An evening of poetry was held on Wednesday 28th May at Asia Bookroom to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the unjust imprisonment of the Yaran, the seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran.
Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven Baha’i leaders serving a 20 year sentence in Tehran’s infamous Evin prison, is the author of Prison Poems, an anthology written in her prison cell, and carefully smuggled out on pieces of paper. These poems testify to the courage and the despair, the misery and the hopes of thousands of Iranians struggling to survive conditions of extreme oppression.
They have been adapted from the Persian by author Bahiyyih Nakhjavani who has maintained the tone of the original words which tell of homesickness and the suffering of her fellow prisoners but which also tell of optimism and hope for the future. Above all they testify to the strength of the human spirit.
Several of Sabet’s poems were presented by Adelaide poet Dr Roshanak Amrein, who also read from her own books, One Million Flights and Songs from a Far Island.
Roshanak Amrein reads from Mahvash Sabet’s Prison Poems.
Baha’is were invited to participate in this year’s Commonwealth Day Multi-Faith Celebration on Monday 10th March (Canberra Day). The theme this year was ‘Team Commonwealth: Transcending the Horizons.’ Shephalie Williams, ably assisted by David Hayter, gave the presentation on behalf of the Baha’i Community. It was a wonderful opportunity for the many different religious groups in Canberra to come together in a spirit of unity and was an apt demonstration of Baha’u'llah’s recommendation for all to “Consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”
Shephalie Williams giving an explanation of the principle of equality of the sexes.
David Hayter presented a copy of ‘Gleanings’, a volume of Writings by Baha’u'llah.
A group of Baha’is from Canberra visited Anja and Anton who have been busy building a beautiful house in Little Burra. The purpose of the visit was to share prayers. Everyone read their favourite prayer and then talked a little about what the prayer meant to them and why it was special for them. There was a warm spiritual atmosphere in the meeting. Someone mentioned that prayer is like a conversation with God and a source of spiritual nourishment for our souls. We also learn a lot about our spiritual nature from prayers.
The Nation’s capital celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Parliament House on Saturday 24 August with an Open Day. One of the events was the final of the “My First Speech” competition. The competition was open to students in years 10-12 who had to write a speech, imagining that they were a newly elected member of the House of Representatives and were delivering their maiden speech in Parliament. They had to speak on issues that they are passionate about. Soraya Pradhan (Centre in the photo), a Baha’i student from Seymour College in Adelaide won the second prize. In her speech Soraya talked about the notion of Community in Australia and how she has grappled with the challenges of belonging to a religious minority and identifying with multiple cultures from her mixed heritage. Soraya travelled to Canberra for the day to deliver her speech at the Open Day and to receive her prize. The prizes were presented by Ms Gai Brodtmann, MP, Federal Member for Canberra (First from left).
Every year the Baha’is mark Human Rights Day with invited guest speakers who address a particular aspect of human rights. This year the focus is on Education, a very special right that ensures all have equal access to knowledge and skills for the edification of the human race and ultimately the advancement of civilization. Please come and invite your friends to this important occasion on 15th December at the Baha’i Centre.
The Right to Education
October 2012 — It was a lovely Spring day in Canberra and people flocked to a home in one of the southern suburbs to a Sock Monkey Party! As they entered the living room, a table full of sock monkeys of all colours and patterns greeted them. Each one had a tag with a name chosen by the person who made it, and the caption, “Thank you for buying me. All of the money will go towards Cotlands, an orphanage in Africa for children affected by AIDS.”
The monkeys were all made by a small group of Junior Youth and some friends who wanted to do something as part of the service component of the Spiritual Empowerment Program which they are part of. This is a Bahá’í inspired social and economic development program open to all young people between the ages of 11 and 15, and which builds capacity for service to humanity, releasing the idealism of youth for a purposeful and constructive life. Through their individual development young people then contribute to social transformation in their communities.
Some of the girls in this particular group had never even threaded a needle before, but this didn’t deter them from learning how to sew for the first time because they were inspired to use this skill to raise money for the orphanage they had learned about. The two animators of the Group encouraged and assisted them in their efforts, but the decision about taking up this service project was one the girls made themselves. This is because the role of an animator is not so much one of a teacher or even a leader, but a facilitator of the participants’ learning through action.
When asked why they chose this particular service project, Amelia Ishikawa, one of the animators, explained that a friend who had spent a year as a volunteer at the orphanage had spoken about her experiences there and her story had touched their hearts.
