For me, the privilege of handling the files of executed Bahá’ís is that it enabled me to view these believers from another time and place as part of my own life story. And though we are left with only memories, these soul scraps are more precious to me than any physical remains.
They are traces of human beings who learned to drink the bitter with the sweet. Memories of weddings, a favorite poem, and the dreams a young girl who dove headfirst into the ocean, arms and legs flying.
Andréana Lefton (@AELefton) graces our blog this week with "A Dark Privilege: Bearing Witness to Victims and Prisoners of Conscience in Iran." Bahá’í leaders in Iran are being persecuted and imprisoned — simply for their faith. From a desk in London, Ms. Lefton reflects on their circumstances and how they remind her of the sacrifice and the richness of human life.
I chose this photograph to lead A.E. Lefton’s commentary, "A Dark Privilege: Bearing Witness to Victims and Prisoners of Conscience in Iran." The image captures a rally in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the seven Bahá’í leaders in Iran, known as the Yaran (“Friends in Iran”), who were incarcerated by the Iranian government in 2008. It’s visually interesting and also hints at the solidarity of the global Baha’i community.
(Credit: Comunidade Bahá’í do Brasil/Flickr, cc by 2.0)
Joy to 30% of the World
Kate Moos, managing producer
For apparently the first time ever, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has gathered global data on religious freedom — and the lack of religious freedom — around the world. It makes for disturbing reading.
Seventy percent of the world’s population suffer restrictions on religious liberty. The study points out that not all religious oppression is conducted by the prevailing governments. Private individuals, non-governmental organizations, and social groups also persecute and restrict religious practice.
Since I’ve worked at Speaking of Faith, I’ve become used to being challenged by people who think the only worthwhile thing to say about religion is that it has caused a tremendous amount of injustice and human suffering. I understand that point of view and can find it emotionally persuasive. But what has always drawn me to this work is the idea that religion and faith are also the repositories for some of our most important knowledge, and our highest moral aspirations. Data such as these should give people of all faiths pause.
What would it look like to live in a world where all were guaranteed religious freedom? As 2010 approaches, it is astonishing that so few people in the world know what that is.