Northern Illinois Bahá'ís

US & World Bahá'í News Feeds

Maryland vacation school: science, religion and no pinching

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 09/20/2019 - 11:10am

Looking for a “sword of peace” or “asteroid belt,” perchance? The Baha’is of Montgomery County South, Maryland, have plenty — products of a vacation school in July for children ages 5 to 13.

“Fundamental Verities and the Universe” was the theme of the two-week school enjoyed by 16 children from several nearby communities and held in the homes of two local families.

“The school’s primary objectives were to strengthen the children’s spiritual foundations and integrate concepts of God and the Baha’i Faith into their understanding of science and the universe,” explains Noah Bartolucci, who served as a guest speaker. 

Children gathered for a vacation school in Montgomery County, Maryland, learn the Baha’i short daily prayer. Photo courtesy of Noah Bartolucci

Lessons on the Baha’i Faith’s teachings and history alternated with myriad arts and science activities. A basic tenet of the Faith is the essential harmony of science and religion.

On the first day, following welcoming remarks and prayers, the children were asked to formulate their own set of rules to set clear expectations and facilitate a learning environment, says Bartolucci. The list of agreed-upon rules included “Always raise your hand,” “Listen to all,” “Be respectful of all opinions,” “Use an inside voice” and, of course, “No pinching.”

Morning classes entailed readings of Amazing Stories from the Dawn-Breakers, about the earliest Baha’is; exploring the Baha’i Faith through the coloring book Garden of Baha’u’llah, about the prophet-founder of the Faith; and games with such names as “Stainless Deed Tag,” “Laugh Machines” and “Seeker of Truth.” Mornings closed with a reflection circle.

In the Seeker of Truth game, children made a sign called the Word of God. Next, one child acted as the Seeker of Truth, one child acted as the Guide who reminds them of the Word of God and another was the Distractor who uses love of old habits to distract the Seeker from the truth. The Seeker was blindfolded, then the Word of God was hidden. The Guide had to give verbal instructions to help the Seeker find the Word of God, while the Distractor tried to steer the Seeker away.

Each afternoon featured science, art and physical development. A class titled “Baha’u’llah and the Universe” opened with a presentation on the harmony of science and religion and in subsequent days focused on the solar system, the human body, microorganisms, pollinating insects, and one’s connection with the biosphere.

Science projects included the construction of cardboard-tube Galilean telescopes (to peer at the heavens), drinking-straw fountains (to demonstrate centrifugal force) and asteroid belts (made from garment belts, the type that hold your pants up).

Creating art outdoors is part of a vacation school in Montgomery County, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Noah Bartolucci

Among art projects were the making of prayer beads, virtues wheels, swords of peace, individual fund boxes, and door hangers.

What’s a sword of peace? The children made a lifesize replica of the sword wielded by Mulla Husayn, the first person to declare his belief in the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in defense of the persecuted early community.

The classes and sessions were led by adult volunteers Katy Anis, Zia Samadani and William Nothwang, as well as by youth counselors Bita Momeni, Sam Momeni and Yasmeen Nekoui. Guest speakers included Dawn Browning, Bartolucci and Nasir Bashirelahi.

The school culminated in a graduation, where students demonstrated what they learned, and a cookout. Following the ceremony, one child was pleased to report that during the entire two weeks of classes, in fact, no pinching had occurred.

The post Maryland vacation school: science, religion and no pinching appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Design concept for the Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Baha unveiled

Bahá'í World News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 7:00pm
A sacred structure, distinctive in its design, will be built to honor ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Who held a unique station in religious history.

Maryland vacation school: science, religion and no pinching

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 4:00pm

Looking for a “sword of peace” or “asteroid belt,” perchance? The Baha’is of Montgomery County South, Maryland, have plenty — products of a vacation school in July for children ages 5 to 13.

“Fundamental Verities and the Universe” was the theme of the two-week school enjoyed by 16 children from several nearby communities and held in the homes of two local families.

“The school’s primary objectives were to strengthen the children’s spiritual foundations and integrate concepts of God and the Baha’i Faith into their understanding of science and the universe,” explains Noah Bartolucci, who served as a guest speaker.

Creating art outdoors is part of a vacation school during summer 2019 in Montgomery County, Maryland. Photo courtesy of Noah Bartolucci

Lessons on the Baha’i Faith’s teachings and history alternated with myriad arts and science activities. A basic tenet of the Faith is the essential harmony of science and religion.

On the first day, following welcoming remarks and prayers, the children were asked to formulate their own set of rules to set clear expectations and facilitate a learning environment, says Bartolucci. The list of agreed-upon rules included

“Always raise your hand,” “Listen to all,” “Be respectful of all opinions,” “Use an inside voice” and, of course, “No pinching.”

