Bahai News -- The Scottish Bahá’í, No. 30

The Scottish Bahá’í, No. 30

 Sheila Cooper
16th May, 1925 - 3rd November, 2002

A Loving Tribute

Let us think back to the handful of early believers, of whom Sheila was one, who, with their courage and foresight, laid the foundations and helped shape the destiny of the Scottish Baha’i community and will always be remembered with gratitude, love and pride. Sheila dedicated herself to a life of humble service and in those early days of the Faith in Scotland, she opened her heart and home to everyone. Many will remember her sunny smile, warm welcome and generous hospitality.


These first followers understood that they were witnesses to the dawn of a new age of enlightenment. They left a spiritual heritage from which all of us may draw strength and insight. Only as history unfolds will we truly begin to understand the significance of their lives and the power of the faith they espoused. United by a glorious vision of the coming of age of all the great faiths and the realisation of the Oneness of God, they each lit a torch which illuminates the path of lasting unity, and to the establishment of a just and peaceful world.” “Thomas Breakwell” by Rajwantee Lakshman-Lepain
Elma Donald
For “THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE”.


Baha'i Council for Scotland

Council News

Council election results
The following people were elected to serve on the Bahá’í Council for Scotland for twelve months from 28th November (the figures in brackets indicate the number of votes received.)
Allan Forsyth (49, chairman), Andrew Goodwin (40, treasurer), Anwen Shahim (40, secretary), Venus Carew (36, vice-chairman), Maggie Manvell (36), Alan McKay (32), Nahid Donald (28), Hari Docherty (26), Rolf Schmidt (25)
All eight Assemblies took part in the election, with the Assemblies of Aberdeen and Dundee both sending in ballots from all nine members. 56 ballots were cast giving an average of seven ballots received per Assembly. There were no spoiled ballots; however, there were some spoiled votes (e.g. votes for an Auxiliary Board member, or National Assembly member). There were 86 people who received votes; however, the 'incoming' Council membership remained unchanged.
The Council is grateful for the sterling work of the two tellers, Sohrab Eliasieh and Saeed Shahim.

Review of Religious Observance in Schools
Dear Friends,
Here is an opportunity to participate in an interesting consultation by the Education Department of the Scottish Executive. This may be particularly appropriate to parents of school age children who have experienced, or are likely to experience, school assemblies.

Religious observance is a statutory requirement in Scottish Schools, however recent HMI reports suggest that a review of this provision is necessary. So some time ago a review group was appointed by the Education minister to review the current arrangements and make recommendations on any changes. The group has prepared a consultation paper and a questionnaire on some important issues. Both these can be accessed via the group's website http://www.ltscotland.com/religiousobservance.

The review report defines the aims of the religious observance as:

If you feel that religious observance in schools should remain a statutory requirement and should be multi-faith, then it is very important that you take part in this consultation as it is very important that as many people as possible respond.

The deadline for responses is 15th January 2003. You may respond as an individual or on behalf of a group (maybe an LSA, or a group).

Suspicious telephone calls

Several community secretaries have recently received phone calls from an individual (probably not a Bahá’í) who is giving an account of a tragedy (his wife and baby were killed in a car accident) and asks to meet with someone to talk about his bereavement. At the meeting he then asks for money to help him deal with his situation. If you receive a call of this nature then the following advice may help you:
  1. Please be aware that there are those who would exploit groups like the Bahá’ís for financial gain. These type of calls are happening more frequently and money has been handed over in the past.
  2. If an individual Bahá’í wants to respond to this type of request using personal funds then please do so with wisdom.
  3. If a Bahá’í community wants to respond to such a request by using the local Fund then please confirm the validity of the story.
  4. If you agree to meet an unknown individual in such circumstances we recommend you meet in a public place and preferably with a companion.
  5. If you do not want to deal with the caller then please pass on the telephone number of the Scottish Bahá’í Council.
  6. Inform the Council of unusual or suspicious requests, so that the Council can see if there is a pattern.
The Council will be monitoring the situation and, if it appears that a pattern is emerging of systematic efforts by one or more individuals to obtain money from the Bahá’ís, then the police will be informed.


More news from Moffat

A small group of youth descended on Moffat for a youth weekend on Friday 23rd August to partake in a spiritual awakening and a reinforcement of values. The weekend kicked off with a devotional with suitable music. This was followed by a session by our Auxiliary Board Member Rita Docherty on 'Attraction' what it means and what the spiritual implications of it are.
Then off we bundled in some cars up to Samye Ling Buddhist monastery for some  broadening of our spiritual experiences and an appreciation of a different faith. We indulged a tad with some yummy hot chocolate drinks then came back to the centre for dinner.
After some birthday celebrations the evening session was held by the intrepid Grant Morley who explored the ‘who are we anyway' aspects of our existence followed by 'what actually makes our identity'. This session was so well received that it overran its allocated time by an hour!

