Hundreds of Yemenis–tribespeople and human rights activists alike–gathered on May 15th in Yemen to denounce the recent call for the arrests of Yemeni Baha’is and to demand their immediate release.
Currently, five Baha’is, including tribal leader Walid Ayyash, remain in prison or detention under the direction of authorities in Sana’a, Yemen. The detainees have not been allowed to receive visitors. Many more Baha’is are under the threat of being arrested.
“There are clear indications from reports within the country that certain authorities there have been instructed from Iran to carry out these unjust actions and have no other motive but to persecute the Baha’i community,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.
“Not surprisingly, such interference from another country is arousing solidarity among the Yemeni people on an unprecedented scale in defense of the Baha’is, who are their friends, brothers, sisters, neighbors, and fellow tribespeople. It has also led to far greater awareness of the Baha’i Faith among the people of Yemen. And of course history shows that if you persecute the innocent, their cause will only spread.”
The Baha’i teachings buttress that view, saying that government interference in matters of faith and conscience will only result in the spread of the ideas the interference attempts to suppress:
… to interfere with matters of conscience is simply to give them greater currency and strength; the more you strive to extinguish the more will the flame be kindled, more especially in matters of faith and religion, which spread and acquire influence so soon as blood is shed, and strongly affect men’s hearts. – Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 20.
Leading the campaign against Baha’is in Yemen has been a member of the Prosecution Office in Sana’a, Rajeh Zayed. Reports indicate that, during the peaceful demonstrations on Monday morning, Mr. Zayed threatened the crowd with a weapon and attempted, unsuccessfully, to incite violence against those present.
“Despite his efforts, the crowd remained peaceful, and fortunately, the security guards refrained from violence,” explained Ms. Dugal.
“These Yemeni tribespeople and activists have courageously shown their support for the Baha’is, despite themselves becoming targets of attack,” said Ms. Dugal. “Their expression of solidarity, especially during such a difficult time for their country, is sincerely appreciated by the Baha’i International Community.”
“Indeed,” Ms. Dugal added, “their actions testify to the principle of the oneness of humankind and show that we are closely tied together so that the pain and joy of one becomes the pain and joy of another. We ardently hope and pray that the senseless persecution of the Baha’is in Yemen comes to an end and energies can be directed instead towards loftier aims such as an end to the violence ravaging the country and the eradication of disease and malnutrition now afflicting major segments of the population across that land.”
This is the time for man to strive and put forth his greatest efforts in spiritual directions. Material civilization has reached an advanced plane, but now there is need of spiritual civilization. Material civilization alone will not satisfy; it cannot meet the conditions and requirements of the present age; its benefits are limited to the world of matter. There is no limitation to the spirit of man, for spirit in itself is progressive, and if the divine civilization be established, the spirit of man will advance. Every developed susceptibility will increase the effectiveness of man. Discoveries of the real will become more and more possible, and the influence of divine guidance will be increasingly recognized. All this is conducive to the divine form of civilization. This is what is meant in the Bible by the descent of the New Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is none other than divine civilization, and it is now ready. It is to be and shall be organized, and the oneness of humankind will be a visible fact. Humanity will then be brought together as one. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 101-102.