Our local Baha'i community met last Tuesday (Aug. 6) to pray together and comfort one another in response to more bad news coming out of Iran, the birthplace of the Baha'i Faith.
Early in July, we were very saddened to learn of the destruction of the Most Great House,a Baha'i holy site.
This beautiful building had been the favorite home of the Founder of our Faith, Baha'u'llah, a title meaning ”the Glory of God.”
On July 31, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa against the Bahai's of Iran.
The word “fatwa” is Arabic and means “opinion,” but coming from the ayatollah in Iran, it carries the power of an edict.
He referred to the Baha'i Faith as a “deviant and misleading sect” and accused them of “forming an illegal cult.” He forbid Iranians from associating or conducting commerce with Baha'is, or wearing of clothese that reflect western culture.
The incoming president, Hassan Rouhani, has promised to rule with moderation and to protect the rights of religious minorities. The Bahai's are the largest religious minority in Iran.
This edict will make it nearly it impossible for Rouhani to keep his promise.
The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has stated that Iranian Bahai's 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.” The U.N. committee has suggested that Iran should “take steps to ensure that members of the Baha'i community are protected against discrimination and exclusion in every field.”
None of this is new.
The sad reality is, that all of this is true and even more. Throughout Baha'i history, from the very inception of the faith 169 years ago, Bahai's have bravely suffered. The past is littered with incidents of such things, along with confiscation of property, imprisonment, disappearances, torture, exile and martyrdom.
Presently, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom puts the number of Bahai's being held in prison for their beliefs at 110, including the “Yaran” (Friends), the seven Baha'i leaders in Iran. This adds to the countless imprisonments of the past.
Surprisingly, the recent renewed crackdown disguises a glimmer of hope for our beloved fellow believers in Iran. In the past, Iranian religious leaders have deceived the populace with wildly fictitious stories about the Bahai's. They've demonized the Bahai's by fabricating accusations. They've said that we engage in orgies, that we kill babies and, incredibly, that we have tails!
Now, they are beginning to feel fearful and worried. They are threatened because common sense, education, and access to the internet are exposing the lies.
This deepening darkness is giving way to the light of truth.
Soon, the world will see the Baha'i Faith for what it is, the message of the Oneness of God, the oneness of humanity and the hope for the fulfillment of the promise of the establishment of the universal peace — the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.