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Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

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Freedom Trilogy performed by Van Gilmer

Baha'i - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 1:04pm

For so long, everyone who has experienced the feeling of being in bondage has longed for their own Freedom. So it was for many, many men and women who were stolen...

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Education as the First Step Towards Gender Equality

Baha'i - Tue, 06/19/2018 - 8:00am

One of the main teachings of the Baha’i Faith is universal, compulsory education. Parents are held responsible for educating their children, so that no child remains uneducated. … it is incumbent...

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Why We Excuse Excess

Baha'i - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 1:48pm

I recently started working for a catering company—which allows me to see new parts of Chicago, the city where I live. I’ve gotten to go to grand museums, symphony halls,...

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God Asks Questions: We Should, Too

Baha'i - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 8:00am

Did you know that God asks questions? “Where?” You may ask. “Why?” In this “Transforming Time” series, we’ve tried to show how godly perfections—as we are reminded by them by...

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Azadeh & Mark Perry’s Book ‘Our Friend Mona’

Baha'i Blog - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 4:22pm

Our Friend Mona is a new biography about Mona Mahmudnizhad, an Iranian teenager who was killed 35 years ago because of her beliefs, such as the universal spiritual education of children.

Mona was a remarkable young woman, known for her love of children, her dedication and devotion to the principles of the Baha’i Faith, her courage, and her sweet voice. She was arrested and eventually executed along with nine other Baha’i women in Shiraz; they were forced to watch each other hang in a final attempt to persuade them to recant their Faith. Mona, the youngest of the women at only 16 years old, asked to go last. She was killed on June 18, 1983.

Azadeh Rohanian Perry knew Mona and Our Friend Mona is a biography of this radiant lion-hearted young woman. Co-written with her husband, Mark Perry, Our Friend Mona shares poignant details of Mona’s story that you may never have read before. I remember watching Doug Cameron’s music video Mona With the Children when I was a child, and her story is etched on my heart. I am so thankful to Azadeh (or Azi, as she is affectionately known) and Mark to creating this book and for taking the time to tell us a little bit about it:

Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

We live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where I work as a clinic manager in the Pediatric Department at the UNC School of Dentistry. I enjoy being a children’s class teacher and accompanying youth in service to their community. I grew up in Shiraz, Iran and was in 5th grade when the Islamic Revolution came in 1979. That was a time of great difficulty for the Baha’is, and my family and friends were deeply affected. I also had the chance to be around heroes and martyrs from our time. I escaped to Pakistan in 1987 and eventually emigrated to Australia, where I lived until we got married.

I’m originally from New Hampshire, but I love it here. I teach dramatic art at UNC-Chapel Hill and work as a dramaturge with Playmakers Repertory Company there. Like Azi, I love to work with young people in our community. In my spare time, I pull weeds in our yard and occasionally write something that someone somewhere might put on a stage.

Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to put this book together?

Mona’s story has been so important in our lives. I was a single graduate student studying playwriting in Iowa when I started writing a play about Mona. I really struggled to tell the story the right way, and even after a year didn’t seem to be making much progress. I went on pilgrimage and met Azi there. We had this special moment where I mentioned I had written this play, and she told me she knew Mona. I had never known anyone who knew Mona, and here we are watching the sun rise over Mt Carmel together. So Mona has been with us from the beginning.

When Mark told me he wrote the play about Mona, it brought so much joy to my heart because I realized she was not forgotten. We work with a lot of youth, and we’re trying to teach them about the value of life and service, and I feel like this book about Mona can help a lot of young people. Mona was an example of a pure human being, and her life was focused on service and love, but she also had passion for education and for music… She was a very normal young person in many ways.

What really confirmed it was the number of stories that Mona’s mother and sister shared with people inside and outside Iran. There was all this unpublished material in English and in Persian we had in this big binder. So Azi translated the parts that were in Persian and I started putting it into some order.

Baha’i Blog: What’s something that you learned during the process of putting this book together?

I understood more deeply the amount of love Mona had for humanity. Her pure soul. Her love. And also how much love we have for Mona.



I learned how much Mona’s mother sacrificed to get the story out there, along with her sister Taraneh.


Baha’i Blog: What do you hope people will take away from this book?