Morning classes entailed readings of Amazing Stories from the Dawn-Breakers, about the earliest Baha’is; exploring the Baha’i Faith through the coloring book Garden of Baha’u’llah, about the prophet-founder of the Faith; and games with such names as “Stainless Deed Tag,” “Laugh Machines” and “Seeker of Truth.”

Mornings closed with a reflection circle.

In the Seeker of Truth game, children made a sign called the Word of God. Next, one child acted as the Seeker of Truth, one child acted as the Guide who reminds them of the Word of God and another was the Distractor who uses love of old habits to distract the Seeker from the truth. The Seeker was blindfolded, then the Word of God was hidden. The Guide had to give verbal instructions to help the Seeker find the Word of God, while the Distractor tried to steer the Seeker away.

Each afternoon featured science, art and physical development. A class titled “Baha’u’llah and the Universe” opened with a presentation on the harmony of science and religion and in subsequent days focused on the solar system, the human body, microorganisms, pollinating insects, and one’s connection with the biosphere.

Children gathered for a vacation school during summer 2019 in Montgomery County, Maryland, learn the Baha’i short obligatory prayer. Photo courtesy of Noah Bartolucci

Science projects included the construction of cardboard-tube Galilean telescopes (to peer at the heavens), drinking-straw fountains (to demonstrate centrifugal force) and asteroid belts (made from garment belts, the type that hold your pants up).

Among art projects were the making of prayer beads, virtues wheels, swords of peace, individual fund boxes, and door hangers.

What’s a sword of peace? The children made a lifesize replica of the sword wielded by Mulla Husayn, the first person to declare his belief in the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in defense of the persecuted early community.

The classes and sessions were led by adult volunteers Katy Anis, Zia Samadani and William Nothwang, as well as by youth counselors Bita Momeni, Sam Momeni and Yasmeen Nekoui. Guest speakers included Dawn Browning, Bartolucci and Nasir Bashirelahi.

The school culminated in a graduation, where students demonstrated what they learned, and a cookout. Following the ceremony, one child was pleased to report that during the entire two weeks of classes, in fact, no pinching had occurred.

The post Maryland vacation school: science, religion and no pinching appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Tales of early believers come alive following NC workshops

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 3:42pm

“Soul-stirring stories” about early believers have been swirling around North Carolina’s Triangle area for a number of months.

The inspiration springs from the upcoming 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in October.

The confidence to tell such stories was born of a workshop held May 19 at the Durham Baha’i Center for 36 area residents.

To prepare for the workshop, several people spent weeks rewriting and modernizing 23 vignettes from the lives of the Bab and the followers He had attracted starting in 1844, says Kathy Heady. (See the adaptation of one such story here.)

Tips on telling stories of the Bab are shared at a workshop in Durham, North Carolina. Photo by Sabha Ma’ani

The goal, she says, was to “help the friends in Durham and the wider Triangle cluster [also covering such cities as Raleigh, Chapel Hill and Cary] not only to recall some of the soul-stirring stories found in The Dawn-Breakers,” an account of the origins of the Baha’i Faith, “but also to build their capacity to share these stories and incorporate such storytelling into their community-building activities.”

Three more workshops were held around the Triangle over the summer. And judging from feedback, the trainings were a success.

“One participant insightfully observed,” relates Heady, “that the workshop taught him how reflecting on the spirit and sacrifice of the early believers must be ‘at the heart of how we should tell the stories of the [early believers] during this … bicentennial year’ and that he believed such reflection would be a ‘key to helping make the listener care.’”

Other participants shared how they were moved by the experience and inspired to find opportunities to tell the stories in whatever spaces they find themselves.

“The workshop was absolutely wonderful,” Talia Dalton reflected after the Durham workshop. “It was a great experience for me to come out of my shell a bit and speak in front of loving, kind people comfortably! The stories were wonderfully put, and very clear.”

Young people share stories of the Bab outside the Baha’i center in Efland, North Carolina. Photo by Emily Shepherd

Added Nancy Hendershot, who attended a workshop in Raleigh, since May each monthly Baha’i Feast in her section of Raleigh has included a story component, “which has helped keep the bicentenary on everyone’s mind.”

At her suggestion an interfaith gathering Aug. 4 at the IAR Mosque in Raleigh was “devoted to sharing stories that inspire and give courage.” She told one story linking Tahirih, a woman who was one of the Bab’s foremost disciples, to other women important to Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

Another time, a group of youths gathered around a fire at the Efland Baha’i Center to tell stories. According to Emily Shepherd, a youth was inspired to read The Dawn-Breakers after hearing them.

