7 September 1920: Improved relations between the US and Persia, the new Bahai faith

Today’s article from 90 years ago is from The Portsmouth Herald, and is probably one of the most openly positive pieces I’ve ever read in a newspaper. It begins with relations between the US and Persia, then talks for a long, long while about the founder of the Baha’i faith (1920 was one year before he died), and then back to a bit on Persians arriving in New York for the first time.


Possibility of Closer Relation Between America and Persia.

America and Persia are the two countries that know very little about each other. The average American reads in his school history about Cyrus and Artexerxes, but very few books tell us about the modern conditions in that country. Yet thanks to the inventions and discoveries of this age, closer relations are being established between the land of the Eagle and that of the Lion and the Sun. Steamships, telegraphs and railroads have had their humanizing and far-reaching influence over the destinies of nations and empires. We are living in the midst of an interlocking civilization. No nation can seclude herself from participating in the affairs of her neighbor any longer. However, these “participations” should not be in the form of interference, encroachment or conquest. The nations of the world today are like “big and small brothers.” The elder brother should never think to steal the property of the younger one but should aim to teach him, so that some day he may gain his intellectual and personal independence.

The country of Persia has only a few miles of railroad, near the capital, Teheran, but her principle cities are connected with telegraph. Many new roads are being projected and American enterprise, capital and energy are much needed. Just as the United States has two great ports on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, likewise Persia is reached by the south by the Persian gulf and on the Northwest by the Caspian Sea. Persia is a tableland, its mountains are very high, its sea is 628,000 square miles, about one fifth of the area of the United States. Her population is 15,000,000, her mineral and agricultural resources are immense and untouched. Her oil fields in the South, once developed will make that nation rich. As a general rule the Persians love the Americans and would like to see the people of the United States taking a greater interest in the future destiny of that ancient nation. Thru the spread and influence of the Bahai Movement liberal and progressive ideals for social reforms are permeating the hearts and minds, a number of new schools with modern educational methods are dispelling the clouds of superstitions and prejudices paving the way for the march of the enlightened forces of the New Civilization. Nearly twenty years ago Abdul Baha writing to the Persian Bahais promised them that ere long their real brothers from America will go to Persia, bringing to them new systems of agriculture, mining, finance, manufacturing, government and education. This promise we hope will become fully realized as the two countries advance along the highway of social progress and economic independence. All the American travellers who have been in Persia during the past decade have written the most fascinating stories about the hospitality, courtesy ad kindness of the Persians toward them. They tell us that the Persians are most eager to adopt the new methods of Western Civilization and enroll themselves as a member of the family of nations.

The Bahai Movement was brought to the attention of the American public at the Congress of Religions during the Columbia exposition at Chicago in 1893. From that time on it has been advancing quite rapidly throughout the large cities and towns of this country and Canada. During this period a number of Persian teachers have been sent by Abdul Bahai, the leader of the Movement, who lives on Mount Carmel, Palestine. These Persian scholars have explained to the people of the United States the aims and purposes of the Bahai Cause, which is no other than a cause of Brotherhood and peace amongst all the nations of the earth and fulfills the prophesies of the Old and New Testament.

Mirza Abdul Fazel Coming to America

One of the great Persian teachers was Mirza Abdul Fazel, a well known Eastern philosopher, historian and authority on the Bible. He was an author of note and his knowledge of the religions and sciences of the East was wide and deep. He stayed in this country for several years, lived in Chicago, Washington and New York, spent two summers at the Green Acre Conferences and delivered a series of lectures on Eastern ideals. He attracted to himself a host of real friends. With his long beard, and clad in Oriental robes, he looked like a biblical patriarch and he became a familiar figure in the streets of those cities in which he lived. The children were much attracted to him and he loved them with all his heart and soul. When in 1903 he returned to Egypt he left behind many devoted friends who are cherishing his memory all thru their lives. He passed away from this life before the world war, but his books are store-houses of knowledge and wisdom for all the students of religious history, especially the Bahai Movement.

Abdul Baha’s Trip Through Egypt and Europe

When in 1908 the “young Turks” dethroned the corrupt Sultan Abdul Hamid, Abdul Baha was freed from his confinement in the Turkish prison of Aeca on the Mediterranean, after 40 years of imprisonment. The establishment of the constitution in Turkey released all the religious and political prisoners, and Abdul Baha who was eager to give the message of his father to the people of the world, immediately started on a journey thru Egypt, Switzerland, France and England. At the urgent solicitation of many churches and societies he delivered eloquent talks before them. The ministers, the Statesmen and the thinkers of Europe hailed him as the great spiritual teacher, coming out of the East. They welcomed him and opened every door so that he might deliver his message to the people. His appearance in the midt of the soulless and material civilization of Europe created a wonderful dynamic and heavenly force.

Thousands of people listened to his wise words and spiritual advice and returned to their homes invigorated and uplifted to a higher consciousness. In the center of war-crazed Europe he raised the call of peace calling the attention of the blind politicians to the futility and uselessness of human slaughter. He referred to Europe as an arsenal full of inflammable material, saying that the smallest spark would set that whole magazine into a world-conflagration. This prophecy was fulfilled with the murder of the Austrian prince and his consort at Sarajevo and the consequent cataclysm of a world war which drowned the globe in a sea of blood.

