Tricia Hague-Barrett: Looking Back 31 Years Ago

Timaru, New Zealand

Timaru, New Zealand 1986

Looking back to 31 years ago when I lived in Timaru, and while searching through my boxes of papers and old articles and other worldly things that I have hoarded over the years, I found a Timaru Bahá’í newsletter (I was the editor at that time) dated October 1986. and our small Bahá’í community organized and co-sponsored a major conference on Peace. It might not seem very major by today’s standards but it was a mighty effort on the part of our community. It is wonderful to read back about our community life in those days, and this event surely pulled us all together.

 

Let me give an idea of the grand event that we co-sponsored. Prior to the event beginning, there were forty ads on radio and these were paid for by sponsors – mainly firms and other community organisations. In addition, they financed a three-quarter page slot in the Timaru Herald with supportive advertisements.  There was a  cake stall held at Northtown Mall, with peace related posters, and a Peace Seminar Stall at Stafford Mall.  Extensive advertising in the Timaru Herald incorporated local Bahá’í artist, Dave Stewart’s, exciting and inventive “Peace It Together” logo. Furthermore, there were many exhaustive meetings by the steering committee, enthusiastic support from the Tangata Whenua, organised by a Kaumatua, Mr. Bruce Toa, and catering by Maatua Whangai along with tireless assistance from another local supporter, Mr Bryan Hannam, who looked after the technical and stage management side of things.  There were heaps of encouragement and support from speakers and other Baha’i communities; these are just some of the factors and people that made the building up to the seminar itself an exciting one. Finally, there was a 15-minute Radio Caroline (named after Caroline Bay) interview with local Bahá’í’s, Danny Gresham and Tony Howie, on the Friday before the main event.  

 

Displays

 

On the day of the event, the hall was decorated by 80 “peace” posters produced by the children of two local primary schools.  Other local peace groups created and exhibited displays related to peace issues. The Bahá’í display looked particularly attractive and owed much to the loan of materials donated by the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Christchurch on behalf of it’s community.

 

Opening

 

The seminar was officially opened by Mr. Bruce Toa and members of the Tangata Whenua. The highlight of this was the presentation of three white feathers as a symbol of peace, to Mrs. Gae Cherry who had kindly agreed to speak in place of Sonia Davies – whose hectic round of conferences and meetings had finally caught up with her.

 

Plea for Peace

 

Bahá’ís Huda Melson and Afsaneh Howie, from Iraq and Iran, respectively, made a moving plea for peace between their countries by each chanting a prayer in their respective languages and then joining together for the song of the Martyrs.  It was sensational and brought tears to people’s eyes because these two countries were against each other back then.  

 

Food

 

Maatua Whangai provided lunch and afternoon “Devonshire” tea with proceeds going towards their Marae fund.  A potluck dinner was held in the evening; the efforts of Maatua Whangai were very much appreciated, especially by our stomachs.

 

Attendance

140 attended the regional peace seminar. The sessions were inspiring.

 

Dr. Neil Cherry (Left)

Dr. Neil Cherry spoke of the world situation at that time, but stressed that this was only a negative picture if we gave up. He maintained that there is enough food in the world to feed everyone with 300 calories a day in grain alone. 
 

Additional Information: 
Neil James Cherry (29 September 1946 – 24 May 2003) was a New Zealand environmental scientist.)Peace Award
On 3 December 2002 Neil was one of the recipients of the first eight Christchurch City Peace Awards given to local groups and individuals.

 

Peace Award Citation:
Dr. Neil James Cherry, ONZM (Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit)
“Neil Cherry has been a tireless worker for peace and disarmament research and education for many years. In 1985 he founded the Canterbury Branch of Scientists Against Nuclear Arms and convened the group until 1996. He was an active member of the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists and ‘Beyond War’, the Aotearoa/New Zealand Peace Foundation, Students and Teachers Educating for Peace and the Riccarton Peace Group. He was a member of the local committees of the 1986 United Nations International Year of Peace and served as the scientific member of the Public Advisory Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control from 1989-1991. He was awarded the 1990 Commemorative Medal by the government for services to peace and disarmament research and education. He has also published articles about the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear winter, and the need for nuclear disarmament. (http://www.nzine.co.nz/features/neilcherry_lifestory_part15.html)

