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Invisible Heroes: Seven Imprisoned Bahá’is

Invisible Heroes: Seven Imprisoned Bahá’is

Bahram Nadimi
Bahram Nadimi

Note from the editor: This is a repost of an article contributor Bahram Nadimi wrote on the five year anniversary of the arrest of the Yaran—the seven person guiding council of the Bahá’ís of Iran. This is now the seventh anniversary of their arrest.  They are still imprisoned with no expectation of release. 

oOo

I love science fiction. A few friends and I recently finished watching the highly acclaimed Babylon 5 science fiction TV series. I have been thinking about one of my favorite episodes called: “Here comes the Inquisitor”, in which an inquisitor called Sebastian is summoned to determine if two of the main characters, Delenn and Sheridan, are ready for the challenges ahead. In a cold and dark dungeon, Sebastian interrogates the beaten and chained Delenn and Sheridan, trying to get to the heart of their motives by asking the same question over and over again “Who are you?

During Sheridan’s violent interrogation, Delenn comes to the his defense and says “Your quarrel is with me…if you want to take someone, then take me.”

Sebastian replies: “You would trade your life for his?  I thought you had a destiny!  Is that destiny not worth one life?…No Glory.  No fame. No armies or cities to celebrate your name. You will die alone unremarked and forgotten…”  

Delenn then says: “If I fall, another will take my place, and another, and another….Life is my cause. One life or a billion, they are all the same … this body is a shell, you cannot harm me. I am not afraid.”  

Stunned and surprised Sebastian says: “How do you tell the chosen ones? ‘No greater love hath a man than he lay his life for his brother’ for one person in the dark, where no one will ever know, or see…I have for centuries been looking for you:  Diogenes and his lamp looking for an honest man willing to die for all the wrong reasonsWhen the darkness comes, know this: You are the right people, in the right place at the right time.”

This brings me to the subject of this blog: Do we have invisible heroes now in real life, or is it just reserved for fiction fantasy?

If we look hard enough we will find countless souls who have quietly sacrificed their lives for and out of Love.  Here is a story of seven of these invisible heroes.

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Thoughts of War and Peace—an Anniversary Observed

Thoughts of War and Peace—an Anniversary Observed

Bahram Nadimi

Tides of change are sweeping the earth, and we all feel helpless to withstand its powerful force. Every day there is fresh and depressing news of terrorism, famine, war, deep economic disorders and the like. Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baha’i faith from 1921-1957 has stated:

 “A tempest, unprecedented in its violence, unpredictable in its course, catastrophic in its immediate effects, unimaginably glorious in its ultimate consequences, is at present sweeping the face of the earth. Its driving power is remorselessly gaining in range and momentum. … Humanity, gripped in the clutches of its devastating power, is smitten by the evidences of its resistless fury. It can neither perceive its origin, nor probe its significance, nor discern its outcome. Bewildered, agonized and helpless, it watches this great and mighty wind of God invading the remotest and fairest regions of the earth…[1]”

The question is: how can we mitigate the negative and channel the positive effects of these powerful forces of change?  Where do we start?  How can we overcome the paralysis of will that is preventing people and leaders of good will to come together for the sake of unity, to solve the pressing issues of the day?

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Argo Revisited: Embracing Adversity

Argo Revisited: Embracing Adversity

Still from Argo
Still photograph from Argo

I have been thinking much about a recent movie: Argo.  This award-winning movie, which won best picture in last year’s Oscars, is about a US government agent who creates a fake Hollywood film production in order to rescue a group of American diplomats who had sought refuge at the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran during the uncertain and perilous times of the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution.

I have mixed feelings about this movie, and don’t wish to give the story away, however I’d like to offer an alternate storyline. This alternate depiction is the story of a lady who, during the early days of the revolution, had just gotten through a difficult divorce and, shortly thereafter, was fired from her job because of her religious beliefs. These sudden and unforeseen changes in her life made her rethink her priorities and, a few months after the revolution, she decided to leave Iran for good and go to England where her teenaged sons were studying.

Fast-forward: This woman was at the airport, packed and ready to depart for England. As she navigated the airport, juggling her luggage, her necklace broke. She hastily tucked it into her luggage. After going through passport control, she got on a shuttle that took her to the airplane bound for London.

