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UN to Iran: End human rights violations against Baha’is

Bahá'í World News Service - Wed, 11/13/2019 - 6:00pm
Following recent reviews of Iran’s human rights record, the UN General Assembly condemns Iran for its continued attacks against religious minorities, including Baha’is.

At BIC, bicentenary celebrations explore peace, oneness of humanity

Bahá'í World News Service - Sun, 11/10/2019 - 6:00pm
Baha’i International Community offices bring together dozens of dignitaries and other officials in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab.

“The hand of the community crafted the outcome”: Baha’i House of Worship receives prestigious international prize

Bahá'í World News Service - Tue, 11/05/2019 - 6:00pm
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada International Prize recognizes the House of Worship in Santiago as an exceptional creation.

Stories about the Bab

US Bahá'í News Service - Sat, 11/02/2019 - 3:46pm

This is a video made with the children of the Bahá’í Community in Scottsdale, AZ. It was played during the Birth of the Báb Celebration.

 

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Worldwide celebration of the bicentenary

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 11/01/2019 - 5:37pm

The Baha’i World Celebrated the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab. Starting on Monday at sunset in the Line Islands in Kiribati, lanched a global celebration, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, the Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith.

Click here to revisit the live coverage of the festivities: https://bicentenary.bahai.org/the-bab/broadcasts/

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Youthful Báb/One Human Race

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 11/01/2019 - 4:09pm

The song, “Youthful Báb/One Human Race” is a collaboration from individuals spanning the globe and stands as an example of the effort of love, prayer, meditation, consultation and belief in the capacity of everyone involved.

The project was started two years ago in Azerbaijan by Salahaddin Ayyubi. With the assistance of musicians from the band, the “New Era” they began to produce music in Russian, Azeri and Persian, and later in English. Sandy Simmons, a singer from Los Angeles, and her husband Tony St. James, who have a small recording studio, added their talents to the finished recording.

It is a showing of the beautiful work that can be created when people around the world work together as one human race.

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Growth of junior youth program felt within and far beyond Phoenix

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 10/31/2019 - 8:55am

Bullhead City is an Arizona desert town near the southern tip of Nevada. Sunnyslope is a neighborhood in sprawling Phoenix.

Though they’re 200 miles apart, collaborative action is helping young people and their mentors in both locations draw energy from the overall growth of the Baha’i-initiated junior youth spiritual empowerment program in Phoenix. 

It’s a program that helps middle-schoolers strengthen their capacities through study, conversation, recreation and service projects — and also builds strengths in many of the “animators,” often older youths, who facilitate junior youth groups.  

Traveling and bringing the learning home 

Every two months or so, Bullhead City’s junior youth groups and animators make the long trek to the state capital to engage in community-building activities alongside their big-city peers. 

They’ve similarly joined with other Arizonans at the Bellemont Baha’i School, a conference center outside Flagstaff, and at the Native American Baha’i Institute [NABI] across the state on the Navajo Nation. 

During a training event on the Bellemont Baha’i School grounds near Flagstaff, junior youth group animators with varied levels of experience reflect together on how study and complimentary activities are going. Photo by Ebbie Wirick

Bullhead City is part of a cluster of communities covering an area larger than Maryland with no Baha’i institutions. Emily Ternes, a member of its Baha’i group, says it’s “marvelous” for young people from that small city to spend time “in the midst of the burgeoning spirit” of places where Baha’i activity involves many more people. 

But it can come at a cost for the local community, she adds. “Any weekend the handful of friends initiating the activities [in her area] are gone from our own cluster, there is no one to carry on our core activities [of community building] and we suffer a small setback such that the regularity and the momentum must again be rebuilt. 

“So we must balance the two spheres of action.”

During a training event on the Bellemont Baha’i School grounds near Flagstaff, a junior youth group animator, age 17, accompanies younger people in learning to observe reality attentively. Photo by Ebbie Wirick

Still, says Ternes, the impact of being with more-experienced junior youths and leaders from Phoenix and NABI outweighs the inconvenience for young people and adults alike.

She points to a Bullhead City youth, a graduate of the junior youth program, who had training there and in Phoenix and at NABI then gained community-building experience by offering two months’ service in the Sunnyslope neighborhood.

“One of the activities she attended [in Phoenix] was a family camp,” relates Ternes. In turn, this July she helped organize a family camp in her home city for families of junior youth group participants. As one result, the parents have become “protagonists of the junior youth program and will support the start of our first children’s class” with younger members of their families.

