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Commentary - Support religious freedoms

The Baha'is of Alexandria urge the community to join in their efforts to defend the Baha'i friends of Iran. The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world's independent monotheistic religions and one of the fastest-growing, with a significant pres...

The Baha'is of Alexandria urge the community to join in their efforts to defend the Baha'i friends of Iran. The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world's independent monotheistic religions and one of the fastest-growing, with a significant presence throughout the United States. Baha'is view the world's major religions as part of a single, progressive process through which God reveals His will to humanity. Major Baha'i tenets include the oneness of humanity, equality of men and women, eradication of prejudice, harmony of science and religion, universal education, and world peace.

In Teheran, the capital of Iran, in the early morning hours of May 14, 2008, Iranian intelligence officials entered and searched the homes of six Baha'i leaders and did not leave until arrests were made and the individuals in question were escorted to Iran's infamous Evin's Prison.

A developmental psychologist, an optometrist, a 76-year-old businessman, a scholar and an author. These are not profiles that would generally alert officers to a threat to national security. However, what alarms Iranian intelligence officials is not the occupation, but rather the religion. Baha'is of Iran have been subject to systematic harassment and persecution since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979. The government of Iran has been known to bar Baha'is from attending public universities or working in public agencies, to destroy or close Baha'i places of worship, to confiscate Baha'i property, and to kill Baha'is without cause. Baha'is are not the only victims of the Iranian government's religious persecutions, as three Christians and several followers of Sufism were arrested last month.

Now, almost a year later, the six incarcerated individuals join a seventh fellow Baha'i member who was arrested in March of 2008 as they await trial, which is scheduled to begin this month. The Baha'i members, who were responsible for managing the affairs of the Baha'i community in Iran, with respect to such matters as marriage and education, are now being held on charges of espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic, charges which the U.S. State Department acting spokesperson, Robert Wood, has termed "baseless." Amnesty International expressed concern that if convicted, "they would face lengthy prison terms, or even death."

The seven Baha'i members are being represented by Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate. Ebadi began speaking out against Iran after the government denied her all access to the prisoners and their files, which she maintains is a violation of fundamental human rights.

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This situation has generated an international outcry amongst individuals that, like the religion itself, transcends all boundaries of race, nationality, class, and religious belief. The U.S. House of Representatives has issued a resolution condemning Iran for "its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority" and for the imprisonment of the Baha'i leaders "solely on the basis of their religion."

Countries around the world, including Canada, Germany, Australia, and Brazil, have similarly made official statements condemning Iran and its continued persecution of the Baha'i community. As world citizens, you can help the Iranian friends through ardent prayer and by expressing to community and state leaders your deep concern for the deplorable situation and intense suffering of the Baha'i community of Iran.

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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