June 28, 2015
(Editor’s Note: The following letter, written by Farid Kashani, was given to the judge at a Iranian court hearing the case of his mother for practicing the Baha’i faith. Surprisingly, the judge requested the boy read it to the court.)
Salaam, my name is Farid Kashani – a 12 year-old boy born into a Baha’i family.
So far in my life I have learned many things. For example, I must always be truthful, always be kind to everyone, always be compassionate to all – even to people who wrong me or wish me ill. I must not wrongly accuse anyone of wrong doing, I should not backbite or gossip etc, etc. . .
About two and half years ago, when I was 10 years old, I was deprived of the presence of a father in my life because they came and arrested him, and jailed him [on account of his religion]. He has been sentenced for 5 years. Before marrying my mother, he had previously been jailed for 5 years [on the same account], and now they have arrested him for the second time. During the last two and a half years, my mother has been both a mother and a father for me and three elder brothers – and now she is about to be sentenced, and I don’t know if or for how long they will jail her for. Because of this, I think about lots of things these days.
I would like to talk to you about something: What does justice mean? Does it mean that people who only wish for, and work tirelessly for, the betterment of their country, and only aim to be kind to others and help them, should be jailed?
I think that when a person is imprisoned or pressured because of their religion or race, or false accusations, or by force, justice is being crumpled up and discarded like a worthless piece of paper.
Actually, even putting that notion as aside, I accept that not all of us people think the same about things, but after all we are all members of the human race: “We are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”
We [i.e. my family and I] are Baha’is. If you think about the word “Baha’i” you will see that the word itself has a positive meaning. We believe that: “O Friend, in the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love.” We are taught that: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues.”
Are these teachings wrong? Are these teachings contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Do they undermine or endanger the order and security of this country? More importantly, is it our country’s way of life to be persecuted because of our beliefs or religion? Why? What for? What sin have we committed?
I am not saying these things because of my mother, but instead for all people that have been unfairly and baselessly jailed because of their beliefs and religion.
It is my wish that all innocent people that have been jailed merely because of their beliefs or religion be free. I pray for all of them.
Only the coldest of hearts could read this letter and not be touched by the 12 year-old’s plea for justice. With his father already in prison and his mother awaiting a court decision, he faces the possible loss of both parents. The heart of the boy knows this is not right, it is obvious from his thought processes that his parents have been raising him to think, and to love. It is embedded within the nature of a child, regardless of where they are born, to ask questions. They are bright and curious and sometimes challenging to parents who have the sensitivity to frame answers in a way that is not detrimental to the child’s outlook on the world.
Yet how, as a parent, can this be accomplished in a country like Iran where freedom of some religions is banned, and what one believes is forbidden if not approved by the state. Baha’is believe in God, they also believe in the dynamic process that moves the world towards an evolved enlightenment.
The Baha’i faith is one that believes that the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life.
Baha’is proclaim an underlying oneness that binds all major world religions and are connected through the unity of their originating source, and the similarities of their core beliefs.
In today’s turbulent world, one of the most important values is the belief in God, nothing else can sustain us or bring us peace. We are molded by the culture of our birthplace and the influences of our youth, but the deciding factor in how we conduct our lives may depend on our location in the world. I am fortunate to have been born in a nation with religious tolerance. How do I begin to understand what it is like to be imprisoned or tortured for my beliefs like those who, by a mere twist of fate, have been born into an intolerant country?
We see in every corner of the world a different interpretation of God, and even within the most dogmatic forms of religion, there are variables. Yet not even the skeptics can dismiss the fact that within all these variations there dwells a deep and abiding hunger to know God. That hunger, that sense of searching for God, could become the unifying force throughout all religions. This force enables us to move away from fear — the foundation upon which religious discrimination is founded — and gradually move toward love, which is God.
So, if what one believes is indeed a force for all that is good and blessed in this world, it will thrive and serve humanity in its own inextinguishable light, as bright as the flame this boy, Farid Kashani, carries in his heart.