What’s more, the young woman has joined an effort “to try to attract a cadre of youths to go through the sequence of [training] courses to expand the ongoing junior youth program. Friends from the Phoenix Sunnyslope neighborhood hope to join us for a youth outreach” in two neighborhoods, Ternes says. 

Outreach and intensive learning about service 

Meantime, youths in Sunnyslope are starting additional junior youth groups where they live, says Ebbie Wirick, the Four Corners region’s junior youth coordinator.

An intensive summer of service saw about 10 young Sunnyslope residents spend countless hours meeting with neighborhood parents to explain the junior youth program and with neighborhood youths to gauge their interest in arising to mentor junior youths, she says.

A junior youth group in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope neighborhood focuses on study materials that will lead to conversation. Photo by Ebbie Wirick

They punctuated those many weeks of outreach with continued training for their service. Participation in a junior youth camp, which involved members of several groups in Arizona, helped them gain experience as animators.

For some, says Wirick, the amount of time they spent as animators during that camp was equal to that typically spent with a junior youth group during the rest of the year.

In such an intensive atmosphere there’s a need for “constant action, consultation and reflection,” she says. “The animators are hour to hour experimenting, learning and adjusting their approach.”

Just as important, the friendships forged during a camp “are really deep among a team of animators,” says Wirick. Thus when they return to their own clusters of communities, they have a vision of “advancing the program together as a team vs. [conducting] activities that are separate from each other.”

A similar transformation was seen in the junior youth-age campers, she says. Before, some were reticent to share a prayer or sing a song, for example. After a few days, they were “very eager to return to their neighborhood and host a devotional gathering,” one of the other core activities of community building, “or attend a devotional. They just fell in love with it.”

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Northeast strengthens skills in expanding prayer gatherings

US Bahá'í News Service - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 8:13pm

Essentially, they’re planting seeds of a devotional spirit in more and more places. 

Mirroring similar efforts around the country, Baha’is and their friends in the nine Northeastern States have focused in recent months on doubling the number of devotional gatherings, to “uplift more hearts, give hope to more spirits, and create more bonds of true friendship,” in the words of Marie McNair, secretary of the elected Northeast Regional Baha’i Council.

As summer turned into fall, the region was closing in on its goal of 995 devotional gatherings meeting regularly.  

Whether in a home or a public location, each such gathering is a space open to people of all faiths where prayer and contemplation of scripture inspires service and community building. 

Regional Councils across the country embarked this year on systematic drives to strengthen the knowledge and skills of Baha’i individuals and communities, with the aim of expanding the numbers of devotional gatherings and of their participants by Oct. 29, the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith. 

In the Northeast, some 425 devotionals had already sprouted up by January, when the Council serving those states launched its campaign. 

Reports were coming in from individuals and local Baha’i communities that a “sense of unity” was emerging as many rallied around that goal, says McNair. 

Baha’is “were becoming more experienced at inviting people to attend their devotions” and benefiting from the accompaniment of others with experience, she notes. “Levels of creativity astonished the Regional Council as the [Baha’is] came up with fascinating ways to have devotions with their families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and others.”

For example, a family began a devotional on the theme “Blessed is the Spot.” Each gathering was held in a locale that matched one in the popular Baha’i prayer: spot, house, place, city, etc. 

“They have with them copies of the [prayer and] invite people who happen to be in the same place to join in,” says McNair. “So far they have chosen locations for each part of the prayer, but finding a cave is the one that looks to be most challenging.”

A popular prayer revealed by Baha’u’llah:

Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain,
and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island,
and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.

 

Significantly, alongside this increase in the devotional spirit permeating neighborhoods, other core activities of community building also grew, she notes.

Near a major university, fellow students were invited to a devotional, and soon those students were inviting others — to the point it was not unusual for 50 people to attend. 

After students talked about offering service, one began a second devotional, two have initiated a junior youth group and others are training to organize additional core activities. 

The goal of 995 regular devotional gatherings in the Northeast was set in January, as the Council consulted with several elected and appointed Baha’i institutions and agencies. Of the 425 gatherings already being held, the agencies found, “Some were large with many friends invited, while others were small, perhaps just one’s family or one friend with another friend,” notes McNair. “Some were hosted by friends of the Faith.”

Members of New York City-area Baha’i communities discuss the Northeast region’s campaign to increase devotional gatherings. Photo courtesy of Nader Anvari

The Council’s first step was to consult with other national or regional Baha’i institutions. Next came a video call with 75 people representing clusters of Baha’i communities across the Northeast. 

