Category Archives: News

Meaning of life and greater bliss

Economic life is an arena for the expression of honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, generosity, and other qualities of the spirit. The individual is not merely a self-interested economic unit, striving to claim an ever-greater share of the world’s material resources.

“Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue”, Baha’u’llah avers, “and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.”

And further: “Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest.”

By consecrating oneself to the service of others, one finds meaning and purpose in life and contributes to the upliftment of society itself.

At the outset of His celebrated treatise The Secret of Divine Civilization, ‘Abdu’l-Baha states:

“And the honour and distinction o f the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.”

The larger the presence of a Baha’i community in a population, the greater its responsibility to find ways o f addressing the root causes of the poverty in its surroundings.

Extracts from the letter of March 1st 2017 The Universal House of Justice

Global campaign launches for imprisoned Baha’i leaders

The seven Iranian Baha’i leaders were imprisoned nine years ago. The campaign “Not Another Year” calls for their release and highlights the gross injustice that has led to their imprisonment and mistreatment. 

 

NEW YORK — The Baha’i International Community is launching a global campaign calling for the immediate release of the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders, unjustly imprisoned now for nine years.

The campaign, which takes the theme “Not Another Year,” raises awareness about the seven women and men unjustly arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for their religious beliefs. This sentence was reduced to 10 years in 2015 after the overdue application of a new Iranian Penal Code.

“Our expectation is that these seven brave individuals will be released in the coming year as they complete their sentences,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“But the reality is that they never should have even been arrested or imprisoned in the first place and that, under the terms of Iranian law, they should long ago have been released on conditional discharge.

“In fact these seven, their families, and, indeed, the entire Iranian Baha’i community are all subject to injustice and cruelty, to oppression and tyranny. They all face unjust policies of economic strangulation, the unabated denial of access to higher education, and unprosecuted and malicious attacks on Baha’is and their properties, not to mention extensive negative propaganda in the official media,” she said.

In a message addressed to the Baha’is of Iran on the occasion of the anniversary of the imprisonment of the seven, the Universal House of Justice states:

“Some of the events of the past year have left no doubt in the minds of the people of Iran and beyond, that the rigid fanaticism and worldly considerations of some among the religious leaders are the real motive for all the opposition and oppression against the Baha’is.”

It further states: “the representatives of the country on the international stage are no longer able to deny that these acts of discrimination are in response to matters of belief and conscience. Officials, lacking any convincing explanation for their irrational conduct and unconcerned at the damage done by their narrow policies to the name and credibility of the country, find themselves unable even to give a plausible answer to why they are so apprehensive about the existence of a dynamic Baha’i community in that land.”

The campaign for the seven imprisoned Baha’is, which begins today, aims to secure the immediate release of the seven, who are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm, the eldest of whom is over eighty years in age.

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The seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Tehran in 2008 are pictured with their spouses prior to their arrests. 

Similar to campaigns from previous years, it commemorates the anniversary of the arrest of six of the seven on 14 May 2008. It will be supported by videos, songs, and activities designed to call attention to their plight.

The campaign this year also focuses on all the events they have missed during their nine years in prison, the joys—and sorrows—of day-to-day life with their families and loved ones.

“All seven were married with children and, prior to their arrests, had rich family lives,” said Ms. Dugal. “All seven were also extremely active in working for the betterment of their community—not to mention Iranian society as a whole.

“Further, their long-running imprisonment has meant, among other things, that they have missed out on the birth of numerous grandchildren, the joyous weddings of children and close relatives, and the funerals of family members and dear friends.

“They have been forced to celebrate their national and religious holidays in prison, instead of in the company of their loved ones. And, while in prison, they have been unable to tend to their farms and businesses, which have languished or, in at least one case, been destroyed by the government,” she said.

The Baha’i International Community calls on the Iranian government to immediately release them, as well as the other 86 Baha’is currently behind bars in Iran—all held solely for their religious beliefs.

More background about the campaign can be found at a special section of the website of the Baha’i International Community.

Riḍván 2017 – Message de la Maison Universelle de Justice

Each year on the first day of Ridván the Universal House of Justice addresses a letter to the worldwide Bahá’í community, known as the Riḍván message. These letters touch on many subjects, including the growth and vibrancy of the Bahá’í community, its efforts to contribute to the life of society, and the progress of specific projects and plans.

Message de la Maison Universelle de Justice du 19 Avril 2017

Message of the Universal House of Justice April 19th 2017

 

 

 

 

UN General Assembly rebukes Iran for human rights record

19 December 2016

Empty GA Hall

NEW YORK — Today the international community firmly denounced a wide range of human rights violations in Iran.

