In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.
Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.
Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.
What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.
With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.
In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”. Continue reading
The first Baha’i Feast in New Zealand 1923. Hands of the Cause John Henry Hyde-Dunn and Clara Dunn are pictured in the back row, fourth and fifth from the left respectively.
For much of the world, New Zealand is known as the scenically spectacular location of the Lord of the Rings
But for me it is the place of my birth and where I heard about a different lord, a nobleman named Baha’u’llah, who founded the Baha’i Faith.
This year, the New Zealand Baha’i community is celebrating its centenary, so by the late 1970s when I first encountered some of its members, the Baha’i Faith was well-established. Continue reading
Alvin Blum reached out and shook the hand of the Solomon Islander.
This simple act said it all about Alvin’s very real belief in the oneness of humanity.
The everyday greeting of shaking hands was not practiced between Europeans and locals in the Solomons in the 1950s. There still existed an insidious “master-boy relationship” produced by colonialism.
But Alvin, like his wife Gertrude, was a true Baha’i and was having none of it.
Not only did Alvin shake the man’s hand, but he invited him home for a meal where Gertrude’s delicious stew and hot tea accompanied discussions of spiritual things in an atmosphere of love, laughter and equality.
“The news of this event soon spread through the village networks,” writes Keithie Saunders in Of Wars and Worship, her emotionally gripping biography of her parents, who were named Knights of Baha’u’llah for introducing the Faith to the Solomon Islands.
The man Alvin greeted with a handshake, Bill Gina, became the first Baha’i in the Solomons.
As the book recounts, over the decades to come – in their everyday spontaneous acts of kindness as well as in their planned activities in business and for the Baha’i Faith – the Blums demonstrated their heartfelt commitment to the fundamental principle of Baha’u’llah, that all people are equal members of one human family. Continue reading
In 1912, Abdu’l-Bahá spent from April to December touring North America. He is shown here (at center) with Bahá’ís at Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois, USA. [Photo: Baha'i Media Bank]
In a small breakfast restaurant in downtown Chicago I received a jolt, a surprising reminder of what was really important to me.
“That’s a nice ring,” a young African-American waiter said to me, after glancing at my Baha’i ring with its symbols of unity, the fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith.
It was the first time that anybody had ever commented on it, and the remark came when there was strong competition for my attention.
In the final two weeks of the 2012 presidential election campaign, the media drumbeat was increasing in intensity as the people of the United States were subjected to special pleading to win their votes.
It was a fascinating and important time to be in that country, but the young man’s inquiry reminded me that the eternal realities, the things of the spirit are far more enduring and significant than current contests for political power.
The many personalities being promoted for political purposes seemed almost one dimensional in my eyes compared with one who had visited the United States in 1912.
I left the restaurant, and as planned, took the train to Wilmette where 100 years ago, the head of the Baha’i Faith, Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921), laid the cornerstone for a Temple that is now one of the most outstanding architectural features of a city that is deservedly famous for its buildings. Continue reading
Image by mrehan (Flickr)
One of the first Baha’is I ever met exalted in his faith, claiming enthusiastically: “It’s the complete package!”
I now know what he means.
At the centre is a towering spiritual figure, Baha’u’llah. Then there are inspiring teachings that seem so clearly the remedy for this age and blueprint for the future. And don’t let me forget– there are astoundingly beautiful holy places.
Then there are the prayers. Oh, the prayers. They are like the bow that ties together the complete package.
Here are some excerpts to illustrate what I mean.
A view from Avenue de Camoens where Abdu'l-Baha delivered many talks. (photo: Michael Day)
One hundred years ago this month, Abdu’l-Baha was speaking up on behalf of the victims of conflict in Libya and offering solutions to the scourge of war.
We who are witnessing a civil war in the same country exactly a century later can read what he said at that time. His words are published in one of the most beloved of Baha’i books, Paris Talks, which contains transcripts of talks delivered between October and December 1911, as well as some later addresses in London.
Many readers are likely to have an uncanny experience of the “history repeats itself” variety.
“The news of the Battle of the Benghazi grieves my heart,” Abdu’l-Baha said in a talk he gave to an audience in Paris on October 21, 1911.
That battle was part of the 1911-12 Italo-Turkish war which claimed 25,000 lives in what is now modern day Libya.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke about the pointlessness of the fighting, a feeling many of us no doubt share today concerning the present conflict.
“The highest of created being fighting to obtain the lowest form of matter, earth?” he said. Continue reading
Courtesy of the Baha'i Media Bank
Walking into the Baha’i House of Worship in Sydney can be puzzling for a first-time visitor.
The Temple, which celebrates its 50th anniversary from September 18 to 25, has elements of similarity to the places of worship of other faiths. Yet, it is clearly different from them. If you were to ask a newcomer to describe the building, the answer might well be this: “With its dome, it almost looks like it could be Christian. The design also reminds me somewhat of a mosque. Once inside, I find the balconies reminiscent of those in a synagogue.”
Then the visitor would start to identify the differences. For a Hindu, a Buddhist or a Catholic, it might seem strange that there are no statues. There are also differences in the kind of services held there. There is no sermon or commentary. No musical instruments accompany the voices raised in prayerful song.
There is a good reason for all of this.
Dr. Peter Khan 1936 - 2011
When a person of the caliber of Dr Peter Khan passes away, it is not only a time to grieve but also a time to reflect on what makes a person “great”.
In this context we are not using the word “great” as often applied to a sporting star, musician or actor. In such cases, the assessment is usually based on a limited range of unusually developed attributes. Nor are we talking about the merely famous. Journalists, friends and family know that these folk often have feet of clay.
To be a truly great person, in my opinion, requires a much wider range of qualities, always including those of personal integrity or “goodness”. Such people might include Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama.
To call someone “great” should not, however, imply a spiritual judgement. That is not ours to make – nobody has any idea of a person’s spiritual potential or the extent to which they have fulfilled it. However, the general consensus among those who heard, met or worked with Dr Khan is that he was, unquestionably, a great man who lived an inspiring life.