British prime minister sends Ridvan message to Baha'is
LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has sent a message to UK Baha'is to mark Ridvan, the most important Baha'i festival. In it he expressed his "respect and admiration" for the British Baha'i community which, he said, "makes a contribution to British life out of all proportion to its size."
In the letter, which was addressed to the annual reception hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Friends of the Baha'is, Mr. Brown welcomed the Baha'is' "participation in public life" and described as "tragic" the prejudice and discrimination faced by some Baha'is in the world.
His sentiments were echoed by leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties, and the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England, all of whom also sent messages to the reception.
"The Baha'i emphasis on equality, unity, social justice, and human rights does credit to your faith," wrote David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party.
Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, called Ridvan "a time to acknowledge and reflect on the valuable social and cultural contribution made by the thousands of Baha'is living in the UK."
"The Baha'i community," he said, "can be very proud of its active role in promoting religious tolerance, peace and unity across the world."
The prime minister's message pointedly addressed the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran: "At the forefront of all of our minds this Ridvan is the fate of the seven Baha'i leaders awaiting trial in Iran. We have raised our concerns with the Iranian government and I urge the authorities to ensure that these individuals receive a fair trial and ask them to put an end to discrimination against the wider Baha'i community within Iran."
A message written on behalf of the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said he has "made clear to the Iranian authorities his profound disapproval of the way in which the leadership has been treated since their arrest and detention in harsh conditions and without charge last year. The charges now brought go against all the experience of Baha'is as peaceful people and loyal citizens of their countries."
The prime minister's letter was read by Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell, who attended the reception along with 80 other guests, including leading figures from nongovernmental organizations and different religious communities. The event was held on the terrace of the House of Commons on 22 April.
The 12-day Festival of Ridvan marks the anniversary of the announcement in 1863 by Baha'u'llah that He is God's Messenger for this age, the latest in a line of divine teachers that includes Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, and others.