Then dozens of Spiritual Assemblies, governing councils for local Baha’i communities, were brought into the process to encourage each Baha’i community across the region to join in the campaign and “increase its devotional character,” says McNair.

In a total of nine locations, members of nearly every Assembly gathered to study, plan and take steps to implement the campaign. Council members met with members of some Assemblies or smaller groups who couldn’t attend the scheduled meetings. 

All these preparations helped develop “an understanding that the campaign was not really about numbers but, indeed, about a wonderful, transformative spirit spurring the region forward,” says McNair.

Nevertheless, by tracking the numbers they had a tangible roadmap toward the goal. First reports bumped the number of devotionals to 506. The next announced number was 698, followed by 718 and 748 and 807. In August the Regional Council announced that the Northeast was at 895 with only 100 remaining to reach the goal by October. 

“The result,” says McNair, “is that the region is witnessing dedication and unified action such that the Regional Council anticipates that the friends will not only win the goal but surpass it.”

 

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Cleveland reflection enriched by participation of Congolese families

US Bahá'í News Service - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 8:10pm

Under the shade of an enormous tree, Baha’is in the Cleveland, Ohio, area met on Aug. 4 for what one participant called their “best cluster reflection meeting ever.”

Reflection meetings are held every three months to review Baha’i-initiated community-building efforts in a cluster of communities and make plans for the next three months.

Attendance at these gatherings in the Cleveland area had flagged in recent years, says Ron Frazer, a member of the appointed Area Teaching Committee that coordinates community-building activity.

But the August reflection drew more than 50 Baha’is, and the main reason was the participation of five Congolese Baha’i families. 

“Most of them have been in Cleveland for a few years, but we’ve struggled with communication since none of the adults have been proficient in English,” says Frazer.

In recent months Google Translate and Facebook Messenger have been used to exchange messages with the Congolese families in English, Swahili and French. 

Frazer says language continues to be a challenge, though, since the older adults who were born in the Congo speak French, Lingala and other languages while the children and youths who were born in refugee camps in Tanzania speak mostly Swahili.

The communication gap is quite frustrating for all concerned, says Frazer. “These families are dedicated Baha’is who had been accustomed to almost daily Baha’i activities in the camps. 

“While they haven’t criticized the rest of us, we’re pretty sure the American schedule of monthly Feasts and an occasional devotional meeting must seem a bit lackadaisical.”

So, while these families struggle to learn English, “the rest of us are struggling to accelerate our Baha’i lives to a point that matches the enthusiasm of our African friends,” says Frazer. 

“Very animated consultation” at the reflection meeting focused on urgently developing all the core activities of community building, he says, and devising a plan to share the teachings of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, with neighbors of the Congolese. 

“It was completely in African languages, facilitated by Kyengye Elale, a youth from Akron who is quite proficient in English,” says Frazer. “He was able to keep the non-Africans aware of what was being discussed.”

An African Community-Building Conference this past summer at Louhelen Baha’i School in Davison, Michigan, counted among its participants a number of Congolese refugees living in the Cleveland area. Photo by David Smith

About three weeks after the reflection, three carloads of Cleveland-area Baha’is traveled to Louhelen, a Baha’i center of learning in Davison, Michigan, for the first African Community-Building Conference.

Sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly, the elected Baha’i governing council for the United States, the conference attracted people representing seven equatorial African nations 

“The few conference attendees who were from a European background found themselves faced with challenges,” says Frazer. 

“First, how can we help these recent immigrants who, although they strongly desire to serve the Faith, are held back by a lack of fluent English, time or resources?” he reflects. “Secondly, how can we learn from them? How can we replace the ‘rugged individualism’ that we are taught as children in this country with a healthy sense of community?”

Indeed, building a healthy sense of community has been foremost in the minds of Cleveland-area Baha’is since the reflection meeting and the African conference.

One outcome “was the creation of a Facebook group and a WhatsApp group to facilitate communication among the African families and with the English-speaking Baha’is,” says Frazer. 

“The [teaching committee] posts messages and asks questions in both English and Swahili using Google Translate, which has been found to be effective if we reverse the translation, i.e. we translate English into Swahili then translate the Swahili back into English.”

The English must be continually tweaked “until the translation is correct in both directions,” he says — and those messages are posted in both languages only after the committee is satisfied with their accuracy. “Without the reversed translation, American and Baha’i idioms can create confused Swahili.” 