I hope people get to know Mona, so they feel closer to her and even call on her for assistance in their lives and in their service. There are other martyrs as well, and I hope they get to know them too.


I hope they’ll be inspired to persevere with patience and love in their efforts to bring humanity together—however that looks in their lives.


Baha’i Blog: I read your play, A Dress for Mona, and was very moved by it. What other projects are you currently working on?

I have a company called Drama Circle, which is a small press and an online resource at Drama Circle has published several of my plays including A New Dress for Mona (2016), The Will of Bernard Boynton (2015), plus a compilation called The Lover at the Wall. That includes On the Rooftop, a one man play about Hand of the Cause William Sears, and an ensemble play called Band of Gold. I would love to see that latter play performed for the Baha’i community, because it deals so specifically with the topic of Baha’i marriage and community—these two families are becoming one, while their marriages are all in flux. Most recently, I wrote a one-act play called Twin Lights for the 200th anniversary of Baha’u’llah’s Birth.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you both so much for sharing this with us! If you’d like to purchase a copy of ‘Our Friend Mona’, you can find it here on Amazon.

If you’d like to watch Doug Cameron’s music video Mona With the Children, you can find it here. You may also be interested in Tom Francis’ cover of the song, which he sang in this Baha’i Blog Studio Session.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How to Create Magnetism and Attraction

Baha'i - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 10:00am

I don’t know how it happened, but refrigerator magnets have become an essential part of my kitchen. Handier than tape and re-usable, too, they enable easily posting items such as...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

The Individual’s Response to Baha’u’llah

Baha'i - Sun, 06/17/2018 - 8:00am

Time and again, Baha’u’llah announced the joyous news that the promises of God have been fulfilled in this day. Summoning the peoples of the world to investigate his Cause, he...

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The Global Spread of the Baha’i Faith

Baha'i - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 8:00am

Throughout his entire ministry, Baha’u’llah urged his followers to share the Baha’i teachings with others. He often elucidated how the Baha’i Faith would spread across the globe. He abolished the...

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An Oxford Scholar on the Spirit of Truth

Baha'i - Sat, 06/16/2018 - 7:00am

Is the Baha’i claim that Baha’u’llah is the Spirit of Truth a credible claim? Does it withstand scrutiny? Does it attract assent? If not objectively or scientifically provable, is Baha’u’llah’s...

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What I Learned about Life from My Hydrangea

Baha'i - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 12:00pm

A couple of weeks ago I noticed in our garden a hydrangea that lacked vigor, didn’t seem to take nourishment, and was apparently dying. I replaced it with another plant...

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Being a Baha’i: Spiritual Transformation as a Process

Baha'i - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:00am

The call of Baha’u’llah is addressed to every individual who desires the joy and peace that come from recognition of God’s messenger for this day. To be a Baha’i is...

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Baha’u’llah as the Spirit of Truth

Baha'i - Fri, 06/15/2018 - 8:00am

Who is “the spirit of truth?” The phrase is probably familiar to you if you’re a Christian, and even if you’re not: And I will pray the Father, and he...

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The Power of Gratitude and the Practice of Prayer

Baha'i Blog - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 4:32pm

There are so many studies that link the power of gratitude to an emotive state of happiness, and many people are seeking to implement acts of gratitude in order to find a more fulfilling life. What is gratitude? An act of gratitude is the process or practice of giving thanks or showing appreciation for things that matter in your life; it can be your family, friends, job opportunities, living conditions, the list goes on. Through a daily act of gratitude, for example waking each morning and writing down five things you are thankful for, we seem to appreciate life more. But what if we are looking at gratitude too simplistically? What if gratitude is more than saying thanks for the material world and is, in fact, prayer – our most important spiritual practice?

Abdu’l-Baha says:

The wisdom of prayer is this: That it causeth a connection between the servant and the True One, because in that state man with all heart and soul turneth his face towards His Highness the Almighty, seeking His association and desiring His love and compassion. The greatest happiness for a lover is to converse with his beloved, and the greatest gift for a seeker is to become familiar with the object of his longing; that is why with every soul who is attracted to the Kingdom of God, his greatest hope is to find an opportunity to entreat and supplicate before his Beloved, appeal for His mercy and grace and be immersed in the ocean of His utterance, goodness and generosity.

Besides all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and conducive to protection and preservation from tests . . .

