3 July 2017

Dedication of the Book of Ezra to Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, The Religious Leader of The International Jewish Community for The Promotion of Honor and Peace

In the name of the one true God, Who created this world through His knowledge, will, and power, Who has no associate or partner, no representative or successor, and Who is referred to by different Names throughout the world.

Nearly twenty years ago, following the rise of flames of rancor that defied peace in the Middle East, I found it necessary to promote a peaceful coexistence through the medium of art. Therefore, through calligraphy and gilding excerpts/portions/passages from the Holy Books of the Abrahamic religions, I intended to call to attention the importance of mutual respect between all religions, emphasizing the significance of renouncing prejudice and religious intolerance, as well as exalting the nobility of man.

After forty years of studying Islamic jurisprudence and thirty years of researching theological concepts within other Abrahamic religions, I concluded that despite the differences in their costumes and rites, all these religions share the same goals and objectives: to invite people to worship one God; to renounce self and ego; and place an emphasis on loving mankind and abstaining from the infringement on other people’s rights.

Twenty years of collaboration and cooperation with my dear friend Mr. Mahdi Bahman, resulted in artwork that bears a spiritual significance. These works have been offered up as gifts (to others) on various occasions. One of these works is the Prophet David’s Holy Book, the Psalms (Sefer Tehillim), which, in honor of the victims of the September 11 attacks, was presented to the Library of Congress under the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) 2007332311 as a symbolic expression of grief and condolence, as well as a declaration of the Iranian nation’s respect for other religions.

I would like to emphasize the principle of the equality of all humans—both in terms of rights and character—a principle with which many different religions are imbued. I have reached this conclusion (and my work is a testimony to this claim) as a result of a thorough, unbiased study of the scholarly books of different Islamic denominations as well as the Holy Books of Judaism and Christianity.

In this same regard, and on behalf of my fellow Iranian thinkers, the Book of Ezra has been calligraphed and gilded–a historical document narrating the amicable relations between Iranians and Jews, and which contains the Decree of Cyrus the Great. After its completion in 2012, on behalf of my like-minded countrymen who are asking for peaceful coexistence with all countries of the world, it was delivered to Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Jewish religious leader in Jerusalem. This gift contains a short, yet enduring message of peace, friendship, and harmonious coexistence—short, because of the Divine Knowledge contained within each word, and enduring, because of the inherent wisdom passed down through thousands of years of religious history, enduring for years into the future.

Just as with other efforts I have made, the domestic political view of my project is that it is unacceptable and that because of the opposition or animosity with the country of Israel and its government, it must, therefore, be looked at with suspicion and concern. I feel that it is necessary for me to declare that I have never been a political activist; hence, criticism of Israel and its politicians and statesmen is of no interest to me. If I were a political person, my priority should have been focusing on and challenging my own government and statemen, and giving precedence to national interests of my own country as well as the prosperity, security, and civil liberties of my fellow countrymen.

It is time for us to begin/launch an intellectual Jihad to conquer our mindset. The urgent priority of our time is the bond that exists between the peoples of the earth. The universal teachings of the world’s religions, particularly those of the Abrahamic faiths, must protect the social values of all, protect individual and social liberties, establish and shield goodwill and harmony, and promote love for all mankind. After spending many years studying centuries of pointless battles among the followers of different religions, I am now making an attempt to conserve the inherent values of the human race, as part of a larger struggle taken on by today’s rational and balanced Islamic minds.

In closing, I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to my dear friend Ahmad Ra’fat for his untiring efforts in delivering the “Book of Ezra” to its destination. I entreat God’s favor for him and his family.

O God, praise be unto Thee for the confirmations received by Mr. Mahdi Bahman and myself, in our efforts to calligraph and gild the Books of the Torah, the Psalms, the Gospel, and Ezra, so that through the language of art, the seeds of love, friendship, and coexistence may be scattered.

Tehran-Iran
July 3, 2017
The imploring one, Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani

The Book Details:

Dimension :36cm X 26cm
Number of Pages: 80-Fully illuminated and gilded
Language: Hebrew
Calligrapher: AbdolHamid Masoumi Tehrani
Illuminators: Mehdi Bahman
Amount of Gold:350 Pages of 18 carat

http://www.amasumi.net/article167.html
https://Telegram.me/OfficeMasumiTehrani

Jewish - Book of Ezra to Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef - Iran Ayatollah.jpg

In the name of the Lord of both life and mind

Now that the fourteenth century in the solar calendar is coming to an end, and we are entering a new century, the time has come for us to reflect upon ourselves and decide on how we want to be the future of Iran and Iranians.

