British politicians commend Baha'is on Naw-Ruz

28 March 2006

LONDON, England — Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top British politicians have sent greetings to the Baha'i community of the United Kingdom on Naw-Ruz, the Baha'i New Year.

In their messages, Mr. Blair and the others took note of Baha'i efforts to promote social cohesion and human rights.

"I warmly commend all that the Baha'i community does for social cohesion and better inter-faith relations, which makes such a valuable contribution to our society," wrote Mr. Blair in his message, which was read on 21 March 2006 at a reception in the House of Commons.

"Your commitment to tackling discrimination and promoting our shared humanity is particularly important," said Mr. Blair. "I hope that this work will become increasingly well-known."

About 90 people attended the Naw-Ruz reception, which was organized by the Office of External Affairs of the Baha'i community of the UK and held on the terrace of the House of Commons.

While Mr. Blair was not in attendance, many prominent people were, including several Members of Parliament, a Peer, and officials from a number of government departments, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office, and No. 10 Downing Street.

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Left to right: Dr Wendi Momen of the Baha'i community; Eileen Fry, Director of the Multifaith Centre at Derby University; William Chapman, Prime Minister's Appointments Secretary at 10 Downing Street.

Also joining the celebration were members of all of the major faith communities in the UK: Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians.

Member of Parliament David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, also sent a message, which was also read out at the reception.

"There is no doubt that your faith's belief in the breaking down of barriers that separate people is a lesson to us all, as we face the national and international challenges of our day," said Mr. Cameron.

"The importance you place on principles such as social justice, and the need to tackle prejudice, has stood the test of time. These principles are as vital today as they were a century and a half ago. "

In his message, Member of Parliament Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, took note of Baha'i efforts to promote human rights.

"I have enormous respect and admiration for both the philosophy and culture which the Baha'i faith embraces and represents," said Sir Campbell in his message. "Particularly, I am proud of the work you do in conjunction with my fellow Liberal Democrat Parliamentarians regarding human rights abroad.

"I know that in Iran there is much to do before the Baha'i faith can live without fear of intimidation or persecution. However, I am confident that this end will be achieved through our collective effort."

Member of Parliament Lembit Opik, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha'is, welcomed guests to the reception. He praised the Baha'is for their solidarity and optimism and said that being with Baha'is reminded him of why he was in politics -- to try to make the world a better place.

Barney Leith, secretary for external affairs of the Baha'i community of the United Kingdom, welcomed the guests and explained that the festival of Naw-Ruz is a time of celebration for the Baha'i community.

Mr. Leith noted that the festival of Naw-Ruz is shared with the Zoroastrians. Mr. Leith added, however, that while the Baha'is in the UK were free to celebrate, the Baha'is in Iran were suffering ever greater levels of persecution. He warmly thanked Her Majesty's Government, and particularly the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, for its steadfast support and excellent work in defending the human rights of the Baha'is in Iran.

Mr. Leith also thanked the All Party Friends of the Baha'is for their continuing support.

While Prime Minister Blair has sent Naw-Ruz greetings to the Baha'i community previously, this was the first time the UK Baha'i community had received New Year's greetings from the leaders of all three main political parties.

Gye Nyami, a London-based Baha'i musical ensemble closed the formal programme by performing three pieces with texts taken from Baha'i, Hindu and Buddhist scriptures.

"There can be no doubt that this was the best of the successive Naw-Ruz receptions held over many years in the House of Commons," said Mr. Leith. "There was a warm spirit of welcome for all who attended. The presence of so many MPs and government officials clearly confirms the respect in which the Faith is held at quite senior levels in government."