waiting

“With aching hearts, Baha’is of the world focus on the events unfolding in Iran, the birthplace of their religion.” -Baha’i World News Service

Every day I read the news.  Whatever tragedy has happened in the world, the media is covering it (I use that term loosely, as I’m rather cynical about the way news is reported).

For the first time in 30 years, the American media is again focused on Iran.  They’re dusting off the talking heads, pundits, and anyone they can find with a connection to the events happening there.

Baha’is have a connection with Iran because it is where the Baha’i Faith began in 1844.  And since its inception, Baha’is in Iran have been persecuted, blatantly or subtly.  The situation is volatile, complicated, and very sad.  And today we hear that the trial date has been set for July 11 for the seven Baha’i leaders who have been in jail for a year without formal charges.  It is possible that they could be executed, simply for being Baha’is.

I have been watching, and waiting, as the situation in Iran has turned chaotic over the election results.  Things are summarized into sound bites, and everyone loves a story about the people fighting against tyranny.  However, it seems rather irresponsible to just throw my opinion out there.  It is so easy to forward an email, post a news story, or blog about a hot news topic.

“The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.” –Baha’u’llah

We don’t know what is really happening there, and perhaps it is not our place to interfere.  Yesterday I said the following on Twitter:

“Wisdom in speech, writing, & web postings. Perhaps we should have that as our mantra. We don’t know how our actions affect others.”

“If we are true Bahá’ís speech is not needed. Our actions will help on the world, will spread civilization, will help the progress of science, and cause the arts to develop. Without action nothing in the material world can be accomplished, neither can words unaided advance a man in the spiritual Kingdom. It is not through lip-service only that the elect of God have attained to holiness, but by patient lives of active service they have brought light into the world.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute!” -Abdu’l-Baha

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5 Comments

  1. Wonderful post, Sho. I especially love the quote by Abdu’l-Baha. Can you imagine a life without speech, but only patience and active service? Mother Teresa comes to mind.

  2. I very much appreciate the sentiment of this post, but I’m a bit concerned by the use of Abdu’l-Baha’s quote at the end. Of course, my interpretation is solely my own, but this seems to me to speak more to the idea of hypocrisy and insincerity. Essentially, we Baha’is need to “walk the talk”.

    Similar in theme to:

    “The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds; he whose words exceed his deeds, know verily his death is better than his life.” – Baha’u’llah, Tablets Revealed After Kitab’i-Aqdas

    “Let deeds, not words be your adorning” – Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words

    From my understanding, Abdu’l-Baha’s quote doesn’t speak to recent guidance to avoid online communication regarding the Iranian election and subsequent fallout.

    Indeed, words can BE action, and indeed they often are. When the Baha’is are asked to inform contacts and government representative about specific or systemic persecution of our Baha’i brethren in Iran, are we not using words? But aren’t those words designed specifically to yield action?

    The protests and online communication that we are being cautioned against participating in are, likewise, based upon words. However, these too are designed to effect action. It is my understanding that the NSA is opposed to these uses of words for their political implications, which is understandable.

    I just felt the need to speak up about the quote, which I felt was being used slightly out of context, resulting in a somewhat overly-simplified view of the situation. Sorry for the novel! Love.

  3. I have to disagree with you, Andrew. The reason I felt that quote was appropriate is that I think that sometimes our generation mistakes mere words for action, when indeed we need both words AND action.

    I used the quote because it spoke to me about what our purpose is as Baha’is. There are many quotes in the Writings, of course, and this one stood out to me as a reminder of what I SHOULD be doing to help change the world, and what actions I need to take and what being a Baha’i means. Note that the quote says: “rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless”. How we do this depends on the situation.

    Of course words can lead to action. I’m not disputing that. But the wrong words can also cause great harm, and using wisdom is extremely important, especially when lives and safety are on the line.

    We in the USA tend see the situation in Iran as a mere free speech/democracy issue. We are so accustomed to our “rights”, and perhaps forget that other countries operate differently. Getting embroiled in what is such a complicated and unclear situation is NOT helpful. We understand so little of the politics there…suddenly everyone is an “expert” on the situation in Iran.

    As I pointed out in my post, the situation in Iran DOES get over-simplified, and it is all quite a muddled mess right now.

    I am not seeking to tell anyone else what to do. I am merely putting forth what I have chosen to do as an individual. I hope that I have clarified it to your satisfaction.

  4. Thanks for the speedy reply! I completely understand where you’re coming from, and I know that you understand the inescapable linkage between words and action.

    I still don’t quite feel that the quote is quite elucidating the theme of the post, but that’s just me. The concern that I have is that the quote, in this context, seems, on the surface, to speak so directly to the situation (ie: don’t speak out about this, don’t use words), that it seems as if it overshadows the greater, more important point: we must use wisdom in our utterance. And as you rightly pointed out in both the original post and your response, the complicated situation in Iran would make this wisdom even more necessary, indeed vital.

    I really don’t want to debate you about the topic, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on the matter. I am perfectly comfortable if you don’t agree with me, and I surely don’t take offense. 🙂

  5. Nice convo, guys! Very thought provoking and respectful. There are layers and layers of things I would love to be able to flesh out in discussions…but I will not weigh in on it except to say I am a big fan of Baha’u’llah. That first quote you listed is awesome and I love it.