The post Tales of early believers come alive following NC workshops appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Vahid’s tale, as adapted for storytelling

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 3:30pm

This is a story of how the “wisest man in Persia” investigated the new Faith of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in the summer of 1845. Adapted from Amazing Stories from the Dawn-Breakers by Jacqueline Mehrabi and Release the Sun by William Sears, it is one of 23 stories recast by Baha’is in North Carolina for use in telling people about the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab in October.

The fame and message of the Bab had spread far and wide. Soon the authorities became alarmed. Day by day the crowds that followed the Bab greatly increased in number. There were now many followers in all classes of society, and many were of important standing — great lords, members of the clergy, military men and merchants.

The king became interested and decided to investigate. He wanted to know if the reports about the Bab were true. So he summoned his trusted friend Vahid, who was a person of great learning as well as honest and trustworthy. Vahid was known as the wisest man in Persia, and the king and government leaders often asked his advice on all matters.

The king told Vahid: “Go at once to Shiraz. Interview the Bab. Find out if these tales of wonder we hear are true. Then report to me what you discover.” Vahid was very pleased to be chosen for this mission, since he had wanted to meet the Bab ever since hearing about Him. During his journey, Vahid devised all the difficult questions he would ask the Bab to test His knowledge.

When Vahid arrived in Shiraz, he met with one of the new believers, who gently warned him not to act proudly when he was with the Bab. But Vahid was used to being the cleverest man around, so this friend knew that he might find it difficult to be humble.

The Bab welcomed Vahid with affection. For two hours, Vahid asked question after question about difficult passages and prophecies from the holy writings. The Bab listened carefully and patiently and then gave such wise answers that Vahid felt embarrassed and ashamed. He then excused himself, saying he would return on another day with the rest of his questions.

Learning to share stories of the Bab is what brought these people to the Baha’i Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Nancy Hendershot

On his way to the second interview, Vahid was confident and had his questions clearly in mind. But as soon as he entered the Bab’s presence, Vahid went into a daze and found his mind completely blank. Later, to his great surprise, he realized that the Bab was speaking, and was answering his unasked questions. He came out of his daze but could not collect his thoughts, and begged to leave.

Then came a third interview. This time, thought Vahid, I will find out for sure whether the Bab is the Promised One or not. Without saying anything, I will silently ask Him to explain certain holy verses for me. If He does this, I will believe in Him!

As soon as Vahid was ushered into the Bab’s presence, a sense of fear seized him. His knees began to shake. Even though he had been many times in the presence of the king without feeling the slightest trace of timidity, Vahid was now so awed and shaken that he could not remain standing.

The Bab took his hand and seated Vahid beside him. “Seek from Me,” He said, “whatever is your heart’s desire. I will readily reveal it to you.” But Vahid could not speak. He just sat, unable to say a word.

The Bab smiled at him. Then He called for his pen-case and paper began to write a commentary on the holy verses Vahid had wanted Him to explain. When the Bab read to Vahid what He had written, tears streamed from Vahid’s eyes.

He was overcome with happiness and felt dizzy. He had to have drops of rose-water sprinkled on his face to keep him from fainting. At that moment he knew, without any doubt, that the Bab was indeed the Promised One.

Vahid then discharged his responsibility to the king, writing a detailed and personal account of his investigation of the Bab.

Vahid himself did not return to the capital. He began to summon the people to accept the new Messenger of God. Such was his enthusiasm and fervor, that other learned doctors decided Vahid must have suddenly lost his mind, or have been bewitched by the Bab.

When the report was given to the king that Vahid had investigated the Bab, found His Cause to be the truth, and had accepted it himself, the king told his prime minister that no one was allowed to say anything bad about the Bab again and should show respect for the Message He had brought.

The post Vahid’s tale, as adapted for storytelling appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Arab American Conference inspires work for peaceful future

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 2:53pm

Now in its eighth year, the Arab American Conference brings together speakers of the Arabic language to strengthen bonds of friendship, contribute to cultural discourse, and celebrate the Arab world’s vibrant and distinctive contributions to society.

The meeting drew attendees from seven countries.

This year’s gathering, convened in Skokie, Illinois, on Aug. 19-26, focused on “Prospects for the Future of Humanity,” for four days of discussion panels, workshops and artistic presentations that included Arabic music and a movie night. The meeting drew 55 attendees from seven countries.

Conference sessions are held primarily in Arabic, with translation for those presenting in other languages. Most attendees, like Saad Al-Jassar, of nearby Evanston, are native Arabic speakers and welcome meeting others in their own language and hearing the cultural musical expressions.