Abdul Baha’s Trip Thru the United States and Canada

On April 11th, 1912 Abdul Baha, the head of the Bahai movement with his secretaries and interpreters, stepped on American soil in New York Harbor. He was interviewed by correspondents of the metropolitan press and invited by the Divines and clergymen to speak from their pulpits. This was the beginning of his great tour throughout the United States and Canada. He visited the most important cities and lectured before churches, clubs, civic organizations, synagogues, suffrage societies and many other movements. In all his lectures he dwelt on the necessity of Peace, Love and Unity — not in a national sense, but in an international sense. The press, the platform, the pulpits and the magazines quoted his talks and dwelt on the spiritual significance of his wonderful trip. His reception by all those who came under his Divine spell was whole-hearted and spontaneous. Everywhere he was hailed as the greatest teacher of his age, as a guide and a master of the things of the spirit. Although at the time of his trip he was a man of 70 years of age. He showed a marvelous vitality and travelled from coast to coast, talked with thousands of men and women, showed an interest in the results of the American civilization and at the top of his voice heralded the coming of the Kingdom of God.

From America he returned again to Europe, visiting England, France, Germany and Austria-Hungary. He warned the leaders of these Empires of the woeful results of their warlike preparations and showed them the better path of progress through the inoculation of the law of comity and peace. But they were so intoxicated with the wine of haughtiness and pride that his words were not heeded. They argued that war was the means of national expansion and commercial superiority. A few months before the outbreak of the war he returned to his home in Haifa, Palestine. Here far away from the noise of cannons and the mad rage of the soldiers he spent his time on Mount Carmel, living in accord with the laws of Peace, walking in the path of Peace, thinking the thoughts of Peace, constructing the palace of Peace, sending forth the shining ideals of Peace and teaching his people the lessons of Peace. He told his disciples that while the people in the outside world are thinking of destruction, they must think of construction; while others hate they must love and while the soldiers carry fire and sword into the cities and towns, they must become enkindled with the flame of the Love of God and hold fast to the sword of truth; — so that at the end of this war they may go forth into the world of humanity and diffuse the fragrances of the flowers of Peace. Abdul Baha and his followers work for a world rebuilt; that thought replace unreason, love takes the place of hate; that the laughter of little children no more be stilled, the beauty and the strength of women no more be turned to ashes, the vigor of men no more be given to desolate the earth; that for us all the silence of the sunrise bring again the service, the quiet of the sunset yield us to the night of rest; that wisdom, faith and patience fail us not, facing the eternal task of peace thru brotherhood.”

When the war came to a close and the armistice was signed by the contending nations, the door of correspondence was again opened. Many Bahais who had not heard from Abdul Baha, during the war, hastened to Haifa. They found their beloved teacher in the utmost state of health and fragrance, at work with his spiritual task. He was eager to fill the ruined world with his regenerative power, reconstructing the broken hearts and healing the wounded souls. Many American Bahais have been to Palestine during the last year, where they met Abdul Baha, and received his blessings and instructions. Most of these pilgrims have already returned, bringing back vital messages, the application of which will bring the East and the West nearer to each other.

Mirza Fazel Mazandrani Now in America

This Persian teacher is a great philosopher and learned man. He arrived in New York on April 28th, 1920, as the special representative of Abdul Baha. He has been a former Professor in the Shah’s University in Teheran and has suffered much for his faith. He was sent to this country with important messages to be delivered at the twelfth Annual Bahai Convention held in New York city, the latter part of April. He comes out of the East with a universal message of Love. Although he does not belong to any society or organization he is welcomed by all with open arms. Since his arrival he har travelled much and lectured before innumerable churches and clubs. From New York he went to Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Buffalo, Lilydale, Jamestown, East Aurora, Chautauqua, New York and Dublin, N.H. In all these places his lectures were listened to with the greatest attention. During the month of August he delivered a series of Talks at the Green Acre Conferences in Eliot, Me. Hundreds of people from all parts of the United States and Canada came together for this season in this ideal spot and listened to the talks of this charming spiritual teacher — so gentle, so amiable, his face wreathed in smiles. He intends to make an extensive tour of the United States and Canada. As the writer will have the privilege of accompanying him throughout the country, weekly articles will appear in this paper to inform the readers about the movements, lectures and impressions of these “Persian pilgrims.”

Impressions of a Persian on Landing in New York

When a Persian lands in New York the first thing that impresses him are the skyscrappers [sic] looming up toward heaven, the brilliantly lighted avenues in the evening, the surging waving crowds on all sides, the subways, elevated and surface cars filled with busy looking women ad men rushing to all parts of the cities, the long line of automobiles and vehicles, carrying their loads of humanity from one function to another, the vast harbor lined with steamers of all countries, but the thing that is deeply felt by an emigrant before landing in the great statue of liberty enlightening the world — the great searchlight in her hand, welcoming the strangers to the land of the free and the brave, in future articles we shall discuss how the material prosperity, industrial life, educational system, the factories and the railroads and the big cities with their enormous department stores have impressed the minds of these “Persian pilgrims.”

Indeed America is the melting pot. It is the land of quick adaptability, plasticity, and has a marvelous power of assimilation. Peoples and races and tongues from all over the world come to this country with crude habits, primitive customs, but in a short time they are assimilated into the mass of American citizenship, contributing their intellectual, and industrial share to the life of the nation. We shall show how America is the name of religious freedom, how our “Persian pilgrims” have been impressed with the fair mindedness, appreciation and hospitality of the American people. You, dear readers, will be our companions all along the journey and we shall share with you all the intervening events and incidents transpiring from time to time.

America is a great country and our Persian pilgrims have loving hearts. They will interpret American institutions and customs with a just and appreciative spirit. They know that this country is the land of Equality, Initiative, Adaptability, quick Perception, Freedom, Joyousness, Hospitality, Opportunity and Progress.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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