 

Dr. Ali Danesh, Psychiatrist

Dr Ali Danesh, member of the New Zealand Bahá’í community, then destroyed racism as a valid concept. It was now regarded as an anti-social problem and a product of man’s lower nature. He said there were 4 steps by which the higher or spiritual nature could dominate, tolerance, equality, unity, and altruism (the last being an unattainable idea to which we were always striving). His son, John Danesh, reminded the session that youth could achieve great things by helping to break down meaningless traditions that cause division. The disease of the world was disunity.  For more information about this speaker: – http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10578118

 

Gae Cherry

Gae Cherry’s address concerned the conflict between sexes which she said was rooted in the system. Women wished to work with men, not for them, but their talents and needs had been ignored. The assumption that any relationship involved one member being up and the other down had to be dissolved and parity achieved. Through peer relationships between the sexes, she felt that peace could come.

Tricia Hague-Barrett: Meeting the Hand of the Cause, Dr. Rahmatu’lláh Muhajir (Part2)

Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir (Arabic: رحمةالله مُهاجر‎‎‎; 4 April 1923 – 1979) was a prominent fourth-generation Bahá’í, born in ‘Abdu’l-‘Azím, Iran.  Following is a memory of Dr. Muhajir’s visit to my home in Palmerston North, New Zealand in the 1970’s.  

 

 

This quotation from Bahá’u’lláh always reminds me of this gentle soul.

 

“Whoso ariseth to teach Our Cause must needs detach himself from all
earthly things, and regard, at all times, the triumph of Our Faith as
his supreme objective. This hath, verily, been decreed in the Guarded
Tablet. And when he determineth to leave his home, for the sake of the
Cause of his Lord, let him put his whole trust in God, as the best
provision for his journey, and array himself with the robe of
virtue.
Thus hath it been decreed by God, the Almighty, the All-Praised.


“If he be kindled with the fire of His love, if he forgoeth all created things,
the words he uttereth shall set on fire them that hear him. Verily,
thy Lord is the Omniscient, the All-Informed. Happy is the man that
hath heard Our 
voice
, and answered Our call. He, in truth, is of them
that shall be brought nigh unto Us.”
 (Bahá’u’lláah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 334)

 

My Story Begins
I do not remember collecting The Hand of the Cause, Dr. Muhájir,  from the airport in Palmerston North back in the 70’s, though I did pick him up. Nor do I remember how long He was in Palmerston North or anything about community meetings held during his visit with us.  I had married a man who was in opposition to the Faith, (unfortunately I was not aware of this before I married him). I was living at 220 College Street, Palmerston North, and across the road was the famous Hedge House, where several Bahá’í youth were resident.  I was forbidden to have anything to do with the Faith, was monitored on any phone calls about the Faith, and could not receive National Newsletters.  I was on the LSA, but could not attend meetings, however, what does stand out for me, was on the day that he and some other friends visited me at my home.  Out of the blue, they had picked him up and brought him to see me. During the course of the visit, he asked me, about my life, which I shared, and then he asked me a question.  “Is there something in this house that should not be here?” Apart from my husband, I could not think of a single thing for heaven’s sake, I was stumped for words for a few minutes. What on earth could He mean?  He repeated the question, and I was trying hard to think.

   
Suddenly I remembered. Oh gosh, How did he know?” I wondered. So, I related to him what I had done as Secretary to protect the Bahá’ís in our community. It seems I had indeed forgotten about it. So, as nervous as I was, I informed him, that about 6 months earlier, I had heard that there was a covenant breakers book donated to the Public Library. I figured that I would have to go and get rid of it. I rushed to the Library, and took the book off the shelf, checked it out with the Librarian and took it home without opening it.  I wrapped it up in several layers of old newspapers, cardboard, and wrapping the whole thing in a bit of old sackcloth, I tied it with string, in many different ways, and threw it under my bed where it could gather dust bunnies to its heart’s content, and hopefully be thought of no more. Now, here I was being asked about “something here that should not be here,” and I was terrified of being smacked over the knuckles for having done so. Instead, he asked me to go and get it, unwrap it, take it straight back to the Library, pay the fines, and leave it there.