“The workshops were very informative and stimulating,” said Al-Jassar. “We learned how the Arab friends are engaging segments of their societies in building and strengthening coexistence among diverse groups.”

Alhan Rahimi, from Canada, presented her book for children, “Yara, My Friend from Syria,” published in English and Arabic. The story is about a Syrian girl’s first day of school in her new country, Canada. It shows her interactions with classmates on this important day in her life.

The conference’s intimate setting allows for quality interactions, says Sarah Ahmadi Akahavan, of Vienna, Virginia, a member of the conference organizing committee appointed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

Nabil Elias, another committee member, agrees, “The conference provides an opportunity to renew friendships formed from times past in the Middle East and to follow up on news about family and friends. It also offers the opportunity to make new friends.”

Elias, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, says, “We become friends on social media or exchange email or text messages. Occasionally we visit each other when we travel or invite friends to visit. We get to know each other truly as one family.”

Elias says that the networking initiated at the conference provides supportive relationships, professionally and otherwise. “We encourage one another and support one another to engage in current non-partisan discourses in society related to Arab Americans in the diaspora and to help create unity in diversity in the Middle East region.

“These initiatives complement the work being done by Baha’is engaged in core activities, social discourse and social action as all are aimed to serve humanity in the process of developing peaceful, loving, prosperous, and sustainable local and global communities,” he says.

In its beginning, the conference was focused on Arabic literature. Over the years the focus has evolved to be more aligned with current issues and with Baha’i efforts to build community and engage in social discourses.

“The committee pays careful attention to the process of selecting the theme, presentation topics and presenters, such that they reflect current realities, challenges and successes of Arabs and the Arab diaspora in the Middle East and abroad,” says Akahavan. The committee also makes sure that the presenters come from diverse religions and countries to add to the richness of the views and discussions.

Dr. Firaydoun Javaheri, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, spoke about world peace and the role of the individual.

“The speakers—among them was the former member of the Universal House of Justice, Dr. Javaheri—were very inspiring,” says Al-Jassar. Firaydoun Javaheri, former member of the international governing council of the Baha’i Faith, spoke about world peace and the role of the individual. Another talk was by Rabab Kamal from Egypt, who presented on some grassroots initiatives that empower women and promote coexistence.

“One highlight of the conference for me was to learn of the advances made in Kurdistan region in Iraq in terms of coexistence and the development of a stronger spirit of unity,” says Elias. “Another highlight was to learn of the initiative we heard of in Egypt of constructive resilience—that of fighting harmful extremist ideas that discriminate and spread hatred, but not fighting the people who promote such ideas.”

According to Elias, “Everyone at the conference was committed to begin or continue working to make a difference by taking practical steps towards the goals of the conference.”

Akhavan adds, “The goal is that the participants leave the conference filled with hope and enthusiasm to contribute to the spiritual and material advancement of their communities and actively engage in social discourses and community building.”

The conference has extensive online archives of audio files from previous conferences since 2014.

The post Arab American Conference inspires work for peaceful future appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Conferences build confidence for individual, collective efforts alike

US Bahá'í News Service - Thu, 09/19/2019 - 2:38pm

Baha’i community-building efforts gained a significant boost in the four Prairie States as a whole — with the Kansas City area in particular poised to reach a new stage — from a set of four conferences last summer aimed at accelerating the growth of those initiatives.

Still, the pledges of action that made this momentum possible were often very personal, sometimes centered on particular neighborhoods.

These conferences were among many around the country this summer focused on intensifying activity in the run-up to the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab, herald of the Baha’i Faith, in October.

Participants in a teaching conference in Kansas City, Missouri, share ideas. Photo by Afsaneh Zaeri

“A highlight of the Kansas City conference was the number of pledges for new core activities, particularly devotional gatherings,” recalls Susan Bishop, secretary of the Regional Baha’i Council of the Prairie States.

Those 20 new pledges put the Kansas City cluster of communities within reach of a new milestone, with 100 core activities ongoing: devotionals, children’s spiritual education classes, junior youth groups, and study circles to build capacity to initiate all those activities.

The conferences also helped increase people’s confidence in informing neighbors about the vision of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Faith, for humanity and inviting them to work alongside Baha’is to make it a reality.

Bishop tells of a man who, despite his reticent nature, agreed to go with a facilitator from the Kansas City conference to visit a family in a neighborhood of African immigrants.

Counselor Mark Sisson addresses a teaching conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Susan Bishop

And of a woman in St. Louis who heard stories like that and expressed the wish that she had been among those who were willing to set aside their fears.

One who did swallow his discomfort and go out from the St. Louis conference to meet people in a neighborhood was Mark Stannard, a Baha’i in Columbia, Missouri.