More than a century has passed since the inauguration of social, religious, and cultural transformations of Iran. Amidst all these changes, religion has been one of the primary agents of change in our country. However, the general public, as well as politicians or even some Iranian intellectuals, view religion in the context of the majority and minority groupings and hold the belief that their religion is superior to other faiths. In this regard, it is worthwhile to mention that historically the whole region we have called our homeland shares common cultural and religious roots. Also, the current changes happening in Iran’s political, social and religious system have affected all Iranians including the traditionalist and progressive Shia communities, Sunni Muslims, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, The Yarsan or Ahl-e Haqq, Mandaeans, the Jewish community, and Christians. This lowly one believes that the only way to overcome and put an end to the series of crisis that has been happening in Iran is to liberate our thoughts and minds from all types of racial and religious prejudices and egocentrism and to reflect upon and transform our religious stance, accordingly.

This symbolic piece of art is presented to all fellow Iranians who are the carriers of Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Baha’i, Yarsan, Mandaean, Shia and Sunni cultural and religious heritage. The message presented by this piece of art is not merely a simple invitation to cooperation, but rather to emphasize that the only way to have and maintain a united Iran is to acknowledge our religious differences and abolish any sense of religious superiority. We have to stress our fundamental similarities, innate sense of human dignity, equal human and citizenship rights, and, in particular, the freedom to choose one’s way of living. The outcome of these ideas and beliefs contributes to strengthening our national culture while consolidating the foundation of a multi-faith identity in Iran. It also prevents the spread of dishonesty, hypocrisy, corruption, religious and ethnic monopoly and creates the grounds for peace and reconciliation in the entire Middle East.

 

The eight religions that are presented in this piece are parts of a circle of unity that have historically considered as essential aspects of Iran’s national culture as well as the entire region’s spiritual and religious reservoir. Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans, Yarsanian, Baha’is, and Sunni and Shia Muslims, all carry an essential part of Iran’s ancient culture and heritage. In fact, the national system of this country is composed of all religions of Iran, each bearing a unique heritage of its history, culture, and religion. Our national identity would be incomplete without each one of them. Furthermore, it would be impossible to implement security and progress in the nation and the whole region without appreciating each and every one of these religions.

Even though artists are unlikely to cut their own work into pieces intentionally, I have acquiesced to split this work of mine into distinctive fragments to symbolically express the importance of one sensible and crucial matter to my fellow compatriots. The issue at hand is that dogmatic insistence on one’s own religious beliefs and carelessness towards universal human characteristics that are shared by the followers of all religious beliefs would result in emotional, spiritual, and mental separation and lead to the breakdown of the Iranian spirit, similar to this fragmented artwork. Iran once had a reputation for uniting diverse religions or ethnicities. Today, however, we are suffering from agonizing experiences of isolation, separation, displacement and exile, conflict, hostility, and distrust within the nation. These complications did not arise as a result of the armed intrusion but rather resulted from our own negligence towards each other’s   fundamental human rights. Our intellectuals and thinkers should also be aware that if their discourse is bereft of basic human rights and focused on particular Shia narratives that ignore other religions’ rights, they too will be an accomplice in arising afflictions. Their intellectual framework should shed light on lives of various religious minorities and portray a unified vision of a multi-faithIran. If those who aspire to be thought leaders are not capable of illuminating the life of diverse minorities, they would ultimately contribute to the cultivation of discrimination and religious apartheid. This matter also holds true in the area of national affairs. Our national culture only has the power to support national sovereignty if each and every time the words Iran and Iranian are uttered, the real meaning and implications of those words would illuminate the hearts and minds of everyone including minority groups.