 

The next day I did exactly that. With His words ringing in my ears, “More people will become Bahá’ís through that book, than any other,”  I returned it to the Library.   There was much more that he said to me, but alas, I cannot remember anything but this sentence. However, from my understanding, he implied, that people would soon see truth from error when they investigated further. I paid about $16 dollars in late fees, then left it in God’s hands, as obviously, it was not my job to protect the Bahá’ís from these insidious and disunifying forces.

 

For the following few weeks, things seem to be much easier for me; whether it was a direct result of having gotten “rid” of the book off my premises or not I can only surmise. Until I did this, however, I am now sure that it was the cause of much pain and suffering. Thank God I never read it.

 

Prayer for The Hands of the Cause

“Light and glory, greeting and praise be upon the Hands of His Cause, through whom the light of fortitude hath shone forth and the truth hath been established that the authority to choose rests with God, the Powerful, the Mighty, the Unconstrained, through whom the ocean of bounty hath surged and the fragrance of the gracious favors of God, the Lord of mankind, hath been diffused.  We beseech Him—exalted is He—to shield them through the power of His hosts, to protect them through the potency of His dominion, and to aid them through His indomitable strength which prevaileth over all created things.  Sovereignty is God’s, the Creator of the heavens and the Lord of the Kingdom of Names.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pg. 83, ‘Lawh-I-Dunyá’ [Tablet of the World])

Tricia Hague-Barrett: A Prompting of the Heart

Christchurch Central, Christchurch, New Zealand

An amazing teaching opportunity arrived at my home in Christchurch around 1978. One day I had a very strong urge to go down to the dairy at the corner. I didn’t need anything at all, but I felt a strong need to go. I was not going to go without having someone to look after the children, but I got ready to go anyway. I opened the front door, to find one of the Bahá’ís standing there about to knock. An answer to a prayer for sure.I welcomed him in and asked him to stay with my kids; something important was going on and I shot out the door.  My poor kids didn’t know what to make of it.

 

When I got to the corner, I found two men seemingly fighting, and one of them was covered in blood. It looked like he had been dragged along the road, for his face was covered in scratches.  I went over to them and was told in no uncertain terms that I should “P..s o.f!” (go away) and that it was none of my business. I went across the road to the shop, stood in there, and was shaking. I was furious. How could that person say that? Well, I got myself worked up into a tizzy and left the shop, crossed the road to the grassy center of two main roads, and stood defiantly beside them, “I live at 420 Armagh St, and I have a fire going, and warm coffee!” I declared.  I told the young man who was injured, that he was welcomed to come and get warm, and have a hot drink. I stormed off considering that if I remained I might say something that I would regret.

 

Abdu’l-Baha Copyright © Bahá’í International Community

I had been home about 20 minutes when there was a knock at the door. There stood the young man who had been beaten, and he said…”I met a lady down the road and she told me to come here!” I welcomed him into my home, took his wet outer clothes and hung them beside the fire. I placed a chair beside the fire for him, sat him down and went off to make coffee. The Bahá’í, that was still visiting, made him feel welcomed and engaged him in conversation. I was bringing the coffee to him when another Bahá’í burst through the front door, walked straight up to him and asked: “How many fixes are you on a day?”  Gosh, I felt this was a very rude thing to do; the wind was blowing a gale through the opened front door. “Six!” was the reply. I had no idea what this question was related to. The young man buried his head under his arm, and the questioner spoke to him about getting clean. I was shocked and horrified at what was happening;  other Bahá’ís had arrived by this time. The boy kept his bleeding scratched head buried in his left arm, and didn’t raise it for what seemed like hours. Stories were shared about the life of `Abdu’l-Bahá, and a picture was eventually brought to him of the Master’s blessed face and placed on his lap.  Without raising his head, still tucked away in his right arm,  his left hand roamed across the face of the Master as if either memorizing His face or showing great love for Him. I watched the tenderness he showed towards that Face, and thought to myself – if only I could have show that kind of love to the Master myself.  

