The Scottish Bahá’í, No.34 – Winter, 2003
mainland community news
Reports from Dundee Community Feast Newsletter
Deepening in The World order of Bahá’u’lláh
On 3rd October, the community was delighted to benefit from a deepening session on the subject of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, presented by Dr John Parris of the National Spiritual Assembly.
In the Ridván letter of 2003, the Universal House of Justice encouraged us to study three sections of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh in order to understand more deeply the Teachings relevant to current world events. John began by relating the historical context in which these letters of Shoghi Effendi were written, to conditions in both the Bahá’í world and the wider world. John's presentation focused on the first of the letters, The Goal of a New World Order. In a passing humorous reference to Douglas Adams' Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, page 42 was 'revealed' to hold the key: the principle of the Oneness of Mankind is the pivot round which all the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh revolves. John asked everyone what they understood by the oneness of mankind, and this generated a variety of interesting responses. Using quotations from the Goal of a New World Order, John proceeded to tease us with examples of what the oneness of mankind was not, before illustrating what it was with a quote (see WOB, page 43).
John illustrated his talk with a slide/video presentation that was both stimulating and enlightening. An important point to emerge was that we are living in an age of transition and transformation. This was likened to the organic processes by which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. This transformation is operating on both a global and an individual level. But it is not something which we can simply stand aside and watch happen; rather we are challenged to take an active part in it. Throughout his talk, John invited questions and comments, and this led to much lively discussion. The presentation was widely attended, and it was wonderful to have the presence of some of the friends from Fife.
As John pointed out at the start, The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh is a big subject, and cannot be covered in depth by a single presentation. Let us hope that our 'paddle' on the shoreline will encourage us to wade further in to the remainder of those parts of the ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's words so ably explained by the beloved Guardian in his letters in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. “For the friends of God, there is an unambiguous explanation for what is occurring…” – UHJ.
World Religions Course at Dundee University
[Some of you may remember, back in the Autumn 2001 issue of The Scottish Bahá’í, a report that Carrie Varjavandi was to present a nine-part course on the Bahá’í Faith, which she had organised under the auspices of Dundee University's Continuing Education department. However, in both years during which the course was available, it did not go ahead because of insufficient enrolments. Carrie therefore suggested to the University broader 'World Religions' course, which would include the Bahá’í Faith. This course has turned out to be a great success, with a high number of enrolments, and interest expressed from outside Dundee. The following item is taken from the Dundee community’s newsletter. – Ed.]
An exciting new course in World Religions began at Dundee University on 9 October as part of its Continuing Education program. The ten-part course aims to provide participants with basic information about the main world religions, and underlying themes that they have in common. Part one of the ten part course was introduced by Maureen Sier of the Scottish Interfaith Council. Organised in conjunction with Dundee Inter Faith Association, speakers from a variety of beliefs will talk about their religions and answer questions. Carrie Varjavandi will present the 8th part on the Bahá'í Faith on 27 November. Course fees are £44, or £33 concession.
This course came about following 2 years in which the University offered a course on the Bahá'í Faith. Although there was, unfortunately, insufficient enrolments to ensure that those courses went ahead, the new course, which was developed in the hope of attracting more participants, has already generated twenty-three enrolments. Interest in the course has also been expressed from Angus, which means that the course may take place in Forfar next Spring. This represents an encouraging development of the Dundee Bahá'í community's involvement in external affairs.
"There can be no doubt that the religions of the world have shaped the way we think about ourselves and our fellow human beings, about life after death and our relationship with God."
Are you planning to go to University next year? Have you ever considered coming to Dundee to study? With two universities and a college offering top quality courses in most subjects, a hospital at the forefront of medical research, opportunities in hi-tech industries, a buzzing cultural centre as well as being the sunniest, driest town in Scotland, it has a lot to offer. Situated on the east coast mid way between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, it attracts students from all over the world. You may find you want to stay here even after your student days are over! Some of us liked it so much we did just that!