Here is his account:

“I was among the 15 or 20 people who chose to give it a go. I was not totally comfortable knocking on strangers’ doors and had the expectation that many people would not be comfortable talking to a stranger at their door.

“It gave me strength to have a teammate to go through the experience with as well as an invitation to give them [for a neighborhood gathering to talk about community building].

“As we walked down the street trying to get our courage up to go to the first house, we came across a modest home with a well-manicured yard and a couple of men sitting out on the front porch.

“We asked if they would mind speaking with us for a moment, and the homeowner welcomed us. We probably talked to him for about 20 minutes and learned a great deal about him — particularly how Jesus had taken away his addictions to drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.

“As we were getting to know each other I remember thinking that although we might not get to a lot of houses at this speed, even one good connection might be more valuable than numerous quicker but less in-depth conversations.

“We eventually said our goodbyes and moved on to the next home. A woman in her 30s or early 40s answered the door and immediately stepped out onto the porch to talk with us.

“It turned out that she was a transplant into the neighborhood from upstate New York. She again took time to speak with us about our efforts and about her desire to see improvements in the sense of community in the neighborhood.

“Again, 20 or more minutes lapsed as we enjoyed conversation centered around her neighborhood and living situation. I could tell that we were not disturbing her, as she was the one doing most of the talking and seemed in no hurry to end the conversation. She indicated a high likelihood that she would be attending [the] community-building gathering.

“After that we only had time to visit a couple more homes — one where nobody was home and one where we wound up having a brief but friendly exchange with a man who accepted a flyer to the gathering.

“This experience left me with an improved feeling toward how I might be accepted by strangers. It struck me that we had started relationships with these new people, and that there was something to follow up on and that these people shared our mission.”

The post Conferences build confidence for individual, collective efforts alike appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Prayerful Voices for Change

US Bahá'í News Service - Wed, 09/18/2019 - 9:50am

Inspired by the power of prayer, women in the community of Del Sur, San Diego support each other by unifying their voices and quenching their thirst for spirituality. They transform their words into action by starting children’s classes, devotionals and study circles to help their community.

This video is part of A Rich Tapestry, a video storytelling collection that expresses and illustrates how love is being translated into action to address questions of race and culture in the United States. This collection of video stories provides authentic examples of how individuals, communities and institutions are weaving together a rich tapestry of community life in neighborhoods across America. The strands of this tapestry include efforts to expand and consolidate vibrant patterns of Baha’i community life, to contribute to public discourse on topics of race and diversity, and to take direct social action in collaboration with like-minded groups and individuals.

New videos will be added to this collection regularly, exploring the different facets and threads that weave a rich tapestry of community life. We invite you to view these videos at home and in community gatherings. Share them with friends and neighbors as a way to spark conversations and envision the possibilities for building communities that bridge all racial and cultural differences.

And most importantly, share with us your thoughts, experiences, and ideas for other stories that could be included in this series.

The post Prayerful Voices for Change appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Members of parliament honor bicentenary

Bahá'í World News Service - Tue, 09/17/2019 - 7:00pm
In Australia and in California, United States, MPs have commemorated the historic anniversary.

Arab American Conference inspires work for peaceful future

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 11:18am

Now in its eighth year, the Arab American Conference brings together speakers of the Arabic language to strengthen bonds of friendship, contribute to cultural discourse, and celebrate the Arab world’s vibrant and distinctive contributions to society.

The meeting drew attendees from seven countries.

This year’s gathering, convened in Skokie, Illinois, on Aug. 19-26, focused on “Prospects for the Future of Humanity,” for four days of discussion panels, workshops and artistic presentations that included Arabic music and a movie night. The meeting drew 55 attendees from seven countries. 

Conference sessions are held primarily in Arabic, with translation for those presenting in other languages. Most attendees, like Saad Al-Jassar, of nearby Evanston, are native Arabic speakers and welcome meeting others in their own language and hearing the cultural musical expressions.

“The workshops were very informative and stimulating,” said Al-Jassar. “We learned how the Arab friends are engaging segments of their societies in building and strengthening coexistence among diverse groups.”

Alhan Rahimi, from Canada, presented her book for children, “Yara, My Friend from Syria,” published in English and Arabic. The story is about a Syrian girl’s first day of school in her new country, Canada. It shows her interactions with classmates on this important day in her life.

The conference’s intimate setting allows for quality interactions, says Sarah Ahmadi Akhavan, of Vienna, Virginia, a member of the conference organizing committee appointed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

Nabil Elias, another committee member, agrees, “The conference provides an opportunity to renew friendships formed from times past in the Middle East and to follow up on news about family and friends. It also offers the opportunity to make new friends.”  

