Friday, November 2, 2012

My Journey to Your Love

I cautiously put our picture in a frame.

You put a beautiful ring on my finger. I look at it with disbelief, and wonder if I'm in a dream, if such happiness can be mine.

Convinced long ago that happiness, joy and love was not to be mine.  Always watched others' happiness. My own had never been more than a few fleeting moments.  In my loneliness, I lived with a heart broken and a soul bereft of joy.

You entered my world with zeal, life and promise of love everlasting, and I wondered if I should believe.  You warmed my soul with the kindness of your words, and I wondered if I should believe.  You touched my heart with your expressions of love, and I wondered if I should believe.

I wondered if I was going to wake up from this lovely dream. I wondered, I wondered, I wondered.

Slowly, with the passing of each day, your love permeated my being, my heart grew closer to yours, my soul bonded with yours, and my being was immersed in yours. Slowly, You became my heart, you became my love, you became my happiness.  And I believed.

I know now that I am the recipient of a great gift, the gift of your love. Your sweet, patient, giving love is my reason to live.

And to you, my sweet, I promise my everlasting love.

                                                           Dedicated to Steve

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Trip to Australia

The night before my departure to Australia, it started to snow. It was one of those Colorado snow storms that makes life miserable at least for me.

I got home at 8:00 PM and started to call cab and shuttle services to see if I could get a ride to the airport in the morning at about 10:00 AM. The shuttle services would not make reservations for the morning due to the weather. I found one cab-company that made reservations for the next morning.

That night I was in such a bad mood. I had been planning the trip to Australia for a few months. Now that I was about to leave, we had a major snow storm. I was wondering if I would make it to the airport on time, if the weather would cause delays, and if I could make my connecting flights. During the night, I woke up several times and saw that the snow was coming down. Each time, I went back to bed cursing the universe, angry at God.

I have been mad at God for a while. I remember the week that I started to feel mad at him, her or it. It was a week of realizations. That week, I realized that I had been defeated in accomplishing many of the things that truly mattered to me in life. After years of struggle, I saw that my efforts had produced no results. I felt abandoned by God. I had always thought that if you want something in life and work towards it, you can achieve it. I had been proven wrong. It was then that I started to feel angry at God for not helping me despite all the good that I had done for others. I had taken care of people even when I felt that I couldn’t take care of myself. I thought that God would give me what I wanted, because I had given so much to others. But that wasn’t how things were. In a way, I lost faith and hope. Sometimes what is ordained by God is contrary to one’s desires. I am trying to accept that. I’m still redefining my life and trying to make sense of it. My life’s journey has been unusual. Spiritually and mentally, I have evolved throughout the years. I have come to question and disvalue so much of what I believed to be right. In some ways, my life has severely gone wrong, and I don’t know how to fix it; I don’t know how to live it. I am in a constant state of conflict with myself. There are moments that I find peace with it all and feel content. At times, I feel a sense of detachment from all that pertains to life. There is freedom in living with detachment. There is value in that. At those times, I feel calm and at peace. Ten years from now, all will have to be different. Maybe then I will see the reasons behind my state of being today. Maybe then I will see the growth that life experiences will have instilled in my soul.

I mostly measure personal success in life by character development, insight acquired, wisdom, patience and understanding gained, service provided and love given. So, I haven’t been totally unsuccessful in life. I am fully aware that what I think of God has to be entirely inaccurate. It is the product of my thoughts and imaginations as I do believe God, the Supreme Being, to be far greater than the human comprehension. I am this insignificant creature in God’s infinite universe. In the grand scheme of things, my needs, my wants and desires are not important. My whole earthly existence is no more than a fleeting moment in the infinity that lays before and beyond us. Nevertheless, like everyone else, I am wrapped up in my own little life, and what I perceive to be reality. On the day of my travel, I was entirely wrapped up in my problems. I was scared of the foot of snow that was in front of the door of my house and wanted to crawl back into my warm bed like a little girl.

