I am posting this beautiful prayer to mark the beginning of the Ayyám-i-Há (the Days of Há, Intercalary days) in the Baha’i calendar.
My God, my Fire and my Light! The days which Thou hast named the Ayyám-i-Há (the Days of Há, Intercalary days) in Thy Book have begun, O Thou Who art the King of names, and the fast which Thy most exalted Pen hath enjoined unto all who are in the kingdom of Thy creation to observe is approaching. I entreat Thee, O my Lord, by these days and by all such as have during that period clung to the cord of Thy commandments, and laid hold on the handle of Thy precepts, to grant that unto every soul may be assigned a place within the precincts of Thy court, and a seat at the revelation of the splendors of the light of Thy countenance.
These, O my Lord, are Thy servants whom no corrupt inclination hath kept back from what Thou didst send down in Thy Book. They have bowed themselves before Thy Cause, and received Thy Book with such resolve as is born of Thee, and observed what Thou hadst prescribed unto them, and chosen to follow that which had been sent down by Thee.
Thou seest, O my Lord, how they have recognized and confessed whatsoever Thou hast revealed in Thy Scriptures. Give them to drink, O my Lord, from the hands of Thy graciousness the waters of Thine eternity. Write down, then, for them the recompense ordained for him that hath immersed himself in the ocean of Thy presence, and attained unto the choice wine of Thy meeting.
I implore Thee, O Thou the King of kings and the Pitier of the downtrodden, to ordain for them the good of this world and of the world to come. Write down for them, moreover, what none of Thy creatures hath discovered, and number them with those who have circled round Thee, and who move about Thy throne in every world of Thy worlds.
Thou, truly, art the Almighty, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.
Countries from around the world have voiced strong concern at the United Nations Human Rights Council over Iran’s deteriorating human rights record. In speeches yesterday and in documents filed with the Council, nations and human rights groups described the degree to which Iran has failed to live up to its obligations under international human rights law. “The good news is that governments and organizations are rallying to defend innocent Iranians, who have over the last year seen their human rights so gravely violated,” said Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “The bad news is that Iran continues to ignore such appeals,” she said, speaking after yesterday’s session of Council, which specifically focused on Iran’s human rights record. Muhammad Javad Larijani, secretary general of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, told the session that there is religious freedom in Iran and that no Baha’i is persecuted for his beliefs. If any Baha’is are imprisoned, he said, it is because of “illegal activities” as a cult. “Put bluntly, Iran once again completely discredited itself before the eyes of the international community,” said Ms. Ala’i, noting that last week Iran arrested at least 14 more Baha’is. Among those arrested, she said, was Niki Khanjani, the son of one of the seven Baha’i leaders who are currently on trial on false charges. “As the Nobel laureate Mrs. Shirin Ebadi has recently stated in an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Iran is now trying to increase pressure on prisoners by taking their relatives hostage,” said Ms. Ala’i. “Jamaloddin Khanjani is 76. He has been incarcerated for almost two years – and then they arrested his granddaughter at the beginning of January and now, his son.” “These are the desperate acts of a regime that is frantically lashing out to blame others for its troubles and to suppress any viewpoint that is different from its own ideology,” she said. The majority of countries who spoke out against Iran focused on the violence following last June’s presidential election and also on the situation of the country’s religious minorities. Brazil called for Iran to extend rights to all religious groups in the country, saying Baha’is should enjoy the same rights as everyone. Mexico said all minorities – particularly the Baha’i community – must be able to practice their religion. “Romania and Slovenia devoted almost the entire allotment of their time to discussing the increasing repression of Iran’s Baha’i community,” reported Ms. Ala’i. Human rights groups, in documents filed with the Council, made similar points. “Despite constitutional guarantees of equality, individuals belonging to minorities in Iran are subject to an array of discriminatory laws and practices,” wrote Amnesty International in its statement. “Minorities suffering persecution include ethnic and linguistic minorities such as Kurds, Arabs, Azerbaijanis, Turkmen and Baluchis, and religious minorities such as Baha’is and the Ahl-e Haq.” “The government systematically denies rights associated with freedom of religion to members of the Baha’i faith, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority. In most cases, including the persecution of the Baha’i community, the government uses ‘security’ as a pretext for detaining individuals and denying them basic due process rights,” said a statement from Human Rights Watch. The session was part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a relatively new procedure that seeks to review the human rights record of all 192 United Nations member states once every four years. This year is the first time Iran has come up for review.
For many years I have been active in the interfaith movement, promoting religious tolerance and celebrating religious diversity. It occurred to me recently that the Baha’i Faith is the only major religion of which I am aware whose founder was explicit in exhorting his followers to take part in such activities. From a Baha’i perspective all the divinely revealed religions are one religion- which Baha’u'llah referred to as ‘The Changless Faith of God.’ As a means of promoting religious unity Bahá’u’lláh calls on His followers to “consort with the people of all religions with joy and gladness” Furthermore Baha’u'llah wrote- ‘O ye people of the world! The Religion of God is for the sake of love and union; make it not the cause of enmity and conflict. … ‘ As a Baha’i I have an obligation to put these ideals into practice, therefore interfaith activity is not an ‘optional extra’ but is rather a core part of my faith.