Monthly Reflection: Kalimat (Words) – On Honouring Elders

This year’s NAIDOC week and its celebrations in honour of elders just wrapped up! NAIDOC week takes place every July and it’s a time to recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth. 

Over the last couple of years, the Baha’i Blog team has viewed NAIDOC week as an occasion to create a space, albeit a very modest one, to hear from our First Nations friends and to gain a deeper understanding of the history, culture, experiences, and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year we shared an interview with Elizabeth Hindson, the first Indigenous Australian elected to the national Baha’i leadership of Australia. In the video, Racquel and Elizabeth share a cuppa and we hear about Elizabeth’s childhood, her job as a comptometrist, and the election of the very first Universal House of Justice.

This is our third interview of this kind: last year we heard from Bilyana Noel Arthur Blomeley and the year before that we spoke with Marjorie Reid. This year we also shared a rendition of “Blessed is the spot”, a prayer by Baha’u’llah translated into Woiwurrung, the language of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, the traditional owners of the Yarra River Valley which covers much of the present location of Melbourne.

As we enter the month of Words, I want to tread lightly and thoughtfully with the ones that I use. It is my understanding that “elder” is not synonymous with “elderly” and than an elder is a person who has gained recognition for their wealth of knowledge and experience; they are respected and honoured; and they have permission to pass their knowledge along.

In the guidance from the House of Justice, the letters of Shoghi Effendi and even in the writings of Abdu’l-Baha we find the term “veteran believer” which is a Baha’i with substantial experience in a particular field, in this case, sharing the teachings of the Baha’i Faith. I don’t think that a veteran Baha’i and an elder are the same thing (although they can be manifested in the same person), but both describe someone who has a store of wisdom they can impart.

Among the many articles on Baha’i Blog, we have a small number of pieces that are tributes to veteran Baha’is, or Baha’is who have been recognized with additional titles such as Hand of the Cause. Some of my favourites that I love to revisit are Amelia–or Milly–Collins, Shirin Fozdar who was an “example to womankind,” Saichiro Fujita, one of Japan’s earliest Baha’is, and Thomas Breakwell, the mysterious luminary, among many others!

From my limited understanding, I also see NAIDOC week as a movement towards unity, which is the cause for which the Bab gave His Life. In order to commemorate the Martyrdom of the Bab last month we put together a short video that tells us about Anis, the young man who was executed alongside Him.

As with all of our content, we spent time and attention on the words used in the video. Words are my close companions, my dearest friends, and I try to use them with love, care and attention. Having said that, we do very much appreciate hearing from you, our readers, our viewers and our subscribers, not just about typos and errors, but also about the words we use and what they convey. We hold our editorial values very close to our hearts and we are grateful for the feedback you have shared over the years about our words and the effect they are having. You can write to us any time at [email protected]. We love hearing from you!

Wishing you a joyous month of Words from the Baha’i Blog team!

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Sonjel Vreeland

In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she’s driving at night.

Sonjel Vreeland

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