My Cab got stuck in the snow in my complex. The cab driver and I dragged my stuff to the cab through 15 inches of snow. The main roads had been cleaned. The cab driver drove very slowly to the airport keep saying, “This way I’m safe, my passenger is safe and my family will get to see me tonight.” I kept thinking, “This way your passenger will miss her flight.” I could not convince him to drive more than 40 miles per hour on a toll road with practically no traffic and no snow. I had the urge to sit behind the steering wheel and drive myself.

When I got to the airport, I found that my flight had been delayed by 1.5 hours due to inclement weather. Now I’m thinking, “I’m going to miss my connecting flight in Salt Lake City.” I sat at the airport trying not to stress too much. When I got on the plane, there were technical difficulties, so we waited 30 extra minutes before the plane took off. At that point, I was upset. My life had been so stressful lately, and this vacation was causing me more stress. By then, I was pretty sure that I would not make my connecting flight and therefore, I would miss my flight to Australia. As I was sitting in my seat, I started to cry. After a while, I felt more relaxed and kept telling myself, “In the scheme of things this is nothing, don’t be so upset. Change your thoughts; change your perspective.” I mentally prepared myself for missing my flight to Sydney and spending the night at LA airport.

The plane landed in Salt Lake City when my flight to LA was boarding. I barely made the flight running through the airport like a crazy woman. Once I made my connection, I kept thanking God for helping me that day. I was utterly grateful. So, when an obese woman sat next to me and took half of my seat, I reminded myself how grateful I was to be on that flight. Thirty minutes earlier if someone would tell me the only way I could be on this flight was to stand in the isle the entire time, I would have happily accepted the offer. So 10 minutes later when the same woman started eating her double cheese burger with a ton of onions while talking to me, I was still grateful. In fact, the entire journey, I thanked God so many times for making all my connections. My mood had changed, and I was happy.

I got to Sydney at 6:00 AM. When I was picked up by Mehran at the airport, I was surprised that he went to the passenger side of his car. I thought for a second, “Does he want me to drive?” Then I remembered that in Australia, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, and people drive in the left hand lane. For the first week of my stay there, every time I was a passenger in a car, at every turn, I wanted to scream, “Stop, you’re turning into the wrong lane. You’re gonna kill us.” There were other differences that I noticed. In a lot of places, the sign for “Exit” was “Way Out”, “Yield” was “Give Way”. The word for “Receipt” was “Docket”, “Rental Car” was “Hired Car”. I asked someone why they say “Hired” and not “Rental”. She said, “Hired is short term, and Rental is long term”.

Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities that I have seen. It is hilly with a lot of vegetation and flowers. It has many beautiful beaches and harbors. The streets are narrow, hilly and full of shops. It has a lot of life with a great public transportation system. It is similar to European cities.

I was able to see the Fireworks burst over the Sydney Harbor from the famous Sydney Bridge on New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, we went to the Bondi beach. It was crowded. So many people were in the water. The temperature was about 75 degrees. December, January and February are summer months in that part of the world. I saw many of the famous places in Sydney such as the Sydney Opera House. A friend of mine that I grew up with, and I had not seen since I was 16 years old lives in Sydney. I had lunch with her and her husband at her house one day. It was interesting to see how we have changed through the years.

The main reason for my trip to Australia was to attend the wedding of my relatives’ daughter. Mahta and her husband, Mehran, moved to Australia about 17 years ago. Their daughter, Shayda, was a little girl at the time, and now she was getting married.

On the days preceding the wedding, I witnessed beautiful expressions of love between Shayda and her fiancé, Alex. Mahta and Mehran are great parents and have always had a strong bond between themselves and their children. The love and gentleness that was manifested among them was lovely to see. I thought to myself, “This is how it is when things go right.” The end result of their marriage is two children who have grown up to be wonderful adults.

