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So Powerful is the Light of Unity: World Unites after Sydney & Pakistan Tragedies

A girl with a teddy bear in Sydney's Martin Place overlooking the flower memorial dedicated to the victims of the Lindt Café siege by a lone gunman, where Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson were killed on Tuesday 16 December, 2014. (Photo courtesy: JAM Project via Flickr and adapted from original).

A girl with a teddy bear in Sydney’s Martin Place overlooking the flower memorial dedicated to the victims of the Lindt Café siege by a lone gunman, where Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson were killed on Tuesday 16 December, 2014. (Photo courtesy: JAM Project via Flickr and adapted from original).

After 17 hours of uncertainty and distress the heart of my country broke. Every Australian was touched by the hostage crisis that took place in Sydney’s Martin Place where two of the hostages were killed. Less than 24 hours later, 141 people lost their lives, including 132 children in an attack on a school in Pakistan. Amidst the horror of innocent lives being lost, our world community came together in peace and love. As you read this, thousands of souls are gathering to offer up prayers of consolation and healing for those affected by these events as well as the ongoing conflicts all over the world.

Out of so much grief came a brilliant beacon of hope for the worldwide community, for people of every race and religion that we will unite with peace in the face of every attempt to bring us down. #I’llridewithyou started as a single act of kindness towards one individual who would have denied their beliefs and identity for fear of backlash towards the Muslim community following the event in Sydney. One woman offered to accompany another and stand up for her so she could wear her religious attire without fear. From one to another became something that is, in it’s purest form, an act of love in the spirit of unity. A simple hashtag on social media became that beacon of hope and inspired the many to become one. Continue reading

The Baha’i Faith and Human Rights

Four clenched fists raised against blue skyOn December 10, the world commemorated Human Rights Day to honor the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. This is an appropriate time, then, to reflect on the concept of human rights from a Baha’i perspective.

When I was a young Baha’i, the teaching of the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, that most touched my heart was the unity of humankind and of people of all religions and races. Baha’u’llah said: “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch. Deal ye one with another with the utmost love and harmony.” And He declared: “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” Continue reading

Why Cluster Reflection Meetings Are So Important

A Cluster Reflection Meeting in Greater London, United Kingdom. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

A Cluster Reflection Meeting in Greater London, United Kingdom. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Cluster Reflection meetings are an important part of Baha’i community life now, but depending on the community you live in, attendance can sometimes be low and it’s still something many communities are learning about, so I thought it would be interesting to look at the importance of these meetings and why we should make an effort to attend. Continue reading

Reflections on the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha

The house of Abdu’l-Baha located in Haifa, Israel where He passed away at approximately 1:00a.m. on November 28, 1921. More than 10,000 mourners, representing all the diverse religions and ethnic communities in the Holy Land attended His funeral. (Photo courtesy Baha’i Media Bank)

At the commemoration of the centenary of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Montreal in 2012, I witnessed something profound at an event organized at St. James Methodist Church – the last place where the Master spoke publicly during His brief sojourn in Montreal. The current minister talked about the admirable qualities of Abdu’l-Baha and the unifying impact of His visit. I have never seen a person of authority of another religion lovingly praise this Cause at such length in their own place of worship. A feeling of unity between the congregation of the church and all the visiting Baha’is was palpable. I thought, this is what it must have been like in 1912!

Historical accounts of the life of the Master are bursting with similar exaltations and expressions of amity. Everywhere He went, notable religious leaders praised Him publicly and people were united in their love for Him. Perhaps most moving, is the symphony of tributes after His passing on November 28th, 1921 and the common grief everyone felt over losing Him. In his biography on the life of the Master, Hasan Balyuzi writes:

In the land we know as the Holy Land, in all its turbulent history of the last two thousand years, there had never been an event which could unite all its inhabitants of diverse faiths and origins and purposes, in a single expression of thought and feeling, as did the passing of Abdu’l-Baha. Jews and Christians and Muslims and Druzes, of all persuasions and denominations; Arabs and Turks and Kurds and Armenians and other ethnic groups were united in mourning His passing, in being aware of a great loss they had suffered.

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Serving Humanity on the Job

Serving Humanity on the JobWork is no fun. It’s an almost iron law of modern life. So what should we do about it? The easy answer is “do what you love.” But many of us can testify from our own experience that life isn’t like that. Even when a job involves something a person really enjoys, the end of the workday can’t come soon enough. The excitement wears off. Things that might have once seemed cool and interesting can become tedious and stressful. Work takes up a huge proportion of our time on this earth. So its very dispiriting to see how often and how easily it can detract from attaining a sense of meaning or high purpose in life. We need ways to make it more uplifting. Continue reading

The ABC’s of Parenting

asian parent playing with baby girl in livingroomWe know in the Baha’i Writings that mothers are the first educators of the children:

To the mothers must be given the divine Teachings and effective counsel, and they must be encouraged and made eager to train their children, for the mother is the first educator of the child… So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect.

But new mothers are often overwhelmed at knowing where to start, particularly when they haven’t had good role models to follow. Fortunately there is lots of guidance in the Writings to take us back to basics!

Let’s start with the ABC’s! Continue reading

4 Things to Help You Develop Your Relationship with God

4 Things to help you Develop Your Relationship with GodIt recently struck me that becoming more spiritual requires both effort and volition, that it isn’t something that will just happen unless I do my part for it. This realisation came while I was reflecting on the following quote from Baha’u’llah:

Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee.

I realised that I needed to focus more on the first part of the quote, “Love Me…”, which I had previously almost overlooked. Many of us know that at times this command requires effort, and at other times it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. However, at least for me, loving God is not always something that comes easily, and I have to consciously remind myself of it ever so often, so here are four ways.
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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

O God, What Art Thou?

O God What Art Thou

“Thou art what Thou art.”

- Baha’u’llah

Let’s face it. I know nothing about the Mystery of Mysteries. Yet somehow my heart rests in deep satisfaction born of my utter cluelessness. It’s even strangely liberating. Blissfully ignorant though I may be of Its nature, yet I am stirred to my depths when Baha’u’llah, in words at once mind-boggling and awe-inspiring, hints at that “Unknowable Essence” which is shrouded behind an impenetrable veil. I am led to humbly acquiesce in the compelling truth that there is ‘Something’ that exceeds everything that I can ever hope to muster in Its praise – the most lyrical verses of poetry, the most mystical of meditations, the most soul-stirring of human experiences, the most awesome of spiritual feelings. Even the abstrusest of allegories. The great prophets, holy ones and sages of old have given that undefinable Something, that hidden Essence, a veritable catalogue of labels that have steadfastly withstood the test of time. Allah, YHVH, Brahman, Atman, The Buddha-dhatu, The Great Spirit.

God.

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