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Illinois Rep. Kirk - Statement for Congressional Record on Siyah Chal.doc E1906, 1907 CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - Extension of Remarks October 17, 2002 Commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Baha'i Faith HON. MARK STEVEN KIRK OF ILLINOIS IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette

The 150th Anniversary of the Baha'i Faith

October 17, 2002

Mr. KIRK. Mr. Speaker, this month the American Baha'i community, which has its national headquarters in Illinois, will be commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the beginnings of the Baha'i Faith in Iran. The Baha'i Faith is a world religion with more than 5 million adherents in some 230 countries and territories including more than 140,000 members here in the United States. The Baha'i House of Worship in my district of Illinois is registered as a national historic site that has drawn more than five million visitors to enjoy its unique architecture and serene gardens since its completion in 1953.

This October is a special time for the American Baha'i community because it was during this month that the founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, was first overwhelmed with the Baha'i message of love and unity while unjustly imprisoned in one of Persia's (now Iran's) worst dungeons, the Siyah Chal. After his release from this dungeon, Baha'u'llah promoted this message despite being banished from Baghdad to Istanbul, from Istanbul to Edirne, and eventually from Edirne to the prison city of Acre where he died in 1892 after having lived in exile for forty years for his belief in the oneness of humanity. The Baha'i Faith is based on the principles of cooperation and peace outlined by Baha'u'llah. He taught that there is only one God, that the conscience of man is sacred and to be respected, that racial diversity contributes to the overall beauty of mankind, and that women and men are equals in God's sight. He taught that a spiritual solution is required to address the disparities of wealth distribution and that religion and science must agree. He was among the first to express the need for an international auxiliary language, emphasize the importance of universal education, and advise that a commonwealth of nations was needed for establishing global peace and security. The significance of these principles could not be overemphasized in today's volatile world.

It is astounding to think how advanced these concepts were 150 years ago not only in an ancient Persian culture, but also in the United States. Slavery and persecution based on race were widely accepted facts of life at that time. Women in the United States were still 70 years away from getting the vote. Global literacy was low and universal education was unheard of in most places. Colonial exploitation was on the rise and workers enjoyed few protections. Unfortunately, just as the Baha'i message was met with hostility in Persia in 1852, it still faces persecution in that region today. The Islamic Republic of Iran regards Baha'is as heretics who, according to Islamic law, should be executed. Baha'is, along with Iran's other religious minorities, are prevented from exercising their right to religious freedom. They are excluded from institutions of higher education, denied jobs, and have had many of their holy places, cemeteries and properties seized or destroyed. They are denied their most basic human rights.

Since 1982, Congress has adopted eight resolutions condemning Iran's treatment of the Baha'is, its largest religious minority. With the support of the U.S. government, the UN General Assembly has adopted annual resolutions condemning these human rights abuses. Yet, Baha'is still await the religious freedom called for in those UN resolutions and promised in Iran's constitution. The Baha'i community remains an oppressed religious minority and is denied rights to organize, elect leaders, and to conduct freely its religious activities. On the 150th anniversary of Baha'u'llah's imprisonment and the founding of the Baha'i Faith, we salute along with the American Baha'i community the ideals of universal brotherhood, peace, cooperation, and understanding espoused by Baha'u'llah. These are Baha'i values, they are American values, and they are universal values. I also would like to recognize the immense sacrifices that many around the world have made striving to ensure that true liberty and justice for all becomes not just an American dream, but also a global reality.

Baha'i Faith
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