Elias, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina, says, “We become friends on social media or exchange email or text messages. Occasionally we visit each other when we travel or invite friends to visit. We get to know each other truly as one family.”   

Elias says that the networking initiated at the conference provides supportive relationships, professionally and otherwise. “We encourage one another and support one another to engage in current non-partisan discourses in society related to Arab Americans in the diaspora and to help create unity in diversity in the Middle East region. 

“These initiatives complement the work being done by Baha’is engaged in core activities, social discourse and social action as all are aimed to serve humanity in the process of developing peaceful, loving, prosperous, and sustainable local and global communities,” he says.  

In its beginning, the conference was focused on Arabic literature. Over the years the focus has evolved to be more aligned with current issues and with Baha’i efforts to build community and engage in social discourses. 

“The committee pays careful attention to the process of selecting the theme, presentation topics and presenters, such that they reflect current realities, challenges and successes of Arabs and the Arab diaspora in the Middle East and abroad,” says Akhavan. The committee also makes sure that the presenters come from diverse religions and countries to add to the richness of the views and discussions.

Dr. Firaydoun Javaheri, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, spoke about world peace and the role of the individual.

“The speakers—among them was the former member of the Universal House of Justice, Dr. Javaheri—were very inspiring,” says Al-Jassar. Firaydoun Javaheri, a former member of the international governing council of the Baha’i Faith, spoke about world peace and the role of the individual. Another talk was by Rabab Kamal from Egypt, who presented on some grassroots initiatives that empower women and promote coexistence. 

“One highlight of the conference for me was to learn of the advances made in Kurdistan region in Iraq in terms of coexistence and the development of a stronger spirit of unity,” says Elias. “Another highlight was to learn of the initiative we heard of in Egypt of constructive resilience—that of fighting harmful extremist ideas that discriminate and spread hatred, but not fighting the people who promote such ideas.”

According to Elias, “Everyone at the conference was committed to begin or continue working to make a difference by taking practical steps towards the goals of the conference.”

Akhavan adds, “The goal is that the participants leave the conference filled with hope and enthusiasm to contribute to the spiritual and material advancement of their communities and actively engage in social discourses and community building.” 

Presentations are recorded, and there is an extensive collection of audio files dating back to 2014 in the Conference Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

The post Arab American Conference inspires work for peaceful future appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Wayne Wilson: A Baha’i perspective on Navajo teachings

US Bahá'í News Service - Fri, 09/13/2019 - 10:14am
“Native American Trading” wall mural in Gallup, New Mexico, created in 2005 by Chester Kahn, who was a member of the Baha’i Faith.

Listen as Wayne Wilson, resident of the Navajo Nation, shares his perspective on how traditional Diné teachings intersect with his beliefs as a member of the Baha’i Faith.

The post Wayne Wilson: A Baha’i perspective on Navajo teachings appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Worldwide spirit of bicentenary inspires communities throughout Europe

Bahá'í World News Service - Mon, 09/09/2019 - 7:00pm
Communities are preparing for the historic anniversary by composing music, performing drama, and intensifying community building efforts.

Bicentenary website to reflect worldwide celebrations

Bahá'í World News Service - Thu, 09/05/2019 - 7:00pm
Launched today, a new website publishes glimpses of celebrations worldwide.

Audiobook: The Baha’i Response to the Crisis of Our Time

US Bahá'í News Service - Tue, 09/03/2019 - 2:15pm

By Joan Hernandez

The times in which we live are characterized by two power processes: disintegration and integration. Each and every person has the possibility of contributing to the process of integration. Unfortunately, many remain spectators, either because they don’t know what to do, or they feel that due to the magnitude of the problems facing society, their efforts would have little effect.

Baha’u’llah has revealed teachings that give us a clear vision of a future society—characterized by unity, justice and world peace—a society that we are called upon to construct. The Baha’i Faith gives us concrete guidance on the most effective actions that we can take at this moment, calling upon us to participate in a worldwide program of moral and spiritual education. Those who join the effort become part of a planetary network, receiving guidance and support in their efforts to contribute to a better world.

 

Joan Barstow Hernandez is an American currently living and working in Bolivia. She is the author of more than twenty books related to the Baha’i Faith, family life, education, leadership, and socioeconomic development.  

The post Audiobook: The Baha’i Response to the Crisis of Our Time appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Social Justice Film Series

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 09/02/2019 - 4:58pm

The Social Justice Film Series is aimed at developing “person to person” meaningful conversations in the spiritual environs of the Temple on topics of social justice, and to raise up collaborators and protagonists from its neighborhoods.

