Bahai News -- THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD

THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD

Proceedings and Debates of the 107th Congress, Second Session
In the House of Representatives
Wednesday, October 16, 2002

COMMEMORATING THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BAHÁ'Í FAITH
HON. MARK STEVEN KIRK OF ILLINOIS

Mr. KIRK:

Mr. Speaker, this month the American Bahá'í community, which has its national headquarters in Illinois, will be commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the beginnings of the Bahá'í Faith in Iran. The Bahá'í Faith is a world religion with more than five million adherents in some 230 countries and territories, including more than 140,000 members here in the United States. The Bahá'í House of Worship in my district of Illinois is registered as a National Historic Site that has drawn more than five million visitors to enjoy its unique architecture and serene gardens since its completion in 1953.

This October is a special time for the American Bahá'í community, because it was during this month that the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, was first overwhelmed with the Bahá'í message of love and unity while unjustly imprisoned in one of Persia's (now Iran) worst dungeons, the Síyáh Chál. After his release from this dungeon, Bahá'u'lláh promoted this message, despite being banished from Baghdad to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Edirne, and eventually from Edirne to the prison city of Acre, where he died in 1892 after having lived in exile for forty years for his belief in the oneness of humanity.

The Bahá'í Faith is based on the principles of cooperation and peace outlined by Bahá'u'lláh. He taught that there is only one God, that the conscience of man is sacred and to be respected, that racial diversity contributes to the overall beauty of mankind, and that women and men are equals in God's sight. He taught that a spiritual solution is required to address the disparities of wealth distribution and that religion and science must agree. He was among the first to express the need for an international auxiliary language, emphasize the importance of universal education, and advise that a commonwealth of nations was needed for establishing global peace and security. The significance of these principles could not be overemphasized in today's volatile world.

It is astounding to think how advanced these concepts were 150 years ago, not only in an ancient Persian culture, but also in the United States. Slavery and persecution based on race were widely accepted facts of life at that time. Women in the United States were still 70 years away from getting the vote. Global literacy was low, and universal education was unheard of in most places. Colonial exploitation was on the rise, and workers enjoyed few protections.

Unfortunately, just as the Bahá'í message was met with hostility in Persia in 1852, it still faces persecution in that region today. The Islamic Republic of Iran regards Bahá'ís as heretics who, according to Islamic law, should be executed. Bahá'ís, along with Iran's other religious minorities, are prevented from exercising their right to religious freedom. They are excluded from institutions of higher education, denied jobs, and have had many of their holy places, cemeteries, and properties seized or destroyed. They are denied their most basic human rights.

Since 1982, Congress has adopted eight resolutions condemning Iran's treatment of the Bahá'ís, its largest religious minority. With the support of the U.S. government, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted annual resolutions condemning these human rights abuses. Yet, Bahá'ís still await the religious freedom called for in those U.N. resolutions and promised in Iran's constitution. The Bahá'í community remains an oppressed religious minority and is denied rights to organize, elect leaders, and to conduct freely its religious activities.

On the 150th anniversary of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment and the founding of the Bahá'í faith, we salute along with the American Bahá'í community the ideals of universal brotherhood, peace, cooperation, and understanding espoused by Bahá'u'lláh. These are Bahá'í values, they are American values, and they are universal values.

I also would like to recognize the immense sacrifices that many around the world have made striving to ensure that true liberty and justice for all becomes not just an American dream, but also a global reality.

148 Cong. Rec. E1906﷓03 (Oct. 17, 2002).

©Copyright 2002, Congressional Record (USA)


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