I lost my prejudices
Added: Wednesday, 29 April 2009

watch original V-Blog in Persian

watch original V-Blog in German

The following is a translation of a letter from a German-speaking viewer of my v-blogs. I thought it was so candid and refreshingly inspiring, I'd share it with you all:

"Not long ago I was on a flight to go and see my family. I don't generally consider myself racist or prejudiced, since I am myself of Indian descent and know what it's like to be discriminated against, but I guess if we're really honest, we all are a little prejudiced at times. As I was waiting at the gate, I saw five Arab men who were praying in preparation for their flight. They were all dressed in traditional attire. I'm a woman and I suddenly felt uncomfortable around those men. Perhaps because I felt that they were looking at me or judging me for not being dressed like a Moslem woman should. I hoped that I would not be sitting next to them.

Of course I ended up right in the middle of them. The plane was pretty full and it was difficult to find another seat. One of them started praying again and I wondered why he had to do that next to me. I guess my body language betrayed the fact that I was feeling uncomfortable, because when I looked around for another seat, a white, German lady caught my eye and sympathetically said, "I know how you're feeling. I wouldn't want to sit next to these kinds of people either."

I found myself going red in the face. I was really ashamed that someone, whom I would consider racist, was 'bonding' with me. Had my discomfort been so obvious? Were my prejudices written all over my face? I kept thinking, that's not what I stand for.

When it was time to eat, they brought the food for the Moslem gentlemen first, as it was halaal. And then something happened that shook me up thoroughly. For some reason, the five men, who had been sitting next to and behind me, didn't open their dinner packs, but instead sat there and waited. At first I thought they might be fasting or praying. But then, 15 minutes later, when my food came, they all began eating with me. And it hit me – they had had the decency to wait for me to eat.

In that moment, as we sat together and ate dinner, I felt so connected to these gentlemen and so alienated from myself and the lady that had spoken to me earlier on. No word was every exchanged between me and the men next me, nothing was ever said, but that elegant and mannered gesture had spoken more than words and had impressed me beyond imagination.

I don't know. You told us to look for the good in people and this was an example of how I had looked for the negative, but in the end I realized how wrong I'd been. For the remainder of the flight I realized that none of these men had looked at me strangely or judgmentally. That the only one with judgmental eyes had been me. This experience has certainly changed me for the better."

Growing by the grace of others
Added: Tuesday, 8 January 2008

watch original V-Blog in Persian

When you grow up as an Iranian Baha'i outside of Iran, you often sub-consciously shy away from Moslem Iranians. Considering the history of persecutions of Baha'is in Iran, this might be understandable, but not excusable.

Our Faith teaches us the uncompromising love and acceptance of all faiths and peoples of the earth. We believe that the world's collective salvation depends on the very unity of all the world's people. But as a kid, vulnerable, incomplete and striving (as I am now) to be a Baha'i, I had fear of being rejected by Moslems if they knew I was a Baha'i. This has been greatly remedied by an amazing Moslem family that I've gotten to know over the last 2 years. They have been the catalyst for us coming together, they have initiated social get-togethers, nourished our friendship and accepted and loved us despite our shortcomings - and we have many. My husband and I, being quite "westernized" in our upbringing, have many habits that come across as insensitive towards Persians, and yet they have dealt with us, always, with a sin-covering eye. Now if that is not a sign that there is great hope for the people of Iran, then I don't know. Here is a perfect example of people who sacrifice so much to show us love. They have tried to create an atmosphere in their home where we feel comfortable. I'm am deeply touched and this makes me feel super hopeful for Iran's future.

On a side note: I want to acknowledge a few other people who are of different Faiths, but have been agents of unity and love, reaching across cultural and religious boundaries and deep into my heart: I have a welter of Born-Again Christian friends at the African Children's Choir who have worked with me and have also been amazingly loving. They never make me feel like I'm not going to heaven ☺ - they make me feel like I'm already there. My friend Rebby, who is a devout Catholic, and has loved and shared with me our mutual love of Christ and of God since childhood, my friends in Tel Aviv who are Jewish Iranians and who's generosity and love for peace and unity has been indescribably inspiring to me, my Hindu friends Yashika and Sadhna, my Buddhist friend Alyna, my Sikh friend Kuldeep and his generous family and my Zoroastrian friends that I've met in Austria and who's wisdom and patience has tenderized many a heart.

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30 October 2007

One Common Faith

Every age has its needs, its exigencies. Humanity has always turned to God for answers and God has always provided humanity with relative guidance through His Manifestations. These Manifestations include those that have appeared before recorded history, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, the Bab and Baha'u'llah. Located where religions have historically been forced to confront each other, India has been a battle-ground for religious turmoil. But like a gem, that is polished through great ordeals, its unity now shines bright. In 'One Common Faith' we meet some of India's religious leaders and hear what they say about the inherent oneness of religious truth, the human family and our collective salvation.

Read the One Common Faith document written by the Universal House of Justice and access a wonderful study companion to the document at

Produced and Directed by: Sean Hinton and Peter Bisanz
Executive Producers: Hassan Elmasry, Kersten Pucks, & Ramin Khadem
Director of Photography: Stefan Forbes
Written by: Leyla Haidarian
Edited by: Ryan and Leyla Haidarian
Music by: Amal Ma'ani
Field Producer (India): Rumana Hamied
Sound Engineer: Subramanian Mani
First Assistant Director: Avani Batra
Production Services in India provided by: Sparkwater

Interviewees in order of appearance:
Dr. A.K. Merchant
Archbishop Vincent Concessao
Dr. Mohinder Singh
Rabbi Ezekiel Isaac Malekar
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
Pir Khwaja Afzal
Swami Agnivesh
Farida Vahedi

With thanks to:
The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India
Dr. A.K. Merchant
Naysan & Jalan Sahba

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