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise — the story of iconic writer, poet, actress and civil rights activist whose life intersected some of the most significant moments in recent US history.

The Gate — a documentary that tells the dramatic true story of the Báb, the Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh.

13th — a history of racial inequality in the US focusing on the disproportionate incarceration of African Americans.

Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome —  an exploration of intergenerational trauma caused by hundreds of years of slavery and how to remedy it.

The post Social Justice Film Series appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Role of sacred space: A conversation on places of worship

Bahá'í World News Service - Sun, 09/01/2019 - 7:00pm
Religious leaders, students, scholars, and others explored the role that sacred spaces play in contemporary Indian society.

In Americas, spirit of oneness moves communities in anticipation of bicentenary

Bahá'í World News Service - Wed, 08/28/2019 - 7:00pm
Bicentenary preparations are prompting artistic creativity, reflection on history, and intensification of community building activities.

Baha’i studies: Aiming to apply spiritual principles to humanity’s social progress

Bahá'í World News Service - Mon, 08/26/2019 - 7:00pm
The annual conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies brought together 1,400 people for a lively discussion on contributing to social progress.

Baha’i Chair at University of Maryland explores avenues to peacemaking

US Bahá'í News Service - Mon, 08/26/2019 - 3:55pm

What is meaningful peacemaking, and how can it benefit from a discourse that embraces both religious insights and scientific methods? 

As the Baha’i Chair for World Peace enters its 27th academic year at the University of Maryland, College Park, it continues to apply education, research and publications to an “integrative approach” to the needs of building durable peace, with all the opportunities and obstacles found on that path. 

“Searching for solutions to intractable social problems that are barriers to peace is the highest aim of the Baha’i Chair,” observes Hoda Mahmoudi, the professor serving as its director.

The Chair organizes conferences, lectures and symposia on the UMD campus, featuring an array of scholars and practitioners gaining insights into the possibilities for dissolving those barriers. 

For instance, public programs planned for this fall will highlight women in leadership roles, the intersection of science and religion, environmental health and justice, and young men on the margins of families and the workforce. 

The Chair’s work addressing racism in multiple forums has received numerous honors within the university. The honors seminar “The Problem of Prejudice,” taught by Mahmoudi, has been recognized with the Outstanding Honors Faculty Award. Its continuing contributions to the discourse addressing structural racism were cited when the university honored the Chair with a Social Justice Day award at an April 11 ceremony. 

When the UMD President’s Commission on Ethnic Minority Issues (PCEMI) gave the Chair its 2017 Non-Instructional Unit Service Minority Achievement Award, the award letter noted: “Your programming has been rigorous and relevant to ethnic minority issues and you have made it widely available.”

Studying prejudice, global governance 

In the classroom, the Chair’s honors seminars give students a space to examine such issues as prejudice and global governance, and to create their own research and social projects to tackle those challenges.  

A class ponders “The Problem of Prejudice” during a seminar session in the past academic year. Photo courtesy of the Baha’i Chair Flickr account

Students in “The Problem of Prejudice” have commented that it “always required me to think more intensively about what has been occurring in our country”; “The approach to dealing with prejudice is no easy task. However, this class made me hopeful for the future”; and “This was my absolute favorite class I took this semester. It has completely changed how I think about the world.” 

Reflecting on the class “Global Governance or World Government?” taught by Kate Seaman, the Chair’s assistant director, students commented, “[I] found the group discussions the most valuable. It was really helpful and eye-opening to hear other students’ perspectives on global issues”; and that “The class went much deeper into issues like climate change,” prompting them to “think deeper and more critically.” 

Founded in 1993, the Baha’i Chair is an academic program endowed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. It studies major issues of the gradual unfoldment of world peace as presented in “The Promise of World Peace,” a 1985 document from the Universal House of Justice, the world governing council of the Baha’i Faith. 

Five central themes 

Inspired by that statement’s vision of humanity as fundamentally having a spiritual yearning for peace, and of peace as a complex, all-embracing planetary process, the Chair says this area of study “calls for a comprehensive approach.” So it orients its learning process to five central themes drawn from the peace statement:

  • Structural racism and the root cause of prejudice.
  • Human nature. 
  • Empowerment of women and peace. 
  • Global governance and leadership. 
  • Overcoming global environmental challenges. 

With that framework of insights, the Chair aims to build “a body of rigorously derived and tested knowledge that can be applied to foster the emergence of a just, secure and sustainable international order, one that addresses the social, material and spiritual progress of the global community,” Mahmoudi states. 