 

I cannot remember all that happened that night, however, at one point the boy lifted his face from under his arm, and we all gasped. No blood, no scratches were to be seen. He was no longer crying or sobbing, and he seemed to be healed from this experience. “I need to go and tell people about you guys!” he said, but some were afraid that he would go back to drugs;  it was too soon to leave.  The drug, heroin, was such that without time to wean himself off, he may again fall prey to drug pushers around the city. However, he was adamant that he should leave.  

 

A week later, the boy was seen in the city –  clean, and happy, and it seemed to the “interrogator” of that night that he was well on the way to recovery. My need to go to the shop had brought us in contact with a soul whom God needed to touch. I felt honored to have been utilized this way.

 

“O thou handmaid of God! In this day, to thank God for His bounties consisteth in possessing a radiant heart, and a soul open to the promptings of the spirit. This is the essence of thanksgiving.  

 

“As for offering thanks by speaking out or writing, although this is indeed acceptable, yet when compared with that other thanksgiving, it is only a semblance and unreal; for the essential thing is these intimations of the spirit, these emanations from the deep recess of the heart. It is my hope that thou wilt be favoured therewith.  

 

“Regarding one’s lack of capacity and one’s undeserving on the Day of Resurrection, this does not cause one to be shut out from gifts and bounties; for this is not the Day of Justice but the Day of Grace, while justice is allotting to each whatever is his due. Then look thou not at the degree of thy capacity, look thou at the boundless favour of Bahá’u’lláh; all-encompassing is His bounty, and consummate His grace….” (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 179-80)

Tricia Hague-Barrett: The Bible Lady

TEACHING in the 70’s in NZ 
    
Teaching has always been uppermost in my mind and has been all of my Bahá’í life.
Back in the late 70’s, I remember the following incident while attempting to teach the Faith in Christchurch, New Zealand.
   
On numerous  occasions, I would try to think of unusual ways to attract the hearts of the sincere. One such idea that sprung to mind, was getting my kids off to school and then hopping on a city-bound bus and traveling around and around the city several times each day. Of course, I carried with me the book “Bahá’í World Faith” and sometimes I would open up the book and actually read something, however, I often just placed it strategically on my lap so that whoever sat beside me would see it.  I would then just stare out the window and wait for someone to ask if they could have a look at the book.  I cannot remember if that ever happened, but I remembered Hand of the Cause of God, William Sears, talking on a tape about doing something like this, so figured if He can do it, it might work for me too. But that was not my first and foremost aim; it was more to make the name Bahá’í become familiar to people. Of course, I was willing to give away the book to anyone who was willing to open their hearts and minds to the Cause of the Blessed Beauty.

 

Every opportunity was taken to have conversations with folks, and it didn’t matter what subject, I could always swing the conversation around to the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. It would be many years till the term “elevated conversations” became vogue, but I could be found discussing any topic and giving it a different perspective.

 

“Among the miracles,” ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá Himself has testified, “which distinguish this sacred Dispensation is this, that women have evinced a greater boldness than men when enlisted in the ranks of the Faith.” (Abdu’l-Baha, Quoted by the Guardian in The Advent of Divine Justice)

 

Photograph of the Christchurch Cathedral before the earthquake that destroyed it. I was seated to the left side of those four steps when this story unfolded.

On one such occasion, I was bored with bus trips and decided to go into the Christchurch Business District, sit down on the steps and just wait for a sign, if you like, from God as to what to do next. I hadn’t been seated very long and was relaxing back on the steps, when ‘the Bible Lady,’ a well-known Christian woman who played the violin, came and planted her stool right across my ankles at the bottom of the four or so steps in front of the Christchurch Cathedral.    I was not aware that she was there until she climbed onto her stool; the shadow went across my face, and I opened my eyes to see her sitting there with her violin in hand. I never moved, but just watched as God seemed to be doing something, I figured; “But what?” I thought.  