On the wedding day, the bride shinned in her youthful beauty, and the groom looked handsome. I felt joy watching their loving interactions as they said their vows and dedicated their lives to each other. The Baha’i wedding prayers recited were beautiful. During the ceremony, the bride was tearful. The groom held her hand tightly, looking at her attentively. In those moments, I was filled with a strong feeling that something right and in accordance to the will of God was taking place that day and at those moments. In a world full of broken relationships and disconnections, it was great to see this coming together of two people. Love and affection permeated the place. I knew with certainty that the bond of their marriage was going to be everlasting. I wanted to watch their harmonious interactions. My soul needed to experience something so pure and beautiful.

Later in the evening, parents and family members talked and expressed their love for the bride and groom. Mahta, mother of the bride, got up to read what she had written for her daughter, Shayda. With poise and a calm voice, she read what could be described as a love letter. She would look up and smile at Shayda as she read. When she was finished, I wished I could hear what she had just read again. All the love shared and expressed that day had a healing effect on me.

My trip to Australia was relaxing. It allowed me to escape the stresses in my life that had seemed endless for such a long time. Life has been easier for me since I have been back. Finally, some of the stresses in my life have subsided, and I am much more at peace.

An excerpt from one of the Baha’i marriage prayers:

… Wherefore, wed Thou in the heaven of Thy mercy these two birds of the nest of Thy love, and make them the means of attracting perpetual grace; that from the union of these two seas of love a wave of tenderness may surge and cast the pearls of pure and goodly issue on the shore of life …

Friday, February 10, 2012

Education Under Fire

This website is about the plight of Baha'i students in Iran. They are banned from pursuing a formal education.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Amazing Letter Written By a Former Slave to His Former Master

I was touched by this letter that was written by a former slave to his former master. It says all that needs to be said wonderfully.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Moving to the US (Part 3)


The day that I left Maryland was one of the saddest days of my 17 years of life, for one reason only, leaving my father. My gentle, kind and mild mannered father was the person that I loved the most in life. When I was a child he traveled often for his job. Sometimes I would not see him for weeks at a time. The days that he would come home from his trips were always joyous for me. In fact, the happiest moments of my life to this day were on a Thursday afternoon when I was about four or five years old. My mother had just given me a bath and was helping me get dressed when I heard my father's voice. He had just arrived from a long trip. Hurriedly, I got dressed and ran upstairs to the family room where my father was. I saw him, ran to him and threw myself in his arms. He embraced me tightly and kissed my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with joy. I felt so safe. I clang to him tightly. My world was absolutely perfect at that moment. It was complete, and it felt like it would always be. I truly believed that my father was able to make everything better, and for as long as I was in his arms nothing in the world could ever harm me. It seemed to me that he was a kind of a God. Those moments in my father's arms on that day have remained the happiest moments of my life. I have never felt so secure and protected as I did that day.

Throughout the years I have remembered that day and those moments with my father. In moments of absolute loneliness and despair when even God is nowhere to be found, I have longed for that Thursday afternoon.

I came to the US so that I would have an opportunity for higher education. My parents came in order to seek medical treatment for my father. My father had been sick for awhile and no one knew what was wrong. A few months after we arrived here, he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, but on the day I left Maryland, we didn’t know what was wrong with him. He was terribly sick. His urine had been full of blood for days. He was weak in bed. We were all in a state of panic and confusion. The initial Dr. visits had not helped in diagnosing the problem. On that day my father was terribly worried for me. I alone was going to move to Kansas and finish my last year of high school there. I went to the bedroom to say good bye to him. He was laying in bed. I tried to comfort him. I told him that I would be OK, that I wasn’t going to be alone. I told him that Mahta and her husband Mehran, my relatives, would help me. I kept telling him that he didn’t need to worry about me. As I sat on the edge of the bed, I leaned forward to give my dad a hug. He sat up. As I embraced him, he put his head on my chest and sobbed painfully. That was the first time I saw my dad cry. I held him tight in my arms and kept telling him that he didn’t need to worry about me. I will never forget the pain that he and I both felt on that day. Looking back, staying in Maryland and graduating from high school a year later probably wasn’t a bad thing, but the idea of it seemed terrible to me at the time. I just didn’t want to delay finishing high school. I was young and felt that life might move by quickly and leave me behind. I was driven and determined.

