Bahai News - Vigil for HUMAN RIGHTS
Vigil for HUMAN RIGHTS
Music Desk Writer
Springtime in the Northwestern hemisphere is a season of
resurrection, metamorphosis - the celebration of new life. The diversity
of the biosphere and the fragile balance of its seasons exist because of
the unique distance between the earth and the sun, and the uneven elipse
around our small star. Religions and mythologies worldwide celebrate the
equinox, the season of restored light, the return of peace, prosperity,
and abundant harvest.
But this spring, the rising temperatures seem to be
stimulating all but sentiments of tranquility. NATO bombings increase
and retaliation to the atrocity of "ethnic cleansing" is upheld as a
necessary defense of human rights. Refugee death tolls rise, enraged
passions fly with questions and unrest surrounding the nations
involvement and intent. Clinton requests more military funds and the
release of reserve troops, while only this morning on CNN, Tony Blair
declared the nations of NATO will not back down until Milosevic puts an
end to his inhumane policies. No quick end to this nascent war is
As the last of Monday evening's light began to fade, the
steps of McHenry Library were still and silent. The only exceptions were
gentle showers of drifting cherry blossom petals and a few quiet souls
poised with white candles in the twilight. The gathering was sparse, the
message simple, and the cause of universal proportion, but those in
attendance were not disenheartened by the small numbers. For some, it
was the first time they had taken the liberty to speak openly of such
"In a nation this priviledged, it's sometimes impossible for people to
imagine the denial of rights we take for granted - basic human rights such
as education, equality, and freedom of expression," Sima Cockshut said.
Native to Iran, Cockshut tends the organic gardens at the Bosch Baha'i
School and retreat center. Every Tuesday for months, the Baha'i
Association of Santa Cruz has been setting up an informational table in
front of McHenry to educate those interested about the persecution of
Baha'is in Iran by the fundamentalist Muslim regime that took power under
Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. A virtually infantile faith at the age of 156
years, Baha'is are targeted for advocating such principles as the equality
of women and men and the unity of all faiths and prophets. Principles
unacceptable in a nation where women must veil their faces and all
declare loyalty to the clerical regime.
Officially granted a seat upon the University's Interfaith
Religious Council last Thursday, the vigil was sponsored by the Baha'is.
But the ceremony was held in honor of all martyrs and refugees, "to
commemorate the lives of those in Kosovo, Iran, or elsewhere who are
afflicted because they have tried to uphold their humanness," in the
words of Marsha Gilpatrick.
The vigil began with one woman asking that everyone circle
around the infant child of the head of the campus Christian Ministry.
After the candles were lit, specific prayers were said for the refugees
in the Baltics, followed by the oration of a story of one extraordinary
Baha'i woman martyred for her faith. The group was reminded of the fact
that April 19 marked the day of the Oklahoma City bombing and the Waco
Texas Massacre. As the small circle huddled around the child, fighting
to block the wind and keep their flames ignited, faces alternated
between a gracious warmth and deep sorrow. The turnout may have been
small, but the people present were visibly moved by the words and
prayers spoken and by the unity of this interwoven gathering.
Cockshut illustrated the choice of attitude with a metaphor,
and a call to action. "There are two bells ringing right now in the
world - that tolling of our end, of our destruction, and that chiming of
our future, of the awakening. Why is it that so many only hear one and
not the other? The truth is for us to determine."
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