Prayers for Baha'i Relatives

June 20, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Nelson Mail

Twelve hours of interrogation, 19 days of solitary confinement and almost three years in an Iranian prison.

That was Iranian Foad Naeemi's punishment for teaching the Baha'i Faith, which is viewed as heresy by Iran's religious authorities.

Mr Naeemi is the nephew of Sole Ighani, a Nelson-based follower of the religion, which was founded in 19th-century Persia.

Mr Ighani said it was difficult to deal with a family member being in prison for religious reasons.

"I honestly have been trying to shut out everything. It was very hard; I have been praying and praying, but you can't do anything."

The Baha'i Faith is a monotheistic faith emphasising the spiritual unity of all humankind.

"We are here to serve and to help humanity," Mr Ighani said. "We don't say we are better or worse, but we want equality and we want human rights."

There are an estimated five to six million Baha'is worldwide, with 300,000 living in Iran.

Mr Ighani said there were about 35 people in the Baha'i community in the Nelson region, with a further 4000 throughout New Zealand.

He said he had many relatives who had been persecuted for their beliefs. "They have all lost their jobs and cannot go to school, especially higher education.

"For every Baha'i, it has happened; for the others, they are just in hiding."

Mr Ighani said he wanted to bring the troubles of Iran's Baha'i community to the attention of New Zealanders.