Eighty pieces of diamonds are used in this work symbolizing Iran’s current population of eighty million individuals. Each piece is set with ten diamonds to demonstrate that being part of the majority or minority religion does not imply superiority towards others; it rather indicates that preserving the rights of minority groups and exclusively attending to their matters is the human and patriotic duty of all Iranians. It is the responsibility that is laid upon the shoulders of Shias, Sunnis, Mandaeans, Baha’is, Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, and Yarsanians.  We also have to be mindful that our entire national heritage, many of them illustrated in this work, are actively connected to an integrated national culture that all religious groups in Iran are part of it. Today, the entirety of this heritage is not defined by the political boundaries of Iran. However, the human side of our heritage is not bound to our familial beliefs; it is universally shared by the belief systems of all religious traditions. Therefore, it is essential to highlight the humanitarian aspects of our national culture. Instead of poisoning our social life with lengthy disputes intended to destroy others and justify ourselves, we need to promote a sense of mutual trust and sympathetic understanding towards each other. For the same reason that environmental issues and natural disasters are not limited to political and religious boundaries and affect everyone regardless of ethnicity and faith, in today’s interconnected world, we need to act and rely on universal human rights to resolve our social, political and environmental issues. If we belong to the majority group, we must let go of any trace of superiority, and, if we are a minority, instead of choosing isolationism, we have to actively participate in public affairs because this country belongs to us all.

We must understand that government-sanctioned endorsement or censure of religion does not constitute a basis for discrimination or denial of fundamental human rights; the right to have freedom of religion is universal and should be respected around the world. If any belief system – religious or secular – disregards the human rights of other people, everyone is accountable and duty bound to confront that belief. Any demarcation between human beings based on religion or belief system results in social alienation; the society becomes so bereft of compassion, and the body politic of the nation is impelled toward isolationism, opportunism, and corruption.  More importantly, national borders among the countries of the region should not be used to legitimize nationalistic tendencies and discriminatory behaviors in our relations with the citizens of other nations. These political demarcations must never restrain us from basing our thoughts and actions on the essential oneness of all human beings.  The emphasis on patriotism and national integration is certainly acceptable when it is based on reason and the preservation of human dignity. Our national honor would make meaningful sense only if we are mindful of the nation’s diverse structure, internally, and the need collaboration and goodwill with our neighboring countries and the world as a whole, externally.

This artwork consists of eight pieces, symbolically representing eight historical religions of Iran. Each piece has been delivered to the followers of the religion represented by the symbol.

  • The Chief Rabbi of Iranian Jewry along with a Jewish worship group, representing our Jewish fellow countrymen
  • A group of Sunni scholars from Kurdistan, Iran; representing our Sunni fellow countrymen
  • The Association of Sabean-Mandaean religious community, representing our Mandaeans fellow countrymen
  • The Mobedan-e-Mobed and a Zoroastrian Mobed, representing our Zoroastrian countrymen
  • A group of Baha’is, representing the Baha’i community of Iran
  • The Representative of Yarsanis from the Sadaat of the Heidari Dynasty, representing our Yarsanis fellow countrymen

The section belonging to the Baha’is has been presented to the Baha’i World Center since there is no Baha’i Center in the country. The section pertaining to Shia Muslims is temporarily kept in possession of this lowly one since there is neither sole authority nor institutions independent from the government. Unfortunately, the Armenian Caliphate Council (the Armenian Khalifa- Gari) for some considerations refused to accept the section representing Christians in Iran. This section will remain in my trust until the time that the autonomy of religious institution is firmly established. Meanwhile, our Yarsani compatriots abstained from taking pictures because they were not sure of any security and support for themselves.

As the body politic of human society would suffer because of estrangements and separations, likewise each section of this piece would be incomplete if it remains unaccompanied by the other sections. This piece is only complete when all the parts are put together. I anticipate a day in the near future, an environment where the motivation to respect fellow humans would be not the religion they believe but rather their altruistic attitudes; a future where this land does not only belong to certain religion, class, ethnicity, and mindset but belongs to all Iranians with any religion, attitude, or gender without discrimination. I hope that different segments of this piece, as symbols of national union, equal citizenship rights, respect for human life, and coexistence of all classes and opinions, be placed aside each other and become unified again, to display the splendid history of this nation once more proudly.

My hope and desire are to contribute as much as possible to intellectual and practical grounds conducive to bringing people’s hearts together regardless of religions and beliefs, even if I do not live to witness the time when the inherent dignity of all Iranians is proclaimed, and their universal human rights are materialized. This lowly one believes that today’s movements both in Iran and all over the world concerning attention to humanitarian principles and global reciprocity, especially the matter of religious minorities in Iran, will provide the means to revive our national culture, and in a very near future to provide future generations all over the region with these lasting experiences and valuable results.