In a matter of weeks, 50 monkeys were cut up, stuffed and sewn, and each was sold for $15. The money raised will be used to buy needed items (medicines, toiletries, clothes, etc) for the children at the Cotlands orphanages in South Africa. But, not content with just selling the monkeys, the girls also organised an afternoon tea, making their own cakes and cookies for the guests in exchange for a gold coin donation. In this way their initiative and resourcefulness has raised over $800 to assist in the important work being carried out by the orphanages for the children in their care.
Each monkey purchased thus carries with it this story of compassion and hope for the future and shows that every act of service, no matter how small, can have powerful effects.
Three adorable sock monkeys
Each handmade monkey sold for $15
Jasmine Hayter, Gina, Emily Faniyan and Juliette Deme and the two animators, Amelia Ishikawa (extreme right) and Veronica Blanpain (extreme left)
The ACT Baha’i community was represented at a small gathering for a Hiroshima Day Vigil on Monday 6 August 2012, at the National Peace Park, Canberra. The commemorative event was arranged by WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), ACT Branch. The representative of WILPF made a brief introduction to the vigil and asked community groups to reflect on Hiroshima Day and the importance of nuclear disarmament and the promotion of peace. The Japanese Ambassador was invited and made a brief statement at the vigil. The gathering also observed a minute’s silence immediately following two prayers for peace.
Panel speakers discuss Education Under Fire.
Canberra, 16th August– An audience of some 80 people assembled at the Australian National University to view a documentary film entitled “Education Under Fire”, which was c0-sponsored by Amnesty International. The 30-minute documentary profiles the growth, struggle, and inspiring spirit of the Baha´i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). Baha´is in Iran have been subjected to systematic persecution, including arrests, torture and execution simply for refusing to recant their beliefs. They are also prohibited from going to college (and blocked from many professions).
The screening of the film and the panel discussion after it were organized by the Bahá’í Society of ANU, along with the support of the Office of External Affairs of the Australian Baha’i community. and the International Law Society of ANU. Similar events have been held around the world on university campuses and in other locations to raise awareness of the current situation facing the Bahá’í Institute of Higher Education.
The speakers on the panel were Dr. Natalie Mobini representing the Baha’i Office of External Affairs, and BIHE alumni Zhinus. Dr Mobini outlined the history of the denial in Iran to Baha’is and other religious minorities of the basic human right to education and she also explained how this was occurring in the larger context of the sustained persecution of the Bahá’ís of Iran. Zhinus shared personal insights into her experience as a student at BIHE, as well as the current struggles her family faces today in Iran. Her account of the difficulties she and others have faced brought home the reality of the situation and the fact that this injustice was immediate and ongoing.
Many in the audience were visibly touched by the film and discussion and suggested ideas for possible avenues of support as well as almost unanimous support for the signing of an open letter addressed to the Iranian government. One of the aims of the campaign, also entitled “Education Under Fire”, is to start an ongoing conversation regarding this issue and to take action to bring awareness of it to others.
You can read and see more on http://www.educationunderfire.com/ and at the BIHE website itself, and in the meantime consider taking one or more of the following actions:
• Read and share the Nobel laureates’ letter.
• Join the Drive to 25 and sign the petition condemning the denial of the right to
education, and encourage others to do so. EUF has a goal of obtaining 25,000
signatories by the end of May 2012, one year from the recent attack on the BIHE and
arrest of the seven sentenced educators.
• Brainstorm with other collaborators and participants about how you can take up the
action points called for by the Nobel laureates in your communities and schools.
• Write articles about the right to education in the press, blogs, and school newspapers.
• Post EUF items and news to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
Poster advertising the screening of the documentary.
Glad Tidings, the Baha’i program in English, which has been broadcasting Baha’i related radio programs on Valley FM 89.5 since January 2011, is now in a new time slot.
Glad Tidings is now broadcasting on Saturdays from 5:00pm to 6:00pm.
Please note the Persian Program, Soroosh a Doost, is still broadcasting on Sundays from 12:00pm to 1:00pm.
Glad Tidings Radio Program consists of new items, music, readings from the Writings, interviews and discussions. Each week a topic is chosen and the program is planned around that topic. Listeners can make requests or feedback by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please feel free to listen to a previously recorded program, on the topic of youth year of service, via the link below:
GladTidings Youth Year Of Service.mp3