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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

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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]

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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.

Viewpoint: Beyond “For” or “Against”: Reframing the Discourse on Religion and Development

Viewpoint: Beyond “For” or “Against”: Reframing the Discourse on Religion and Development

People of good will, motivated by sincere wishes to advance well-being around the world, often differ sharply when it comes to the specifics of religious belief. Yet virtually everyone recognizes that religious belief touches the deepest roots of human motivation, that it is a social phenomenon that plays out at massive scales, and that its impact on the systems and structures of society is multifaceted, interrelated, and complex.

However, the discourse at the UN and in international development work rarely reflects the nuance and complexity inherent in a phenomenon as pervasive and influential as religion. Some  in the UN community assert that religious communities and faith-based organizations will be critical to realizing our shared aspirations. Others want nothing to do with them.

The conversation often seems to boil down to a black-and-white choice between one view or the other. One is either “for” religion in development or “against” it. And this, in my experience, leaves the dialogue stuck, leading away from productive or useful outcomes, and towards circular patterns of dispute and contention.

Is this our only option? Dichotomies of this kind – economic development versus environmental sustainability, for example, or top-down versus bottom-up approaches – often prove to be overly simplistic at best, and often patently false. Ultimately, they are not “won” by one side or the other. Rather, they must be transcended by a deeper understanding of the underlying realities of the broader situation.

This, I think, is what’s called for in the case of religion – and openness to the possibility that the fundamental challenge we face might have less to do with religion itself, and more to do with the way that we think about it.

In this regard, Michael Karlberg of Western Washington University has suggested that what is needed is an entirely a new discourse on religion. Thoughtful consideration and collective self-reflection on the nature and function of religion will be required, he writes, if it is to serve as a contributor to human well-being and advancement:

What is religion? What do we need from religion? What do we expect or demand from those who claim to be practicing religion? And what criteria must be met in order to merit the name religion?… Rather than endlessly arguing “for or against religion,” why not foster thoughtful discourse on what we mean by religion and what we need from, or demand from, religion?

Such an endeavor of collective inquiry has parallels in the discourse around scientific enterprise and the historic contribution of science to humanity. Dr. Karlberg writes:

The advancement of science has been driven, in part, by an ongoing discourse on science that has placed increasingly stringent demands on what kinds of knowledge and practice can legitimately claim the name “science.”  Even though the discourse on science is still evolving…the discourse has already provided many important insights that help people distinguish legitimate science from pseudo-science, or junk science, or any of the spurious things people have historically done in the name of science.

That discourse, in other words, has spent several centuries defining what science ought to be, if we are to say that it is contributing to the advancement of civilization.

And just as astrology and alchemy had to be separated from astronomy and chemistry for civilization to benefit from science, legitimate religion will need to be distinguished from damaging expressions of superstition, fanaticism, and ignorance, if society is not to be hamstrung by those who would act in its name toward ends that are base, corrupt and perverse.

What, then, are characteristics of a conception of religion that betters the condition of humankind? What is required in order for humanity to progress?

There is no consensus on these questions yet.  My organization, the Baha’i International Community, has recently begun hosting a series of small group discussion on the role of religion in public life, and I can say from experience that even learning how ask such questions is no small task.

But orienting current discourse on religion towards the needs of civilization in its entirety seems critical to moving past narrow and fruitless debates between supporters and detractors, and pursuing instead the real and lasting progress we all want to see. Perhaps then we can discuss religion in the same way we discuss science.

– by Daniel Perell, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations

Daniel Perell

Current situation of Baha’is in Iran – 8 June 2014

Current situation of Baha’is in Iran

Last updated: 8 June 2014

This report is provided as a service to the news media. All details have been verified by the Baha’i International Community. Statistics are current as of the above date.


Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Baha’is have been systematically persecuted as a matter of government policy. During the first decade of this persecution, more than 200 Baha’is were killed or executed, hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – all solely because of their religious belief.