By a vote of 85 to 35 with 63 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution expressing “serious concern” about Iran’s high rate of executions without legal safeguards, ongoing use of torture, widespread arbitrary detentions, sharp limits on freedom of assembly, expression, and religious belief, and continuing discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities, including Baha’is.

“The vote today makes clear that the world remains deeply concerned about the way Iran treats its own citizens, while also raising questions about Iran’s genuine willingness to live up to its obligations as a member of the international community,” said Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“Sadly, the list of ongoing human rights violations in Iran is long,” continued Ms. Dugal. “Despite the denials of Iranian officials, signs of progress are difficult to perceive. This is especially true for Iranian Baha’is, who face, among other forms of oppression, a policy of ‘economic apartheid’ from their government, which at every turn seeks to deprive them of jobs, education, as well as the freedom to practice their religion as their conscience dictates.

“In early November, for example, 124 Baha’i-owned shops and businesses were sealed by the government after their proprietors closed for two days to observe an important Baha’i holy day.

“In addition, Baha’is continue to be blocked from freely attending university, and are subject to all manner of other restrictions. They also face arbitrary arrest, detention, and imprisonment for legitimate religious activities,” said Ms. Dugal.

She noted that about 86 Baha’is are currently in prison and that, since 2005, more than 900 Baha’is have been arrested and at least 1100 incidents of economic exclusion have been documented.

“The situation has not improved under the administration of President Hassan Rouhani,” she added. Since he took office in August 2013, at least 185 Baha’is have been arrested and there have been at least 540 incidents of economic exclusion.

Among other things, today’s resolution called on Iran to eliminate “all forms of discrimination, including economic restrictions” against religious minorities in Iran. It also called for the release of “all religious practitioners imprisoned for their membership in or activities on behalf of a recognized or unrecognized minority religious group, including the seven Baha’i leaders.”

The resolution was introduced by Canada, and co-sponsored by 41 other nations. It is the 29th such resolution expressing concern about human rights violations in Iran by the General Assembly since 1985.

capture-decran-2017-01-06-a-07-53-33

In favour:
Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cabo Verde, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Latvia, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vanuatu, Yemen.

Against:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

Abstaining:
Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Guyana, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tajikistan, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Zambia.

Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world United Nations

United Nations

Economic and Social Council

Commission for Social Development 

Fifty-fourth session 

3-12 February 2016

Follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly: priority theme: rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world 

Statement submitted by Baha’i International Community, a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council*

The Secretary-General has received the following statement, which is being circulated in accordance with paragraphs 36 and 37 of Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world United Nations N1535736

Certificate in Peace and Interfaith Studies – Registration deadline May 16TH 2015

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Riḍván Messages 2015

The Universal House of Justice

Ridván 2015

To the Bahá’ís of the World

Dearly loved Friends,

The resplendent season of Ridván is at hand, and from the heights to which the community of the Greatest Name has attained, bright prospects are visible on the horizon. A vast terrain has been traversed: new programmes of growth have appeared, and while hundreds more must still emerge in the next twelve months, efforts to set in motion the necessary pattern of activity have already begun in almost every one of the clusters required to reach the 5,000 called for in the Five Year Plan. Existing programmes are gaining in strength, many showing more clearly what it means for the Cause of God to extend further into the social landscape across a cluster and within a neighbourhood or village. The paths that lead to sustained large-scale expansion and consolidation are being followed with firmer footsteps, valiant youth often setting the pace. Ways in which the society-building power of the Faith can find release in various settings are becoming more apparent, and those defining features that must come to mark the further unfoldment of the growth process in a cluster are becoming gradually discernible.

The call to carry out and support this work is directed to every follower of Bahá’u’lláh, and it will evoke a response in every heart that aches at the wretched condition of the world, the lamentable circumstances from which so many people are unable to gain relief. For, ultimately, it is systematic, determined, and selfless action undertaken within the wide embrace of the Plan’s framework that is the most constructive response of every concerned believer to the multiplying ills of a disordered society. Over the last year, it has become clearer still that, in different nations in different ways, the social consensus around ideals that have traditionally united and bound together a people is increasingly worn and spent. It can no longer offer a reliable defence against a variety of self-serving, intolerant, and toxic ideologies that feed upon discontent and resentment. With a conflicted world appearing every day less sure of itself, the proponents of these destructive doctrines grow bold and brazen. We recall the unequivocal verdict from the Supreme Pen: “They hasten forward to Hell Fire, and mistake it for light.” Well-meaning leaders of nations and people of goodwill are left struggling to repair the fractures evident in society and powerless to prevent their spread. The effects of all this are not only to be seen in outright conflict or a collapse in order. In the distrust that pits neighbour against neighbour and severs family ties, in the antagonism of so much of what passes for social discourse, in the casualness with which appeals to ignoble human motivations are used to win power and pile up riches—in all these lie unmistakable signs that the moral force which sustains society has become gravely depleted.

