Attaining starship


starIf it was your task – or a matter of joy for you – to present someone with a precious gift, how do you expect they might respond? At the very least, you might look for an appreciative thank you or some gesture of gratitude. It would hurt – to say the least – to not only receive no such appreciation, but instead find a door slammed in your face, fall foul of a virulent tirade or, worse still, be the victim of an active attempt to cut off your hand to prevent such a gift being presented to others.

Such has always been the reception meted out to the great Messengers of God, those divinely-inspired teachers who periodically attempt to uplift the human spirit and nurture society through their words and deeds. Look at how the master of the English language, Shoghi Effendi, describes the response of humanity to the message of Bahá’u’lláh, forty years of Whose life was given up to chains, banishment, exile and imprisonment, in the promotion of His gift to humanity:

“Unmitigated indifference on the part of men of eminence and rank; unrelenting hatred shown by the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the Faith from which it had sprung; the scornful derision of the people among whom it was born; the utter contempt which most of those kings and rulers who had been addressed by its Author manifested towards it; the condemnations pronounced, the threats hurled, and the banishments decreed by those under whose sway it arose and first spread; the distortion to which its principles and laws were subjected by the envious and the malicious, in lands and among peoples far beyond the country of its origin—all these are but the evidences of the treatment meted out by a generation sunk in self-content, careless of its God, and oblivious of the omens, prophecies, warnings and admonitions revealed by His Messengers.”

At the level of those who govern society, little has changed in 160 years. Indifference is one thing, but active repression is a more frightening response entirely. In Iran, the seven members of the country’s informal administrative committee of the Bahá’í community have been held for almost a year in prison, facing an uncertain future. Rather than enquiring into the high ideals that motivate them, the positive services that they could offer their society, the principles that so guide and shape their lives that they would rather offer up their necks than deny them – rather than that, they are branded as deceitful spies, manipulative enemies, a threatening danger to society.

“Who,” asked Shoghi Effendi, writing in 1941, “among the worldly wise and the so-called men of insight and wisdom can justly claim, after the lapse of nearly a century, to have disinterestedly approached its theme, to have considered impartially its claims, to have taken sufficient pains to delve into its literature, to have assiduously striven to separate facts from fiction, or to have accorded its cause the treatment it merits? Where are the preeminent exponents, whether of the arts or sciences, with the exception of a few isolated cases, who have lifted a finger, or whispered a word of commendation, in either the defense or the praise of a Faith that has conferred upon the world so priceless a benefit, that has suffered so long and so grievously, and which enshrines within its shell so enthralling a promise for a world so woefully battered, so manifestly bankrupt?”

Now however it is the ordinary people of Iran who are demonstrating their capacity to move beyond petty narrow-mindedness. In a powerful appeal addressed this week to Iran’s Prosecutor General by the Bahá’í International Community, it is the ordinary citizens of Iran and their staunch commitment to justice who are the recipients of appreciative gratitude:

“We see the fidelity shown by the young musicians who refused to perform when their Bahá’í counterparts were prohibited from playing in a recital,” says the letter. “We see the courage and tenacity of university students who stood ready to prepare a petition and to forgo participation in examinations that their Bahá’í classmates were barred from taking. We see the compassion and generosity of spirit exhibited by the neighbours of one family, whose home was attacked with a bulldozer, in their expressions of sympathy and support, offered at all hours of the night, and in their appeals for justice and recompense. And we hear in the voices raised by so many Iranians in defense of their Bahá’í compatriots echoes from their country’s glorious past.”

“What we cannot help noting, with much gratitude towards them in our hearts, is that a majority of those coming out in support of the beleaguered Bahá’í community are themselves suffering similar oppression as students and academics, as journalists and social activists, as artists and poets, as progressive thinkers and proponents of women’s rights, and even as ordinary citizens,” concludes the letter.

Such acts of kindness, such fraternal understanding paints an entirely different picture of a people whose lot it is to be tarred with the same public image brush as the authorities that govern their lives.

As for those who suffer selflessly behind bars, who cling on to their belief in the essential goodness and nobility of human nature, who willingly disbanded their informal administrative arrangements to demonstrate the goodwill they have consistently shown to the Islamic Republic of Iran for thirty years – as for them, they perhaps have attained “starship”. Not, of course, a spacecraft designed to shuttle between planets. Rather, the state of being a true reflection of the sun of truth.

The acts of Bahá’u’lláh, wrote His forerunner the Báb, would be “like unto the sun, while the works of men, provided they conform to the good-pleasure of God, resemble the stars or the moon.” By observing His teachings, they would “regard themselves and their own works as stars exposed to the light of the sun,” said the Báb, “…then they will have gathered the fruits of their existence; otherwise the title of ‘starship’ will not apply to them. Rather it will apply to such as truly believe in Him, to those who pale into insignificance in the day-time and gleam forth with light in the night season.”

Gleaming forth with light in a time of darkness is perhaps the greatest gift of all to offer the world.


One Response to “Attaining starship”

  1. 1 Noel

    Thanks Rob, for this! I like your blog entries – & haven’t caught up for a while.
    Sorry to hear that the Micra couldn’t skate too well & ended up mashed – thank Goodness that you escaped to tell the tale so well!
    Loving greetings (& happy fasting!),

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