Bahá’í Centre hosts inter-faith storytelling evening

Rabbi Dr Thomas Salamon shares a story from the Jewish tradition.

Rabbi Dr Thomas Salamon shares a story from the Jewish tradition.

The UK Bahá’í community hosted an evening of interfaith storytelling at the National Bahá’í Centre in London on 20th November.

This was one amongst a variety of contributions offered by the many faith groups who supported Interfaith Week this year. The event was supported and attended by representatives from the Department of Communities and Local Government alongside a colourful array of individual guests from the UK’s diverse religious communities.

The programme included stories shared by members of the Bahá’í, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Jewish communities, alongside inspirational prayers and songs. All of the stories focussed on the theme of ‘Service to Humanity’, a desire that resonated with everyone present and was reflected with increasing unity of thought and expression as the evening progressed.

The stories conveyed a consciousness of the principle of the oneness of humanity as the core belief that most inspires acts of service – both in our individual lives through acts of love and kindness, as well as through the numerous opportunities for faith-based social action that can be found in Britain today.

In her opening remarks Ms Rosanna Smith, a member of the Bahá’í community, expressed the view that the richness of our religious unity presented through the different stories, could be considered as different chapters of one book, or perhaps as God’s eternal story.

Among those who shared stories from their traditions was Rabbi Dr Thomas Salamon of Westminster Synagogue, who said: “”I was uplifted by the evening, which gave me an opportunity to learn from others and at the same time note, that we all are taking a similar path, even if from a different direction. If all of mankind realised this then we could live in a better and more peaceful world.”

The evening came to a close with all those gathered singing together a song about service and love for humanity, with lyrics taken from the Bahá’í writings: “When there is love, nothing is too much trouble and there is always time”.

Story telling evening

Story readers from various faiths join with the audience in group singing to round off the evening

Faith leaders call for release of Iran’s imprisoned Bahá’ís

 

Lord Indarjit Singh

Baron Singh of Wimbledon – a prominent British Sikh and member of the House of Lords – shared some reflections from his religious tradition at a special commemorative gathering in Westminster Abbey, 27 May 2014, marking the sixth anniversary of the imprisonment of Iran’s seven Bahá’í leaders.

LONDON, 28 May 2014, (UK Bahá’í News) — Representatives from the UK’s major religious communities have called for the immediate release from prison in Iran of that country’s seven former Bahá’í leaders.

The call came at an unprecedented commemorative meeting in Westminster Abbey, held on Tuesday 27 May, to mark the sixth anniversary of their imprisonment. The seven are each currently serving 20-year jail sentences, the longest faced by any current prisoner of conscience in Iran.

The gathering took place in Westminster Abbey’s historic Jerusalem Chamber. Dating from the late 14th century, it is the room where committees translated the Authorized Version of the Bible in 1611, and prepared subsequent revised editions.

Welcoming the guests, the Rev Andrew Tremlett – Canon of Westminster Abbey – explained how the Abbey “aspires to be a place that gathers people of all faiths and none, so it is absolutely right that this occasion is happening here.”

The programme included prayers and reflections delivered by representatives of the Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian communities.

After the contributions, seven of the Faith leaders each lit a candle, representing a prisoner.

Candles

Seven candles were lit by the representatives of the UK’s major religions at Westminster Abbey, each representing one of Iran’s imprisoned Bahá’í leaders.

Parliamentarians, government officials, civil society actors, academics and representatives of Inter Faith groups, were also in attendance. Louise Ellman MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Bahá’í Faith, said that the event was taking place “in the context of an ongoing deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran”.

The Iranian government’s treatment of its Bahá’í community is the litmus test of its regard for the human rights of all its citizens, Ms. Ellmann added.

“Today I reiterate the call in urging the Iranian authorities to release the Yaran unconditionally and immediately.”

Two prominent faith leaders – a Sunni Muslim and a Coptic Orthodox Christian – also offered remarks. In a video message which was screened to the gathering, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra – who serves as an imam in Leicester – said that “no religion teaches us to treat others wrongly and oppress them … Iran has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Islam is indeed a religion of compassion and peace”.

Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra calls for the release of imprisoned Bahá’í leaders in Iran from UK Bahá’í Community on Vimeo.

Bishop Angaelos of the UK’s Coptic Orthodox Church, said that “we stand with, and pray for, the Bahá’í community, both here and around the world, and pray for the safe return of their leaders to them”.

“We pray for a change of heart, a change of policy. We pray for a change of thought and understanding,” said Bishop Angaelos.

Revd Nadim Nassar

The Reverend Nadim Nassar – the only Syrian priest in the Church of England – prays for the release of Iran’s seven jailed Bahá’í leaders, Westminster Abbey, London, 27 May 2014. Reverend Nassar is the director and co-founder of the Awareness Foundation, which aims to empower Christians to be a counter force of love and peace to intolerance and aggression.

Speaking on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom, Fidelma Meehan said it was “heartwarming” to see such a diverse group of people gather on behalf of the human rights of the Bahá’ís in Iran.

Ms. Meehan also noted that government, Inter Faith and civil society support in the UK was matched by a “growing awareness” around the world of the true intentions of the Bahá’ís to “strive for the spiritual and material welfare of others”. And even in Iran, a number of “promoters of justice, artists, statesmen, thinkers, and other enlightened citizens” had recently “broken their silence” in defence of the human rights of Iranian Bahá’ís.

In her concluding remarks, Louise Ellman MP said, “Voices calling for change; voices speaking out against oppression must be heard and after that, action must follow.”

British Muslim Forum welcomes “historic” initiative by Iranian Ayatollah

Maulana Shahid Raza, Founder Trustee of the British Muslim Forum, has welcomed the “historic initiative of goodwill and friendship” made by Iranian Ayatollah Abdul-Hamid Masoumi Tehrani, who last month gifted a calligraphy of the writings of Baha’u’llah to the Baha’is of the world.

The illuminated calligraphy of the writings of Baha'u'llah, gifted to the Baha'is by Ayatollah Tehrani

The illuminated calligraphy of the writings of Baha’u’llah, gifted to the Baha’is of the world by Ayatollah Tehrani

“The British Muslim Forum warmly welcomes the historic initiative of goodwill and friendship made by Ayatollah Tehrani. The Forum congratulates the Ayatollah for his courageous and dignified act and sincerely hopes that it will open the door of constructive inter-faith relations between the two faith communities in Iran,” said Maulana Shahid Raza.

“The Forum also extends its greetings to the Baha’i community in the UK,” continued Maulana Shahid Raza, “and hopes that they will work with their utmost dedication to respond to this initiative in a way that may result in bringing much needed understanding between the two communities in Iran and elsewhere in the world.”

Ayatollah Tehrani presented the exquisite gift 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.”

The Ayatollah’s gift has stirred a global conversation on religious co-existence, with statements being issued in support of Ayatollah Tehrani’s plea for religious co-existence.