Sunday morning and we had another session with Grant on goals and personal development. Then a closing devotional and readings.

A great weekend. Hopefully more will be able to attend the next one, which will be in the February 2003 half term.

A big thank you must go to Rita and Grant for all their relentless help and service.


SKYE

Reporters: Gavin McNicol and Liam Stephens

The Dedication of Àite Sìthe
On Saturday 16th of November, the Bahá’ís of Skye met for the dedication of the recently-completed ‘place of peace’ situated amid a beautiful wooded peninsula at the south end of the island. The nine-sided, wooden structure was erected by Mike Smith, formerly of Skye but now living in Devon, and nestles into a hillside planted with cherry trees known as the ‘peace garden’. The Gaelic name for the building is ‘Àite Sìthe’ and a name plaque, skilfully produced by Graham Parry, has pride of place on the outside. Inside is simplicity itself: on the wall facing the door there is a nine-pointed star in wood bearing the Greatest Name and adjacent to this a beautifully framed text explaining the purpose of the building as a place for prayer and meditation. It also states that ‘Àite Sìthe’ is dedicated by the Bahá’ís to the oneness of humanity, finishing of course with a quotation from Bahá’u’lláh.

The day before the dedication it had been stormy and wild, but on the 16th the weather was fair and calm. By 2.00pm 18 members of the Skye community had gathered at Rubha Phoil and miraculously managed to squeeze onto the bench seat which runs all the way round the interior.

Devotions began with a resounding rendition of ‘Blessed is the spot’ followed by a mixture of readings and prayers, including a special prayer of thanks to our twin [triplet? – Ed.] communities of Barnet, and Kensington and Chelsea; to Mike for all his hard work; and to Sandy (our newest Bahá’í) for giving us the plot on which to build. We finished as we began – with song, and then all lined up outside for the ‘photo shoot.’ As this was happening two buzzards suddenly appeared above the group, circling for a minute or two before flying off. Although we are left puzzling over the significance of this rare and most unexpected sight we’re sure it must somehow be significant!


The procession then wended its way to the local village hall for a delicious feast and top class entertainment ranging from piano, by way of cello, to clarsach. Finally, we arranged all the chairs in a big circle with a colourful display of flowers in the middle and the 20 people now present recited the long healing prayer for Maggie (who was in Intensive Care in Inverness), singing the refrain after each verse. We missed Chris and Maggie’s presence terribly but many people commented on the power of the prayer and so in the spiritual sense we were all united on this very special day.

The drive home was in the twilight with an almost full moon shining over the water as we followed the coastline. The landscape was so beautiful, bathed in the gentle light of the moon, giving everything an air of mystery and magic. A fitting end to a memorable and indeed, momentous occasion in the history of the Faith on the Isle of Skye.


Reporter: Sathia Varqa

Aberdeen and around

The Robert Gordon University Bahá’í Society
The Robert Gordon University Bahá’í Society kept up with tradition and opened its doors to poverty stricken students for an international fundraising meal; the event coincided with the first meeting of the society. This year particularly proved to be a success in terms of student numbers. About 40 students from various departments of the university packed the meeting room queuing to fulfil their temptation from pizza to onion bahjis. Arrays of ethnic and local cuisine were laid out on the table, courtesy of Aberdeen and nearby Bahá’ís. Total collection, including donations, was £51.28. A Tranquillity Zone will be the next event sometime in November; the other main event lined up is study circle. Students continue to find Aberdeen as an attractive place to pursue their university degrees, it must be the grey buildings or perhaps the weather! This year we have 3 Bahá’í students: from Texas, the Czech Republic and Nottingham respectively. There are ten students in total, five in each university. To all potential university students, come and touch the land of John Esslemont, visit the annual Aberdeen Summer School and enjoy the crisp clean air, this will be the move of your life, truly a place to study and enjoy! (Forgive me for the marketing trait!).

One World Week

Bahá’ís took part, for the second time, in the One World Week event held in Aberdeen on the 23rd of October. This year we contributed to the theme of racism, with readings from the Writings relating to racism being read. The event was hosted by the Interfaith organisation, where Bahá’ís play an active role both in Aberdeen and nationally. The local Assembly of Aberdeen took this opportunity to present nine Bahá’í publications of various interest to the universities, colleges and public libraries in Aberdeen. The presentations were kindly received and with thanks. Northern College of Education, particularly appreciated the donation, as it coincided with their introduction of religion related subjects. Another little success project with a major impact in the long term.