On the day that I was leaving, my brother took me to the airport. He never told me that my flight to Kansas had a stop in Indianapolis. My English wasn’t good enough to be able to read the ticket for myself. I had noticed that giving out as little information as possible was typical of my brother who practically was a stranger to me. He had left home when I was seven. He had come to Iran twice for a visit in the ten years he had lived in the US, but he was very distant in his behavior and mannerism. I knew that he would never be a person in my life that I could rely on. His attitude was that I came to the US alone and struggled; you’ll have to do the same. That was fine with me. I didn’t mind making it on my own. I didn’t have a relationship with my brother after I left Maryland. I never asked him for anything. In all these years, I have seen him only a few times. Many years later in a phone conversation, he said, “Throughout all these years in the US, you never asked me for anything. I thought at some point, you would ask for help in some way, but you never did.”

I got on the plane and sat next to two men who were traveling together. They were kind to me. I was seventeen, but I looked younger. They were curious to know why I was traveling alone, especially since I could barely speak English. With my broken English, I tried to explain to them my situation. They understood that I was going to Kansas. When plane landed in Indianapolis, I was totally confused. I thought I was supposed to go to Kansas. How did I end up in Indianapolis? As I was about to leave the plane, the two men stopped me and explained to me that the next stop is going to be Kansas. We were in Indianapolis for one hour. The two men decided to leave the plane and walk around the airport during that time. They asked me if I wanted to go with them, I gratefully said yes. I was afraid of being alone and not understanding something else and being totally lost. They were so kind to me that when the plane landed in Kansas, I felt sad that I would never see them again. A part of me wanted to cling to them just like a helpless child, which I actually was.

At the Kansas City airport, I found Mehran and Mahta very quickly. It was good to see them. I stayed with them a little over a month. They were young and newly married. They now live in Australia. In fact, in a few weeks, I’m going to Australia for their daughter’s wedding. They are two lovely people who created a beautiful family. They now have two grown children. It has been a joy for me to see their happiness from afar.

The night I arrived, I called my parents to reassure them that everything was fine, and I was happy. I didn’t want my parents to worry about me. They had so many problems themselves. I decided to never complain about things when talking to them even if things were terrible. In the years that followed, there were many difficulties in my life, but I learned to keep them to myself and deal with them the best I could. I wanted to spare them from the pain that I was going through.

In a day or so, I went to the high school to register with Mahta and Mehran. I met my advisor Mr. Blackman. He was a nice man who tried to put me in classes that were suitable for me. In contrast to the school in Washington DC there were only five foreign students in this school which had about 1600 students. The first day I went to my American History class, I met my teacher, a woman in her thirties. She started to talk to me very fast saying a bunch of stuff I didn’t understand. I thought if she would speak slower, maybe I would understand something. She stopped talking after about a minute and waited for a reply from me. Since I had not understood anything, I said, “Please repeat”. At which point, she gave me a dirty look and said, “Just take a seat”. I knew life was going to be miserable. This language thing was going to kill me. It seemed like an impossible challenge. I would ask myself, “How am I going to learn an entire language and be proficient in it? How am I going to go to college?”

It was the same way in all of my classes. I hardly understood anything. I was lost. My teachers ignored me. I would go to class, be totally lost and then go to the next class and be totally lost. The only good thing was that all my courses from Iran were accepted at this school. So other than American History and American Government, I could take whatever I wanted. So I had a lot of easy classes like Gym, Home Economics and such. A couple of weeks after I had started school, one day, I noticed that the teacher in my American Government class passed around some papers. I had no idea what it was. Then I realized that it was a test. I had no idea that we were going to have a test that day. At that point, I quietly started to cry. I felt so overwhelmed by not understanding English. Tears rolled down my face, and I could not stop them.