Government-led attacks on the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority have re-intensified in the last decade. Since 2005, more than more than 710 Baha’is have been arrested, and the number of Baha’is in prison has risen from fewer than five to a current figure of 136. The list of prisoners includes all seven members of a former leadership group serving the Baha’i community of Iran. In 2010, the seven were wrongly sentenced to 20 years in prison, which is the longest term currently facing any prisoner of conscience in Iran. The constant threat of raids, arrests, and detention or imprisonment is among the main features of Iran’s persecution of Baha’is today.

Other types of persecution include economic and educational discrimination, strict limits on the right to assemble and worship, and the dissemination of anti-Baha’i propaganda in the government-led news media. Attacks on Baha’is or Baha’i-owned properties go unprosecuted and unpunished, creating a sense ofimpunity for attackers. Since 2005, for example, there have been at least 49 incidents of arson against Baha’i properties, crimes for which no one has been arrested. During the same period, 42 incidents of vandalism at Baha’i cemeteries have been recorded. As noted recently by a top UN human rights official, the government-led persecution spans “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education, and security.” Put another way: the oppression of Iranian Baha’is extends from cradle to grave.

Recent incidents/updates:

Revolutionary Guard begin demolition of historic Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz

In late April 2014, the BIC learned that elements of the Revolutionary Guard had begun destroying a historic Baha’i cemetery in Shiraz. The site is, among other things, the resting place of ten Baha’i women whose cruel hanging in 1983 came to symbolize the government’s deadly persecution of Baha’is.

Three Baha’is stabbed in Birjand in an apparent religious hate crime

On 3 February 2014, three Baha’is were stabbed in their home in the city of Birjand by an unidentified intruder. The attacker, who was wearing a mask, entered the home of Ghodratollah Moodi and his wife, Touba Sabzehjou, at about 8 pm, attacking them with a knife or sharp instrument. He also assulted their daughter, Azam Moodi, before fleeing. All three were seriously injured; Ms. Moodi managed to summon help and all three were taken to a local hospital in serious condition.

Baha’is in Iran told to leave town or face knife attacks after raids on 14 homes in Abadeh

Following raids on 14 Baha’i homes in the Iranian city of Abadeh on 13 October 2013, government agents summoned the occupants for questioning and urged them to leave town or face possible deadly attacks from city residents. Agents from the Shiraz office of the Ministry of Intelligence, with agents from Abadeh, launched the raids at about 8 am on 13 October 2013. The homes were searched, and Baha’i books, CDs, computers, and other items, including photographs, were confiscated. During questioning, several Baha’is were told that local residents “don’t like you” and that “when you are on the street, they might attack you and your children with knives.” But all evidence says the hate is instigated by the Government; Abadeh residents have good relations with Baha’is.

Murder of a Baha’i in Bandar Abbas

On 24 August 2013, a well-known member of the Baha’i community of the city of Bandar Abbas in southern Iran was murdered. The body of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani was found, shot in the back of the head, in his car in an isolated location near the railway station on the outskirts of Bandar Abbas. Every indication is that Mr. Rezvani’s murder was religiously motivated. His killing came after a series of incidents that were apparently designed to force him and his family to leave the city. He had been under pressure from agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, who instigated his dismissal from a job in water purification. Recently, he had begun to receive menacing telephone calls from unknown persons. This came against a backdrop of attacks on Baha’is from the pulpit by local clerics in the past several years. The Baha’i International Community has said the murder should be treated as a hate crime, and it has called for an investigation. Since 2005 in Iran, at least nine Baha’is have been murdered or died under suspicious circumstances.


There are currently 136 Baha’is in prison, all on false charges related solely to their religious belief. The list includes all seven Baha’i leaders, who currently remain in prison, serving wrongful 20-year sentences for allegedly “disturbing national security,” “spreading propaganda against the regime,” and “engaging in espionage.” Their arrests in 2008 and sentencing in 2010 provoked an international outcry and are the longest sentences of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran. In December 2013, the seven wrote to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to express their views on his proposed “Iranian Charter of Citizen’s Rights.”

