Some of us know what it is like to be persecuted, to lack civil rights and liberties, or to have unhappiness forced upon us. Many of us do not. Whatever your case may be, hear this story.
The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion consisting of five to six million people. One of its largest populations is in Iran, the region where the religion was founded in the nineteenth century.
The religion is built on the idea that humanity shares a common spirituality, one that encompasses all religions of the past and must motivate humanity to establish peace, justice, and unity in the present and future.
Though the Bahá’ís are universalists, many institutions with which they come into contact are not. Bahá’ís have had issues with governments in Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, and other countries.
This is especially so in Iran.
In Iran, the violence toward this movement began over 100 years ago and is still prevalent. During the last century, leaders of Iran have ordered massacres of Bahá’ís, nullifications of Bahá’í marriages, destruction of Bahá’í property, and the closure of Bahá’í schools.
Universities have refused admittance or employment to those of the Bahá’í Faith. In fact, students must say they adhere to one of Iran’s four recognized religions (the Bahá’í Faith not included) before they are admitted into university.
The Iranian government has re- fused to accept the Bahá’í Faith as a minority religion on the grounds that they are a political entity.
Experts on the region vary in opinion about why this may be. Some say it is so because the Bahá’í advocate for a universal religion and the establishment of worldwide peace, others be- cause the Bahá’í headquarters are located in Israel, and still others because the Bahá’í challenged the need for the Islamic priesthood early in their history.
Other theorists have suggested that the Iranian government has keyed on the Bahá’í Faith as a scapegoat to distract from other issues within the country.
Bahá’ís have been accused of abusing power when they have had it and have been mistrusted due to their ties with outside powers like Russia and Britain.
However legitimate or illegitimate the grounds for Iranian action regarding Bahá’ís may be, the current persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran must be heard about and roundly reproved.
Third parties worldwide (including the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States government) have made statements scolding the Iranian government for its persecution of Bahá’ís but have, perhaps wisely, decided not to step in.
What can we do?
Bahá’ís have been leaving Iran and other places of persecution and coming to places such as the United States. Harrisonburg has a small population of Bahá’ís.
As residents of Harrisonburg, a city with a Bahá’í population within it, we must make an effort to be in con- tact with our neighbors affected by this gross injustice. We can listen to the Bahá’í story as told from Bahá’ís themselves and then share this story with others. The more voice the story is given, the greater chance of change there is.
Every Friday, Bahá’ís in Harrison- burg meet for a fireside devotional. All are welcome. I plan to check it out. More information at:
Ryan appreciates letters to the editor that open his eyes to issues of which he was previously ignorant.