanding future leaders, who between July 2011 and June 2012, worked in interfaith pairs around the world. They built understanding between different religious communities by mobilising them around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular around malaria prevention.
The Fellows represented a diverse cross section of the faith traditions: 11 were Christian, 10 Muslim, 5 Jewish, 3 Hindu, 2 Buddhist, 1 Baha’i, 1 Sikh and 1 Quaker. Thirty of the Fellows were placed in multi-faith pairs in Canada, India, the United Kingdom and the USA.
CPWR Vice-Chair Bob Henderson Elected to Serve on the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States
The National Spiritual Assembly oversees the administrative affairs of the Baha’is of the United States and provides guidance for their spiritual and moral development. The Assembly oversees a publishing trust and several periodicals, including The American Baha’i newspaper; Brilliant Star, a magazine for children; and World Order, a quarterly journal of opinion and ideas. The Assembly also operates retreat and conference centers in California, Michigan, Maine and South Carolina.
Whether at the local, regional, national, or international level, Baha’i elections follow a similar process that seeks to choose spiritually minded leaders from the entire body of believers in the area. The electoral process at the national level is different in one respect. While the local Assembly is elected by all adult community members, the National Spiritual Assembly is elected by delegates, who, in turn, are chosen in “district” conventions. All adult Baha’is are eligible to vote in district conventions, and so the connection between the individual and his or her national-level governing body remains quite close. In choosing members of the National Spiritual Assembly, delegates may vote for any adult Baha’i residing in the country – once again preserving the freedom of choice that is fundamental to the Baha’i electoral system.
by Jerome Socolovsky
from Voice of America
The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century, but its adherents believe the United States has a special spiritual destiny. Baha’is are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of a visit to the United States by Abdu’l Baha, whom they call “The Master.”
Abdu’l Baha arrived in the United States in April 1912 and traveled across the country by train. During the journey, he declared that America had the potential to “lead all nations spiritually.”
Abdu’l Baha, who was 68 at the time, was the son of the founder of the Baha’i faith, Baha’u'llah.
“For Baha’is, it marked the first time in religious human history, that a holy member of a prophet of God’s family had come to Western shores,” says Layli Miller-Muro, a member of the Baha’i leadership assembly in Washington. “Most religions begin in the East, and we don’t often have a direct descendent able to come to the West.”
by Phillipe Copeland
According to the Abrahamic traditions, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baha’i Faith, the universe itself was spoken into being. This offers a fitting metaphor for the promise of interreligious dialogue, the promise of a new creation. Like the speaking into being of the universe, for interreligious dialogue to fulfill this promise requires attention to detail. We must be attentive not only to what we are dialoguing about but who is engaged in the dialogue.
In my experience, interreligious dialogue is too often limited to issues of religious identity. The exception tends to be gender. Given that women represent at least half of the human race, talking about the intersection of faith and gender is time well spent. However, historical forces and contemporary social, political and social realities have conspired to make each of us not only gendered beings but also highly racialized beings. Race is always in the room when interreligious dialogue is going on whether we acknowledge it or not.
This may appear self evident, but ask yourself how many interreligious dialogues you have participated in where race is not discussed even in societal contexts rife with racial conflict and oppression? The silence can indeed be deafening. Can there truly be a full and rich exchange across faiths if the meanings people are making of race and the spiritual resources they draw on to combat racism aren’t being discussed? For example, when I participate in an interreligious dialogue, I am never only participating as a Baha’i, but as a Black, male, Baha’i living in the United States. Understanding my faith requires understanding how it is embodied in my experience of being a Black man in America.
For example, I have been invited to interreligious dialogue where participants would walk away having learned a great deal about the life and mission of Baha’u’llah (1817-1892) the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. They may have heard about Baha’i laws and spiritual practices. They most certainly would have heard something regarding Baha’i teachings about social justice. What they may not have heard is that Baha’u’llah compared Black people to the pupil of the eye which is “dark in color but a fountain of light and revealer of the…world.” They may not grasp the impact of this metaphor, which subverts centuries of propaganda making darkness an undesirable trait, on my healing from internalized racial inferiority. They might miss the contribution that the multi-racial, international community Baha’u’llah has raised up has had on the salvation of Black men like me. To offer one example, in 2006 I was welcomed along with thirty-one other Black men from the United States to the Baha’i World Center, located in Haifa, Israel. Our recent services, collaborating with Baha’is in Ghana in the process of community-building, were graciously recognized. Men, whom at home were so often the objects of fear and loathing were celebrated like heroes by people from virtually every nation on earth. It was a taste of heaven I will not soon forget. For me to engage in interreligious dialogue and fail to share such intersections of faith and race represent missed opportunities. Others may fail to appreciate an essential aspect of Baha’i teaching and practice. More importantly, they may miss the chance to engage in a dialogue about the role religion can play in freeing humanity from the inevitable consequences of the color line. Surely that is a dialogue worth having.