 

The music started, and I just closed my eyes once again in the heat of that amazing summer’s day in the middle of Christchurch central city not far from the Cathedral. At one point, the Bible Lady stopped playing in the middle of her tune, and I opened my eyes to see what was happening. There she was pointing her finger at my face, and she asked, “Are you a Christian?” Immediately I replied, “Yes!” using double fisted hands to put emphasis on this statement of mine, which seemed to take the Bible Lady completely by surprise. She started playing her violin once more. I was intrigued at what she was doing, so I remained alert. A little while later, the music stopped once more, “Are you a Born Again Christian?” she asked.  Again I immediately replied in exactly the same light, with my clenched fists forcefully brought together, “Yes!” and again she showed surprise and again the music resumed playing.  At one point the lady asked “Which church do you belong to?” and again I replied with that two-fisted dramatization accompanying my reply “None!” Well, that was enough to cause a ruckus. The lady put down her violin and said, “But you cannot be a Christian and not belong to a church!”  I sat up from my reclined position completely unaware of the crowd that was gathering around us, “Yes, I can!” I replied again with fists clenched. This seemed to peak her interest.

 

This when on for nearly 30 minutes – questions, followed by my reply and then music.   “What religion do you follow?” she asked inquisitively. Of course, still unaware that anyone else was listening, I replied, “I am a Bahá’í!” Well, it was like all in hell broke loose at once, and suddenly the Bible Lady got off her stool, and yelled at the top of her voice… “My son was a Bahá’í and I went to America to drag him out of it. It is evil and hateful and it is satan’s church!” All I could think of saying was, “But I love you (name?)!” to which she responded “Don’t say that!” Her face told it all. Her hate of the Faith was such that it was almost tangible. I went on to say that, “Nothing you could say to me would change my mind!” about my love for her.  At this point, I suddenly became aware of the crowd that had gathered behind me when someone remarked: “Yes, give it to her!” It seemed that around 200 people were standing behind me and oh goodness, now what was I to do. My first thought was to move away from the situation; I didn’t want to be the cause of any mass hysteria. As I stood to step away, people started coming up to me asking, “Can you tell me what you believe?” and “Can I come and hear about the Teachings you follow?”

 

That one encounter began several months of amazing firesides in my home and led to 14 declarations. It was an extraordinary, unforgettable experience.

 

“O Friends! You must all be so ablaze in this day with the fire of the love of God that the heat thereof may be manifest in all your veins, your limbs and members of your body, and the peoples of the world may be ignited by this heat and turn to the horizon of the Beloved.” (Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 27, p. 394.)

 

 

Tricia Hague-Barrett: Mr. G. V. Tehrani’s visit to Palmerston North, New Zealand

Mr. G. V. Tehrani’s visit to Palmerston North, New Zealand 1975-1976 

This is a personal account of what I experienced as a relatively new Bahá’í in Palmerston North in or around 1976. I had just come home from having gallbladder surgery along with removal of my appendix. I had 9 stitches down the front of my tummy, so could not move very well. I had been home a couple of days when the Bahá’ís brought Mr. Tehrani to meet me, as I was sick and he had asked if there were any sick Bahá’ís in the community that he could visit. I remember the car pulling up outside my house at 220 College Street, and I stood up to see who it was, and saw this elderly gentleman get out of the car, and start walking very slowly up my footpath. He was still approaching as I opened the front door, and was bowing low with each footstep. I stood there and bowed to him also, at least twenty times, as if compelled involuntarily and boy, did it hurt my healing incision site.

 

Mr. Tehrani finally reached the door and offered his elderly, wrinkled hand to me and we bowed to each other. I welcomed him in, made tea and we talked for a while. He inquired about my health and what I did as an occupation before my operation. I was a nurse’s aide at a geriatric hospital and he asked what it was like there and if I had a special patient. I ended up telling him about a dear patient of mine, (for the sake of privacy, I will refer to my patient as “Mr. G”) who had 5 vertebrae completely dissolved by gangrene and I told him how worried I was about him. I was not allowed to go back to work for 6 months in order to recover, so I figured Mr. G would pass away before I return. Before withdrawing, Mr. Tehrani told me that he had a gift for me and would return with it the next day.  

 

My copy of the Healing Prayer that Mr Tehrani gave me to give to Mr G, my patient at Awapuni Geriatric Hospital, this place has now closed down, and is now a Marae.  I decorated it myself.