An established Bahá’í community (Assembly since 1971), the Bahá’í friends warmly welcome students, who can bring a youthful dimension to community life. It is an easy place to make friends, and has the great benefit of not being too big a town, where you can get lost, nor too small, so you can enjoy all the benefits that a city has too offer. It was Dundee that gave birth to Oor Wullie, the Broons and Desperate Dan – as well as the Beano and the Dandy. It is also the birthplace of the world’s most famous best worst poet and tragedian William McGonagall.
So come and see the lovely Dundee and be happee when you studee for your Bee Ess Cee, or Pee Aitch Dee or even your Aitch Enn Dee.
Reports from Tom Mackenzie
External Affairs Through Cultural Diversity in Inverness
Farahnaz and Carmel Khavari were major contributors to the two November events in Inverness, organised between the local WEA, the Highland One World Group, and the local International Women’s Group (Farahnaz belongs to both the latter). On Saturday 8th November the Inverness Town House was the venue for the Cultural Diversity presentation. Among the display tables was one showing Persian art, craft and traditional products. Farahnaz also contributed to the table which had a variety of food products for sale and consumption. Among the demonstration events was a Persian dance where Carmel very gracefully joined her mother (in which costume both were featured in a local newspaper photograph).
On Friday 14th there was an International Ceilidh at the Raigmore Community Centre. Carmel sang “World Citizens” at both events, as well as a repeat dancing performance.
Death and Burial Study by Moray Social Care Students
On a Sunday early in November Farahnaz received a phone-call in desperation from a Moray College study organiser, having been let down over panel membership on ‘Life, Death and Bereavement’ for mature students of Social Care. Farahnaz could not help with the request to help on the following Tuesday morning, but contacted Tom Mackenzie who became the Faith’s representative. Tom was also asked to give a lift to another panel contributor, whose car was out of action since she lost her only key while hill-walking recently! She was a member of the Western Buddhists and lives not far outside Inverness. Tom writes:
We found our way to Elgin and the College to join a panel with a Roman Catholic priest, a Church of Scotland minister, a member of the Humanist movement, and a local funeral director. There were about fifty mature students present, apparently later destined for careers in Social Work or Care, or in Nursing; of these, only about five at most were men. We each took a turn of ten minutes, giving some information about beliefs and practices concerning death and the funeral and burial (or in some cases cremation) processes, so the students and others heard a little about the significant Bahá’í beliefs such as those on burial, not cremation, taking place within a one hour travel distance, the avoidance of embalming the body, the burial ring and its significance, etc., and, of course, the ‘Death is the Messenger of Joy’ attitude and recognition of other souls in the next life, advancement of the soul, prayers for their progress, suitability of memorial services and of things done in their memory. The Bahá’í contribution came after the other religious (and Humanist) talks and immediately before the funeral director’s talk on his experience and procedures. He and others later in open discussion made references to their interest in hearing of various aspects of Bahá’í belief and practice.
There were several questions for Tom in the forty minutes of questions from the floor, and the general attitude and response from students and fellow panel members was very positive. The Roman Catholic father was quite impressed with the degree of similarity between his Church and the Faith, and the Church of Scotland Minister was equally open and friendly. Both had given accounts of their ministry, sometimes before as well as after the passing of the person involved. The Catholic father was interested in the notion of the soul not immediately departing or severing connection with the body, as it is now possible for him to give final absolution up to an hour after death. With a strong churchgoing ethic still prevalent in the Moray area, the response to the humanist seemed to be polite rather than concurring, though he does seem to provide a local service of taking funerals for those with no wish for a church service (and in particular he finds as much as he can out about the deceased for the purposes of summarising the finer points of their lives, and in encouraging friends and relatives to participate in eulogies as well as music suiting the person).
The Buddhist lady also laid emphasis on remembering the qualities of the deceased, and ways of arranging a collective funeral remembrance, but she kept away from any reference to reincarnation. There were a few questions addressed to her. The two Moray College staff were most grateful and promised to issue the invitation again next time, but not so much at the last minute.
A younger lady student came up to me and asked for a leaflet which she saw I had. She had agreed with everything she had heard in the Bahá’í contribution, and wanted more information. She has contacted me since and asked for more literature and in the hope of being able to meet Bahá’ís when possible.