Friday, May 16, 2008

Bad Religion?

A delegate from Gabon at the Baha'i International Convention

This recent story from the Baha'i World News Service about the International Convention held by the Baha'is in Haifa last week offers a striking contrast to the actions of the Iranian authorities towards this religion.

HAIFA, Israel — Experiencing the diversity of the human family can be humbling, as Bahá’ís attending their recent international convention learned.

One can meet an industrialist from Italy, a civil engineer from Barbados, and a presidential advisor from South Africa – but realize that a 25-year-old student from South America is equally impressive with her knowledge of how to organize classes for children and youth.

Or discover that the Ph.D. who works with the international research agency speaks two languages, but the woman who owns a small business in Cameroon speaks five.

A thousand delegates from more than 150 countries came to Haifa for the 10th International Bahá’í Convention, and at least some participants say the diversity was unprecedented.

Gregory C. Dahl, who formerly worked at the International Monetary Fund and has attended many U.N.-related meetings, had never seen anything like it.

“This is easily the most diverse gathering of people on the planet,” he said of the convention. He compared it to a U.N. meeting but said the diversity at the Baha’i gathering came not just from the different nationalities but from the backgrounds of the participants.

“At the United Nations, there are representatives from many countries, but not from so many different social, economic, and professional classes,” said Mr. Dahl, who attended the Baha’i convention as a delegate from Bulgaria. He noted that the others from Bulgaria included someone who works for a coal-mining company, another employed by an insurance company, a musician, and a secretary." Read the whole thing here.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how a religion that brings people from all backgrounds together to work for a better world could be a bad thing. What possible threat can it pose to anyone? Why do its followers deserve harassment, destruction of their holy places, expulsion from schools and jobs, imprisonment and even death? What is so scary about the Baha'i Faith?

Two of my favorite bloggers, Barnabus and Bilo also have info on the round-up of Baha'i leadership in Iran.

I'll keep you posted on developments.


  1. I just loved the story on Bahá'í World News Service about the huge diversity of the delegates to International Convention. Even more I loved the photographs that went with the story. They are not just the usual generic "happy Bahá'ís" photos, they are - to borrow a phrase - "up close and personal". They are somehow intense; they really tell you something about the person or people in the photos. I love 'em.

    But let me tell you,, Phillipe, the sheer spiritual (and physical) reality of being in a convention hall with all these lovely people, of talking to them, of seeing them in the Holy Shrines, of meeting groups of them wandering around Haifa, beats all stories and photos into a cocked hat!

    Every International Convention is special. But this one was something else. The energy, the unity, the sharing of experience... I could go on at length, but I'm sure you get the feeling. If you wanted to have a glimpse of the future, that was it.

    I long for the day when the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Iran is re-established and the members cast their ballots in the election of the Universal House of Justice. They will be cheered to the echo by every other country in the world.

  2. The "threat" that the Faith poses is quite substantial, as has been the case with every new revelation from God. The advent of a new religion threatens the social, economic, political and cultural order. Those whose power, wealth and status depend on the existing order are profoundly threatened by a new Faith with a new revelation. Thus was Jesus crucified. Thus did the Arabs make war upon the Prophet Muhammad -- peace be upon him. Even someone below the status of prophet -- Gandhi or Martin Luther King, for instance -- threatened various constituencies and paid the price. Even people without power and status are threatened by a new Faith, which requires them to change so many facets of their lives. Witness how fiercely many Afghans, Taliban and others, resist all kinds of changes, even those that objectively benefit them.
    The "threat" disappears, however, for those who can lift the veils and realize the much greater power and status that awaits them -- power and status not necessarily visible on this earthly plain.
    So, Philippe, yes, we are indeed threatening. Persecution should not be a surprise, and we have also been counseled that we might experience it in this country, too, if not on such a brutal level.

  3. Well said Victor, my question was at least partly rhetorical.

  4. Anonymous8:47 AM

    The Master's succinct answer to this question, which bears pondering:

    "Every great light casts a shadow".

    Judith W.