Meet the New Universal House of Justice

The scrutineers where scrutinizing so hard they are still squinting, the counters were counting (and re-counting), Counsellor Penny Walker, as chairperson of the convention, kept imploring the tellers to not actually look at the ballots because they didn’t need to use their own eyes, they could just look through the eyes of the UHJ!

Thankfully they paid her as much attention as those kitschy drapes behind the main stage. And the results:

Farzam Arbab, Kiser Barnes, Peter Khan, Hooper Dunbar, Firaydoun Javaheri, Paul Lample, Payman Mohajer, Shahriar Razavi, and Gustavo Correa.

I’m shocked! SHOCKED I tell ya!!

Who could have ever imagined this surprising upset?

All seven incumbents: re-elected. And in place of the two retirees? who are the two new entrants?

Both previous members of the International Teaching Center – in turn previously appointed by the Universal House of Justice.

By the way, since usually the names are announced in descending order of votes, we can see that the two new ITC, oops! I mean UHJ members are the ones with the least votes.

I couldn’t help but chuckle when I read this excerpt from the official Baha’i News Service:

During the voting, a number of procedures were taken to ensure the integrity of the balloting process – some of which were visible and others less so.

Foremost, the current Universal House of Justice was seated as a body, front and center, as obvious observers to the process.

Yes! What a strategic technique to insure integrity and remove any hint of electioneering or campaigning! Sitting prominently in visual range of everyone who is about to cast a ballot. That is the best way not to influence anyone in any way to vote for the incumbents.

I’ve put together the membership details of the Universal House of Justice from its inception, up to and including this new election. The details include the individual members, when they were elected, how long they served, how they departed (death or retirement) and what their prior position was within the Baha’i Administration:

I’ve hastily scribbled some thoughts below the data. You are welcome to study it and arrive at your own. Especially one which contradicts mine.

For those taking note, the trend that many had observed within the membership, namely moving away from National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) members to International Teaching Center (ITC) is now complete.

This is the first year – please mark it down on your calendar – that all of the members of the Universal House of Justice have been plucked from the ITC.

Which, I need not remind you, is itself appointed by the UHJ. So we now have come full circle. A bit like recycling I suppose. Hey, I’m all for helping the environment and recycling. Except in this case, what is being recycled, in a closed loop, are ideas.

Related:

US NSA Loses Court Case Against Orthodox Baha’is

This is about Covenant-Breakers so if you are sensitive, please go and look at some bunny pictures or play with a kitten or something. The rest of you can soldier on.

Since most have no clue what this is all about, here are the Cliff Notes:

Way back in 1966, when normal people were busy growing as much body hair as possible and experimenting with a cocktail of mind bending drugs while listening to music that in all honesty sounds like a pack of cats being strangled, the break away Baha’i group under Mason Remey in New Mexico, US was busy with a totally different undertaking.

They decided it would be a good idea to sue the US NSA in a court of law in order to have the US justice system turn over the Wilmette temple and property over to the “NSA Under the Hereditary Guardianship”.
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What do Baha’is do?

So you’re dying to know what it is that Baha’is actually do?

Well, this website wants to answer you with several video interviews.

They are about the Ruhi sequence of courses and the different activities attached to them such as Junior Youth Groups (Book 5) and devotionals, etc.

There are more than a dozen videos, and they are in both English and French. Here is one of them:

Where is the Garden of Ridvan?

After His imprisonment in the Black Pit, Baha’u’llah was exiled to Baghdad. The group arrived in the capital of modern Iraq in the spring of 1853. Baha’u’llah soon left to live in solitude for two years in the mountains of Kurdistan. In 1856 He rejoined the Holy family in Baghdad and wrote among His most important works: the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude), the Hidden Words, and the mystical Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys as responses to questions from Sufi mystics.

Baha’u’llah lived in Baghdad off and on for ten years, which is probably why He designated it as one of two sites for Baha’i pilgrimage. But the authorities became wary of Baha’u’llah’s growing influence so they once again banished Him. This time to modern day Istanbul, Turkey (Constantinople).

As the belongings of the household were being prepared for the move, Baha’u’llah retreated to a small island within the bank the Tigris River [see below for correction]. There, He and a small group of Babis who were devoted to Baha’u’llah camped out in tents for 12 days.

On the 9th day the rest of the Holy family came to join them. The hours passed with Baha’u’llah chanting and revealing verses among the trees and greenery of that garden which was renamed “Ridvan” or Paradise. Some time during those days, we don’t know exactly when, Baha’u’llah explicitly told them that He was the One foretold by the Bab.

Baha’is all over the world celebrate these days with special attention to the first, ninth and last as Baha’i Holy Days.

Could this be the location of the original Ridvan?
garden-of-ridvan-tigris-riverCuriosity got the better of me, so with the help of Google Maps, I searched along the section of the Tigris River that runs through Baghdad. There were quite a few ‘small islands’ which could qualify. I chose one of them to show you in the picture on the left.

Want to search for the Garden of Ridvan yourself?

Use the + – to zoom in and zoom out, you can also grab the map and push it around.

Here you go:

UPDATE:
Thanks to Don & Steve (see comments below) the site of the Garden of Ridvan is found!

I was wrong to assume it was an island. It was actually situated on the banks of the Tigris River.

It is on the banks of the Tigris River just in front of the present site of the Medical City hospital complex (labels A and B) in the map above. Right now many Iraqis are rushed there for emergency treatment as a result of the violence. Please keep the people of Iraq and the soldiers stationed there in your thoughts and prayers during this Festival of Ridvan.

Right now Baha’is are advised to not travel to Iraq for Baha’i pilgrimage because it is simply too dangerous. But I don’t have any doubts that within our lifetime this will change. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to go and say a few prayers on that spot?

Sectarian Violence: Explosion in Shiraz Mosque

A home-made bomb exploded, killing at least 9 people, and injuring more than a 100 in Shiraz today. The site of the bombing was the Shohada (Martyrs) mosque, part of the Rahpouyan-e-Vesal cultural center.

My condolences and prayers to those who lost loved ones and for those who were injured.

No one has yet officially claimed responsibility but since the mosque is well known for its Saturday sermons against the Baha’i Faith and Wahabi Muslims, it is suspected that it is sectarian violence.

I have not read in any reports that the Baha’i community is even suspected of carrying out such an atrocity. Instead most reports cite a group of militant Sunni muslims who have carried out similar attacks.The Wahabis, a branch of Sunni Islam, view the Shi’ites as heretics.

The last instance of similar violence was in February 2007 when a bus carrying a group of Revolutionary Guards exploded, killing 11 and wounding 30 more.

It is not rare to hear sermons in Iran against the Baha’i Faith. Uniting the people against a common enemy, even if it happens to be a phantom one, and distracting them from real issues has been a very effective ploy used by the ruling clergy class.

I hope that the Baha’i community in Iran isn’t made to be the scapegoat of this tragedy and there are no repercussions to them. God knows they are already under enough persecution.

Looking on the bright side of things, if there can ever be one, is that news reports of this event highlight the Baha’i Faith and the plight of the Iranian community:

The Bahai faith was founded in the 1860s by a Persian nobleman, Baha’u’llah, who claimed to be a new prophet in the series that included Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Islam considers Muhammad to be the last of the prophets.

Iran had been the cradle of the Bahai faith in the middle of the 19th century. After the 1979 Islamic revolution, the faith was banned and it is not recognized in the Iranian constitution as a religious minority.

Last year, Bahai communities abroad reported that a group of followers were detained in Shiraz while helping poor communities there.