Iran – Tehran

The imploring one, Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehranihttp://www.amasumi.net/article164.htmlhttps://www.facebook.com/AbdolhamidMasoumiTehrani/

 

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In another brave gesture, senior cleric calls for justice

21 December 2015

Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a senior Muslim cleric in Iran, has courageously called on his nation’s people to uphold a higher standard of justice and dignity for all of their countrymen and women.

In a recent article on his website, he has dedicated a new piece of calligraphy—a passage from the writings of Baha’u’llah—to the Baha’is who were arrested on baseless charges in November of this year. The extract chosen by Ayatollah Tehrani, taken from “The Hidden Words”, speaks to the undaunted response of the Iranian Baha’i community to ongoing and systematic persecution.

This symbolic action follows on his gift to the Baha’is of the world in April 2014 of an illuminated calligraphic rendering of a verse from the Baha’i writing that says, “Consort with all religions with amity and concord”.

His recent article (available here in Persian) expresses the hope that his act “may raise the conscience of my fellow countrymen by considering increasing their respect for human dignity and not focusing their attention on different ethnicities, languages and religions”.

He also challenges his compatriots to examine the chasm between the values espoused by their religion and the acts of oppression perpetrated in its name.

  • A calligraphic work by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, containing the words of Baha’u’llah

Ayatollah Tehrani has also posted a statement on his Facebook page(available here in English) in which he calls upon “progressive people of Iran to advance the topic of civil rights for all Iranians, irrespective of religion, sex, race, and ethnicity.

“National identity and not religious differences should be regarded as the unifying agency for all citizen of that country. Aggrandizing differences instead of accentuating similarities results in nothing but oppression and corruption,” the statement continues.

Ayatollah Tehrani’s voice is raised together with the voices of a growing number of Iranian intellectuals and artists, both within and outside Iran, who are promoting a culture of justice and coexistence and speaking out on behalf of Baha’is and other groups facing oppression in Iran. See ‘other stories’ below.

Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani Supports Baha’i Rights

Source: Abdolhamid Masoumi Tehran

Translation by Iran Press Watch

1375870_10152100839796588_5724737263081862639_nOver the last week, in appreciation of Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani’s efforts and follow-up in support of upholding citizens’ civil rights, a number of Baha’i families whose loved ones are in prison gathered to present a symbolic work of art to the parents of Navid Aghdasi, Yavar Haghighat, Nava Majzoub, and the wife and children of Shahram Najaf-Toumraie, as comfort against the pain and suffering caused by the recent arrests of their loved ones.

A while back, an inscription of a passage from “The Hidden Words” by Bahaullah, written in Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani’s calligraphy, was dedicated to Baha’is in Iran who have recently been arrested: Sahaba Farnoush; Navid Aghdasi; Parvin Nickayin; Kayvan Nickayin; Arshia Rouhani; Matin Janmiyan; Zarin Aghabani; Yeganeh Agahi; Negar Bagheri; Nava Majzoub; Yavar Haghighat; Helia Moshtagh; Naghmeh Zabihiyan; Farzaneh Daneshgari; Sanaz Eshaghi; Nika Pakzadan; and Shahram Najaf Toumraie. We hope that these loved ones and other fellow citizens who are imprisoned on the basis of ideology or political charges, will soon be released and returned to the bosom of their families, so we can once again benefit in the development of our country from their talents and knowledge.

Dedication by Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani in 2014 of a gilded and illuminated inscription of a verse from the Baha’i scripture The Most Holy Book, as a sign of sympathy and empathy with Baha’is, was a gesture which was followed by a massive wave of global support, and drove the issue of religious coexistence in communities to take on a new and different context. This event captured the attention of religious scholars and civil rights’ activists around the world, because for the very first time the voice of a senior Shiite scholar who, resorting to the basic principle of “humanity”, was heard calling for full respect and recognition of the human rights of people of other faiths and religions.

