The following is a speech provided by Congressman Geraldo Resende at the October 16th, 2008 Session of Congress in Brazil. Translated by Sam Cyrous.
BAHÁ’ÍS: MORE THAN A RELIGIOUS QUESTION — A QUESTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congress: Iran astonishes the world with its Nuclear Program and, above all, with the intransigence of its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in not allowing members of the United Nations Organization — the UN — to inspect its nuclear facilities, but what I wish to bring up here is another issue regarding Iran which has not received the attention that it deserves from the rest of the world — the persecution of the followers of the Bahá’í religion and the imprisonment of its believers who have been falsely charged with espionage.
Since May 14th, seven Iranian Bahá’ís have been kept in captivity, without access to lawyers and without any communication with their families. They are people of goodwill who have committed the “crime” of belonging to a religion unrecognized by the Iranian State. These seven Bahá’ís, who make up a group that took care of the interests of more than 300 thousand Iranian Bahá’ís, were arrested arbitrarily and taken from their homes and commercial establishments by the Iranian police. This group’s work consisted of providing help to the Baha’i community through the establishment of regular prayer meetings, children activities, funerals, weddings, and a few other community activities. And what is even more worrisome, Mr. Chairman, is that after four months, these Bahá’ís continue to be incarcerated in a completely arbitrary way, and have now been accused of espionage and of belonging to an anti-Islamic and anti-Iranian group. More recently the situation of the Bahá’ís has worsened. This June, three Bahá’ís of Iranian origin, all with successful businesses and families established in Yemen, had their houses attacked and their documents, CDs, photographs and even computers confiscated.
Despite any formal accusation, government officials indicated that these Bahá’ís were detained under suspicion of some sort of “proselytization,” a violation of the law in Yemen, which is denied by the Bahá’ís, but which puts them under the threat of imminent deportation to Iran, where Bahá’ís are intensely persecuted and would probably face prison and torture. Mr. Chairman, these accusations are not true. I know many Bahá’ís in my State, and I know perfectly well that they do not involve themselves in any political or religious disputes and, above all, they struggle vigorously for peace and unity in the world. It is important to remember that it was the Persian government which exiled the founder of the Bahá’í Faith to the city of Akka [part of the Ottoman Empire at the time], today part of Israeli territory. Therefore, accusing Bahá’ís of having political connections with Israel because of the fact that their holy shrines, with the mortal remains of the founders of their faith, are located in that region clearly demonstrates the intention of the Iranian government to discriminate against these seven Bahá’ís at any cost. Noble colleagues, even other Iranian citizens are rising in defense of the Bahá’ís, because they, neighbors, colleagues and friends, know that Bahá’ís are not part of any secret Israeli organization, and that they deserve all due respect as human beings.
The Iranian and Muslim Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebade, rose up to defend the Bahá’ís, resulting in a newspaper alleging that Shirin’s daughter had converted from Islam to the Bahá’í Faith, an accusation which has no foundation [and which carries a death sentence in Islamic law]. Analyzing this question, we clearly understand that those who defend the Bahá’ís are also being persecuted, and for this reason the Brazilian government, as well as other governments in the world, should denounce these sad violations, since these seven Bahá’ís are at risk of being executed at any moment. All vulnerable groups in Iran count upon international pressure to aid their plight, to ensure that their rights will be preserved and that they will be treated with at least minimal dignity. Iranian Bahá’ís are only one more of these groups that apprehensively await for action to be taken in their defense.
It should be clear, Mr. Chairman, that the Bahá’í Faith preaches the unity of God, of Religion and of Humankind. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Bahá’í religion, states that the fundamental objective animating the Faith of God and His religion is the protection of the interests of humanity and the promotion of unity, and the nourishment of the spirit of love and friendship for all of humanity. The Bahá’í Faith is an independent world religion with its own laws and scriptures that emerged in 1844, in Persia, currently known as Iran. Bahá’u’lláh, whose given name was Mirzá Husayn Ali, lived between the years of 1817 and 1892. The Faith which he founded does not possess dogmas, rituals, clergy or a sacerdotal class. The Bahá’í International Community with approximately 6 million followers is the second most widely diffused religion in the world, surpassed only by Christianity. Bahá’ís reside in 178 countries of the world and can be found in practically all territories of the globe. The Bahá’í Faith has been established in Brazil since February 1921, when Lady Leonora Holsapple Armstrong arrived to teach the religion to its residents. Today, [Brazilian] Bahá’ís are a contingent of approximately 47 thousand people, from diverse social, cultural and economical classes, who reside in approximately 1,215 Brazilian municipalities.
It is important to remember, Mr. Chairman, that this very National Congress of Brazil has honored Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, in a solemn session held on May 28th of 1992, the centenary year of his passing, an occasion at which representatives of many political parties spoke about the life and teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Also in 1992, during the World Conference for Environment and Development, Eco ’92, the Bahá’í Community conveyed its greetings to all the Chiefs of State and Government in the Official Conference and offered as a gift to the city of Rio de Janeiro and to all those who promoted the World Conference, a beautiful monument in shape of an hourglass, dedicated to World Peace, established in the Aterro do Flamengo, and conceived by renowned artist Siron Franco, who is also a member of the Bahá’í Community. In addition, the Bahá’í Community is distinguishing Brazil with the establishment of economic and social development projects in diverse regions of the country. For example, here in Brasília, the community has established the SCHOOL OF NATIONS, which promotes an education embracing concepts of the unity of humankind and world citizenship. The Bahá’í International Community is the first non-governmental organization formally credentialed by the United Nations, approximately 50 years ago, which has supported all of the actions of the United Nations, aimed at the establishment of world peace, tolerance, and understanding amongst the peoples of the world.
Considering all which has been previously stated, Mr. Chairman, the Bahá’í community residing in the Brazilian state looks for action from this government, which has always shown itself to be concerned with human rights.
Thank you very much.