At home every night, I would try to read my school books with an English to Persian dictionary. It would take me two hours to look up all the words in a paragraph, and then when I would put all the words together, I still didn’t fully understand the content. The sentence structure and how words are used in English are so different from Persian. It was very difficult to do a direct translation of the text.

Since the American History class that I was in was too difficult for me, my advisor decided to put me in a different class, a class that only had a few students and was moving at a very slow pace. It was the Special Ed class! My teacher was a sweet and gentle woman who had aged prematurely. She was 44, but she looked like she was 58. All of her hair was white, and her skin looked much older than 44. One of the first things that she said to me was that I was very small and skinny. I was five feet tall and weighed 90 pounds. I have a small frame, and I had always been one of the smallest kids in my classes, but here I was even smaller. The average American is taller than the average Iranian. In that class there were two mentally challenged students and me. My teacher gave me a very small and thin American History book. I would read it on my own and ask her questions when she wasn’t busy working with the other 2 girls. This book was much easier for me. I think it was written for grade school kids. I still had to look up words, but it took less time and the text was easier to understand.

A month and a half after I moved to Olathe Kansas, Mahta and Mehran moved to Lawrence Kansas so that Mehran could go to grad school at University of Kansas. During my stay with them, they helped me find another place to live. There was a college in Olathe called “Olathe Nazarene College”. Mehran and Mahta both went to school there. As the name suggests it was a religious college. Through someone at the college, Mehran found a lady who was 70 years old and had a basement that she wanted to rent. She also needed someone to do house cleaning for her. We met her. She seemed nice enough. It was decided that in exchange for cleaning her house, I would rent her basement for one third of the usual price. That sounded reasonable to me. My parents had given me some money, and I was determined to make it last as long as possible. They were not wealthy, and I was very mindful of that fact. The only thing that I did not like about my upcoming living situation was the fact that Mrs. Philips, the lady I was going to live with, had two dogs, and one of them was a huge German Shepherd. When we went to meet her for the first time, I was frightened by the German Shepherd. I had never been around dogs. In the Middle Eastern culture, people do not typically have pets. Animals are not allowed in the house as they are considered unclean. Growing up neither me nor any of my friends had pets. I had never petted a dog before. And this one was huge and scary. It weighed more than my 90 pounds.

Two days after Christmas on a cold snowy day, I said good bye to my relatives and moved into Mrs. Philips’s basement.

To be continued…

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Talk

I wrote the article below for an event in June of 2011 to honor the Baha’is in Iran who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. The part of the article that enumerates the injustices inflicted on the Baha’is of Iran has been extracted from sources that have kept an eye on the plight of the Baha’is in Iran over the last 32 years. I would like to thank my friend Charles Rakay for his editorial suggestions in writing this article. It is with humility and awe that the following text has been written in honor of all of those who have fought for justice in non-violent ways. It is their perseverance, uncompromising principles and dignity that has touched our hearts and has left a lasting legacy.

On August 10, 1980 Dr. Vafai, my brother in law, a prominent member of the Baha’i Faith in the city of Hamadan in Iran was arrested for the 4th and final time by the local government officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran along with 6 other Baha’is. All seven Baha'i men were arrested without any charges or explanation of any wrongdoing. Within a few hours their heads were shaved, mug shots were taken, and they were placed in a prison along with murderers and hardcore criminals. What followed was months of interrogation, and imprisonment in the most appalling and unsanitary conditions where all 7 men were held in a small cell for the next 10 months.

During the 10 months of imprisonment, my brother in law and the other 6 Baha'i prisoners were told by the authorities that their only crime was that they were members of the Baha'i Faith. They were told numerous times that if they would publicly recant their Faith, they would be free to go back to their families, and everything that had been taken away from them would be given back to them, otherwise they would be killed. The seven Baha'i men did not recant at any of the given opportunities to do so.

