In a world so often divided it is heartening to see the outpouring of generous support for both the Baha’i community in Iran and Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Tehrani, who made and gifted to the Universal House of Justice a piece of calligraphic art based on a quotation from the Baha’i Writings. All around the world religious leaders have praised the courage and generosity of Ayatollah Tehrani.
In the United Kingdom, Lord Rowan Williams of Oystermouth, the former archbishop of Canterbury, said the gift was of “immense significance”. Dr. Christopher Cocksworth, bishop of Conventry and the Church of England’s lead bishop in the House of Lords on foreign policy, described Ayatollah Tehrani’s gift as something that, “…reminds us all that despite the dehumanising nature of many of today’s conflicts, religious leaders have a shared responsibility to encourage freedom of religion and belief and to foster a deeper respect for human dignity.”
In India, leaders of the Buddhist, Islamic, Jain, Sikh, and Zoroastrian communities have also responded with statements of support and hope. The head of the Islamic Centre of India, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahli, commented, “This friendliness towards a beleaguered religious minority is an exemplary act. It underscores the principle of the equality of all people before God, irrespective of religious belief. “Islam teaches brotherhood and unity with all peoples on earth, and Ayatollah Tehrani’s exalted act is in accordance with the fundamental teachings of God.”
Bhikshu Pragyanand of the Indian Buddhist Society (Bhartiya Buddha Samiti), a regionally prominent leader who is based in Lucknow, said Ayatollah Tehrani has set “an example for religious leaders of the world.” Bhikshu Pragyanand went on to say about Ayatollah Tehrani’s gift that, “His exhortation for the avoidance of hatred, enmity, and blind religious prejudice is very needed in today’s world where freedom of conscience and freedom of belief are under constant threat in many countries.”
Representing the Sikh community, Rajendra Singh Bagga, president of the Lucknow Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, said Ayatollah Tehrani’s gift “once again proves that humanity, compassion and peaceful coexistence is a very base of every religion of the world.” While H. S. Sepai, leader of the Lucknow Parsi Anjuman of the Zoroastrian community, said Ayatollah Tehrani has shown “the way towards realization of world unity and world peace,” and Shailendra Jain, national vice president of Bhartiya Jain Milan, called Ayatollah Tehrani’s statement “path-breaking.”
Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain and an imam in Leicester wrote an article in the Guardian commending the brave gesture made by Ayatollah Tehrani. “I am proud, as a Muslim and as an imam, to celebrate this enlightened gift, which has such immense spiritual significance. The faiths of the world should be united in promoting coexistence to advance human civilisation. Six thousand Baha’is live in the UK and I am proud to count many as my friends. The community is respected for promoting interfaith harmony. I am sure that Iranian Baha’is have the same hopes to serve their country and to live in peace…The ayatollah has done something unprecedented in Iran. And he is part of a growing trend in that country; others have also championed the inalienable rights of all Iranian citizens. Islam has a history of defending minorities and protecting their religious rights and freedoms.”
The quotation from the Writings of Baha’u’llah chosen by Ayatollah Tehrani is about unity between followers of all religions –
“Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.”
The responses from religious leaders all over the world echo the sentiment of both the quotation and the spirit of Ayatollah Tehrani’s brave and generous gesture.