May 30, 2014

veils to spiritual perception

"Our spiritual perception, our inward sight must be opened, so that we can see the signs and traces of  God's spirit in everything.  Everything can reflect to us the light of the Spirit."
~ Abdu'l-Baha

spiritual perception is one of the powers of human beings that distinguish us from animals:
"It is clearly evident that while man possesses powers in common with the animal, he is distinguished from the animal by intellectual attainment, spiritual perception, the acquisition of virtues, capacity to receive the bestowals of Divinity, lordly bounty and emanations of heavenly mercy.  This is the adornment of man, his honor and sublimity.  Humanity must strive toward this supreme station."
~ Abdu'l-Baha
there are 3 essential qualities necessary for us to develop spiritual perception:
  • a pure heart
  • the knowledge of God
  • the love of God
yet there are many veils which hinder our inner eye from seeing the reality of all things:
  • material senses
  • literal interpretation
  • vain imaginings
  • imitation
  • egotism
  • pursuit of passion and desire
"..we must endeavor with heart and soul in order that the veil covering the eye of inner vision may be removed, that we may behold the manifestations of the signs of God..and realize that material blessings as compared with spiritual bounties are as nothing."
~ Abdu'l-Baha

May 24, 2014

arising to serve humanity

 a new story is beginning in the Dagoretti market area on the Karen side of Nairobi.  it began when i walked to the small, local grocery store to buy vegetables.  outside of the market is a shop to buy flowers.  with joy i greeted the young woman behind the table as she pruned roses.  she was immediately attracted to the joy.  after warm exchanges of courtesy she asked me if i was a Christian.  from there we have been exchanging heart to heart desires for a better world.  she is a woman who does not want to wait for people to come into the church to be saved.  she is about helping other people; she wants her community to be free of alcohol and drugs and all that is hurtful to children.  i introduced the Baha'i-inspired spiritual empowerment program for jr. youth, providing the vision for long-term investment in young souls to ultimately change the neighborhood.  then one day by surprise she announced that her cousin is the principal of st. luke's educational center in that neighborhood and that he'd like to meet with me to discuss initiating the program in his school.

i was excited beyond words, as if God had clearly answered my prayers to be able to be of service in this capacity in an area that is relatively close to where we live, but i was also very hesitant because i didn't have transport to get there -- i don't have a car to drive and i'm not willing to take a matatu alone because i feel anything can happen that will threaten my safety.  so i called the one Baha'i mother in this area and asked if she could drive me to this meeting and she took me a few days later.

after a very positive and receptive meeting about the program, we agreed with the principal, Mr. Kamau, that we would consult about the logistics and get back with him.  while driving home, my friend generously and lovingly offered that the woman who works for her could pick me up and take me every week to the school.  she explained that this could be part of her work during the week, in the spirit of being of service which is the highest expression of all work we do as Baha'is.  the woman who works for her is also a Baha'i.

that moment made me offer up the deepest praise and thanksgiving to God.  i have been longing to engage once again in a service-oriented activity at the community level here in Nairobi.  the only limitation to the program being held in the school was my transport and now it was sorted so effortlessly through the willingness of a friend whose heart feels connected in the spirit of service to offer her car.
it has been 3 weeks since that initial visit to st. luke's educational centre.  since that time, the principal and teachers have begun the study process for becoming animators of their own jr. youth groups and/or children's class teachers.  there is word that another school has found out about it and wants to be trained as well.  the kids are enthusiastic and grateful.  i have led 2 out of the 3 sessions and have heard from the principal that the kids are really happy with the program.  they are discovering that the potential for excellence lies within them and must be exercised by their own volition.  they are beginning to feel their own uniqueness in how God has created them in order to make this world a better place.  they have chosen going to a hospital as their first service activity which we will begin planning next week.  the school is abuzz with new energy and it's such a bounty to see.

i am already thinking about all of these kids as if they are my own children.  i look forward to all that lies ahead in terms of learning and growth, challenges and successes, service activities and transformation.

