The international community of Baha’is has asked for the help of humanitarian groups for many years to end the persecution of their members in Iran. The problems, however, continued until the imprisonment of seven Baha’i leaders brought international attention.
In a recent letter to Iran’s leadership, the Baha’is address their concerns about how Iran has mistreated members of their religion despite the country’s written constitutional protections to give full rights to religious minorities:
“We … request that the Baha’is in that country be granted their full rights of citizenship, in order that they may be able to fulfill their heartfelt aspiration to contribute, alongside their fellow citizens, to the advancement of their nation,” says the letter.”This, indeed, is no more than what you rightfully ask for Muslim minorities who reside in other lands. Baha’is merely seek the same treatment from you.”
Iran had imprisoned seven leaders of its Baha’i for indeterminate sentences. They had been jailed simply for practicing their religion. The letter from the Baha’i community to Iran’s leadership was sent just prior to the meeting of the U.N., where their concerns were raised. The U.N. General Assembly subsequently issued a resolution condemning Iran for failing to live up to its statements on human rights.
The General Assembly of the United Nations two days ago passed a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights violations with a vote of 78 to 45. The resolution stated the Assembly’s concern about Iran’s “intensified crackdown on human rights defenders and reports of excessive use of force, arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and allegations of torture.”
It also addressed Iran’s “pervasive gender inequality and violence against women,” and its discrimination against minorities, including members of the Baha’i Faith.
The Baha’i faith is considered by the mullahs of Iran to be a breakaway extremist group that has opposed fundamental teachings of Islam. Global Security tells us that the predominant religious groups of Islam, both Sunni and Shi’ah, consider the Baha’i Faith to be a sect of Islam, not a separate religion as claimed. The Iranian constitution does not list it among protected religious groups. It does say, however, that Islam’s religious minorities should be given “full respect.”
Baha’is are followers of the Prophet Baha’u’llah, who claimed to be a direct descendant of Old Testament prophets and heir to the Prophet Muhammad’s authority. They also believe Baha’ullah to be the true Prince of Peace, as prophesied in the Book of Isaiah. They teach that each prophet of God brings the message people need in certain eras. Baha’is believe Jesus was a prophet in the station of God’s son.
Baha’i teachings contrast with Islam in its belief in the full equality of women. Women don’t have to wear veils or special scarves, nor hide their faces in public. Women also aren’t restricted in their personal, social and worship activities. Other laws concerning prayer and universality of certain economic principles run counter to many of the Islamic Laws.
The principle difference between Islam and the Baha’i faith is the fact that Islam claims Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets. Baha’is consider that religion changes with the times, with Baha’u’llah the Prophet for the new age.
Two years ago, I spoke with Jane Czerniejewski, a woman in her 90s, living in a senior residence in the Portland, Oregon, area. As the news came about the Baha’is recent pleas, I recalled that conversation. Czerniejewski told me what many Baha’is feel about the persecutions of their fellow believers in Iran:
“We are persecuted by the Muslims in Iran, but that has been going on for many years, since the beginning. We know people are sometimes martyrs in the early years of their faith, so we are strong and unafraid.”
“What gives you that courage?” I asked at the time
“It is the same kind of faith that early Christians and Muslims had when they were persecuted. When you know you are under God’s protection, you can stand almost anything, more than you would ever have expected,” Czerniejewski responded.
Nearly a year ago, Czerniejewski was moved into assisted living by her family. This writer no longer has contact with her. Her belief in the strength of her faith to survive persecution comes to mind, however, with recent news about Baha’i persecutions in Iran. The world’s acknowledgment of those persecutions would likely be welcome news for this woman of such resolve.
The Baha’i faith originated in Iraq and Iran, the two countries where Baha’u’llah lived during his lifetime, and began its development into a world religion in the mid-19th century.
Human Rights in Iran and Egypt
Baha’i News Service
Iran’s Human Rights Record Condemned by the United Nations
Baha’i News Service
Iranian Religious Groups
Basic Teachings of Baha’u’llah