I am new to the Baha’i Faith, especially in comparison to many people who have practiced this beautifully profound faith for most of their lives. And in the process of becoming accustomed to the words of Baha’u’llah and deepening my own belief and understanding, I have begun the practice of daily obligatory prayer. As a person who came from no previous faith and would imagine himself as a bit of a new age “spiritualist”, I had my own hesitations and prejudices towards the act of prayer. In my mind, it was an outdated practice and I didn’t like to think I had to do this activity each day, for fear of conforming to an old way of thinking. However, what I found through investigating the practice further is that this daily activity, albeit a more profound version than our previous example of writing down five things we are grateful for, is what science is now telling people to practice for a more joyful and fulfilling life. The act of prayer, for me, is a process of daily gratification – one where I get to look to the incomprehensible essence of God through the words of Baha’u’llah and give thanks for the life I am experiencing in His name. What I have found is that the act of giving thanks to our Most Great Source, to this place of unconditional love, is far more gratifying than just that of saying thanks for my material possessions.

In recently reading the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book of Baha’u’llah’s Writings, I came across this passage that resonated deeply with these new ideas. Baha’u’llah says:

Say: God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it! But for the key, the Treasure would to all eternity have remained concealed; would that ye might believe it! Say: This is the Source of Revelation, the Dawning-place of Splendor, Whose brightness hath illumined the horizons of the world. Would that ye might understand! This is, verily, that fixed Decree through which every irrevocable decree hath been established.

What resonated the most from these words is that He says “God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it!” Could it be that here He speaks of both the love of the Prophet and also of “Love” itself? For it has been hidden and is the key to the treasure. With this perception, I wonder, what if our daily acts of gratitude, our prayers, are our connection not just to the incomprehensible grandeur of God, but to the essence of love itself? What if one of the main attributes of understanding God in this life is to understand and connect to love?

To understand God, in part, as love, we only have to look at the words of Baha’u’llah:

O Son of Being! Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O servant.

Abdu’l-Baha also states in a talk:

…be as one soul in many bodies, for the more we love each other, the nearer we shall be to God.

With this recent insight in mind, I believe that the practice of daily prayer is not just a communion with God, but a way to give physical and spiritual thanks to the All Knowing and All Powerful, and to the true essence of love, which is the basis for our whole existence. I have come to believe that daily prayer is the ultimate practice of gratitude that allows us to remain connected to our highest selves, to our Creator, and to assist us with manoeuvring each day through this human experience.

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

A Baha’i Play Called “Two Shall Appear”

Baha'i - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 11:00am

Olivia Kelsey—Shakespearean actor, author and devoted Baha’i—wrote a moving play about the earliest days of the Baha’i Faith called Two Shall Appear. That intriguing title refers to the two divine...

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The Call of the Promised One

Baha'i - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 10:00am

At the heart of Baha’u’llah’s Faith is the claim that he is God’s latest messenger—and that his appearance represents the fulfillment of expectations cherished by peoples around the world. Baha’u’llah...

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How a Fearful Car Wreck Made Celine Chhuon Turn to Photography

Baha'i - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 8:00am

In this episode, Cloud9 interviews Celine Chhuon, a Parisian based photographer driven to capture the precious and fleeting moments in life. Born in France, to parents of Chinese origin who...

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Gracious Memories through Souvenirs and Photos

Baha'i - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 1:36pm

Throughout my home, I have keepsakes and souvenirs collected from trips and special events. Many other people do, too. I love looking at these items and recalling the experience or...

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The “Return” of Christ: What Does it Mean?

Baha'i - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 1:30pm

Now let’s talk about the return of Christ—and see if we can figure out what the word “return” really means. Is it literal or symbolic? This may sound like a...

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Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

Why do I write this blog?

One Bahá'í's Approach - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 12:16pm
I recently received this comment on one of my articles:
"...Some of my other favorite blogs have disappeared. What keeps you going? What makes you want to keep doing this? What does it mean to you, in itself, and in relation to Baha’u’llah’s purposes?" What great questions.

Thank you for asking this. It has gotten me thinking for a number of days now about why I do this, and how I continue to do it after so long.

Well, the short answer is that I love to blather on, and what better thing to blab on about? My question is, why are you reading this?