Among the most troubling of incidents recently have been a series of cases where Baha’i women have been imprisoned with infant children. On 27 April 2013, a woman and her one-year-old child were taken to Semnan prison to serve a two-year sentence. Last year, the Baha’i International Community learned of three instances in which young babies were imprisoned along with their Baha’i mothers. A five-month-old boy was incarcerated with his mother in Semnan on 22 September 2012. In December 2012, the boy was hospitalized outside of the prison suffering from a lung disease caused by unsanitary prison conditions. His mother continues to serve a 23-month sentence. His father is also behind bars. Another baby — the 10-month-old son of a Semnan woman who is serving a 30-month sentence — contracted an intestinal infection and an ear condition. He was taken out of the prison by his father for tests, was prescribed medication, and is now back in prison with his mother. On 17 December 2012, another Semnan woman was imprisoned with her one-year-old child.

Raids and arrests

Since 2005, more than 710 Iranian Baha’is have been arrested. Most of the arrests and detentions follow a similar pattern: Agents of the Ministry of Intelligence arrive at the homes of Baha’is, search the premises, confiscate items such as computers and books, and then make arrests.

Sometime between 24 and 27 September 2013, for example, agents raided the homes of three Baha’is in Tonekabon, arresting them and taking them initially to the Ministry of Intelligence. Their families, while trying to pursue the matter and discover their whereabouts, were attacked with pepper spray.

On 16 July 2013, 10 agents of the Ministry of Intelligence raided two Baha’i homes in Isfahan. During each raid, they agents searched the homes and confiscated personal items. In this case, no arrests have yet been made.

In January 2013, 14 homes of Baha’is in Ghorveh, Sanandaj, were raided by government officials. Agents confiscated all Baha’i books, compact discs, computers, and other belongings. They also created problems for school students by taking their textbooks needed for exams during this period. The authorities positioned armed forces at the entrances to all of the homes and in the streets leading to them. Each house was searched by six officials from the police and Ministry of Intelligence.

A report received in February 2013 told of a Baha’i man in Sanandaj who was picked up by Intelligence agents and driven around inside and outside of the city, threatened and intimidated. A week before that incident, the report said, another Baha’i in Sanandaj was treated similarly by intelligence agents who also drove him around the city whilst interrogating him.

Economic Pressure

Economic pressure on Iran’s Baha’i community is acute, with both jobs and business licenses being denied to Baha’is. Government jobs, including not only in the civil service but also in such fields as education and law, have been denied to Baha’is since the years immediately following the Revolution and Muslims often are pressured to fire Baha’is in their employment in the private sector.

In July, five Baha’is from Najafabad, who had been employed at a contracting company, were dismissed without be paid their salary or other benefits.

In April 2013, the BIC received reports that some four Baha’i-owned shops in Birjand were closed and sealed by authorities. Business permits for other Baha’is there were denied or denied renewal. In January 2013, the BIC received reports that the manager at a Baha’i-owned elevator company in Isfahan was summoned by the office of Public Places Supervision Office and threatened to provide a list of all of his employees and their religions as well as a list of all similar Baha’i-owned companies. The office of Public Places Supervision Office in Isfahan has collected the names and addresses of all the Baha’i-owned optometry shops, including a list of their employees and their religions. And a large, Baha’i-owned distributor of hygiene products in Tehran was closed down resulting in 70 employees losing their jobs. The Baha’i owner was threatened against filing complaints.

All shops, except one, owned by the Baha’is in Semnan were closed down and sealed by the authorities over the course of 2012.

On 16 November 2012, the government authorities sealed all Baha’i businesses in Hamadan province. This day in the Muslim calendar marks a holy day for Baha’is, the anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah, Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Some 32 stores and warehouses belonging to Baha’is were sealed by the authorities. Over the following days, the shop-owners were summoned to the Information Office of the Ministry of Intelligence in groups of three each day, and were asked to sign undertakings not to close their shops on Baha’i holy days.