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The introduction of equal rights for followers of all religions and faiths, specifically upholding the civil rights of the Baha’is, is of course not recent for Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani. According to available documents, he has raised these issues since 2005, when he encountered strong opposition by some of the grand ayatollahs of the time, triggering some trouble and opposition. He responded to opposition and trouble makers in a statement, saying: “Are you called Muslims?! Then, as I have repeatedly said, I repudiate this way of being a Muslim. I will again repeat my beliefs here: You, the Jew, the Christian, the Muslim, the Zoroastrian, the Buddhist, the Baha’i, the atheist, I love you and value your life. Let these words weight heavy on the minds of those who are closed minded.”

Scientific and experiential studies that have continuously been carried out by Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani over the past eighteen years in various areas related to religious minorities have laid the grounds for the separation of the theoretical foundations of basic human rights from religious beliefs and views. Based on what he has repeatedly emphasized, “Rights that are granted by a religious decree can also be dismantled by a religious decree.” It is important for people to be aware of their rights, demand their rights and work to protect their rights.

The sympathy and empathy demonstrated by a handful of activists in favor of the Iranian Baha’i community have had an unprecedented impact on the formation of a new dialogue in the field of civil rights in Iran. It is time that the civil rights of all Iranians, regardless of their beliefs and affiliations, religion, gender, race, and ethnicity, be decided only on the basis of their nationality and no other agenda, by the leaders of the nation. Insisting on useless religious confines which highlight the differences rather than the fundamental commonalities will never serve any outcome other than what we witness today, with all its resulting oppression and corruption. If the interests of a nation are to be gained on the basis of religious differences, the lords of power and riches, relying on religious disputes, will be able to easily exert their personal factional and political interests above the sanctity of the lives, property and honor of the people, and place their own personal peace of mind ahead of that of the people, even at the price of poverty, apathy, despair and agony for the entire nation.

Finally, in the absence of these thoughtless community leaders’ desires, when you free your conscience from prejudice and religious self-interest, and conduct human relations on the basis of our Iranian national identity, assuredly at a minimum cost, the possibility of forming a rational order, based on human dignity and basic human rights, grounded on placing priority on the spirit of the civil law, will be at hand.

The office of Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani,
13 December, 2015

Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani’s Gift to Newly Arrested Bahai’s in Tehran

BY · DECEMBER 7, 2015

Source: www.amasumi.net

Translation By Iran Press Watch

In November 2015  Ayatollah Masoumi Tehrani1 presented as a gift to the newly arrested Bahá’ís in Tehran a piece of his calligraphy work from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith, which states:

O SON OF MAN! Ponder and reflect. Is it thy wish to die upon thy bed, or to shed thy life-blood on the dust, a martyr in My path, and so become the manifestation of My command and the revealer of My light in the highest paradise? Judge thou aright, O servant!

 The following excerpt is taken from his official website:

“As confrontational actions of security forces against our Baha’i compatriots need to be meditated upon, I, with utmost humility, have penned a piece from the Baha’i book “Hidden Words” in the form of calligraphy. This move may raise the conscience of my fellow countrymen by considering increasing their respect for human dignity and not focusing their attention on different ethnicities, languages and religions. This piece of calligraphy is offered to Sahba Farnoush, Navid Aqdasi, Parviz Nikaeen, Keyvan Nikaeen, Arshia Rouhani, Mateen Janamian, Zareen Aqabani, Yeganeh Agahi, Negar Bagheri, Nava Majzoob, Yavar Haghighat, Helia Moshtaq, Naghmeh Zabihian, Franeh Daneshgari, Sanaz Eshanqi, Nika Pakzadan and Sharan Tamrie Najaf, who have recently been arrested and have no legal protection. I emphatically and seriously demand that the authorities stop these atrocities.

If human value is connected to religion and belief, surely we Muslims stand at the lowest level, due to our actions which have clearly been manifested in recent times.”

 

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Persecuted in Iran, Baha’is are worse off in Iraq

NEW DELHI: While the rising tide of arrests of Baha’is in Iran and destruction of their cemetery in Shiraz continues to grab headlines, the community — best known in India for their magnificent lotus-shaped marble temple here that is visited by thousands every day — is facing no less threat to its physical safety in neighbouring Iraq, one of the places of origins of the religion.

Spread in small numbers in and around Baghdad, the Baha’is continue to face social exclusion even after the fall of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, whose Baath Party banned the religion in 1970.

