Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has praised the “courage and generosity” of an Iranian cleric who last week presented a symbolic gift to the Baha’is of the world.
The gift, a calligraphy of a paragraph from the writings of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, was given to the Baha’is of the world by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran.
“[The gift] represents not only a personally gracious gesture but also a strand within the Islamic world at its best and most creative which is deeply appreciative of all that helps human beings to respond to God’s will for peace and understanding,” said Lord Williams of Oystermouth.
Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website (see translation) that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a, “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.”
The gesture is remarkable in light of the ongoing and systematic persecution of the Baha’i community in Iran.
“The Baha’i International Community is deeply touched by this act of high-mindedness and the sentiments of religious tolerance and respect for human dignity that prompted it,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations.
“This bold action by a senior Muslim cleric in contemporary Iran is unprecedented,” added Ms. Dugal.
Ayatollah Tehrani presented this exquisite gift to the Baha’is of the world, particularly to the Baha’is of Iran, who he says, “have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice.” He further states that this act is “an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens.”
Lord Williams added that, “along with many others of all faiths, I shall pray that this marks a turning point in Iran’s attitudes to the Baha’i community, and I give thanks for the courage and generosity which have motivated this gift.’
The preparation and dedication of Ayatollah Tehrani’s gift was undertaken at great personal risk, given that the Iranian government refuses to recognise the Baha’i Faith as a religion and has systematically persecuted Baha’is since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.