Wednesday, 7 February 2018

A death sentence – for loving humanity

Hamed bin Haydara, a Yemeni citizen aged 53 (pictured here in happier times), has recently been sentenced to death, for belonging to the wrong religion. He was arrested at work in 2013 and has since been tortured, with no medical attention allowed for his wounds. His family have not been allowed to visit him. While he has been in prison, a different faction has taken power in the capital, but the only difference it has made to his imprisonment has been the pronouncement of the death sentence, which is to be carried out in public. He was not allowed to be present at the trial, and no evidence supporting any of the charges – e.g. “insulting Islam” – was presented. The judge even complained to the prosecution about the lack of evidence, but that did not prevent him from declaring a death sentence.

Hamed Haydara is a Bahá’í, one of about two thousand Bahá’ís in the country. His belief? That there is one God, that all the world religions were divinely-inspired, and that all mankind should become one family. As Bahá’u’lláh expressed it: “The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men.”

Mr Haydara lives in a part of the world which desperately needs unity. Yemen is fractured by tribal divisions, by sectarian rivalry and by loyalties to different political leaders. Some areas of the country are even controlled by international extremist groups who seem to be at war with the rest of humanity. And, of course, there is currently a civil war raging, caused initially by the major religious divide between the far north of the country and the rest. This is the third civil war which I remember hearing about in Yemen, and, as in the 1960s, outside powers are greatly adding to the misery for the people of the country.

And what was Mr. Haydara working quietly for? For the unity of mankind, for justice, for peace. For the recognition of the truth of all religions and for a united and thriving community. Bahá’u’lláh emphatically declared that “The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.” Surely, the people of Yemen would benefit from adopting these goals.

When the ordinary people of Yemen are already suffering so badly, what good is there in killing a man who is not part of the conflict and is only concerned with bringing people together?
Mr Haydara’s case has been taken up by Amnesty International. But for most of us, the only thing we can do is to pray for his release, and for the people of Yemen to overcome their differences and work together for a happier future.