But no, the longer answer is, I think, a bit better.

As you may know, it all began with a story, about how I began my first children's class lo those many years ago. The question was asked at a conference, and when I recalled how I started my first one, I actually laughed out loud. This inspired me to write the story down, and that led to another story, and another, and so on. But then, as I was writing these down, it occurred to me that I could also write a bit about the Writings, and some of the precious gems I saw within them. Of course, as I was writing all this, it also occurred to me that I could write a little bit about my own experience both as a tutor and serving in various capacities in the Faith.

Well, one thing led to another, one idea to another, and here we are today.

But even this doesn't really describe it all that well to me.

What is it that actually keeps me going, and wanting to do this? I think it's the Writings themselves.

I remember years ago sitting with a group and we had decided to study something from the World Centre before beginning our meeting. Probably a Ridvan message, or somesuch. Anyways, as many are wont to do, we went around in a circle and read a paragraph at a time, and when we got to the end, the chairperson said, "Okay, we've done our study." And I was sitting there thinking, "No, we read it. Now we need to study what we read."

I've seen the same thing time and again with the practice in Ruhi Book 1, Unit 2: Study a prayer with a friend. So often, upon questioning people about their study, I learn that what they did was pray with a friend. I mean, this is a good thing, don't get me wrong, but it's not a study. Both have their purpose, and they are very different purposes.

Of course, when talking about this with people, it turns out that a lot of us have no idea what it means to actually study something. To me, the most important definition in the dictionary in this context is to "investigate and analyse (a subject or situation) in detail". It is so strikingly similar to when Baha'u'llah tells us to peruse the Writings. This doesn't mean to glance over; it means to study in depth, with careful attention to detail.

Ok. So what better way to help show others what this means than to do it oneself? And this, dear Reader, is why I love to write about my small analyses of the Writings. These blog entries are just a few samplings of some of the many gems I have found. And of course, when you find a gem, you want to share it with the world. Here, I have that opportunity.

I also have the experience of studying literature, among other things, at university. So it was just natural for me to look at, say, the Tablet of Ahmad and ask how the first few sentences foreshadow the rest of the Tablet. This led me to notice that the verbs in the beginning, "proclaiming", "calling", "informing", and "guiding", lead us ever closer to that Source of sources. A proclamation is done over a great distance. You call to someone down the road. You inform someone standing next to you. And guidance is from within. Then I noticed that the Tablet can be divided into four sections by using Ahmad's name as a dividing line, and that the four sections mirror these four verbs.

How could I not be excited by noticing such things? And how could I not want to share such a finding?

Of course, the overarching thing in all of this for me is not such pedantic findings, but their application in our daily life.

Using the above example, it just makes sense that we would proclaim to the world all that we discover in the Writings. The call then goes out to those whose attention is captured by such things. This leads us to informing them of the source of our findings, which can lead to them taking in the guidance found in the Writings.

No matter where we look in the Writings, we will see patterns similar to this, whether in the way in which 'Abdu'l-Baha draws our attention to spreading the teachings in the Tablets of the Divine Plan, or the highly systematic manner in which Baha'u'llah unfolds the truth of the Bab's Cause to His uncle in the Kitab-i-Iqan. Paths upon paths. And if this path works on the micro-level, we can be guaranteed that it will also work on the macro-level.

I find it all so exciting, and so applicable, that I cannot just sit back and hope that others discover these things, too. No. I have to share it. I have actually learned to presume that others will not see the Writings in the same way that I do, and that my small contribution will actually help others. I mean, the same is most definitely true in the reverse. I treasure all the conversations I have with others in which they explain to me what they have found in the Writings. Remember, what is obvious to you is a shocking discovery to others.

So, yes. I write this blog in the hopes of sharing a bit of my enthusiasm for the Writings, and helping others see a little bit of what I have discovered in them, and pray that it inspires them to share their own discoveries, too.

Remember, none of us are experts on the Writings. We are all studying them together. I mean, I'm a fashion designer and jeweler by trade, so if I can find some of these gems, surely you can, too.

Categories: Bahá'í Blogs

How to Love Your Family—the Human Family

Baha'i - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 8:54am

We humans are born of two people, parents, who each have their own parents, our grandparents. Those relationships create the fundamental building block for the family. We may have brothers...

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