Category Archives Discussion

Can War be Eliminated?

Photo: Sergeant Steve Blake RLC (Phot) via Flickr.

Photo: Sergeant Steve Blake RLC (Phot) via Flickr.

One of the key goals of the Baha’i Faith is to help end war and achieve world peace. While this has also been the goal of many thinkers throughout history, thousands continue to die each year from war and its consequences. So what do the Baha’i Writings say about this issue?

To answer this, I use a framework developed by Kenneth Waltz in his classic text Man, the State and War, which begins by asking: “What causes war?” This is an important question because, just as one must understand cancer to cure it, war and its causes must be understood in order to reduce it. In his review of the literature on this question, Waltz finds that there are basically three answers to this question, which he calls “the three images”. These images claim that war is caused by: Continue reading

Looking at Baha’i Scholarship

Looking at Baha'i ScholarshipWhen we try to define Baha’i scholarship, we naturally encounter preconceptions from our cultural surroundings. These arise from how scholarship has affected us over our varied histories of colonisation, conquest, enlightenment, enslavement, liberation, revolution, and materialistic consumerism. Scholarship, in part, refers to the systematic and disciplined study of any subject with the goal of deeper and shared understanding, and has often included appropriate personal characteristics, though these vary by culture and era.

Scholarship starts with assumptions about reality, which it simultaneously tests and pursues by a strict, but ideally not narrowing, set of rules. If done in the spirit of uncovering more of the mysteries of reality with a mix of humility and wonder, its results are ever-changing and open to challenge. It is worth identifying, unedited, our private lists of qualities and processes we ascribe to scholarship before considering scholarship in light of the Faith’s Teachings. In a workshop at the 2013 conference of the Association for Baha’i Studies, such an exercise revealed a fascinating list of praise, contempt, hope, and frustration, often from the same person, and from scholars, themselves. Continue reading

One Little Word that Will Help Solve Your Problems – and the World’s Too

(Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

The Baha’is of Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia gather together. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Ever wondered how to solve the world’s problems? If you haven’t, I’m sure you’ve at least wondered how to solve some of your own, right?

As Baha’is, we’ve actually been told how, and it comes down to this one little word:

“Consultation”.

Okay, maybe it’s not so little a word. And it’s definitely no small concept. But it can be simple. Continue reading

The Four Kinds of Love

Valentines Day hearts on vintage wooden background as Valentines Day  symbol“I Love You”. It’s a phrase that is often thrown around very loosely, and come February each year on Valentine’s Day, these three words give people around the world an excuse to pamper one another with gifts, flowers, jewels and dinner promises. Of course there is nothing wrong with showing your loved ones a token (or two) of your appreciation, but I think it is equally important for us to use this time of year (or any time of year for that matter) to re-evaluate the word ‘love’. Is it really only about airy-fairy, lovey-dovey sentiments, or is there a deeper meaning to this four-letter word?

Abdu’l-Baha in fact spoke about there being four kinds of love in Paris Talks, and so I thought I would explore each of these in a little more detail in a bid to reflect on the true meaning of love. Continue reading

How Prayers Can Help Us Solve Problems: A Personal Reflection

View of the head of a man looking up with eyes closed.There’s a well-documented scientific study that’s been all the rage in the past few years about something that happened in the Israeli Defence Force. Before entering the Defence Force, all the cadets had to sit pre-entry exams testing intellectual capacities like cognition and problem-solving, to physical capacities like fitness, endurance and the like. The cadets were then assigned to their training officers accordingly.

In this particular year, a couple of the training officers were told that they had tested and found the best of the best, ‘the mother-shawarma’ of all cadet groups, showing great promise for future leadership roles in the Defence Force. Other training officers were then assigned ‘regular’ cadets, and everybody started training.

Fast-forward a year and lo and behold the group that showed remarkable signs of promise did indeed deliver, and significantly out-performed all other groups of cadets in both intellectually and physically-based exams.

There was just one catch: Continue reading

Living a Coherent Life, A Life Fueled by Service

Participants at the 2013 Sydney Youth Conference worked together on creative presentations about the themes being studied. (Photo: Baha'i World Center)

Participants at the 2013 Sydney Youth Conference worked together on creative presentations about the themes being studied. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Prior to attending one of the 114 worldwide youth conferences in Sydney, Australia, I was grappling with the concept of coherence and what it looked like in reality to live a life that was not fragmented. I would look at all the different components in my life and wonder how it was possible for each of them to tie seamlessly together while still devoting my time to the progress of the Five Year Plan. I saw myself as a mother, a wife, a journalist, a Baha’i – with each aspect having its own distinct purpose.