Once all the passengers were seated, the plane began to move down the runway … and then stopped.

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The Garifuna, a Voice in a Chorus

The Garifuna, a Voice in a Chorus

Bahram Nadimi
Bahram Nadimi

I love Startrek TNG (the next generation) and have seen all the episodes at least once.  I have been thinking about one of the episodes lately, called “first contact”, a story of an undercover first contact mission, where Riker is captured by the xenophobic aliens, who believe he is a scout for an invasion.  One line at the end of the episode was profound and  has stayed with me.  Here the head of state of the previously unknown humanoid race of Malcor III, after he learns that they are not alone in the galaxy, states:

“This morning I was the leader of the universe as I know it. This afternoon, I’m only a voice in a chorus.”

Which brings me to the subject of this blog, a feature film about the unique and interesting culture of the Garifuna people, in Honduras Central America, co-directed by a good friend of mine, Ali Allie called “Garifuna in Peril”.  You might ask: what is the connection between a Startrek episode and a movie about a seemingly obscure culture most people have never heard of.  Hopefully I can pull these unrelated threads together.  First a bit of history:

Who are the Garifuna?

The Garinagu (plural of Garifuna) are descendants of Carib, Arawak and West African people who live in the coastal regions of Central America. Since they refused to submit to slavery, the Garifuna managed to preserve both their African roots and their Amerindian heritage, a fusion resulting in a unique ethnicity considered indigenous to the Americas. In 2001, UNESCO proclaimed the language, dance and music of the Garifuna as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. However, even with this acknowledgement in intellectual and educational circles, the survival of the culture is at risk due to globalization, poverty, AIDS, discriminatory land measures, and lack of educational opportunities [1].   A significant percentage of them have left Central America and now reside in the United States, with strong communities in New York City and Los Angeles.

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December 21, 2012: End of the World or the End of the Beginning

December 21, 2012: End of the World or the End of the Beginning

 

The end of the Mayan calendar has now come and gone, and to the relief of many, we did not have the much anticipated apocalypse on Earth on December 21.  So what happened?  Were the Mayans mistaken? Or did we misinterpret the significance of this date?

The last time the world was supposed to end was on October 21, 2011 when an American radio host came up with a date for the apocalypse through a series of calculations that were based on the Jewish feast days and the lunar month calendar. He also predicted that at preBahram Nadimicisely 6:00 p.m. on May 21, 2011, God’s elect people would  rise to heaven in an event he called the “Rapture”, leaving the rest of humanity behind. Some quit their jobs, and sold their homes in anticipation of the coming of the end.  We had more significant predictions in the middle of the 19th century, such as William Miller who predicted on the basis of Daniel 8:14–16 and the “day-year principle” that Jesus Christ would return to Earth between the spring of 1843 and the spring of 1844.  There were similar predictions in the Middle East and Far East around that time as well [The Baha’i faith started in spring of 1844].

Regarding the Mayan apocalypse, about 1 out of 8 Americans and about 1 out of 5 Chinese believed the notion that end of the world would occur on Dec 21st of this year.   What amazes me about this statistic is the fact that this localized doomsday prophecy of the Mayans has now become a global phenomenon.  It seems that there is a global sense that we have gone astray, and the end of the world is a fitting punishment for our selfishness, greed, excesses and sins.  There is a growing consensus we have not done anything on climate change, and have not tackled the deteriorating environment, or the widespread economic, financial and social instability thus angering the Gods.

We also had the millennium scare, the end of the world prediction of year 2000 and the Y2K technological apocalypse.

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Islamic Science and the Renaissance: Paving the Way for Modern Astronomy and Physics

Islamic Science and the Renaissance: Paving the Way for Modern Astronomy and Physics

Bahram Nadimi

I have previously written several blogs on Islamic science and how it not only fostered the right conditions, but provided a firm foundation for the emergence of the European renaissance. I decided to dig a little deeper, to see if there was clear, concrete evidence for Islamic science paving the way for the emergence of—in this case—modern astronomy and physics, during the renaissance.

I took an astronomy class at a nearby community college to supplement my knowledge and to see if there was any mention of the supposed contributions of Muslims to the advancement of astronomy. When I had a conversation with the instructor of this class; it was telling when he said while interested in the subject, he did not know enough about the history of Islamic contributions to astronomy to include them in the syllabus.