"The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds, through commendable and seemly conduct."  


May 08, 2014

'Ending Violence Against Women'


Bahá'í International Community statement presented to the 51st session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights

Geneva, Switzerland
30 January -- 10 March 1995

* * * * *

"The friends of God must be adorned with the ornament of justice, equity, kindness and love. As they do not allow themselves to be the object of cruelty and transgression, in like manner they should not allow such tyranny to visit the Handmaidens of God."

~ Bahá'u'lláh

..Violence against women is a yardstick by which one can measure the violation of all human rights. It can be used to gauge the degree to which a society is governed by aggressivity, dominated by competition and ruled by force. Abusive practices against women have frequently been and are still being justified in the context of cultural norms, religious beliefs and unfounded "scientific theories" and assumptions. But whatever its political or religious system, a society patterned on dominance inevitably gives rise to such distortions of power as violence against women.

It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that all forms of violence against women degrade not only the victim but the perpetrator as well. Those who inflict violence on women are themselves among the casualties of power-based systems. When unbridled competition, aggression, and tyranny destroy the fabric of society, everyone suffers. In the Bahá'í view, "the harvest of force is turmoil and the ruin of the social order" and violence against women is a grave symptom of this larger disorder.

Our challenge is to search out new strategies and adopt fresh models that will encourage a healthier, more cooperative society at all levels. We need to move consciously away from patterns of force and aggressivity and towards methods of consultation and peace-making. Because of the rise in crime and pornography, the increase in ethnic violence and the collapse of the family, more and more individuals, organizations and governments are seeking alternatives to violence in managing conflict.

One of the essential ways to encourage more cooperation is through education. While economic disparity and legal inequality are known to contribute to incidents of violence against women, it is obvious that violence arises from ignorance -- the failure to understand such fundamental realities as the oneness of the human race and the mistaken notion that force is the only honorable way to resolve conflicts. Education -- moral, material and practical -- is therefore not only a fundamental right but a practical necessity in today's world. Any attempt to curb societal violence that does not educate individuals to overcome gender prejudice will certainly fall short. At a time when illiteracy is increasing among women in the developing world and levels of learning are falling for both sexes in industrial societies, it is vitally important to reemphasize the role of education everywhere if violence against women is to be controlled.

Ironically enough, the place where women and girls are most subject to violence and neglect is within their own homes, at the nerve center of the family. If families educate their daughters, and if the community systematically encourages the education of girl children, both the family and the community benefit. Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has emphasized that mothers are the first educators of the next generation, in the broadest interpretation of those terms, and that where resources are limited priority must, therefore, be given to education of girl children.

But the problem of violence cannot truly be resolved unless men are also educated to value women as equal partners. Any effort to protect women against male aggression which does not involve the early training of boys will necessarily be short-lived. Likewise, all attempts to understand the causes and consequences of violence against women which do not involve men are bound to fail.

The Bahá'í International Community, therefore, warmly welcomes the inclusion of a full analysis of violence against women in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. It also welcomes the invitation by the Commission on Human Rights to "recommend measures to eliminate violence against women and its causes, and to remedy its consequences."

Since the Bahá'í International Community has invested considerable effort at the grass roots in the education and training of both men and women in partnership, we would gladly offer to share our experience. For example, our recent collaboration with UNIFEM in three projects using traditional media as a change agent in society has drawn the attention of UNICEF because one result of the project was a decline in family violence.* In this respect, we look forward to further collaboration with the Special Rapporteur.

[This essay was published in The Greatness Which Might Be Theirs, a compilation of reflections on the Agenda and Platform for Action for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women: Equality, Development and Peace, published for distribution at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing and the parallel NGO Forum in Huairou, China, August/September 1995.]

May 06, 2014

'Happy' cover by Ayana

after living in Nairobi for 9 months, our lives are gradually being woven into the life of the community.  our daughter was invited to perform at the 'Just Kids Extravaganza' recently.  it was definitely a happy moment for everyone!