Task Force Encourages Communities to Make Accessibility a Priority

A man stands at a lectern. He is using American Sign Language.
Austin Vaday signs “nothing” in American Sign Language.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing people have a great deal to contribute to Baha’i activities, and with a few accommodations can more readily take part in them to everyone’s benefit.

This is a message championed by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Task Force for the Baha’i community. Appointed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, the national governing council, the task force has existed off and on since the 1980s. Today, it has four members—Naledi Raspberry, Tavoria Kellam, Jason Schwartz and Erin Salmon—who, with assistance from people like Austin Vaday, are working to educate Baha’i communities about how to improve accessibility.

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Professor prepares future educators by ‘entering the space with love’

A woman speaks to a class of young adults.
Ashley Patterson (right, standing) conducts an education class at Pennsylvania State University. Photo courtesy of Penn State News.

Recently in a class at Pennsylvania State University, the instructor, Ashley Patterson, asked the class of 25 students: How many had ever been into the house of someone of a different race? One raised a hand.

Then: How many ever had a meal with someone of a different race? Two.

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Indianans “Light Up the Night” for racial justice

Three women hold candles at dusk. They wear face masks.
A few of the 100 or so people who attended the “Light up the Night” event in Fort Wayne. Photo courtesy of the Harrison Hill Neighborhood Association.

Harrison Hill is a historic residential neighborhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It is home to people of diverse ancestries — and for many that’s a cause for celebration. The decades-long marriage of two of the neighborhood’s residents, Gayle and Akinlana (“Akin”) Bevill-DaDa, exemplifies the possibilities for interracial relationships. Gayle is white and Akin is Black.

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Shoghi Effendi’s Call for Racial Justice

A protestor holds a sign saying "ENOUGH"

In The Advent of Divine Justice, Shoghi Effendi laid out a path for the U.S. and Canadian Baha’i communities to contribute to the transformation of their societies, as summarized in introduction to the Advent of Divine Justice. Addressing the United States in particular, he identified “racial prejudice” as “the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Baha’i community,” for this issue permeated the entire nation, which he called “a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.”

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The Advent of Divine Justice: An Introduction

Photo of a book

Baha’u’llah proclaimed to humanity that “these great oppressions that have befallen the world are preparing it for the advent of the Most Great Justice.”1 His teachings lay out a blueprint for establishing a just world civilization founded on international cooperation, and the paramount task of His successors has been to give people around the world access to this blueprint.

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Spiritual Cosmopolitanism, Transnational Migration, and the Bahá’í Faith

Cover art of Journal of Baha'i Studies volume 30 depicting an abstract landscape with Persian handwriting.

Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 30, no. 1–2, 2020, pp. 19–44.

Abstract: Scholars have wrestled with the question of how people can be persuaded to extend feelings of kinship beyond their own ethnic or national groups. This article identifies spiritual cosmopolitanism, whose principles of universal love and harmony can be found in the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith, as key to such borderless solidarity. Drawing on data gathered from interviews with Iranian refugees who have settled in the United States, the article demonstrates how cosmopolitan principles shape the worldviews of Bahá’ís. Through this case study, spiritual cosmopolitanism’s potential to enrich public arguments for the inclusion of Others such as immigrants becomes apparent.

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A Christmas Story: The Forced Migrations of the Messengers of God

Photo by the author

Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah. For Baha’is, these teachers are among a series of divine Messengers, and Their teachings share a spiritual basis. These divine beings’ human lives also share certain features. Nearly all divine messengers have been rejected by most of Their contemporaries, persecuted harshly, if not killed. But for these four, Their persecutions took a particular form: forced migration. They and Their families were pushed from Their native cities into perilous journeys. 

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Feeling Boundless Love for Others

Bahá'ís consulting.
A Baha’i gathering. (Image source)

Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet, whether of your country, your race, your political party, or of any other nation, color or shade of political opinion.

Abdu’l-Baha1

The security of people of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent living in the United States seems to be on thin ice: bearing brown skin and a “foreign” name are dangerous liabilities. Evidence comes in recent hate crimes like February’s Kansas killing. Engineers Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani were attacked by a man who told them to “get out of my country.” Kuchibhotla died. The attacker later disclosed that he thought his victims, who were natives of India, were Iranian. In March, Hasel Afshar returned to his Oregon town from vacation to discover his home ransacked and hateful messages coating the walls of his house. The messages indicated that the attackers believed Afshar to be Muslim. He is actually a Baha’i refugee from Iran. Persecuted for his faith in his homeland—attacked for his foreignness in his refuge. 

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Borderless Love: The Benefits of Marrying Outside Your Social Group

Ali-Kuli and Florence Khan
Florence and Ali-Kuli Khan. (Image source)

In 1904, Florence Breed and Ali-Kuli Khan married in Boston. Breed was American and Khan was Iranian; their union symbolized East and West uniting in the Bahá’í Faith. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, son of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, visited the US in 1912, the Khans hosted a luncheon for him in Washington, D. C. There, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá defied social convention by giving Louis Gregory, an African-American Bahá’í, the seat of honor.

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Prisoners Of Conscience

I have been, most of the days of My life,
even as a slave, sitting under a sword hanging on a thread,
knowing not whether it would fall soon or late upon him.

Bahá’u’lláh, Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, in a letter to the Persian Shah (1868)
Ruins in the Middle East
Ruins in the Middle East | Photo by the author

Recently, my husband and I sat spellbound by The Prophet, a gorgeous film adaptation of the 1923 book of poems by Kahlil Gibran. In the film, the prophetic writer and artist, Almustafa (aka Mustafa), is a prisoner of an oppressive government, confined on a Mediterranean island called Orphalese. While the government is not named, various clues point to the Ottoman Empire. The only crime Almustafa has committed is using his faculty for words to advocate for the common folk—which endangers the authorities’ power.

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