Yet there is reassurance in the knowledge that, amidst the disintegration, a new kind of collective life is taking shape which gives practical expression to all that is heavenly in human beings. We have observed how, especially in those places where intensity in teaching and community-building activities has been maintained, the friends have been able to guard themselves against the forces of materialism that risk sapping their precious energies. Not only that, but in managing the various other calls upon their time, they never lose sight of the sacred and pressing tasks before them. Such attentiveness to the needs of the Faith and to humanity’s best interests is required in every community. Where a programme of growth has been established in a previously unopened cluster, we see how the initial stirrings of activity arise out of the love for Bahá’u’lláh held in the heart of a committed believer. Notwithstanding the orders of complexity that must eventually be accommodated as a community grows in size, all activity begins with this simple strand of love. It is the vital thread from which is woven a pattern of patient and concentrated effort, cycle after cycle, to introduce children, youth, and adults to spiritual ideas; to foster a feeling for worship through gatherings for prayer and devotion; to stimulate conversations that illuminate understanding; to start ever-growing numbers on a lifetime of study of the Creative Word and its translation into deeds; to develop, along with others, capacity for service; and to accompany one another in the exercise of what has been learned. Beloved friends, loved ones of the Abhá Beauty: We pray for you in earnest on every occasion we present ourselves at His Holy Threshold, that your love for Him may give you the strength to consecrate your lives to His Cause.

The rich insights arising from clusters, and from centres of intense activity within them, where the dynamics of community life have embraced large numbers of people deserve special mention. We are gratified to see how a culture of mutual support, founded on fellowship and humble service, has quite naturally established itself in such quarters, enabling more and more souls to be systematically brought within the pale of the community’s activities. Indeed, in an increasing number of settings the movement of a population towards Bahá’u’lláh’s vision for a new society appears no longer merely as an enthralling prospect but as an emerging reality.

We wish to address some additional words to those of you in whose surroundings marked progress is yet to occur and who long for change. Have hope. It will not always be so. Is not the history of our Faith filled with accounts of inauspicious beginnings but marvellous results? How many times have the deeds of a few believers—young or old—or of a single family, or even of a lone soul, when confirmed by the power of divine assistance, succeeded in cultivating vibrant communities in seemingly inhospitable climes? Do not imagine that your own case is inherently any different. Change in a cluster, be it swift or hard won, flows neither from a formulaic approach nor from random activity; it proceeds to the rhythm of action, reflection, and consultation, and is propelled by plans that are the fruit of experience. Beyond this, and whatever its immediate effects, service to the Beloved is, in itself, a source of abiding joy to the spirit. Take heart, too, from the example of your spiritual kin in the Cradle of the Faith, how their constructive outlook, their resilience as a community, and their steadfastness in promoting the Divine Word are bringing about change in their society at the level of thought and deed. God is with you, with each of you. In the twelve months that remain of the Plan, let every community advance from its present position to a stronger one.

The all-important work of expansion and consolidation lays a solid foundation for the endeavours the Bahá’í world is being called to undertake in numerous other spheres. At the Bahá’í World Centre, efforts are intensifying to methodically catalogue and index the content of the thousands of Tablets which constitute that infinitely precious bequest, the Holy Texts of our Faith, held in trust for the benefit of all humankind—this, so as to accelerate the publication of volumes of the Writings, both in their original languages and in English translation. Endeavours to establish eight Mashriqu’l-Adhkárs, sacred Fanes raised up to the glory of God, continue apace. External affairs work at the national level has gained markedly in effectiveness and become increasingly systematic, further stimulated by the release of a document, sent to National Spiritual Assemblies six months ago, which draws on the considerable experience generated over the last two decades and provides an expanded framework for developing these endeavours in the future. Meanwhile, two new Offices of the Bahá’í International Community, sisters to its United Nations Office based in New York and Geneva and to its Office in Brussels, have been opened in Addis Ababa and Jakarta, broadening the opportunities for the perspectives of the Cause to be offered at the international level in Africa and Southeast Asia. Often prompted by the demands of growth, a range of National Assemblies are building up their administrative capacity, visible in their thoughtful stewardship of the resources available to them, their efforts to become intimately familiar with the conditions of their communities, and their vigilance in ensuring that the operations of their National Offices grow ever stronger; the need to systematize the impressive body of knowledge now accumulating in this area has led to the creation at the World Centre of the Office for the Development of Administrative Systems. Initiatives for social action of various kinds continue to multiply in many countries, enabling much to be learned about how the wisdom enshrined in the Teachings can be applied to improve social and economic circumstances; so promising is this field that we have established a seven-member International Advisory Board to the Office of Social and Economic Development, introducing the next stage in the evolution of that Office. Three members of the Board will also serve as the Office’s coordinating team and be resident in the Holy Land.