“One Baha’i woman we interviewed said that after she was freed from the prison of Saddam Hussein’s regime, she felt that she had moved from a small prison to a societal one, harsher and more violent from the former,” Ali Mamouri, Middle East expert and commentator on religion, told IANS in an email interview from Baghdad when asked if the religious minority is better off in Iraq than in Iran.


The Lotus Temple in New Delhi. (Getty Images photo)

Shedding light on the plight of this small religious minority, Mamouri added that the fear of persecution is so strong at present that most Baha’is are “still hiding, living in fear of declaring their social identity and preferring not to practise their religion in public”.

M Merchant, programme officer at Baha’i office of public affairs, said that in Iran, their population has shrunk to a mere three lakh out of a total of nearly six million the world over.

“India, where over two million people of the community live, is home to the largest Baha’i population while in Iraq no official record of their demographic statistics is available,” Merchant told IANS.

The Baha’i faith is the youngest of the world’s independent religions. Its founder, Baha-ullah(1817-1892), is regarded by Baha’is as the most recent in the line of Messengers of God that stretches back beyond recorded time and that includes Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad. The Baha’i faith considers itself independent of Islam.


A Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Illinois, United States. (Getty Images photo)

“The religious matrix of the Baha’i faith was Islam. Much as Christianity was born out of the messianic expectations of Judaism, the religion that was to become the B aha’i faith arose from eschatological tensions within Islam. In the same way, however, the Baha’i faith is entirely independent of its parent religion,” says the website for information resource of Baha’i international community.

Iraq is historically very important to the Baha’i faith since Baha’u’llah spent 10 years there and declared his religious call. The community, however, has shrunk to a miniscule size today due to continued violence against the faith.

The Baath regime in 1970 deprived the Baha’is of their property and forbade them from listing their religion in civil records. This was followed by the execution of many of the community’s political and religious followers.


Nilo Hejabian is an Iranian Baha’i who has resettled in Portland, Oregon, United States, has been imprisoned for her religion and accused of being a spy in her native country. (March 13, 2009, Getty Images file photo)

“The continued harassment compelled Baha’is to either completely close themselves off or emigrate from Iraq. There are no official statistics of Baha’is in Iraq and their current stregth remains unknown as the adherents are too scared to reveal their identities,” Mamouri said.

Nilakshi Rajkhowa, director, Baha’i office of public affairs here, said that recent fatwas issued by Muslim religious scholars stressing the importance of accommodating diverse beliefs have not been of much use.

“Even the house of the prophet (Baha’u’llah) in Baghdad which used to be a piligrim house has been taken over and occupied by the government,” Rajkhowa told IANS.


Shrine of the Bab which is the second holy place for Baha’i worshippers and its terraced gardens are seen on Mount Carmel, Haifa, Israel. (Getty Images photo)

In the Middle East, Africa and Europe, Muslim religious figures have condemned attacks on the Baha’is, in particular in Iran, and called for peaceful coexistence. Notable among them is Iranian Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi Tehrani who denounced intolerance against the community.

“But the situation of Baha’is has not changed. Baha’is have neither got official recognition nor have they regained their confiscated property,” Mamouri pointed out.


Members of the Baha’i religion demonstrate in Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach on June 19, 2011 asking Iranian authorities to release seven Baha’i prisoners accused of spying for Israel and sentenced to 20 years in jail. (Getty Images file photo)

As the militants from ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) capture swathes of land in Iraq, wreaking havoc on non-Muslims and those they call apostates, like the Yazidis, their disposition towards Baha’is is not immediately known.

“Baha’is don’t exist in the area under control of IS (Islamic State). They are mostly in Erbil, Suleimaniah and Baghdad,” Mamouri said.


The Islamic State jihadists have been destroying ancient shrines and places of worship of Shias and other faiths, like the one above, in the areas they control in Iraq.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Persecuted-in-Iran-Bahais-are-worse-off-in-Iraq/articleshow/41963128.cms

A closer look at religious coexistence through recent events

8 September 2014

When a member of Iran’s ecclesiastical class gifted a calligraphic presentation of the words of Baha’u’llah to the Baha’is of the world in April 2014, the act was unprecedented and stood in sharp contrast against a backdrop of 170 years of uninterrupted religious persecution.

