Thank you for raising your voice as a witness to the suffering of your fellow Baha'is in Iran. Your witness to their ongoing oppression is one which uniquely frames the persecution and death so many have faced in all the human contours of pain and sorrow, of young lives cut short and long ones brutally snuffed out in their waning days.
Your touching tribute to the humanity of those lost to the Iranian regime's attacks inspires me not only to continue to raise awareness of these wrongs against Baha'is, but to do more to publicize and put into a human context the horrific, ongoing targeting of people everywhere, especially those of my own faith: Orthodox Christians suffering in Israel, Turkey, Palestine, and especially Syria and Egypt.
Reading your touching tribute to Baha'i victims of the Islamic Republic of Iran's brutal program of religious persecution, the History student in me cannot help but call to mind the haunting continuity of religious persecution from ancient times onward, and from last century to today.
As a Holocaust survivor said to me when I was 14, "Change begins by not seeking revenge. Hatred is the cancer of the human spirit, fed by fear and ignorance". I pray that ours is the generation to wake up more completely than our forebears have done, to the great potential we have to change, simply by learning to transcend the impulses which cause fear and hatred to reign in so many hearts. If we look at the last century, we have a lot of work ahead to do:
The 20th century dawned with the first attempted genocide of a people, the Armenians, by nationalist anti-Christian extremists in Turkey. Eastern Europe saw numerous pogroms which haunted Jewish shtetels until the 1920s, when a new kind of religious persecution dawned there.
The USSR would see some 20 million Orthodox Christians put to death by a Soviet regime committed to wiping out all faiths, but which harbored a special hatred for the Faith which had been the official one in Russia before the Revolution. In my Faith, we count so many women and men among these witnesses - this is what the Greek word "martyr" means - that we refer to the thousands of them en masse as "New Martyrs".
After the world learned of the horrors of the Ustasce and the Nazis' Holocaust during the 1940s, everyone said "Never again", but in a terrible turn, the 1948 formation of the State of Israel saw massacres by both Jewish settlers and Muslim and Christian Palestinians against each other. India's partition saw several million people die in Hindu-Muslim sectarian violence in 1947-48 alone, while the 1990s ended with state-sponsored ethno-religious cleansing of Muslim Bosnians by Orthodox Serbs.
Your piece is chilling and thought-provoking in the best possible way. May you continue to be a voice for those who cannot speak from behind the silent wall of an old photo or whose identity and fate remain unknown. For all the red vigil candles which stand in for a missing Baha'i mother, father, sister, brother, husband or wife - may your work serve to bring names and recognition to these people suffering in silence.
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