Associated publications set out fruits of the Chair’s research and connection-building. For example, a book released in spring 2019, Children and Globalization: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, was edited by Mahmoudi and University of Texas professor Steven Mintz. An American Sociological Association publication recently included Mahmoudi’s article “Freedom and the Iranian Women’s Movement.” A second book will be released this November: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Dignity and Human Rights, edited by Mahmoudi and Michael Penn of Franklin and Marshall College. Another book is in progress, addressing structural racism.

Representatives of the Chair also share papers and presentations at international-scale scholarly and social justice gatherings, including the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, as well as such Baha’i-sponsored venues as the Association for Baha’i Studies–North America annual conference and the Arab American Conference. 

Other events where Mahmoudi has made presentations include a workshop hosted in 2017 by New York University Abu Dhabi and sponsored by the NYUAD Institute, titled “Tolerance in the UAE: Histories and Reflections on Religious Tolerance and the Modern Nation-State.”

Visible events on campus 

More visible, though, and often engaging hundreds within the University of Maryland community are the dozens of events the Chair organizes each year. They have helped the Chair build relationships with academics worldwide and within the university itself who are working on research and solutions to the challenges of global peace. 

Jabari Mahiri, professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, presents the 2018 Bahá’í Chair Annual Lecture, with questions and comments from audience members afterward. Photo courtesy of the Baha’i Chair Flickr account

Last year’s Baha’i Chair Annual Lecture, “Deconstructing Race/Reconstructing Difference,” brought in 370 people for its presentation by Jabari Mahiri, professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley. Working with the Critical Race Initiative, the Chair also sponsored symposia on “Be the Solution: Interrogating Structural Racism” and “Prince Georges County Rising: Strategies for Equitable Development and Prosperity” that drew on UMD faculty, concerned community members and students. 

Events on its other themes also drew significant engagement on campus and beyond. An October 2018 conference “Future of Humanity: The Challenge of Global Peace and Security” brought in 15 scholars and experts from around the world. This year a conference on “Infrastructure and Happiness” brought together diverse scholars and practitioners to explore complex factors in planning and operating cities that can influence people’s happiness in and around the city.

Shared values and positive pathways 

Though conceived and endowed by a Baha’i institution, the Baha’i Chair aims for a universal approach — to identify “shared values and positive pathways toward developing an equitable and just social order,” according to a statement from the Chair’s “Year in Review” newsletter. 

Reinforcing that mission, much of the contribution to its work comes from scholars who are not enrolled members of the Baha’i Faith. This includes Kate Seaman, who joined the Chair in 2016 and works with Mahmoudi to coordinate events, research and publications.

“All of the issues that the Chair is working on are crucial to moving the world in a more peaceful direction,” Seaman says, adding, “It is a real pleasure to work for an organization that is pushing for change, and works hard to bring together a diverse range of voices to discuss the challenges we face and how we can overcome them.”  

Going forward, the Baha’i Chair at the University of Maryland is eager to expand its work by increasing the number of publications and events and expanding its engagement with the wider local, national, and international community. 

“Sustaining an academic program as unique, dynamic and vital as the Chair is even more important in a world that is increasingly divided,” Mahmoudi notes. “To do this we need to continue to engage and amplify a diverse range of voices and perspectives about achieving global peace, and continue to push for new ideas and innovative solutions to the global challenges we face.”

Fall 2019 events

All the following events are on the University of Maryland campus are free and open to the public. For more details on the below events, and an up-to-date schedule of lectures, conferences, symposia and other events sponsored by the Baha’i Chair for World Peace, go to www.bahaichair.umd.edu/events 

Sept. 24–25: Conference — “Women in the World: Time for a New Paradigm for Peace.” With speakers from multiple nations representing the fields of law, sociology, psychology, African American studies, conflict resolution, political science and more.

Oct. 10: Baha’i Chair Annual Lecture — Alondra Nelson, chair of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study; formerly dean of social science at Columbia University and faculty at Yale University. 

Oct. 24: Lecture — “Environmental Racism and Slavery in 21st Century Jim Crow America: Stories of Resistance, Hope, and Change” with Sacoby Wilson, associate professor with UMD’s Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, expert on environmental justice and pollution/health risks for residential populations and urban fisherfolk.

Nov. 12: Lecture — “Man Up? Toxic Masculinities and the Health of Men, Women, and Children” with Kevin Roy, associate professor of family science in UMD’s School of Public Health, expert on fatherhood research and the life course of young men on the margins of families and the workforce.

The post Baha’i Chair at University of Maryland explores avenues to peacemaking appeared first on Baha‘is of the United States.

Pages

Subscribe to Northern Illinois Bahá'ís  aggregator - US & World Bahá'í News Feeds