While the gift that Ayatollah Hamid Masoumi Tehrani made to the Baha’i community is, in and of itself, highly noteworthy, for Baha’is it is the motivation that lies at its heart that merits public commendation and attention. The fact that he has in the past made similar overtures to Christians points to a deep longing to promote coexistence in his native land. Yet he is not alone; multitudes in Iran and throughout the world yearn for peace and harmony; most acknowledge that they themselves do not know how this can be achieved.

An understanding of the historical circumstances preceding the occasion of this senior cleric’s gift provides a point of reference in the recent wave of comments and responses from religious leaders around the world about peaceful coexistence.

  • An illuminated calligraphic work by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, containing the words of Baha’u’llah. The quotation reads: Consort with all religions… »

Historical context

Since 1844 when the Baha’i Faith was founded, its adherents have suffered, under successive governments, an endless wave of persecutions. More than 20,000 adherents have been killed for their religious beliefs, and thousands upon thousands have endured unjust imprisonment. Executions, murders, torture, and violent assaults have been among the more overt forms of persecution.

But persecution of Baha’is in Iran has taken other forms as well: widespread confiscation of properties, administrative centers, and Holy Places; desecration of some of the community’s most holy sites as well as cemeteries; vandalization of homes, including acts of arson; harassment of Baha’i children in their classrooms; dissemination of gross misrepresentations of the Baha’i teachings and history in educational materials studied in schools; exclusion of youth from higher education; random cessation of business licenses; closures of shops; and the list runs on.

To this day, Baha’is are regularly portrayed as religious heretics, as being associated with immorality and the occult in religious sermons and through state-sponsored media. At the same time, they are also regularly accused of being spies for various governments. And religious leaders have repeatedly incited populations to violence against the community with virtual impunity.

Since 1979, more than 200 Iranian Baha’is have been killed and hundreds more have been tortured and incarcerated.

And in the years since the revolution, how many of the perpetrators of these heinous
crimes have been brought to justice? The answer is none.

Showing no signs of improvement, the persecution of Baha’is in Iran is a policy of that country’s government. But it is the religious leadership in Iran that has been largely to blame for fomenting in the population prejudice and hatred directed toward the Baha’i community. Indeed, a memorandum of the Iranian government leaked in 1993, indicating that progress of Baha’is in Iranian society should be effectively “blocked”, bore the signature of the country’s highest ranking religious figure, Ali Khamenei. And more recently, he issued a fatwa in which the people of Iran were told to avoid all dealings with Baha’is.

It is against this backdrop of blind religious prejudice fueled by the ecclesiastical leaders that Ayatollah Tehrani became the first cleric of his rank in post-revolutionary Iran to highlight a central Baha’i belief drawn from the most sacred text of the Faith and the right of the community to practice its religion in the country of its origin.

The months that have followed have revealed how his gesture has resonated with a deep-seated yearning in people of goodwill everywhere, including leaders from a wide range of religions and denominations, as well as academics, journalists, and human rights advocates both in Iran and around the world.

A month after the calligraphic work was gifted, a number of prominent human rights leaders in Iran – for the first time collectively – voiced their public support for the Baha’is and their seven imprisoned former leaders, on the sixth anniversary of their incarceration. Ayatollah Tehrani was present at that meeting, where he stated, “Perspectives have to change… and I think now is an opportune moment for this.”

Beyond the boundaries of Iran, Ayatollah Tehrani’s initiative has also inspired positive reactions by certain high-ranking officials in the Muslim world, giving further impetus to the conversation regarding religious coexistence taking shape in their countries.

These outcomes have touched the Baha’i community not because of any particular changes for their circumstances within Iran, as recent reports indicate that persecution of the Baha’i community has actually intensified in recent months, but rather because they relate to one of the most cherished aspirations of the Baha’is from the earliest days of the existence of their religion.

Over 100 years ago, as ‘Abdu’l-Baha, son of Baha’u’llah and head of the Baha’i Faith after His passing, stopped for one year in Egypt prior to His historic journey to the West, the theme of religious unity featured often in his interactions with prominent individuals and the media.

As His journey continued in Europe and North America, He reiterated in many public addresses that, just as mankind is one, religions are likewise one, and that while in outward form religions are many, their reality is one, just as the “days are many, but the sun is one”.

