Reports and breaking news

President Ahmadinejad Delivers Remarks to the National Press Club

MODERATOR: We have many, many questions, starting with this, which directly relates to your speech: How important do you think that the worldwide spread of Islam is to creating the sublime and beautiful world that you envision? And is there room for other religions?

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We think that all religions and all divine religions have the same message. They all come from the same place.

They have several clear messages: to invite man to worship God, which is the root of all goodness; to invite man to justice, which guarantees love, friendship and viable security; to invite man to dignity and to respect of mankind; to invite man to love the rest of mankind.

These messages are bedded in the religion of Christ -- of Moses and Christ, as well as the holy prophet of Islam.

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): These prophets have all given the same messages. They never had differences in that respect. There was never a conflict there. Because their root goes back to the same reality and their message was the same as well.

MODERATOR: Does that mean that there is room for Christianity in...

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): They all believe in beauty and goodness.

MODERATOR: ... that you're describing?

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): They are all brothers. They all want the same thing: justice and friendship. And this is the common ground for all religions.

MODERATOR: Yes, but do those religions have a place in the world you describe?

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): True pious people have no difference with other -- they are all human beings and followers of different religions, and all of their views should be respected.

We should all build a prosperous community together. And we must all move hand in hand. This is a responsibility for all.

MODERATOR: We have many questions regarding the Baha'i religious minority in Iran. Many of our questioners say that the Baha'i minority has been deprived of their human rights. What would your response be to that?

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): In our constitution, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrianism are recognized as the official religions.

AHMADINEJAD (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): When we speak of religion, we refer to divine religions. In our country, we follow that law; a law that is based on the majority vote of the people.


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Dr. 'Alí-Muhammad Varqa

Doctor 'Alí-Muhammad Varqá, Hand of the Cause of God, passed away in the early hours of last night. He was about 95 years old.

Dr. Varqa was the last surviving Hand of the Cause of God. The Hands of the Cause of God were 50 individuals specially appointed by Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abbdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, who offered guidance and great inspiration to the Bahá'í community without any decision making powers. Dr. Varqa was appointed as a Hand of the Cause in 1955 by Shoghi Effendi.

The following letter was today sent from the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ás of the world:

23 September 2007

To the Baha'is of the World

In the early hours of last night, revered, greatly admired, well-loved Hand of the Cause of God Dr. 'Ali-Muhammad Varqa departed this earthly plane after a period of outstanding, consecrated service to the Blessed Beauty that spanned many decades.

With grieving hearts we bid farewell to the last of that noble company, the Chief Stewards of Baha'u'llah's embryonic World Commonwealth, into which he is now gathered in realms of deathless delight and joy. The fervor of his love for the teaching work inspired countless believers across the globe, whether at the events he attended as the representative of the Guardian or of the Universal House of Justice, or in his extensive travels to promote the goals of the Master's Divine Plan. In such activities he contributed mightily to the progress of the Ten Year Crusade and subsequent global teaching plans. Until his final days, he was leonine in his determination to protect the Faith. He wore with marked distinction the mantle of Trustee of Huququ'llah that fell to him from the shoulders of his illustrious father, impressing a record of imperishable achievement on the annals of the Formative Age -- achievement which has set a pattern that secures important features for the operation into the future of that divinely ordained institution. Throughout the many years of his valiant endeavor to maintain the integrity of the two offices of so high a rank to which he was simultaneously elevated, his manner was imbued with a luminous gentleness, a genuine kindliness and a natural dignity which combined to reflect the character of a saintly personality. For these exemplary traits he will ever be remembered. Our heartfelt sympathy reaches out to the members of his dear family in their sad loss, which is shared by the entire Baha'i community. With deeply held trust in the bounties of the Gracious Lord, we pray at the Sacred Threshold for the progress of his resplendent soul throughout the divine worlds.

We advise the friends in all lands to commemorate his passing and request befitting memorial services in his honor at all Houses of Worship.

The Universal House of Justice

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Haifa appeals Defense Min. plan to build military base at city port

A view of the Haifa port.(Yaron Kaminsky)

According to the municipality, the Defense Ministry presented a plan two years ago for the establishment of a military marina, but did not reveal that it also planned to build additional structures - 25 meters high and 150 meters wide - on the site.

In its petition against the Defense Ministry to the Jerusalem District Court, the Haifa municipality wrote, "this massive construction, in its height and width, has passed the line of reason." Pending the court's decision on the matter, Haifa has requested to prohibit the construction work scheduled to begin in the near future.

{josquote}Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav and civil engineer Ariel Waterman said that the construction could also block the city skyline, particularly the view of the bay as well as the area of the city's Bahai center.{/josquote}

The administrative petition claims that the decision to approve the project contradicts the national zoning plan, which had designated the western section of the Haifa port area for residential housing, tourism, commerce and entertainment. According to the petition, the construction could have a negative effect on the city's economy.

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Uganda: Pastor Arrested for Defilement

POLICE have arrested a pastor for allegedly defiling a 16-year-old girl in Rukungiri District. Pastor Grace Okello preaches at Revival Mission Church in Rukungiri Town Council. Rukungiri CID Officer Henry Mbabazi said the case had been registered at the police. "We arrested him and investigations are still going on," he said.

It is alleged that on Friday, Pastor Okello took the girl (name withheld) to his office on Karegesa Road where he defiled her. The girl said at the police station that Pastor Okello had forcibly pulled her into his office and in the ensuing scuffle she hit him on the head with an unknown object. Sunday Monitor saw a fresh wound on Mr Okello's face at the police station.

{josquote}It is alleged that when Pastor Okello failed to win over Mr Peter Wako to his Revival Church, he burnt his Bahai religious books worth Shs20 million.{/josquote}

The neighbours to the Pastor's office said they heard the girl screaming for help as the pastor shouted, "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ". They thought he was possibly praying for the girl.

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A Mashriq on every continent?

There are 7½ Bahai temples in the world, all of them with nine doors and circular in shape. They’ll tell you there’s one on each continent, but they don’t have one on Antarctica and I leave you to do the math.
The Bahai Temple

It's a little-known fact that 2007 is the centenary of Sir Ernest Shackelton's attempts to put a House of Worship on the frozen continent. His most famous attempt was made in 1914. Also little-known is the fact that many in that party were British Baha'is, trying to avoid being called up for service in World War I.

The materials for the House of Worship travelled with Shackelton from South Georgia to New Zealand in 1916. There, they sat in storage for many years while Sir Ernest tried to re-vivify the project.

Very few people know that Sir Ernest was a Baha'i, and had taken on the House of Worship project, but many have remarked on the nine-pointed star on his gravestone.

Shackleton's grave, Grytviken, South Georgia

After Sir Ernest's death on South Georgia in 1922 at the start of a site reconnaissance expedition to Antarctica, storage fees for the materials were apparently left unpaid and the materials were finally sold by auction to a South Otago farmer who lived near Taieri Mouth. He constructed a barn, apparently using the original plans.

Funds are desperately needed to get this barn ...sorry, House of Worship... to Antarctica in fulfilment of the goal of a House of Worship on every continent.

"Should the fire of the love of God be kindled in Greenland, all the ice of that country will be melted, and its cold weather become temperate—that is, if the hearts be touched with the heat of the love of God, that territory will become a divine rose garden and a heavenly paradise, and the souls, even as fruitful trees, will acquire the utmost freshness and beauty. Effort, the utmost effort, is required."
`Abdu'l-Baha. Tablets of the Divine Plan, p.28

Imagine what would happen if this House of Worship was to be shipped to Antarctica!