February 27, 2015, Prescott- A university education is pretty much seen as a right, in this day and age- albeit a right that has elements of privilege, including payment of one’s own tuition. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, however, this right is denied members of my Faith: Baha’i. There are various ruses and pretexts for this government policy, but the bottom line is: Baha’i has no clergy, which the mullahs, hojatoleslamim and ayatollahs take to mean- “You’re fired!”. Given their track record, would that were the case.
In reality, however, we Baha’is respect the right of other Faiths to maintain clergy, as long as the members of those Faiths regard them as necessary. We just have a system of elected assemblies, to handle our administrative affairs, with individuals being responsible for their own spiritual growth, through daily prayer, meditation and study of Scripture.
This has never gone over well with those for whom a career in the Cloth entails making relatively large sums of money, as well as amassing considerable personal power. Such a blur between the sacred and the profane exists in Faiths other than Islam- It was a wealthy Hindu priest who arranged the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, after all, and it remains that the Vatican is a repository of vast wealth. Yet, no opponents of Baha’i in countries outside Iran’s sphere of influence have gone to the extent of denying us basic human rights.
This evening, sixteen of us gathered in a large room at Yavapai College, on the east end of town, and viewed a film entitled “To Light A Candle”. The persecution of Baha’is began with the emergence of Baha’u’llah, our Faith’s Founder, in 1853. It was pre-dated by the persecution of the followers of Baha’u’llah’s immediate Predecessor, Al Bab (Arabic for “The Gate”), from His Declaration, in May, 1844, through the 1840’s and ’50’s. This persecution, rife with torture, imprisonment and death, continues to this day.
It’s largely about money and power, as all religious pogroms are, in essence. Common believers in Islam are duped into participating in the carnage, by appealing to their religious fervour and tailoring sermons to include lies and half-truths. This is nothing new- commentary on Scripture is frequently filled with gibberish and fabulism. We have only to recall the medieval Inquisitions and “How many angels dance on the head of a pin?” Christianity, however, has not, for the most part, gone in for savagery, since the Age of Enlightenment.
It’s time for a new Enlightenment, with people of goodwill and sincere devotion to truth leading the charge. Baha’i represents individual investigation of truth, and devotion to the concept of Progressive Revelation. As do all other human institutions, religion progresses gradually. Attempts to bring humanity backwards invariably lead to heartache and suffering, all of it unnecessary. Look for example, at the plight of the Assyrians and Chaldeans, in Iraq. They are kindred to us Baha’is, and deserve the support of every righteous soul.
“To Light A Candle” is being shown in various locations across the planet, over the next several weeks. It is worth seeing and pondering, regardless of one’s Faith.