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October 23, 2011

Question: Is religious persecution declining or growing?

 No one could answer today’s question accurately without some in-depth research and comparison to another historical time-frame — i.e., now as compared to then. So I don’t really know. But any religious persecution is too much persecution.

The Middle-East is not a safe place for religious minorities, be they Jewish, Christian, Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Bahá’í, Zoroastrian, Ahmaddiyih and so forth. Copts are assaulted and murdered with impunity in Egypt. Brave Shahbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s former Minister for Minorities, was assassinated on March 2, 2011 for advocating the repeal of Islam’s blasphemy laws, a capital offence. They were allegedly being used to persecute his Christian co-religionists. ‘Abdu’l-Rahman escaped death in Afghanistan (2006) for converting to Christianity, but only through direct intervention of western government officials — including Prime Minister Harper, Pope Benedict XVI and then U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The list of current religious persecution is too long to continue here.

Bahá’ís are well acquainted with systematic persecution. As Iran’s largest religious minority, Bahá’ís in the Islamic Republic have been subject to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, harassment, beatings, torture, rapes, murder, kidnapping, forced marriages, persecution of school children, unjustified executions, confiscation and destruction of property, denial of employment, government benefits, civil rights and access to higher education. At least 100 Bahá’ís are currently prisoners of conscience in Iran. Some are in dire need of medical attention.

The Bahá’í Faith practises interfaith fellowship and condemns persecution. It advocates the protection, not the persecution, of minorities: “If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favour of the minority, be it racial or otherwise. Unlike the nations and peoples of the Earth, be they of the East or of the West, democratic or authoritarian, communist or capitalist, whether belonging to the Old World or the New, who either ignore, trample upon, or extirpate, the racial, religious, or political minorities within their sphere of jurisdiction, every organized community enlisted under the banner of Bahá’u’lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it.” (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 35)
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen October 23, 2011
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