Religious prejudice and religious persecution are a sad reality in our world today. The United Nations General Assembly, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in 1948. Article 18 of the UDHR, states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Yet despite the incredible forethought of the UN diplomats that penned this declaration, almost 70 years ago, today people all over the world continue to experience religious prejudice and even persecution based on their beliefs.
Persecution of Bahá’ís in Yemen and Iran
In Iran, Bahá’ís have been subject to religious persecution (at times incredibly violent and even lethal), since the inception of the Faith over 150 years ago. This persecution continues to this day. Iran’s influence in Yemen is contributing to increasing persecution of Bahá’ís in that country and this news story shows that the persecution is intensifying. https://news.bahai.org/story/1285/
At this time, in humanity’s collective evolution, we are going through a period of intense turmoil, a turmoil which can be likened to a troubled individual’s transition from adolescence to adulthood. At this time, trust in democracy and public institutions are at a historic low; prejudices of all kinds (race, religion, nation, sex, class and more) are enflamed and stoked for political gain; and public discourse is increasingly polarized and divisive. This global agitation is felt by many as a lack of security, uncertainty and even apathy about the future, as well as mistrust of others. Yet even in this dark time, there are people from all walks of life, who have hope for the future and who want to do what they can to help humanity move beyond this low point in its evolution.
Taking Action Towards a Hopeful Future
Each week, in October and November, of this year, everyone is invited to a series of presentations and gently moderated discussions, focused on many of the pressing issues of today. Together we will explore human rights, the need for the elimination of all forms of prejudice, the requirement for new institutions that are capable of addressing global issues, accessibility of education for everyone, how strengthening of local communities is a powerful antidote to divisive rhetoric and the reality that avenues of action are available for bringing about meaningful change. These discussions are open to members of all religious faiths, atheists and agnostics; people of all races (really we are all one human race); people of all ages; people of all gender identities; people of all economic and social standings; people with any national background – in short, these discussions are open to every member of our community.
Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.
– Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
The public gatherings will be held in the library at the Downtown Activity Centre (451 Shuswap Street S), Wednesday evenings from 7pm to 9pm, throughout October and November.
On Sunday, January 21, 2018, a cluster of Baha’i friends and friends of the Faith gathered at the United Church in Sicamous, British Columbia. We had been invited by the Reverend Juanita Austin to present the Baha’i Faith to her congregation in the celebration of World Religion Day. The moment we entered the building, there was a keen sense of welcoming and curiosity.
The worship service began with a prayer of approach, followed by a hymn and a funny story about Jonah. Afterward, Frank was invited to introduce the Baha’i Faith.
“Welcome to International World Religion Day. I am Frank. I am a Baha’i and follow the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. We believe in progressive revelation, meaning that from Abraham on through to Bahá’u’lláh, there have been a number of Messengers sent by God over the ages.
Each Messenger refers to the next, who comes after Him. For example, Budha, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and presently, Bahá’u’lláh, are Messengers from God. Jesus makes reference to “I will not leave you comfortless”, “I will come in a new Name”, and “I will come as a thief in the night”.
In 1844, the Bab, also known as The Gate or The Door, began to prepare people for the arrival of the new Manifestation, much like John the Baptist in the time of Christ. Baha’u’llah, a follower of the Bab, was arrested for his beliefs and put in prison for forty years. It was there that Baha’u’llah received His Divine Message from the Lord. God revealed to Him that he was the One who would bring the New Teachings to the world. After He was released, Baha’u’llah was still a prisoner. He and His family and some of His followers were exiled across the Ottoman Empire to the prison city of Akka in Palestine.
Some of the principles of His Teachings are men and women being equal, science and religion must work together, unity of all humankind, all coming together in every way, and all religions are one.
Here is a quote. ‘It is easy to read the Holy Scriptures, but it is only with a clean heart and a pure mind that one may understand their true meaning. Let us ask God’s help to enable us to understand the Holy Books. Let us pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, and for hearts that long for peace.’
I would like to finish with a prayer for unity.”
O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence.
Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.
“World Religion Day is an observance initiated in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, celebrated worldwide on the third Sunday in January each year. Though initiated in the United States, World Religion Day has come to be celebrated internationally.
Described as a “Bahá’í-inspired idea that has taken on a life of its own”, the origins of World Religion Day lie in the Bahá’í principles of the oneness of religion and of progressive revelation, which describe religion as evolving continuously throughout the history of humanity. The purpose of World Religion Day is to highlight the ideas that the spiritual principles underlying the world’s religions are harmonious, and that religions play a significant role in unifying humanity.”
The Baha’is of Salmon Arm 1890 20th Ave NE, Salmon Arm, BC Canada V1E 2G3