South MS Baha'is pray for followers persecuted in Iran

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A community of faith is asking the people of South Mississippi to pray for an end to religious persecution underway halfway around the world. The government of Iran is about to put a group of followers of Baha'i faith on trial for their lives. Their crime is practicing their religion.

Members of Baha'i living here on the coast talked about the freedoms that many of us take for granted. They gathered at a Gulfport home on Saturday to pray and sing, knowing how in Iran fellow members of the Baha'i faith don't enjoy the same liberties.

"Here you almost feel guilty. Here you have the right to believe how you want, to worship how you want, but not there. If a group is gathered for prayer it's against the law," Heather Garmon said.

Baha'i is a monotheistic religion with millions members worldwide. Members say they believe God has sent many messengers like Moses, Muhammad, and Jesus among others. The most recent a prophet they say is named Baha u'lla who lived in the 19th century.

"Religion has progressed too throughout the ages starting with many great religions in the world," said Patricia Sandoval. "About every 1,000 years we believe that God sends a messenger. People call him a prophet, but a messenger from God to bring a message this time.

"Most people on this planet and particularly in this country are familiar with the Christian religion that basically Jesus taught love to people. Love and acceptance. Baha u'llah, our founder, his message for this time is you don't do away with the love but you build on unity."

There is no unity in Iran right now where seven followers are about stand trial without legal presentation.

"They would be charged for espionage for Israel and for insulting religions sanctities which actually is a very dangerous charge. It could result in execution," said Garmon.

Baha'is say although their faith originated in Iran, followers are not well received there.

"It's very difficult for them there. They're not allowed to go to college. They're not allowed to hold state jobs, business licenses and things. They're not allowed to have those because in Iran they recognize only a few minority religions," said Garmon.

The Baha'is say their prayer is that all believers in God will realize persecution of any religion is a threat to all religions.

Garmon said "Every human being deserves certain rights, whether or not they're in a democracy. Just by the fact of being a human being they should be allowed to worship their own God. What we would like folks to do is to pray for them at your churches and in your private prayer at home. If you could include them in your prayers."

The U.S. House of Representatives has drafted a resolution condemning Iran for its persecution of the baha'i community. Members of the Baha'i faith are asking people to call their congressmen and ask them to support to the bill.