"Time for Reflection" in Scottish Parliament

February 6, 2006

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Representatives of the Baha'i Faith were invited recently to address Scotland's Parliament as part of the body's weekly proceeding that allows people from different faiths to share their perspectives on the challenges facing the country. It was the first time an invitation had come from a Member of Parliament.

Carrie Varjavandi, a Baha'i from Dundee, addressed the body on 18 January 2006 during its "Time for Reflection."

Ms. Varjavandi invited Parliament members to consider the current world situation. "The world today faces apparently intractable problems, which governments and peoples are striving courageously to solve: climate change, poverty and religious fanaticism to name but a few," she said.

She then suggested that the spiritual teachings of Baha'u'llah not only identified disunity as the underlying cause of these problems, but also offered a solution.

"'The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established'" she said, quoting Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith.

Ms. Varjavandi also said that Baha'u'llah's story was one of "the great untold stories of our time."

"Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith, was born into a noble family in Iran more than 180 years ago," said Ms. Varjavandi. "He forsook his life of wealth and comfort for one of imprisonment, torture and exile in order to share his unique insights into the condition of the world with those around him. His life and teachings are the inspiration for the 5 million Baha'is in the world today."

Commenting on Ms. Varjavandi's address, Presiding Officer George Reid MSP (Member Scottish Parliament) made a direct connection between the fundamental principles of the Baha'i Faith and the words of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796).

"The Baha'i belief in the unity of mankind matches our commitment to build an inclusive society in Scotland," said MSP Reid. "It recalls the words of Robert Burns (which were quoted) at the Opening of the Parliament in 1999: 'That man to man, the wor'l ower shall brithers be...'"

The invitation to contribute to the "Time for Reflection" came from a member of the Green Party, Chris Balance, MSP.

The reading by Ms. Varjavandi is historic in that it marks the first time a Baha'i has been specifically asked by a Member of the Scottish Parliament to deliver the "Time for Reflection," said Allan Forsyth, the chair of the Baha'i Council of Scotland.

In May 2001, Baha'i Alex Reid was invited to give the "Time for Reflection," at the behest of a group of religious leaders who usually organize the event. "Also at the time, the Parliament was in a temporary location and not in its magnificent new building," said Mr. Forsyth.

"It is hoped that the success of this occasion will lead to further invitations and a strengthening of the contribution that the Baha'i community can make to the inclusiveness of the Scottish Community," Mr. Forsyth added.

The Time for Reflection is a weekly event, lasting four minutes, when speakers are invited to share their thoughts with the members of Parliament. When the Scottish Parliament began in 1999, members voted to make it inclusive of all faiths. The majority of speakers have been Christian, but Jews, Muslims, and others have also taken part.

In the closing section of her reading, Mrs. Varjavandi said Scotland "has always been an outward-looking nation with a great tradition of helping others; our contribution to the world is far out of proportion to our size.

"I hope that reflection on these words will help us all to continue this practice in ways that will help the world's people transform our lives on this planet," Ms. Varjavandi said.

A video of the presentation in the Parliament is available until about 15 February 2006 on the internet at: http://www.holyrood.tv/library.asp?title=Time%20For%20Reflection&section=29