As a member of the local Baha'i community I am compelled to report on events relevant to the faith. Previously I have mentioned the seven Baha'is imprisoned illegally in Iran.
On Dec. 3 a Senate committee composed of Brownback, Whitehouse, Murkowski, Leahy, Kyl, Casey, Johanns, Wyden, and Lieberman presented Resolution 694 to the Foreign Relations Committee condemning the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities in Iran and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.
The resolution states that the Baha'i community is the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran, whose teachings emphasize multiculturalism, equality of men and women, consultation, interdependence and peace among societies and religions. It further states that vast numbers of Iranians recognize the many contributions Baha'is have made to their society despite facing government-sponsored persecution.
The February 2010 United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review of Iran states, "The Secretary-General noted reports about Baha'is subjected to arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of property, citing a significant increase in violence targeting Baha'is, including torture or ill-treatment in custody."
Currently over 43 Baha'is continue to be imprisoned in Iran as of November 2010 solely because of their religious beliefs.
On Oct. 12, 2009, Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was arrested in northern Iran and faces a death sentence for apostasy after he questioned the Muslim monopoly on religious instruction his children were receiving in school. In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of incidents of Iranian authorities raiding church services, detaining worshipers and church leaders and harassing and threatening church members. Official policies promoting anti-Semitism have risen sharply in recent years.
The Senate resolution condemns the government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of religious minorities and calls on the government to immediately release the seven leaders of the Baha'i community and all other prisoners held solely on account of their religion.
International Human Rights Day was Dec. 10. While it is heartening to know that there is a day set aside for such recognition, still there is no limit to the number of days we need to address our spiritual responsibility to society as well as our individual need for spiritual growth.
The Baha'is of Walla Walla extend its best wishes to everyone in this new year.