The paragraph below, taken from the youth conference participant materials, expands on this idea of coherence: Continue reading

Thank You Abdu’l-Baha

Baha'i Abdu’l-Baha

Photo taken of Abdu’l-Baha in 1912, New Hampshire, United States (Courtesy: Baha’i Media Bank)

There are thousands of reasons we can all be thankful for as Baha’is, and as there are two significant days on the Baha’i calendar this week — the Day of the Covenant followed a couple of days later by the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — something I’ve been personally reflecting on recently is the gratitude we owe Abdu’l-Baha for so many of the things which we perhaps take for granted relating to the Faith.

I’m sure we each have our own special relationship with Abdu’l-Baha, and as we continue to work towards understanding the special station of Abdu’l-Baha and the significant role He played in the course of Baha’i history and the covenant, I’m sure we could come up with a list of hundreds of reasons we all need to thank Him.

On that note, in honour of celebrating the Day of the Covenant, I thought it would be interesting to see how many things we could thank Abdu’l-Baha for, by asking you all to leave something in the ‘Comments’ section below. It can be anything which comes to mind such as a book you’re reading like Paris Talks, a prayer by Abdu’l-Baha which you particularly like, or something you’ve been reflecting on lately. Continue reading

Thinking About Freedom

In the United States, freedom is highly coveted and when it becomes threatened, freedom is fiercely defended. The first amendment of the Constitution promises to protect these freedoms, guarantees that the American people have the basic right to things like free speech, free press and the right to assemble. Other countries may not emphasise these rights in the same way, but people the world over want the freedom to be themselves and to be free from oppression and prejudice. Indeed, a world without those troubles would be a liberated one. However, are there other ways to think about freedom? Continue reading

Seven Baha’is in Prison for Five Years – Five Years Too Many

As I sit in a comfortable chair and write this, I am well aware of the fact that I’m fortunate to live in a country where I’m able to enjoy the freedom to practice my religious beliefs as a Baha’i – and even run a blog about my faith – without the fear of being whisked away in the middle of the night by a group of armed men.

Unfortunately however, the luxury of religious freedom is not shared by Baha’is everywhere, and in Iran, the birthplace of our Faith, Baha’is  (as well as other religious minorities) continue to face discrimination and persecution.

It has now been five years that seven Baha’is were imprisoned by the Iranian authorities, and they are serving a 20 year sentence. Yes, a 20 year sentence!

Five years behind bars is a long time, in fact it’s five years too many, especially, when you consider that these individuals were arrested and imprisoned simply because of their religious beliefs.

As I look at a picture of these seven imprisoned Baha’is, I wonder what they are like as individuals – mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, each with their own likes and dislikes, fears and aspirations, skills and passions, humor and personalities. There’s Fariba, a developmental psychologist and a mother of three; Jamaloddin, a once-successful factory owner who lost his business after the Islamic Revolution because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith; Afif, who ran his father-in-law’s textile factory because as a Baha’i he was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor; Saeid, father of three and an agricultural engineer who was running a successful farming equipment business; Mahvash, mother of two, a teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i; Vahid, a father, an optometrist and the owner of an optical shop; Behrouz, a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s, also because he was a Baha’i.  Continue reading

Nature as a Spiritual Metaphor: Wind and the Will of God

If God is All-Loving and All-Merciful, why would He allow so much pain and suffering in the world and cause such severe difficulties to befall us?

I am unspeakably fortunate to have never endured extreme poverty, been diagnosed with a debilitating or life-threatening illness, suffered the sudden loss of a family member, or experienced any other type of severe calamity that so many unfortunately have. But tragedy in some shape or form appears to afflict all of us at some point in our lives: it was Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith and the great-grandson of Bahá’u’lláh, who described this life as the “home of suffering we call our earth” (Lights of Guidance, p. 207). When such suffering occurs, many of us will inevitably wonder the age-old question of why a beneficent God would ordain for our lives to be afflicted with such difficulties. Continue reading