Social Action

Human rights, community development and the like

New York Breadline

This image above showed up in a Wall Street Journal article recently. According to Getty Images the image caption is:

Unemployed men queuing for coffee and bread at a soup kitchen run by the Bahai Fellowship at 203 East 9th Street, New York, circa 1930.

One quote in the window reads, "Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country; let him rather glory in this, that he loves his kind." Another quote reads, "This Bodes Some Strange Eruption to our State". That second quote is from the play, "Hamlet", and I'm thinking it's a good good one to place on any 1930 New York soup kitchen front window.

It's quite possible that the "Bahai Fellowship" was run by the New History Society / Caravan of East and West, which was operating under the wing of the New York Baha'i spiritual assembly at that time. Well, sort of....

See the discussion on this photo at Bread Line by Baha'i Centre

Hysterical Color Blindness

{flickr4j_photo id='3912840785' size='2'}

If the health care debate was not hot enough, it has now become 'colored' by commentary that opposition to the President's agenda is motivated by racism. Reasonable people can disagree about this as the President himself recently exemplified. However it has got me thinking about something I've observed recently that concerns me. It seems that for some Americans to even mention the possibility of racism as a factor in a situation has become intolerable. For some in fact, the very effort to discuss racism has become a form of racism!

I've been pondering the possible origin of this attitude and I believe that it represents a somewhat extreme form of color-blind ideology. Color-blind ideology is captured in the oft stated phrase, "I don't see color". Now generally the person who makes this statement is not being literal, but actually means, "I don't judge people based on color." Not judging people based on color is something I completely support as a Baha'i:

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IRAN: Lawyer spent 10 weeks in prison 'for nothing'

Abdul-Fatah Soltani

On the 28th day of his detention inside Iran's Evin Prison, he was granted his first family visit. 

It was then that he found out that while he had been locked up, his sister had died in a car accident. 

Prison authorities offered to let Abdul-Fatah Soltani attend the mourning ceremony. 

There was just one condition. 

The famed human-rights lawyer had to promise that he wouldn't speak out to the media about his incarceration.

He rejected the offer, missing the chance to join his family to grieve for his sister. 

{josquote}There should be concrete rules and laws to arrest and try people. You cannot do it out of your own judgment.{/josquote}

"I did not believe I had done anything wrong, so accepting their condition was against my belief and my principles," Soltani, now free, told The Times in an interview at his downtown office a few days ago. "Accepting their condition was a rubber stamp on my non-committed crime."

Instead he vowed to prison authorities that once he was out of prison, he would haul all of them into court, suing them for unjustly locking him up.

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Bahai youth tackle social issues

{josquote}It is without doubt that this behaviour—having many boyfriends and girlfriends at the same time—is a major risk in terms of contracting HIV and it also instigates other problems, such as violence.{/josquote}

ON Saturday, AMICAALL [Alliance of Mayors' Initiative for Community Action on AIDS at the Local Level] conducted a dialogue with children and young people at the Bahai park  in Mbabane to discuss issues affecting young people including child abuse, multiple concurrent partnerships (MCPs), among others.

The event was attended by over 100 young people.

This was after the youth’s participation in the local clean up campaign that seeks to keep the country’s communities clean.

“The clean-up campaign offered a good way to mobilise the young people in the area to be involved in community activity. I also wanted to use the opportunity to introduce AMICAALL to the community to provide our children and young people with information vital to their health and development,” said Councillor Gwedle Mdluli.

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Baha'i human rights - or developmental human needs - are these the keys to progress?

Eleanor Roosevelt

I once asked on a course I was teaching this question, “What is the origin of human rights?”  Very quickly a woman from Sweden said, “Human needs.”  This struck a deep chord in me and I began to wonder how that might be the case and what were the implications for those of us that are interested in Baha’i-inspired development and education.

Recently I found this quotation included with Wendi Momen’s long list of human rights established within Baha’i writings.  The most significant aspect of the quotation for me is the assertion that in governments, and in religions, autocratic governance actually prevents (presumably true and desirable) development;

Under an autocratic government the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail — that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs — development and growth are inevitable. Abdu’l-Bahá 1912

{josquote}Nothing would undermine efforts more than rank hypocrisy.{/josquote}

Thanks Wendi – your list and this quotation really go to the heart of the matter don’t they?

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