Cemetery desecration

On 12 December 2013, the Baha’i cemetery in Sanandaj was partly destroyed. Reports from Iran say the morgue, where bodies are washed, along with the prayer room, a water tank, and the walls fo the cemetery were destroyed, apparently as the result of a long-running government effort to confiscate the cemetery land and razed is buildings.In Semnan recently, attackers destroyed the Baha’i cemetery there in two stages. In October/November 2012, intruders demolished the morgue and in December 2012/January 2013, they covered all the graves 40 centimeters deep in dirt using bulldozers. The municipality whose bulldozers were used for this purpose denied knowledge of the incident and promised to repair the damage. In December 2012, the Baha’i cemetery in Yazd was vandalized.  On 7 December 2012, it was discovered that around 140 pine trees, 15-20 years old, had been cut down. On 12 December 2012, a sign was placed in front of the Baha’i cemetery stating that the property had been allocated to the University.  The Information Office of the Ministry of Intelligence informed the Baha’is who had sought an explanation that a new property had been allocated for their use and approved by the Provincial governor-general.  The new property, however, is located between four factories, close to the city garbage dump, and an hour’s drive from the city.

Persecution in education

Baha’i school children at all levels continue to be monitored and slandered by administrators and teachers in schools. Secondary school students often face pressure and harassment, and some have been threatened with expulsion. Religious studies teachers are known to insult and ridicule Baha’i beliefs. In a few reported cases, when Baha’i students attempt to clarify matters at the request of their peers, they are summoned to the school authorities and threatened with expulsion if they continue to “teach” their Faith. Young Baha’is continue to be denied access to public and private colleges and universities in Iran as a matter of official policy, which requires that they be expelled if they manage to enroll and school authorities learn that they are Baha’is. Those working in support of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), an ad hoc, volunteer effort of the Iranian Baha’i community to provide education for its young people, have been at various times arrested, harassed and imprisoned.

On 15 August 2013, for example, a number of Baha’i youth in Vilashahr, who had gone to the village of Mousa Abad to study, were confronted by eight government agents. Three of the youth were arrested. They were released after three days.

Two days earlier, on 13 August 2013, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence in Mashhad raided a site where the BIHE was holding an examination. They arrested two students and an individual who was hosting the exam.

In March 2013 in Semnan, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence visited Shahhid Beheshty and Amir Kabir high schools and detained four Baha’i  students. There were interrogated for a few hours about the activities of the Baha’i community and released.

In February 2013, a report was received regarding a high school student in Isfahan who was severely beaten, verbally assaulted, and whose Baha’i beliefs were insulted by his teacher.  When he and his family protested, the teacher stated that owing to his previous administrative post at a school in Isfahan, he personally knew members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and security officials and that their complaints would not have any effect.

In December 2012, a physics student at the Khajeh Nasir Toosi University of Technology (KNTU) in Tehran, was expelled for being a Baha’i. He was admitted in 2010/2011 and had already completed 77 credit hours. In October/November 2012, a student of applied mathematics at Rouzbeh University in Behshahr, was expelled. A Baha’i in Kermanshah was prevented from completing her enrolment at university after receiving an “incomplete file” on her test results online. When she pursued the matter, she was told that every student is expelled once it becomes known that she is a Baha’i, but was denied this explanation in writing. Additionally, a fifth semester student of architecture at Tabari University in Babol (Mazandaran), was expelled after being summoned to the Intelligence office at the university where his student ID card was confiscated and his student online account was closed.

Other forms of Persecution

Other forms of persecution faced by Iranian Baha’is include the monitoring of their bank accounts, movements, and activities; the denial of pensions or rightful inheritances; the intimidation of Muslims who associate with Baha’is; the denial of access to publishing or copying facilities for Baha’i literature; and the unlawful confiscation or destruction of Baha’i properties, including Baha’i holy places.

International reaction

Governments, organizations and individual supporters around the world are calling for the release of jailed Baha’i leaders and Baha’i educators, and an end to the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran.

In March 2014, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, both issued reports to the UN Human Rights Council stating that discrimination against Iranian Baha’is continues to persist in Iran. They cited continuing imprisonments, arbitrary arrests and detentions, ongoing exclusion from higher education, and hostility in the legal system. Read more…

In December 2013, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution expressing “deep concern” over continuing human rights violations in Iran. By a vote of 86 to 36 with 61 abstentions, the Assembly cited alarm over unjustified executions, the use of torture, limits on freedom of assembly and expression, and ongoing discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and religious minorities, including members of the Baha’i Faith.

