Candles

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.”

Bishop of Coventry praises “courageous” support for Bahá’í community

09 April 2014

Bishop of CoventryThe Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has described as a ‘courageous step’, the decision by a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran to gift to the Bahá’í community an important religious art work, as a sign of support. The Bahá’í community in Iran has been the victim of ongoing, persecution by the Government.

Speaking today Bishop Christopher, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop in the Lords on foreign policy, said:

“I’m heartened to learn of the recent decision by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi- Tehrani to gift to the Baha’is an illuminated calligraphic work from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith. Given the systemic and long standing suffering experienced by the Baha’i community in Iran, this is an imaginatively courageous step by a senior Iranian Islamic scholar.”

Bishop Christopher, who is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human rights and International Religious Freedom, added:

“Ayatollah Tehrani’s action reminds us all that despite the dehumanising nature of many of today’s conflicts, religious leaders have a shared responsibility to encourage freedom of religion and belief and to foster a deeper respect for human dignity. I very much hope and pray that this generous gift will assist in the flourishing of a culture of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Iran.”

Church of England press release

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