Ruhi Tutor Training Programme – Wet weekend

Three Bahá’ís from Aberdeen packed their bags and headed to Ian and Lorrie’s in nearby Fyvie, Aberdeenshire for a weekend of intensive training and socialising. Diane, Adam, Karmel and Chehreh (from Shetland, Dundee, Glasgow and Alford respectively) joined us. Rita was our mentor and the Fozdars our hosts.
Needless to say the training was something of a deep and structured learning process. The two days were full of serious learning, though with a good bit of time of socialising during which Diane taught us some Shetland dialect, Chehreh displayed her high class artistic skills, Helen tried to make us say ‘Is there any Remover...’in Irish, and Adam showed off his guitar, playing his own compositions. Our weekend investment will be put into practice at the Bahá’í society in the university, and in the Alford community, from November onwards. Not to mention about Lorrie’s food would be like the weekend without cream. An authentic homemade chicken tandoori, soups and pitta bread with Greek salad are just some of the highlights. It was a weekend well spent in all ways. Thanks to Rita for coming all the way; running the course and making us all qualify to take part in the FiveYear Plan more meaningfully. The rain never diminished our spirit, although we could see it pouring on top from inside the house!

Third Area Meeting

The Greater Aberdeen area held its third Area Meeting on 22nd September – the area comprises Aberdeen City and a 25 mile radius around it. Morag and Sana Donald opened their house to the Bahá’ís. It was unfortunate that the weekend coincided with the 2nd Inter Institutional Meeting in Inverness; however, the Council liaison Nahid did manage to be present for part of the meeting. At the moment Bahá’ís in the area are all in Aberdeen city with two families in Westhill and Elrick. Nahid presented feedback fresh from the institutional gathering, as well as lots of clarification on matters raised at the last meeting. Discussion centred on the three core activities as well as plans to start those that have not been started in some parts of the Area. A video on the opening of the terraces in Haifa was also part of the afternoon. As is the custom, lunch was a mandatary, with delicious desserts following – many thanks to Morag and Sana for their hospitality. The next area meeting will take place on the 7th of January 2003 in Zohra’s home at 2pm.

Children Classes

The John Esslemont school has been a cornerstone of the Bahá’í community in the Northeast and brings the Bahá’ís around the area together every weekend. This year the School, after several constructive meetings, finally decided on a paradigm shift in the structure of the school. Instead of pupils and teachers splitting into different classrooms, this year the school management team decided to consolidate the school into one ‘big’ class. Lessons will include learning a specific skill, or doing something directly to benefit society. The lessons may be taught by a Bahá’í or others outwith the school. The school is keen to invite people to the school to teach such skills as singing, dancing, painting, cleaning the riverside, or anything where the children could learn and apply directly to an audience which maybe a caring home, hospital, school or events like charity, interfaith or even a parties. The first class has already been held; Chehreh taught artwork for table and tree decoration. Upon completing these classes the children and adults would then be performing their artistic skills in a nursing home either on the 30th November or 1st December. For more details contact the school director Ian Fozdar.


ABW Glasgow Conference, November 2002

A one-day conference, organised by the Association of Baha’i Women, was held on Saturday 16th November 2002 in Glasgow.

The conference, entitled “Weird Wonderful and Wise” turned out to be not too weird, definitely wonderful, and full of wise females!

Mandy Hepburn welcomed the participants and, after encouraging talks by Lizbeth Thomson and Maureen (our new member), we are sure new local Association of Bahá’í Women branch groups will be springing up all over Scotland!

Everyone who attended enjoyed the friendly and intimate atmosphere, and benefited from sharing the two morning workshops on gender and equality issues. After lunch a representative from the Association of Muslim Women, Mrs Farkunda Choudry, gave a very interesting talk on being a Muslim woman in 21st Century Scotland. She was an excellent speaker and seemed very much at ease answering all the questions we posed. She also expressed her interest in future interfaith activities. The conference closed on a light note as inspiring, comical and thought -provoking stories were enthusiastically read by Carrie Varjavandi, Sonya Habibi-Sier and Maureen Sier.

The Falkirk branch of the Association is holding a one day workshop, run by Carrie Varjavandi, on banner making, to be held in Mrs Farzin’s home on Saturday 14th December – please contact Carrie direct if you would like to attend.

Plans are in the offing for a residential meeting in the spring to enable us to balance the time spent in study with sharing time together as friends. For those of you who could not manage to come to the conference, it was so good to hear from you and we hope you can come to future events. We would like to extend an invite to all our women in Scotland to ‘Watch this space’.

"The Scottish Baha'i" is the newsletter of the Baha'i Council for Scotland, ©National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United Kingdom 2002.


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