A Strange Kind of Celebration

Tonight marks the beginning of the second of two consecutive Bahá’í holy days. We don't have what others might consider "high" holy days, but if we did, I venture that these would be two of them. These are the birthdays of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith and His immediate Forerunner.

All around the world, Bahá’ís close their businesses, stay home from work or school, and spend these days commemorating and celebrating those events. Sometimes alone, sometimes with family and friends, and sometimes among whole communities, with events open to anyone who wants to join in the spiritual festival.

I found myself in an odd spot this year. Nothing particular seemed to be happening among the nearby Bahá’ís. Plus, this week unexpectedly became the only time several work projects could be completed. And it's prime time for graduate study, too. So as much as I would like to say that I am taking these days off, as I should be, I'm not.

That doesn't sit well with me. In fact, I feel guilty.

In a matter of days, I expect that my routine checks of various sites will show that more Bahá’í businesses in Iran have been closed. It's a familiar pattern. As I understand it, Bahá’ís are allowed to support themselves as long as they don't identify themselves as Bahá’ís. Closing their shops on Bahá’í holy days is an automatic identifier. Days or weeks later, authorities arrive and shutter or even seize the businesses for a short time, a long time, or forever. 

My decision to press on will come back to me when I see the lists of shop closures. People are facing a choice between following the same religious practices I take for granted and losing their livelihoods. Meanwhile, I'm simply forging ahead as if these days are the same as any others.

I have a duty to those who are brave enough to face certain hardship. Next time, I will let a verse from a poem written by Mahvash Sabet guide me:

If they cut open our veins, red tulips will blush
like blood in the fields.
If they padlock our lips, the mouths of a thousand
spring buds are unsealed.