Beyond that, says Kyengye Elale, the reflection and conference have given the African Baha’is a “vision” of how to advance the process of community building as well as “courage” and inspiration to make it a reality.

Elale himself is “serving more in my community [Akron] by sharing … material that we learned at Louhelen.”

And he teamed with his father to invite six families from the greater community to a devotional gathering. Seven adults from those families came, says Elale, “and we did prayers and ate together.” 

The post Cleveland reflection enriched by participation of Congolese families appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

72 hours, one world

Bahá'í World News Service - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 7:00pm
For 72 hours the whole earth was illuminated by the power of unity.

‘Enkindled our souls’: The story of a special phone call

US Bahá'í News Service - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 3:38pm

Nekicia Luckett, a Baha’i in Portland, Oregon, recalls a special experience that resulted when she called a friend to share prayers.

At the last devotional gathering I held, which was usually myself and Joanna, Joanna was away traveling. I thought about how I could have a rich devotional that day. Should I say prayers alone? I could invite people.  

It was last minute when I phoned a friend, Uli. I knew he would be available at that time. First I asked him if he would be willing to share a prayer with me. He said, “Of course!” 

Then I asked if he would say a prayer from his heart. I did not want to impose the Baha’i Writings onto him, as we had never prayed together. 

He proceeded to share a beautiful message about how happy he was that we met and to have this experience. I acknowledged his heartfelt words, which sounded to me like a prayer from his heart. 

Afterward he told me that he actually thought for the prayer I would say something then he would repeat after me. His willingness to repeat a prayer opened the door for me to offer a Baha’i prayer for him to read.  

Because Uli has three children whom he loves very, very much and tells wonderful stories about them, and because I see him interacting positively and praising other children, I chose a prayer for children from ‘Abdu’l-Baha for Uli to read and I sent it to him [in a text message].

Uli read the first two lines. “O God! Educate these children. These children are the plants of Thine orchard, the flowers of Thy meadow …” Then he took a long pause. “… the roses of Thy garden …” Pause. 

Uli was quiet. Had the prayer touched him?  

Nekicia Luckett poses with her friend Uli.

… Let Thy rain fall upon them. Let the Sun of Reality shine upon them with Thy love. Let Thy breeze refresh them in order that they may be trained, grow and develop, and appear in the utmost beauty. Thou art the Giver. Thou art the Compassionate.

No words were exchanged for a while. As Uli reflected on the prayer, I praised God in a meditative state. 

Then I proceeded to share the prayer beginning “Create in me a pure heart, O my God …” I recited it slowly, as it was the first time Uli had heard this prayer.  

This telephone devotional had enkindled our souls. There was no need for more prayers. It was time to listen.  

Uli shared these words with me: “Something else just took over me. Some one. Some thing.” He also shared later: “Something very beautiful overcame me, took over. It was so — pure.” 

The post ‘Enkindled our souls’: The story of a special phone call appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Family is a key ingredient that keeps Rockwall activities cooking

US Bahá'í News Service - Wed, 10/30/2019 - 3:27am

As a flurry of summer activities greatly enhanced the ability of young people and their mentors in Rockwall County, Texas, to improve lives and neighborhoods, a common denominator was the involvement of whole families — some for the first time.

“We were able to meet and engage 12 new families” through these activities, says Rockwall Baha’i Naomi de la Torre.

Families from a neighborhood come together for a family art devotional in Rockwall, Texas, during which they did canvas marbling art and said prayers for the betterment of mankind. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Alongside local Baha’is, these friends of the Faith arose to help serve by hosting activities, teaching children’s classes, preparing meals, providing snacks and supplies, or assisting with cleaning, she says. 

In addition, “We had fruitful reflection spaces” following activities “where participants, children’s class teachers, animators [facilitators of junior youth groups] and family members attended and shared what was learned.”

Says de la Torre, “We discovered that many parents were surprised to see how much their children had learned and asked insightful questions about the Baha’i Faith and the community-building process.”

Nalasi Mendy gives a presentation on his home country of The Gambia during the “Embrace the World” camp in Rockwall, Texas. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Most of these parents, she says, are now participating in weekly core activities of community building and are meeting regularly in their homes with their children’s teachers and animators.

In the four years since her family moved to Rockwall, de la Torre has seen activity grow to the point 250 people in the area are now involved.

She has lots of stories like the one about a parent who has been attending a women’s devotional gathering for several years and had just witnessed her children’s participation in a weeklong skill-building camp.