At this Ridván, then, while we see much to be done, we see many ready to do it. In thousands of clusters, neighbourhoods, and villages, fresh springs of faith and assurance are pouring forth, cheering the spirits of those touched by their reviving waters. In places, the flow is a steady stream, in some, already a river. Now is not the moment for any soul to linger upon the bank—let all lend themselves to the onward surge.

[signed: The Universal House of Justice]

This document has been downloaded from the Bahá’í Reference Library. You are free to use its content subject to the terms of use found at www.bahai.org/legal

MUJ-2015-04-21-Message-Ridvan-en-2015

Development, Human Happiness and the Challenge of Distinguishing Means From Ends

Development, Human Happiness and the Challenge of Distinguishing Means From Ends

NEW YORK—25 August 2014

In relying on indicators, how can we quantify joy? Meaning? Well-being?

Development is inherently hard to quantify. Human well-being is exceedingly multifaceted, and those working to expand it tend to rely on certain indicators to draw conclusions about other conditions that, while ultimately more important, are difficult to quantify. Using per-capita GDP as an indicator of living standards or quality of life is one time-honored (though controversial and increasingly contested) example.

This is understandable and to some degree unavoidable. But reliance on indicators like GDP (Gross Domestic Product) has the unfortunate side effect of muddying the relationship between means and ends. Up to a certain point, for example, material well-being correlates with happiness. Past that, however, the correlation weakens, and then virtually disappears.

These challenges are widely understood. And yet such indicators, which are now being discussed at the United Nations for the next set of development goals, tend to monopolize our attention and shape both our conversation and our action. In how many development projects does rising household income or increased purchasing power become the most important metric considered?

In some ways money is an easy target to critique. Unfortunately confusion between means and ends extends to other, more “wholesome” seeming elements of development practice as well. Freedom from illness, for example, does not guarantee contentment in life. Access to formal education does not necessarily provide a sense of meaning or vision of constructive purpose. A full belly and well-stocked refrigerator does not equate to satisfaction with one’s lot in the world or hope for a better future.

The lack of these conditions might well have detrimental effects for human well-being. But their presence does not, in itself, assure either individual happiness or social flourishing. The depression, substance abuse, and suicide seen among the richest citizens and communities of the richest nations in the world bear unfortunate witness to the disconnect between access to material resources and services and the human desire for a life well lived.

Truly transformative change can only come if we transcend the realm of technique in order to address the question of the true and ultimate objective of development: human lives and societies increasingly characterized by peace, well-being and happiness; by knowledge, culture, and industry; by dignity, value, and purpose.

Digging wells, revising laws, and similar objectives can, in many cases, be accomplished by a relatively small cadre of experts and specialists.  In contrast, the task of expanding the foundations for human well-being and purpose, both individually and collectively, will require a much wider conversation. No longer will it be possible for the advancement of a global civilization to be the provenance of a few working on behalf of the many. Rather, it will need to be shouldered by greater and greater proportions of the human family.

Work of this kind is supremely affective in nature. It inescapably tied to flesh-and-blood human beings and the beliefs, feelings, values, and aspirations they hold dear. Human well-being, in this view, is defined just as much by qualities of spirit as qualities of the material environment. If the lived experience of actual people is taken as the metric of primary import, a region that is materially prosperous but plagued by alienation, prejudice, and suspicion could no more be considered “developed” than one which may suffer from malnourishment or unemployment but enjoys bonds of mutual support and generosity.

It will also require wrestling with a much messier and more “human” set of questions. What arethe foundations for human happiness and contentment? How will human beings need to act towards one other if all are to live life to the fullest? What patterns of interaction will be required between and among individuals, communities, and the governing institutions of society?  In what ways will qualities of spirit such as generosity, respect, or justice find practical, tangible expression in everyday life?

Questions like these are undeniably challenging. They touch on complex issues of personal belief and social value, and resist “answer” by simple recipe or formula. Yet in the final analysis, widespread human well-being cannot be achieved without a conscious exploration of the prerequisites for that very well-being. Only in this way can progress for all be achieved and the international development agenda hope to achieve its true and ultimate goal. 

By Daniel Perell

Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations

Please go to The Baha’i International Community Website for others messages from the Baha’i International Community.