When he returned the following day, we went through the very same repetitive bowing to each other. After taking a seat in the lounge, he presented me with two pieces of paper; both had the same prayer on it. “One” he explained, “is the original written in fountain pen” and he wanted me to keep it while the other was written with a standard ballpoint pen.  He then instructed me to fold the copy until I could fold it no more. His instructions were to take it immediately to the hospital, go to Mr. G’s bedside, take up his right hand and place this document in it, close his hand over it, and without saying any words, I was to return. Stitches and all, I complied instantly and summoned a cab. I’ll never forget the agony of getting in and out of that cab with stitches.  On returning home, he asked if I had done as he had directed, which I confirmed with a nod in the affirmative. “Everything will be alright,” he said consolingly, as we expressed our goodbyes.

 

Six months went by rather quickly, and I arrived at the hospital to begin working again. Before my car had even pulled into a parking spot, the Matron came rushing out of the main entrance calling me to her office. I am always nervous about such things, so I went rather timidly to meet her. She asked me right out, “What was that piece of paper that you put into Mr. G’s hand?”  Um, gee, I had not thought about it since that day.  I had never given it much consideration.  I was free of the worry of it for 6 months.  Flashing back to that day, I told her that I thought it was a prayer. I asked,”Why”?  She proceeded to tell me that Mr. G had passed away 5 minutes before I had arrived.  

 

What I was told next was astonishing. See, Mr. G had lost his ability to recognize and recall people and events.  Upon first meeting him months before as his nurse, he asked my name, in which I told him “My name is Tricia”.  He exclaimed, “PATRICIA!”. Mr. G was an Irish Catholic and my name seemed, by his expression, to have personal significance.  From then on, he would call out my name whenever he needed anything, in which I would respond quickly to his bedside.  It seemed the only name and face he could recall was mine.  Well, evidently, after I gave him the prayer, and had left the room, he sat straight up (an impossible feat being that he had no lower spine). The Matron proceeded to tell me that Mr. G was yelling out, “Bring the Matron! Bring the Matron!” over and over until she was brought to him. He didn’t say “nurse” which was commonly how he called for help.  He was unusually specific.  “He than asked me to get his wife, by her name” the Matron said in amazement.  Once Mrs. G arrived, Mr. G went on to fully discuss how his wife was going to survive once he was gone.  “He was fully cognizant and speaking as though there was never a problem with his memory!” she exclaimed. After he said everything he needed to convey, he passed away.  That coincided with my arrival at work.  Little did I know back then, that my instincts had been correct; he would pass away before I returned.

 

Upon hearing all of this I began to cry. I was astonished! The Matron stood up from her chair and came around the desk to hug and comfort me. She encouraged me to get up, then led me to his room. Standing at the threshold of Mr. G’s room, the Matron whispered, “You go into the room where he is lying and be with him to say your goodbyes”.  I sat with Mr. G for a long time and said prayers for him. Later, I was given the task and honor of prepare his body for burial. (But that is yet another story.)

 

Mr. Tehrani and I met once more in Ashburton, but we kept in contact via letters, and he always called me his daughter.  I think he must have adopted many children around the globe on his travels.  What a wonderful man and joy to be with.  From what I can remember, he was a pioneer to northern Japan.  I gleaned from an old newsletter, (see first link below) in November 1957,  Mr. G.V. Tehrani settled in Sapporo. His pioneering to Sapporo was a direct result of the Guardian’s instruction to take the Faith to Hokkaido. Mr. Tehrani, a widower, was elderly and not in the best of health, but his great loving spirit affected those around him and with the help of the new Bahá’ís, Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Shimatani, he soon had a group interested in the Faith. Mr. and Mrs. Assassi, pioneers to Hiroshima, purchased a house in Sapporo, which they donated to the Faith. Mr. Tehrani took care of that Haziratu’l-Quds and held countless meetings there during the fourteen years he lived in Sapporo.  In 1959, about a year and a half after Mr. Tehrani moved there, the first Local Spiritual Assembly of Sapporo was elected, as reported in “Traces that Remain,” which are summarized for inclusion here.

 

 

https://bahai-library.com/sims_traces_that_remain&chapter=67

https://bahai-library.com/alexander_history_bahai_japan&chapter=1#1b

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