“This camp is a truly amazing ministry,” the mother shared. “I would like to learn more about how I can become involved.” 

Says de la Torre, “This same mom is now considering starting a junior youth group in her home, just a few blocks away.”

Another family that participated “is now attending weekly firesides about the Faith and eager to engage every member of their family in a core activity,” she says.

Junior youth group animators at the “Changing the World with Art” summer camp in Rockwall, Texas, design a mural on the floor with Baha’i writings about walking on a path toward social justice and world unity. Photo by Naomi de la Torre

Rockwall County Baha’is and friends conducted four camps over the summer — each with a theme and a purpose:

  • A camping trip for entire families of youths and junior youths to learn more about community building. Youth animators led the junior youths in study of texts aimed at building character and their ability to act as agents of positive change. 
  • A neighborhood camp on the theme “Changing the World with Art” that focused on using art as a form of social action. The 70 participants, ages 4–15, were too many for one home. So a neighbor who is engaged in core activities opened her home to host half of the camp. 
  • A camp at which 10 animators and children’s class teachers from the neighborhood studied Book 3, Teaching Children’s Classes, Grade 1, from the Ruhi training curriculum. A small junior youth camp held at the same time gave the older and younger teens an opportunity to create together a vision of walking a path of service.
  • A neighborhood camp on the theme “Embrace the World” that has now been held three times during school breaks. Its aim was to learn about the beauty and diversity of humankind through presentations given by neighbors on their cultural backgrounds.

“Not only does learning happen quickly within the context of an intensive camp space, but these new animators and children’s class teachers gain confidence and vision as they connect more deeply to the community-building process,” notes de la Torre.

As one animator told her, “Being an animator has changed my life. I am beyond grateful for this experience of community building and walking a path of service.”

It’s a perspective more and more families of these young people have begun to embrace as well.

The post Family is a key ingredient that keeps Rockwall activities cooking appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Celebrations have now encircled the globe

Bahá'í World News Service - Tue, 10/29/2019 - 7:00pm
As global bicentenary celebrations pass the halfway mark, stories and images from around the world paint a hopeful picture of humanity, united in its rich diversity.

“The City of God”

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 10/28/2019 - 5:17pm

The title is “The City of God”, named after the reference to the Shrine mentioned in the Tablet of Carmel. The artist, Daniel Hamidi Coleman, wanted to convey a sense of the surreal, something intangible when one enters the presence of the Holy Site, and the wonder that comes from entering into a place that is much more than our senses can tell us. Veils cover the entrance, symbolizing the many kinds of veils that come between us as we try to draw nearer to the Manifestations.

Calligraphy throughout the surface of the Shrine, written by, Saba Hamidi Coleman (the artist wife) mentions names of The Bab, as well as excerpts from His Tablets.

It is a mixed media drawing, initially created with ink and brush on bristol paper, and then combined with several layers of tusche washes and other hand-made textures, and combined together in Photoshop.

The post “The City of God” appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Lakewood Honors the Bicentennial

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 10/28/2019 - 5:06pm

Lakewood, CA celebrates the Bicentennial of the Birth of The Bab with Mayor and Vice Mayor and Council Member. All Three came to the celebration with a heartfelt and sincere expression of joy. They spoke very highly of the Baha’is and said that everyone should follow the principles of the Baha’i Faith, and pointed to the Poster with 12 principles.

Every guest decorated the children’s class poster banner by attaching a flower, which was taken to the banner to the park for a children’s class about The Bab. A chant of “O God, My God, My Beloved, My heart’s desire” was called out while the friends in the city of Cerritos, CA planted a Tree in the Heritage Park to Honor the Bicentennial of the Birth of The Bab.

The post Lakewood Honors the Bicentennial appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Celebrating Progressive Revelation

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 10/28/2019 - 4:38pm

A celebration held on October 26th in Saint Paris, Ohio. Guests were offered an opportunity to work on a Manifestation timeline, make prayer cards, assemble a flower from various designs, colors, and shapes and place it in “God’s Garden”, learn about the life of the Báb, and “search” for a “gem” as the Letters of the Living searched for the Báb.

The post Celebrating Progressive Revelation appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

President of Israel visits World Centre to honor bicentenary amid wave of commemorations in Haifa and across the globe

Bahá'í World News Service - Sun, 10/27/2019 - 7:00pm
President Reuvin Rivlin visited the Shrine of the Bab and Baha’i gardens to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab.

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