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Thanksgiving in New York

Thanksgiving in New York

Bahram Nadimi

It was a thanksgiving to remember. It was about twenty years ago, November of 1992, that my mother and I visited new York, for the purpose of attending the second Baha’i World Congress, a congress to pay homage to the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Prophet and Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, Bahá’u’lláh. It was also an occasion of an unusual and wonderful family reunion. My grandmother, after 14 years of being denied a passport to leave Iran, solely for religious reasons, managed to finally get the documentation necessary to visit her children and grandchildren in the United States—just in time for this Congress.

My Grandmother and the Prime Minister

My grandmother came from an illustrious family; her uncle was Ali-Kuli Khan, a distinguished diplomat who was a member of the mission representing Persia during the Versailles peace conference in 1919. She had six daughters, one son, and sixteen grandchildren. Her son and two daughters lived in Tehran and the rest lived abroad, mostly in the United States. For 14 years following the Iranian revolution in 1979, she was denied permission to visit her family; her  application for a passport  was rejected every time. She told me once that during this time. she ate only simple, healthy foods for longevity, so that she might live long enough to visit her family in America.

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East meets West, Abdu’l-Bahá’s Travels to Europe and North America

East meets West, Abdu’l-Bahá’s Travels to Europe and North America

Abdu'l-Bahá

Potent spiritual forces were set in motion about hundred years ago as Abdu’l-Bahá, the leader of the then nascent Bahá’í Faith and son of its Prophet-Founder, Bahá’u’lláh, embarked on a series of journeys to the West. The unexpected growth and spread of the Faith throughout the Western world was the eventual result of these journeys.

It was September 4th, 1911 when Abdu’l-Bahá (Arabic, meaning Servant of the Glory)i—known among Bahá’ís as simply the Master—set foot in the heart of the British Empire, London. It should be noted that He had never visited any Western countries and was unfamiliar with Western customs. He had been a political prisoner from childhood, had received no formal education, and was an old man when he was set free.  It was about a week after His arrival that He made His first public appearance in the Western world, addressing a congregation at the City Temple. Even though his visit was not advertised, the City Temple was filled to capacity.

These are some of the words He uttered at that assemblage:

“The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers…There is one God; mankind is one; the foundations of religion are one. Let us worship Him, and give praise for all His great Prophets and Messengers who have manifested His brightness and glory.”

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On Being In Love with the Poor

On Being In Love with the Poor

Bahram Nadimi

For Baha’is, the period between March 2nd and March 20th  is a time of restraint and fasting. The preceding period between February 26th and March 1st is called Ayyam-i-ha or the Days Between. Literally, the days that fall between the last two months of the Bahá’í calendar. They are a time for hospitality, charity, gift giving and celebration prior to the Fast.

Regarding fasting Bahá’u’lláh (the Prophet Founder of the Baha’i Faith) stated:

“All praise be unto God, Who hath revealed the law of obligatory prayer as a reminder to His servants, and enjoined on them the Fast that those possessed of means may become apprised of the woes and sufferings of the destitute.[4]”

Given this, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about the plight of the poor. Here are some statistics [3]:

  • Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 day.
  • The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 heavily indebted poor countries (567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s 7 richest individuals combined.
  • Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  • Less than 1% of what the world spends every year on weapons was all that was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  • 1 billion children live in poverty (that’s half the children in the world). 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (or roughly 29,000 children per day).

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Lillian & Mona: Drama Within a Drama

Lillian & Mona: Drama Within a Drama

Bahram Nadimi

I never thought I’d write—let alone be teary-eyed about—someone I never met. It was during my recent trip to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina, where I got to visit my dear friends Mark and Azadeh Perry, whom I had not seen for a while.

During this visit I got to hear about a young lady of the tender age of 18, Lillian Chason.  This is her story.

A play about Mona

A little bit of background: In the year 2003, I moved to RTP in North Carolina to be close to my twin brother and his family. The day I arrived—straight from the airport, in fact—I got to see a play entitled A Dress for Mona performed by a devoted theater group called the Drama Circle. Many of the performers were westerners, though the play is set in the heart of the Middle East. It tells the story of Mona Mahmudnizhad, a young woman who was executed—along with nine other Bahá’í women and girls—because of her faith. She and the women with whom she was hanged were Bahá’ís.

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