Baha'is to host prayer gathering Saturday

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By Special to the Monitor

Baha'is of Los Alamos will hold a prayer gathering at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Church, to express concern and support for the seven Baha’i members who have been in prison in Iran for nearly a year and who are now to stand trial on charges of spying for Israel and insulting Islam. The public is invited to attend.

The Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) announced on Feb. 11 that charges had been brought against the seven imprisoned members of the national-level committee that coordinates the activities for the Iranian Baha’i community.

In the report, deputy Tehran prosecutor Hassan Haddad said, “The case will be sent to the revolution ary court next week” and that the Baha’is are accused of allegedly conducting “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.”

The Baha’is deny categorically these charges. Reportedly, no evidence against them has been brought to light. The seven Baha'is were arrested in March and May 2008 and have been held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.  Allegedly, at no time during their incarceration have they been given access to their legal counsel, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

At this time, it is reported some 30 other Baha’is are imprisoned in Iran solely on account of their religion.

Close to 80 more Baha’is have been required to post deeds of property and business licenses as collateral for bail. In all of these cases the authorities allegedly made it clear that all charges would be dropped if the individuals were to publicly recant their faith.

On Feb. 13, the United States Government, through the State Department, swiftly condemned the Iranian government for its actions. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has also spoken out, expressing serious concern about the seven imprisoned Baha'is.

Also on Feb. 13, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution, H. Res. 175, “Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha'i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights.”

“These measures taken by the United States Government and other governments throughout the world are deeply appreciated by Baha'is, and have an effect,” said Robert Sarracino, a member of the Los Alamos Baha'i community. “Without such measures and resolutions, which have spanned the past 30 years, the persecution of Baha'is in Iran would have been far worse.

"While Baha'is have no position on the political situation in Iran, we wish that the members of the Baha'i Faith be accorded the right to exist as a religious minority with the right to practice their religion.”      

The Baha'i Faith is the youngest of the world’s independent monotheistic religions and one of the fastest growing.

Major Baha'i tenets include the oneness of humanity, equality of men and women, eradication of prejudice, harmony of science and religion, universal education and world peace.

Updates and background on the situation of the Baha'is in Iran are posted at iran.bahai.us.  

To learn more about the Baha'i Faith in America, check www.bahai.us or   call arracino at 662-0453, or e-mailing the Los Alamos Baha'is at losalamoslsa@gmail.com.