Once school started the first week of January, everyone’s schedules kicked into high gear. But something stopped my family in our tracks last week, and each day for the last few, we found time to get together
to pray, beseech, contemplate and think beyond our immediate circumstances. In spite of the busy-ness, we acknowledged so many bounties, particularly, the freedom to worship however we wish.
Over the winter holidays, in spite of our wish to tune out news media, a steady stream of disturbing reports out of Iran, the homeland where my husband and I are unlikely to live again, came. All spelling doom or status quo or foreign meddling or regime change, depending whose website you followed.
Finally, last week things took a harsher turn when the accusations, random mass arrests, and further crackdown on the population, including the peace-loving Baha’i community escalated in Iran. Homes were raided. Men and women arrested. A trial date for seven Baha’i leaders accused of “spreading corruption on earth” confirmed for Tuesday, January 12. New trumped up charges of hiding weapons and ammunition in the Baha’is’ homes and inciting riots indicated a new intensity of the crackdown. Anyone who knows the littlest bit about Baha’i beliefs realizes these as preposterous accusations. CNN cited the “downright fabric[ations]” and “blatant lie” of these “completely unbelievable” charges.
Today around 5 pm EST (this is noon Tuesday in Tehran) the trial of seven Baha’i “leaders” in Iran, 5 men and 2 women, who have been detained for close to two years, is scheduled to begin. For months they had been denied access to their lawyer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and her team, as well as other elements of due process. The trial was postponed a few times already, each at the last minute, spurring its own mental anguish for the detainees and those who care about them. By all accounts from their activity before arrest, these women and men were law-abiding pillars of their communities, courageous to defend the down-trodden, and admired for their qualities like being honest, hard-working, and morally beyond reproach. Theirs were “lives of service”.
Conditions surrounding the trial date this time forebode the worst for these innocent targets. The world keeps saying “never again” and it somehow doesn’t seem to make much difference. In the case of this week’s show-trial in Iran, we’re not talking about large numbers of lives, but it does represent one more of the atrocities of our time: a case of systematic, conscious targeting, the sowing of hatred and doubt among the population, resulting in vicious physical attacks, murders, and the loss of basic rights and freedoms among the country’s largest religious minority.
I don’t like to talk to my children about how horrible human beings can be to one another. I want to equip them with optimism, possibility, and faith in people’s goodness. So, I focus on the strength and resolve of those innocently imprisoned. I have talked with my older daughters about what kinds of lives those imprisoned led; and when we pray for them, our focus is less “please God, don’t kill them.” After all, it’s not God killing them. But we do pray for their safety and freedom. We pray for their strength. We pray for justice, compassion, even for the international community to speak out and not stand by mute while such injustice and indignity to continue. We pray to remember. If the world moves on and forgets or ignores such on-going horrors, we will never see peace. We talk about how strong and courageous they have remained in the face of terrible trials and ordeals. This was shared with the world when the journalist Roxana Saberi mentioned how her shared cell with these Baha’i women served as a strength and inspiration to her, helping her pass the darkest days behind bars in the notorious Evin prison.
Of course, the effort of our taking time out from our day to pray for the innocents does imply injustice lurks in the world. Even my six-year old understands this to some extent. She has a sense of “unfair” and “not nice” and danger. To realize the world is not all hearts and flowers and play dates can be part of their consciousness even while we teach hope, compassion, forgiveness and love. This is so different from instilling fear or a doomsday attitude. We focus on the good people who display these positive qualities all over the world and don’t give up, from all walks of life. These are the true heroes among us. They inspire and offer purpose to our lives, and remind us that the freedom to worship and believe as we wish is a great gift. And I feel hopeful that sharing their inspiration might contribute to our children’s generation possibly being the one that will actually never forget. For now, the anticipation looms heavy in my heart and I can’t forget.