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Women as peacemakers

We recently attended three talks in the Rogue Valley by Hoda Mahmoudi, the Baha’i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland. The topic at each talk was “Prerequisites for World Peace,” addressing systemic and personal prejudices of all kinds, and the necessity to combat them.

The following weekend, Mahmoudi facilitated a two-day retreat on “Women as Champions of World Peace.”

Mahmoudi was born in Iran, where even now suppression of women’s rights is endemic and extreme. Her family emigrated to the U.S. when she was 9 to escape the persecution of the Baha’i in Iran. Mahmoudi has made the advancement of humanity her life’s work.

The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran (then Persia) in the mid 1800s by a man with the title of Baha’u’llah (“the glory of god”). Iran at that time was mired in one of the darkest periods of its history. However, there and all over the world prophesies from multiple religions indicated that “The Great Awakening,” the return of Christ and the 12th Imam of Islam, was imminent. The religious leaders of the Middle East were so threatened by Baha’u’llah that he was imprisoned, exiled and reimprisoned for 40 years.

Baha’u’llah honored and built upon older faiths — and gave new emphasis to the equality of all humanity and the essential oneness of world religions whose adherents worship the same god. He illuminated tenets implicit in other religions, but in need of renewal and clarification, as our world’s needs and human consciousness have evolved. For example, the “Golden Rule” addressing the treatment of others as we would wish to be treated, has been a central tenet of all major religions. But growth of humanity toward a diverse and interconnected global community has made the understanding that the “earth is one country and mankind its citizens” essential. Universal education, the narrowing of the disparity between wealth and poverty, pursuit of world peace, abandonment of prejudices of all kinds, equality of women and men, independent investigation of truth, agreement between science and religion: these were all new and revolutionary ideas in the 1800s — and they are foundational to the Baha’i faith.

At a time and place in history when and where Middle Eastern women had almost no rights or station, Baha’u’llah taught that women must play an essential role in the advancement of humanity, and especially in bringing peace to the world.

The religion delivers such imperatives as: “The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged prerequisites of peace. There are no grounds moral, practical or biological upon which denial of such equality can be justified. Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavor will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge.

Two centuries after the birth of the Baha’i faith, a new movie, “Dawn of the Light,” explores Baha’i communities around the world. The local Baha’i community will offer a free showing of the film at the Varsity Theatre in Ashland at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 26.

Elisabeth Curry and Phyllis Wetzel live in Ashland and are members of the local Baha’i community. Email 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to column editor Sally McKirgan at innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.