September 21st has been designated by the United Nations as the International Day of Peace, and in the spirt of this day, I wanted to share a few brief thoughts with you about a very powerful document called The Promise of World Peace. Continue reading
I know we have all been there. That moment (which happens way too often, unfortunately) when you watch or read the news or hear stories about the most terrible violence, injustice and corruption happening right before our eyes, all over the world. You might feel almost powerless, or that no effort you make could save the world from so much pain and suffering. Continue reading
Religion has but one single noble purpose, and it is defined by the word itself. “Religion”, from the root religare “to bind fast”, speaks of a bond between man and God. Within religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Baha’i Faith, the close, immediate bond of communion of man and God is extolled in psalms, prayers, admonitions, and art. Continue reading
My daughter was saddened when our pet hermit crab, Betsy, died and she asked if she’d see her again in the next world. The simple Baha’i answer to her question was no, she wouldn’t. However, I found a blanket “no” with no other exploration of the topic was not only insensitive but potentially incomplete.
Baha’is are encouraged, from their earliest years, to show love and compassion towards animals. Continue reading
Two years ago the president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, wrote to the Universal House of Justice inviting it to provide a statement on the occasion of the 20th World Cup. President Rousseff saw the World Cup as an opportunity to further the cause of peace and the elimination of prejudice.
The response from the Universal House of Justice, and its tribute to the people of Brazil, is very moving (it can be read in full here). I took the opportunity to read the letter again, as it gave me a lens through which to watch the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games. It highlights three positive aspects of the World Cup and these ideals were also demonstrated in the Olympics which just closed. They will undoubtably also be found in the Paralympic Games about to commence.
1. A Celebration of Diversity
The opening paragraph of the letter includes these words:
Few occasions can claim to embrace so wide a cross-section of humanity, comprising peoples of varied ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. It is clear to every observer that the sport that has brought these nations to Brazil is only strengthened by the marvellous diversity of the participants. To rejoice in this fact is to reject prejudice in all its forms.
As Baha’is, most of us are familiar with the main aspects of the Obligatory Prayers: that there are three to choose from, and that one is to be recited, individually, each day. The three prayers, generally referred to as the short, medium, and long Obligatory Prayers, each have specific directions which accompany them, but all should be preceded by ablutions (washing of the hands and face) and are recited facing the Qiblih (Point of Adoration, i.e. Bahji, Akka). The significance of the Obligatory Prayers has been discussed in another Baha’i Blog post here.
As a junior youth, I knew that when I reached the age of 15, I would start to say my Obligatory Prayer every day. But it wasn’t until my late teens, when I read the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book) for the first time, that I found out about the following exemptions and clarifications, and they added to my understanding of the importance and centrality of the Obligatory Prayers to our lives. Continue reading
The individual stands between the world and God, surrounded by other fellow beings in the same scenario. So should our attention be put on God, ourselves or other people? A Sufi quote says something interesting on the matter:
Act as if there were no one on earth but you and no one in Heaven but God. – al-Antaki
This sounds a bit selfish and even solipsistic but there seems to be some sense in it. It takes us back to the mystery that we all inhabit our own private universes. We can only think, feel, and understand from within our own view-point and can only infer what is happening in other people’s private worlds. The most fundamental relationship is between the individual and God. He is our creator, sustainer and salvation, so naturally our attention should be focused on Him.
This does not mean that other individuals are not important but that they are no substitute for God and should not stand between us and Him. For this reason, in the end, the only relationship that we can fully depend on is our own personal relationship with God. All other relationships stem from this one. And if we lose our connection with our Creator, our relationship with others also suffers – for we do not have the spiritual insight and strength to gain the qualities of love, forgiveness, or generosity on our own. Continue reading
The Long Healing Prayer revealed by Baha’u’llah is a potent medicine, an elixir. It offers a unique approach to healing; this prayer is a remedy many turn to in times of tests, difficulties and pain. Its potency is felt always. Below is a brief reflection on this powerful prayer, particularly as it relates to the spiritual healing of humankind.
My love for this Long Healing Prayer comes from an appreciation and curiosity into the statement made in one of Baha’u’llah’s Hidden Words:
The healer of all thine ills is remembrance of Me, forget it not.
Trusting in God is important and potentially challenging for Baha’is. We might think this is particularly true because, every now and then, we face tests and difficulties and life gets rough.
But this raises a question: what does it mean to trust in God? To trust in someone, as I understand it, is to expect some action or inaction from them. When I trust that Jeff will tell me if a particular piece of clothing makes me look fat, I expect something from him – in this case, an honest opinion.
But what should we expect God to do when we trust in Him?
Some might think this question sounds odd. We’re not God, so how blasphemous is it to then think that we can expect God to do things as if we know what God would will? Continue reading