Thankfully, I’ve had opportunities to bring my racial reality to interreligious dialogues. One of my fondest memories of being a student at Harvard Divinity School was working with a white, male Unitarian Universalist on a series of dialogues about race and culture for students, faculty and staff. As an alumnus, I was able to participate in a panel discussion about faith-based responses to crisis among people of African Descent that included Baha’i, Muslim and Christian perspectives. These conversations deepened the theological reflection of all involved about the intersection of faith and race and were richer for it. In these conversations, I caught glimpses of the promise of interreligious dialogue, of new worlds of racial unity and justice spoken into being.
Phillipe Copeland is author of the award winning blog Baha’i Thought that provides commentary on religion, society, and culture informed by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. He is a contributing scholar to the multi-author blog State of Formation that is sponsored by the Journal of Interreligious Dialogue. Mr. Copeland is an adjunct faculty member of the Boston University School of Social Work and is a clinical social worker specializing in behavioral health and forensics.
It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of Yael R. Wurmfeld, longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Yael served as Director of the international office (Office of Pioneering) of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States for over 20 years. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Council for Higher Education and of the North Shore Choral Society. She was a talented singer, and she was passionate, optimistic and deeply committed to the interreligious movement.
Yael was crucial to the hands on organizing efforts for the 1993 Parliament and served for many years on CPWR’s Board of Trustees.
“Yael was one of the inaugural members of the Council, going back nearly to 1988,” said Dirk Ficca, Excecutive Director of CPWR. “She was one of a few Trustees who literally became like staff members in the preparation for the 1993 Parliament in Chicago. For months on end she came down to the office to put in long hours on the program and do outreach to religious and spiritual communities internationally. Yael was a key voice in calling the Council to continue on past the 1993 centennial.”
“We will all miss Yael,” said Rev. William Lesher, Board Chair Emeritus. “She was truly a interreligious pioneer who embodied the kind of passion that gave the Parliament movement its rebirth in our time, and for that we are exceedingly grateful. May perpetual light shine upon her.”
The Luxembourg Baha’i community’s involvement in society has been praised by a high-ranking government minister on a special visit to the national Baha’i centre.
Minister of Finance Luc Frieden made his remarks at a celebration marking National Day, the official birthday of His Royal Highness Henri, Grand-Duke of Luxembourg.
Citing the importance of the values of tolerance and unity, the minister expressed the government’s gratitude to the Baha’is for their commitment to the life of the country.
“The value of a religious community, or any other organization, should be a reflection of the contribution it makes towards the development of society,” said Mr. Frieden.
From Asian American Press
By David N. Sterling
For those who understand the sacredness of humanity as one universal and united family, or even of just basic human rights, it is not a burden to be aware of the numerous injustices and atrocities abounding in the world today but it is rather an opportunity to pray and speak out for peace and justice throughout the world for all people no matter what their ethnic or national origin, no matter what their cultural, racial or religious background.
Of both long past and recent concern is the plight of the Baha’is in Iran, the historic birthplace of their faith in 1844. From that time forward the persecution of Baha’is has been both severe and wide spread with some 20,000 martyred during its earliest years. More recently seven Baha’is have each been given 20 year prison sentences.
These seven have been falsely charged by the Islamic Republic of Iran of “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and of propaganda against the Islamic republic.” Their only offense to the Iranian government is of their being members of the Baha’i Faith which contradicts Iran’s agreement to abide by the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights and Religious Freedom. Considering the present ages of these seven the 20 year terms amount to life sentences.
Thanks to the Imax film, “Arabia” currently showing at the Science Museum of Minnesota we can learn a few things about true Islam and by doing computer word searches on interfaith efforts like the Pluralism Project, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, United Religions Initiative and Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, to name only a few, we can learn the truths of both Islam and the Baha’i Faith as well as any and all other world religions.
In today’s world this has become extremely important to avoid any of us or our neighbors becoming extremists ourselves. Understanding, respect and cooperation between peoples of all faiths is the only way peace, justice, unity and the well being of us all will ever come about.