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30 November 2008

FOCAL POINT : Devon Gundry, “Armed”

Devon Gundry, “Armed”
Link reference: Justin Baldoni on >Vimeo.

THE SIEGE in Mumbai is over. For the past two days, I've stopped reading the news and watching TV: the images and the stories are just too devastating to experience, considering how much I loved this city, the city that hosted my very first, lengthy stay in India, a city that never ceased to laugh and listen and love and live. Family and friends have filled my mobile phone, Outlook, and Facebook with messages of concern: an ironic but deeply moving way to remain physically connected at a time of spiritual disconnection.

On these rueful moments, I seek solace in the power of faith. From the sacred Bahá’í writings come these timely words:

“Armed with the power of Thy name nothing can ever hurt me, and with Thy love in my heart all the world’s afflictions can in no wise alarm me.”

—Bahá’u'lláh, “Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u'lláh”, p. 208

The musician Devon Gundry has recently translated this universal truth into a song called “Armed”. I'm sharing the video with you, wherever you are, in hopes that you'll also find strength in the power of the love of God . . . amidst “all the world's afflictions”.

27 November 2008

Terror in Mumbai

I'M SAFE in Kolkata, and so are friends and colleagues in Mumbai. The senseless prejudice surrounding the terror of the past 24 hours still shocks those who have known Mumbai as the one true cosmopolitan city of India.

This is yet another indication that the old world order is now crashing, its dross being purged. That we need to move forward with the new world order is clear, no matter how perilous the path we take to get there.

Related Stories: Explosive Times; Blasts in Mumbai


Now playing: Janis Siegel - Sorry-Grateful {From Company}
via FoxyTunes

24 November 2008

Regional Bahá’í Conference in Kolkata: 
The morning after

THE KOLKATA Regional Bahá’í Conference ended last night in what is possibly the largest, most zealous gathering of friends ever held in this part of the world. There were over 1,500 of them, exceeding the expected figure of 800, coming from Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the entire East India. If the figures were remarkable, the goals committed by the group were even more stunning.

This morning, the morning after, I can still feel the energy of these two historic days: raw, palpable, undeniable in its love for the Bahá’í Faith and its desire for meeting the goals of the current Five Year Plan. And the people, draped in such colorful tribal costumes of the northeastern heights and swaying to grand musical instruments of this grand musical corner of India. I never knew the Indian subcontinent could be this, THIS diverse, and I'm only talking about the eastern frontier!

This weekend, we came as guests of the Universal House of Justice, finding new friends and reaffirming old ties along the way. This weekend, we all stood up for Bahá’u’lláh.

Watch this space for photos from the event, once I get to process all 764 of them!

20 November 2008

Regional Bahá’í Conference in Bangalore: 
First in India, fifth in the world

The Bangalore Regional Conference

Bahá'ís in attendance
Image source:

THE FIRST of three Regional Bahá'í Conferences in India kicked off in Bangalore last weekend, with over 1,500 Bahá'ís from south India and Sri Lanka in attendance. The conference is the fifth of 41 conferences being held around the world from November 2008 to March 2009. This series of events is called by the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing institution of the Bahá'í Faith, to celebrate the achievements of the international Five Year Plan (2006-2011) for the growth and development of Bahá'í communities, and to deliberate on the next actions required for the plan.

New Delhi and Kolkata will host the other two conferences this weekend. Watch this space for stories on the Kolkata event.

You can view images from the Bangalore conference on Praveen's Picasa folders.

15 November 2008

Hazy days in Delhi

Smog in Delhi

From my apartment in Gurgaon

SMOG GREETED me in Delhi this week, and it's bad. At 10:30 AM, the new expressway from the Indira Gandhi International Airport to the satellite city of Gurgaon is barely visible. This afternoon, I was sneezing the entire hour that I was at the Dilli Haat crafts market in central New Delhi. And as I type this post in the airport, the PAs are blaring delayed schedules of flight departures due to poor ramp visibilities.