In June 2013, the International Labor Organization expressed “deep concern” over continuing economic and educational discrimination against Baha’is in Iran. Read more…

In May 2013, four high-level United Nations human rights experts called on Iran to immediately release the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders. Read more…

Also in May 2013, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommended that Iran ensure that all citizens, regardless of religious belief, enjoy full rights without any discrimination. The Committee specifically referred to the Baha’i community, expressing its concern that Iranian Baha’is face “widespread and entrenched discrimination, including denial of access to employment in the public sector, institutions of higher education, as well as to benefits of the pension system.” It recommended that Iran “take steps to ensure that members of the Baha’i community are protected against discrimination and exclusion in every field.” Read more

More information about the international reaction to the persecution of Iranian Baha’is can be found at our International Reaction page. Numerous reports about the persecution have also been carried in the world’s news media, some of which can be found at our Media Reports page.

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

Is there really a “North” and a “South” anymore?

Post-2015, Social and Sustainable Development

NEW YORK 11 June 2014
Traditionally, development has been seen as something done by the rich for the poor. The “developed” nations “helped” the “less developed.”

But as the world considers a new post-2015 development agenda, that view is increasingly called into question in the face of rising middle income countries, growing inequalities in the “North,” and the realization that some problems – like climate change – affect everyone.

In this context, an informal breakfast meeting held at the offices of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) on “Universality, differentiation, and our shared responsibilities” provided a number of insights about the evolution of thinking about development, development assistance, and international cooperation.

“As we know, the whole UN development cooperation system functions more or less on the basis of a north-south set up,” said Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations, who offered opening remarks at the 19th such breakfast meeting on post-2015 issues.

“But it is not well equipped for south-south cooperation. And most of the resources that we are funneling toward development are of the voluntary kind.”

At the Rio+20 conference two years ago, he said, governments decided that proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) should be “universal in nature.”

“This is very different from North-South – it is something that would apply to the developed countries, too,” he said, adding, as well, that even in the United States now, the issue of “inequality” has become an issue.

“The world is now more like a continuum across the scale of development,” he added, “rather than a binary division of the world.”

The meetings, which have been going on since July 2012, have offered a venue for diplomats, UN officials, and representatives of civil society to discuss informally the issues they are concerned with in the lead-up to negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

And, following Amb. Patriota’s opening remarks, there was a general discussion about what are known in UN terms as “common but differentiated responsibilities” (CBDR) and universality. Among the points offered were:

That new development goals cannot be met without some level of overseas development assistance (ODA) from “developed” countries.
That new initiatives to involve the private sector in such funding are unlikely to close any gap between ODA and needs on the ground – and that private sources of funds will also need some oversight.
That the concept of universality of the new development goals, while a good idea, cannot be interpreted to mean that “rich” countries can expect the “poorer” countries to close gaps in funding or to take full responsibility for action, especially when challenges, such as climate change, are beyond their control. And, likewise, that “rich” countries cannot be expected to pay for everything.
That the lens through which CBDR and universality is viewed – whether it is sovereignty based or seen as for the “betterment of the whole” has a profound effect on the ultimate outcome and solution.
Notes from the meeting, which was co-sponsored by the BIC and International Movement ATD Fourth World, can be read here.

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

The Baha’i International Community
It is an international non-governmental organization with affiliates in over 180 countries, which together represent over 5 million members of the Baha’i Faith. The Baha’i International Community has offices in New York, Geneva and Brussels with representation to the UN and the European Union.

On the eve of the World Cup, the Universal House of Justice responds to Brazilian President’s invitation

On the eve of the World Cup, the Universal House of Justice responds to Brazilian President’s invitation

12 June 2014

In response to an invitation by the President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, the Universal House of Justice has released a message to the people of that country and beyond for the occasion of the 20th World Cup, which begins today.

President Rousseff had written to the Universal House of Justice inviting it to provide a statement regarding the promotion of world peace and harmony among the peoples of the world. She further expressed her certainty that the message would contribute to the advancement of universal human values. Leaders of other religions have also been asked to send messages. The President’s letter referred to the Brazilian government’s desire to use the occasion of the World Cup to further the cause of peace and combat all forms of racial discrimination.