During one of the interrogation sessions, the Baha'i prisoners were told by the lead Islamic clergy of the city, “We know that you are good people and are much loved by the entire city. Your reputation is impeccable. You are here because you are Baha'is.” In response the seven prisoners said, “What is wrong with being a Baha'i? We are loved by the community because of the teachings of the Baha'i Faith, which is a religion devoted to service to humanity. Why do you want us to recant our religion?” At which point, the Islamic clergy replied, “We want you to recant because the growth of your religion will bring an end to Islam.”

Ten months and 10 days after the day my brother in law and the six other Baha'is were arrested, one night they were taken to an unknown location where they were tortured, their bodies severely mutilated and then they were each shot several times. As none of the shots were to the head or the heart, they died a long and agonizing death. This was how the lives of the seven innocent men, who had served their community for many years, ended. After that, life was never the same for their wives and children who had to endure the difficult years that followed. Soon after the execution of her husband and confiscation of their property and belongings, my sister and her young daughter had to be smuggled out of Iran, since their lives were in danger.

Bahaís hold no political ambitions, are committed to non-violence, and seek only to help in the development of the societies where they live. Yet, in Iran, for more than 30 years, they have been persecuted solely for their religious beliefs.

The persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran has its roots in Iranian history going back to the inception of the Baha'i Faith in the19th century where 20,000 Baha'is were killed in a short span of time. Baha'is in Iran enjoyed a period of relative calm in the early part of the 20th century until the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 when the current campaign of systematic persecution began. In the 1980s, virtually the entire leadership of the Iranian Bahá’í community was arrested and executed or disappeared. Bahá’ís have been detained, imprisoned, and falsely charged with “spying”; they have been denied access to education and sources of livelihood; they have been stripped of all influence in Iranian society and deprived of their right to religious freedom.

In contrast to its campaign of outright killings, imprisonment, and torture of Bahá’ís during the 1980s, the Iranian government has in recent years focused largely on economic and social efforts to drive Bahá’ís from Iran and destroy their cultural and community life. The government has also used arbitrary arrests and detentions, coupled with the confiscation of personal property, to oppress and terrorize the Baha’i Community. In the 1980s, over 10,000 Bahá’ís were dismissed from positions in government and educational institutions. Many remain unemployed and receive no unemployment benefits. Efforts to impoverish the Bahá’í community and to deprive its members of their economic livelihood have continued through a variety of means. In particular, government authorities have in many places around the country continued to block Bahá’ís from receiving pensions, conducting business, or finding employment. Even when Bahá’ís find employment in the private sector, government officials often intervene and force the owners of the companies to fire them. And when Bahá’ís start a private business, the authorities attempt to block their activities.

Since the inception of the Islamic government Baha'i youth have been denied access to formal education and are banned from attending colleges and universities. In what the New York Times called “an elaborate act of communal self-preservation,” the Bahá’í community in 1987 established its own higher education program to meet the educational needs of as many of its young people as resources would allow. That program evolved over the years into a full-fledged university, known as the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education. It had a faculty of more than 150 first-rate academics and instructors, and complete course offerings in ten subject areas. The classes for the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education were held in private homes throughout Iran and what little permanent infrastructure it had was composed of a handful of rented classrooms and laboratories scattered throughout the capital. Because of the continual threat of persecution, the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education was forced to operate in a highly circumspect and decentralized manner. Then, in acts that speak volumes about the government’s real attitude towards Baha’ís, twice government agents fanned out across the country, arresting Baha’i Institute faculty and staff, raiding homes, and confiscating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of books, equipment and records in a blatant effort to shut the university down. The most recent raids were carried out, on May 21, 2011 where 14 Baha'is associated with the university were arrested. “The materials confiscated were neither political nor religious, and the people arrested were not fighters or organizers. They were lecturers in subjects like accounting and dentistry; the materials seized were textbooks and laboratory equipment.”

