Monday, June 03, 2013

Celebrating freedom of speech at 'Atenisi

Along with other staff and students from the 'Atenisi Institute, I spent a very enjoyable Friday night drinking kava with teachers from the Ocean of Light, a primary and high school run on a secular and pro-science basis by members of the Tonga's burgeoning Baha'i movement. Between knocking back the kava and singing, members of the 'Atenisi and Ocean of Light communities swapped stories about encounters with Tonga's  powerful brigade of religious fundamentalists. As 'Atenisians listened and sighed, Bahai educators described visits from demented Free Wesleyan Ministers convinced that the theory of evolution and sex education classes are both claws of Satan.

It is not only Tonga's religious conservatives who have sometimes posed a threat to the Baha'i movement: in the 1950s and '60s, when the religion was establishing itself in the Pacific, colonial administrators often persecuted its members for their belief in racial equality. On the New Guinea island of Rabaul, which had the misfortune to be governed by emissaries of Australia, that ferociously racist nation, a white Baha'i teacher was first assaulted and then arrested by a drunken mob of colonists. After being found guilty of living in what was supposed to be an 'all-black village, she was deported from the country she'd made home.

In the following press release, which has been doing the rounds in Tongatapu over the last week, 'Atenisi makes clear that it support the right of the Baha'i movement and every other religion to freedom of expression, and looks forward to a discussion with one of Tonga's leading Baha'i thinkers.

'Atenisi to welcome Baha'i educationalist, and celebrate freedom of speech

The 'Atenisi Institute will host a public lecture by Nadia Fifita, the director of Tongatapu's popular Ocean of Light school,  on Monday the 3rd of June from seven o'clock. Fifita will use her lecture, which will be followed by an open discussion, to explain both the Baha'i faith and the work of her school.

"We are delighted to include Nadia Fifita in our programme of public lectures for 2013," says Dr Scott Hamilton, the Associate Dean of 'Atenisi.

The Baha'i religion is one of the fastest growing in the world, but its members are persecuted in many countries.

The Baha'i faith was founded in Iran, but today that country's Islamic fundamentalist government bans Baha'is from practicing their faith, and imprisons or kills their leaders.

"Atenisi has always stood for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. By hosting  Nadia Fifita we are staying true to those values", says Dr Hamilton.

'Atenisi Dean Dr 'Opeti Taliai says that his institution and the Ocean of Light school have some important things in common.

"Atenisi and Ocean of Light share a commitment to internationalism. We are both eager to expose young Tongans to the richness of overseas cultures, as well as to the richness of their own traditional culture", says Dr Taliai.

Dr Taliai explained that he wasn't a Bahai and didn't expect to agree with everything that Nadia Fifita said in her lecture, but added that disagreement was normal at 'Atenisi. "Our school is founded on debate" he said. "I hope members of the public come along, hear Nadia, and join the debate".


Blogger Richard said...

It's good that the "school is founded on debate..."

All I know about the Baha'i religion is that Barry Crump was very interested in it at one stage...

Now I know a lot of the "bad" things about Barry Crump but I like his books and I used to like him ( I mean the image of him!)...

But this has no bearing on whether the Baha'i religion is good or bad!

Just something I recalled.

If they were persecuted by Fundamentalists they were probably doing some good things. Probably still are.

But keep up the good work Dr Maps and all Atenisians!

11:46 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I see Albert Wendt has just got an award. I always liked him and his works (Poliuli is one book I liked and also his poetry) - and have him in my "circle" on Face Book. A Samoan. A Tongan next?!

11:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barry Crump...a boozer despite Baha'i doctrine.

9:37 am  
Anonymous 19 facts about Bahai spies said...

19 Facts about Baha'i spies in Iran
June 26th, 2009

From an Iranian

To: The Respected President of the Guinness Book of World Records

Dear Sir,

We would like to nominate Iran for consideration as the world record holder with respect to the nineteen (19) accomplishments below:

1. Iran is the first country in the world to label over 400,000 followers of the same religions as spies.

2. Iran is the first country in the world where spies are freely and openly going about their lives and the government is not apprehensive about them. However, once in a while, a few of these spies are arrested in order to keep the government militia from boredom; then the spies are interrogated for a few months so that interrogators may gain experience. Sometimes, spies are tortured for the practice of the torturers. Ultimately, a few face firing squads for testing of the guns.

3. Iran is the first country in which spies are born as spies. There is no need for the courts to prove the allegations against them since they are innately convicts from birth.

6. Iran is the first country where its spies are secret agents of Britain, Russia, America and Israel, all at the same time. Interestingly, the spies themselves and the leaders of these countries are unaware of such affiliations; only Shariyat-Madari (editor-in-chief of Kayhan, government of Iran backed newspaper) knows.

7. Iran is the first country that has had thousands of spy groups and spy gatherings that have been in contact with the Ministry of Intelligence for the past 25 years.

9:54 am  
Anonymous 19 facts about Bahai spies said...

10. Iran is the first country where spies introduce themselves as followers of a religion that the government of Iran equates with espionage. The followers of this religion do not even outwardly hide their convictions to save their own lives.

11. Iran is the first country where spies have established moral and educational courses for their members. Strangely, the government denies them entrance to universities to prevent them from spying in institutions of higher education.

12. Iran is the first country where spies are drafted for two years of obligatory military service. They are even given guns and receive intensive military training.

13. Iran is the first country where spies receive lashes with utmost love; their properties are confiscated with Islamic fairness; they are executed with utmost kindness and Islamic compassion. The government bestows, with utmost friendliness, civil rights specified for spies, in the form of imprisonments, forced free labor, insults and slanders.

14. Iran is the only country in which, there are potentially 40 million spies. Women that ask for the same rights as men are called spies. Men that defend these women are also called spies.

15. Iran is the first country that provides all necessary means for these spies to leave the country and cheers when they have left.

16. Iran is the first country that doesn't find it necessary to compile documents and evidences to prove espionage charges. Whoever says that he or she is a Baha'i, that person is automatically a spy. Whoever says women are human beings with the same rights as men is a spy. Whoever is engaged in medical research for finding a cure for AIDS is a spy. Whoever establishes an N.G.O. (Non Governmental Organization) for helping children and saving the environment is a spy!

17. Iran is the first country in which at the election time, nobody is labeled spy and all have equal rights and should vote.

18. Iran is the first country in which spies, without any bias and in all fairness, are convicted, sentenced, insulted, and their names publicized by mass media, before they are even tried in courts!

19. Iran is the only country in which Baha'is are not permitted to work in any government office or agency, they hold no position of influence, they have no access to any sensitive or classified document, and they have only opened their little shops and are busy with their businesses, and yet they are still spies!!!

9:55 am  
Blogger Grade 3NF - The International School of Lae said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:21 am  
Blogger Grade 3NF - The International School of Lae said...

You may find the following article about the political situation in Iran to be of interest.

8:25 am  
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