It’s no surprise that today’s Hindustan Times (HT) announces the dubious honor that New Delhi has just received as one of Asia’s 13 top polluting cities. HT refers to a just-released report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that while “atmospheric brown cloud” (a layer of burning fossil fuel mixed with noxious soot, fumes, and other air pollutants) is a global phenomenon, Asia’s levels are quite higher because of its highly diversified climate. In Delhi, the air pollution comes from the lack of an efficient public transport system that curbs the increase in the number road vehicles.

By the way, Mumbai and Kolkata also figure in the UNEP list. Manila doesn't. Read the report on the UNEP site.

Related Story: Pollution fears over Delhi smog

12 November 2008

Birth of Bahá’u’lláh

The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, 'Akká, Israel. Source:

The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, 'Akká, Israel.
Image source:

BAHA'IS WORLDWIDE celebrate today an important holy day: the birth of Bahá'u'lláh. The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith was born Mirza Husayn Ali at dawn of 12 November 1817 into one of Persia's most noble families. He descended from the Divine Messenger Zoroaster, thus fulfilling the belief that the great Redeemer of Mankind would be a pure Persian.

“This is the changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”
Bahá'u'lláh, which means “the glory of God” in Arabic, became a follower of the Báb's and was jailed in underground prison after the Báb's martyrdom in 1844. During His incarceration, Bahá'u'lláh received a vision of God in the form of a maiden who revealed to Him His earthly mission as successor to the progressive cycle of Divine Educators, each of whom has founded a great religion. These Messengers include Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, the Christ, and the Prophet Muhammad.

This singular event has similarities to the descent of the Holy Ghost as a dove unto the Christ, the apparition of Archangel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad at Mount Hira, and the the enlightenment of the Buddha under the bo tree at Bodh Gaya. For Bahá'ís, it marks the advent of the Bahá'í revelation with the message it brings of the oneness of religion and the oneness of mankind.

Bahá'u'lláh's earthly remains have been laid to rest in 'Akká, Israel in a room within the grounds of a old mansion called Bahjí. It is the holiest Bahá'í place on earth.

05 November 2008

America elects its leader

Flowers on the Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb

Flowers on the Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb
Photographer: Edit Kalman
Image source: Bahá'í Media Bank

HE IS a black man, born of a Muslim father from East Africa and raised by Christian grandparents in the South Pacific. And today he becomes the first black president of the world's most powerful country, up there in North America.

That this is now happening—unthinkable in the earlier years of my generation—is only inevitable in light of America's spiritual destiny. This belief is evident in many talks delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Son of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, while traveling in America and Canada in 1912. In May that year, He told a gathering of Bahá'ís in Cleveland:

"This is a beautiful city; the climate is pleasant; the views are charming. All the cities of America seem to be large and beautiful, and the people appear prosperous. The American continent gives signs and evidences of very great advancement; its future is even more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching, and it will lead all nations spiritually. The flag of freedom and banner of liberty have been unfurled here, but the prosperity and advancement of a city, the happiness and greatness of a country depend upon its hearing and obeying the call of God. The light of reality must shine therein and divine civilization be founded; then the radiance of the Kingdom will be diffused and heavenly influences surround. Material civilization is likened to the body, whereas divine civilization is the spirit in that body. A body not manifesting the spirit is dead; a fruitless tree is worthless. Jesus declares that there is spiritual capacity in some people, for all are not submerged in the sea of materialism. They seek the Divine Spirit; they turn to God; they long for the Kingdom. It is my hope that these revered people present may attain both material and spiritual progress. As they have advanced wonderfully in material degrees, so may they, likewise, advance in spiritual development until the body shall become refined and beautiful through the wealth of spiritual potentiality and efficiency."

Source: "The Promulgation of Universal Peace", page 104

'Abdu'l-Bahá's saw in America "powers and capacities" so unique in this world. He praised the achievements that Americans had made toward creating racial equality, working for world peace, driving women empowerment, and developing its material civilization. His vision: ". . .it will lead all nations spiritually."

To become that spiritual leader, America must itself develop its spiritual capacities. Only then can it become the true leader of nations. Today's event exposes the possibility of racial and religious equality. It shows us another view of the road, possibly rocky but ultimately navigable, to that divine destiny.