When the Islamic Republic’s new constitution was drawn up in April 1979, certain rights of the Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian minorities in Iran were specifically mentioned and protected. However, no mention whatsoever was made of the rights of the Bahá’í community, Iran’s largest religious minority. Under Iran’s concept of an Islamic government, this exclusion has come to mean that Bahá’ís enjoy no rights of any sort, and that they can be attacked and persecuted with impunity. Iranian courts have denied Bahá’ís the right of redress or protection against essentially all forms of persecution; including assault and even murder. — and have ruled that Iranian citizens who kill or injure Bahá’ís are not liable for damages because their victims are, as the Iranian Government calls them, “unprotected infidels.” Among the Baha'is currently in prison in Iran are the seven leaders of the Baha'i Faith. This group of 5 men and 2 women recently started their 4th year of imprisonment. The seven were charged among other things, with espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic, the establishment of an illegal administration - charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants. Their crime is nothing more than being members of the Baha’i Faith. Indeed, the trial of the seven in many ways was the trial of an entire community of more than 300,000 Iranian Baha’is. The charges against the seven reflects the kind of false accusations and campaign of misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame Baha’is for decades.
The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders ended on June 14, 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by a blatant lack of due legal process. The final sentence was 20 years of imprisonment.

The worldwide Bahá’í community is today one of the most diverse and widespread organizations on earth, comprised of individuals from virtually every nation, ethnic group, trade, profession, and social or economic class. The Bahá’ís in Iran seek no special privileges. They seek only their rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the right to life, the right to liberty and security of person, the right to education and work, and the right to profess and practice their religion.

The international community has responded to the persecution of the Bahá’í community in Iran with overwhelming sympathy, expressing concern for the Bahá’ís and condemnation of the Iranian government. The Bahá’í community believes that this outpouring has been a strong restraining force against the government, preventing persecution on a much greater scale.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has passed more than 20 resolutions expressing concern about reports of human rights violations in Iran, and each has made specific mention of the situation of the Bahá’í community there. We are heartened that representatives of the United States government have recently spoken out about the continued denial of basic human rights to Bahá'ís in Iran. We thank President Obama, who on March 20th of this year, when speaking about the Iranian Government’s persecution of the Baha’is, and others, said, “ The world has watched these unjust actions with alarm”. We thank our own congressman Mike Coffman who co-sponsored House Resolution 134, which condemns the government of Iran for persecuting its citizens of the Baha'i faith. Because of support from our leaders like President Obama and Congressman Coffman, and support from the international community, the wholesale genocide of the Bahá’í community in Iran has so far been prevented.

It must be said that under the Islamic government of Iran other religious and ethnic groups have suffered as well. In fact, the Iranians citizens have suffered greatly in the hands of this regime and its tyrannical ways. Our hearts go out to all Iranians who have endured, and still are enduring the atrocities inflected on them. We Baha'is dream of a day when people of Iran, the country which is the birthplace of our religion, live in a free, just and peaceful society.

Human history speaks of unimaginable cruelties. In the last 100 years, we have witnessed two world wars, the Holocaust and many genocides and acts of ethnic cleansing across the world. Whatever suffering and turmoil the world faces today, however dark the immediate circumstances, the Bahá’í community believes that humanity can confront these trials with confidence that the ultimate outcome will be a just and united world. Baha'is along with other like-minded groups and individuals across the world are committed to helping humankind reach the long-promised age of global peace, justice and unity. The prerequisite for this outcome is the acceptance of the principles of oneness of mankind. Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i Faith, teaches that an equal standard of human rights must be recognized and adopted. In the estimation of God all men are equal; there is no distinction or preferment for any soul in the dominion of His justice and equity. I will end with the words of Baha'u'llah:

O CHILDREN OF MEN! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory.