(BNUK) The Prime Minister Gordon Brown has described the prejudice and discrimination faced by Bahá’ís around the world as “tragic”.
Mr Brown made his remarks in a special message sent to the UK Bahá’í community on the holiest day of the Bahá’í year. In a letter addressed to the annual reception hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Bahá’ís, Mr Brown expressed his “respect and admiration” for the British Bahá’í community which, he said, “makes a contribution to British life out of all proportion to its size.”
“The principles of the Bahá’í Faith are rightly shared and appreciated by many in our different communities. It is therefore all the more tragic that Bahá’ís around the world face prejudice and discrimination,” wrote Mr Brown.
“At the forefront of all of our minds this Ridvan is the fate of the seven Bahá’í leaders awaiting trial in Iran,” the letter continued. “We have raised our concerns with the Iranian Government and I urge the authorities to ensure that these individuals receive a fair trial and ask them to put an end to discrimination against the wider Bahá’í community within Iran.”
Mr Brown’s message concluded, “I very much welcome your increased participation in public life and hope you will build on this in the future. I am sure this year’s Festival of Ridván will give joy and inspiration to everyone attending and I would like to send my very best wishes to everyone in the British Bahá’í community for a happy Ridván.”
Mr Brown’s message was read by Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who joined some 80 other guests including leading figures from non-governmental organisations and the UK’s religious communities. The uncertain situation faced by seven Bahá’í leaders who have been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, without charges or access to legal counsel, since May last year was mentioned by all the speakers including Dr Kishan Manocha, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the UK, and Lembit Opik MP, Chair of the All-Party group. Mrs Bahar Tahzib, whose father was executed in Iran in the early 1980s for his Bahá’í beliefs and who is also a niece of one of those currently being held, addressed the gathering and spoke movingly about the strength her family members have demonstrated in the face of persecution.
The Prime Minister’s sentiments were also echoed by the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also sent messages to the reception.
David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party wrote, “Ridván is an important time for reflection and celebration of the Bahá’í Faith. It is also a time to focus on the importance of community, including the wider Bahá’í community worldwide – some of whom may face persecution of their beliefs.”
“The Bahá’í emphasis on equality, unity, social justice, and human rights does credit to your faith, and I would like to send my good wishes to you and your families at this time,” said Mr Cameron.
“This festival is not only an opportunity to celebrate the Bahá’í religion and the principles of peace, social justice and equality which are at the heart of Bahá’í traditions,” wrote Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat party. “Ridván is also a time to acknowledge and reflect on the valuable social and cultural contribution made by the thousands of Baháis living in the UK.”
“The Bahá’í community can be very proud of its active role in promoting religious tolerance, peace and unity across the world,” said Mr Clegg.
In a message written on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, the leader of the Church of England expressed his solidarity with the Bahá’í leadership imprisoned in Iran. The message said that the Archbishop “has made clear to the Iranian authorities his profound disapproval of the way in which the leadership has been treated since their arrest and detention in harsh conditions and without charge last year. The charges now brought go against all the experience of Baha’is as peaceful people and loyal citizens of their countries.”
The Archbishop assured those present at the parliamentary reception – “and especially those who have experienced persecution” – his warm greetings and his commitment to justice and to religious freedom for all.
The Ridván festival marks the first public announcement in 1863 by the Bahá’í Faith’s Prophet-Founder Bahá’u’lláh of his mission.
[Source: Baha’i News UK – http://bahainews-uk.info/2009/04/22/pm-describes-prejudice-and-discrimination-against-bahais-as-tragic/]