More recently, in its letter to the world’s religious leaders in 2002, the Universal House of Justice identified religious prejudice as an increasingly dangerous force in the world.

“With every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable,” It wrote. “The crisis calls on religious leadership for a break with the past as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race, gender and nation.”

The path ahead

History has demonstrated that even the smallest act can have far-reaching consequences. Notwithstanding that the incident perhaps most frequently cited in this regard – the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand as having ignited World War I – is a negative one, it is equally true that a single instance of altruism can spark a rise in consciousness that ultimately propels the advancement of a community; a society; a nation; the world.

Those who seek solutions to the havoc being wrought across the Middle East at this very hour readily acknowledge that sectarian prejudice and fanaticism lie at the heart of the intractable problems that beset the people of that region. The action taken by Ayatollah Tehrani, one act of many by people and groups motivated by a yearning for peace, unveils a parallel unfolding process in contrast to the horrors that religious extremism is inflicting on the world, one that offers the hope of constructive change and the possibility that in such an action can be gleaned a seed which, if tended, may yet become a tree that will in turn propagate a forest.

Source: http://news.bahai.org/story/1017

Letter from various religious communities in the Netherlands to Ayatollah Masoumi-Tehrani

To Ayatollah Masoumi-Tehrani

officeahmt@gmail.com

Tehran, Iran

The Hague | International City of Peace and Justice | 29 July 2014

Your honour, dear co-worker for mutual understanding and peaceful co-existence among all peoples, On July 2nd of this year we, 14 representatives of various religious communities in the Netherlands, gathered at the National Centre of the Dutch Bahá’í community in the Hague, to read together your recent statement in which you explained why you made an illuminated calligraphy of a verse from the Kitáb -i-Aqdas of Bahá’u’lláh. You have called this beautiful work of art “an enduring symbol of respect for the innate dignity of human beings, for fellow-feeling and peaceful coexistence regardless of religious affiliation, denomination or belief” and we accept it as such. In fact, it was your courageous act that brought us together to explore, in perfect harmony, the question of religious co-existence. Based on relevant quotations from the diverse traditions brought by the participants, we considered the work which has yet to be done in the Netherlands and asked ourselves how to rise up to eradicate notions of religious superiority. We reflected upon our personal influence within our own communities regarding peaceful religious co-existence.

We wish to wholeheartedly support your efforts, by working for the eradication of notions of religious intolerance in our country and to take practical initiatives to eliminate conflict from our society and foster instead love and fellowship, solidarity and altruism. We firmly believe that this is the mission called for by our respective religious scriptures and traditions, our prophets and saints.

In this, we were especially moved by your in invitation to “let us be human first before we are Muslim, Jew, Zoroastrian, Christian, Bahá’í, Buddhist, irreligious, or atheist”, and we wish to respond affirmatively to your call to “contemplate our pattern of thought, wash away the dross that is the tendency to think in stereotypes about one another, and to extend the hand of love and assistance toward that which is human in each one of us”. We are aware that much patient and persistent work remains to be done, that we should especially accompany the youth of our communities and society at large in their endeavour to serve society, to overcome prejudice and not fall into the trap of self-superiority.

We stand ready to work together in this mighty and glorious enterprise – the building of a collective conscience – in which we feel united with you and the many other people of goodwill in Iran and beyond. We recognize that your letters were written as acts of great courage. May your work be a blessing for you and for all people who support this work of peace.

With respect, gratitude and our warmest greetings,

 

Ds. Ineke Bakker                               Director STEK (City & Church)

Ms. Margriet Quarles                      Secretary Christian Unity, The Hague

Mr. Jan Soullie                                  The Hague Community of Churches

Varamitra                                           Buddhist

Mr. Gursev Singh                             Sikh Community

Mr. Baljit Singh                                 Sikh Community

Pandit Surindere Tewari               Sanathan Dharm

Dr. Martijn Rep                                 National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Netherlands

Rabbi Albert Ringer                        Reform Jewish Congregation of Rotterdam

Ms. Mieke v.d. Besselaar                Sufi Movement

Ms. Urmilla Sewnath                        Arya Samaj

Mr. Peter Verburg                             The Hague Community of Churches

Mr. Jornt de Jong                               Bahá’í Community Netherlands

Ms. Marga Martens                            Bahá’í Community Netherlands