November 9, 2009

Youth Art Project for Baha'i prisoners in Iran

Our youth gathered yesterday for their regular meeting, but instead of working on their Ruhi workbooks they sat quietly painting a group canvas. Previously the youth decided to each choose one of the Baha'i prisoners in Iran to research and then they each designed a fish shaped piece of art to paint in honor of that prisoner.

I was pleased to arrive, masses of art supplies in tow, to find that they had all actually read up on their assigned prisoner and had an idea of what they wanted to paint. We went around the table and briefly described each person's life prior to their arrest. There were mothers, father, and grandparent. Doctors, teachers, and business owners.

Shortly after the kids got to work, the photographer from the local paper arrived. The room got unusually quiet. Soon after the photographer, the reporter arrived. I was confident that inviting the press was the right move, but the youth had reservations. They were shy, and a bit concerned about what the reporter would write about their faith. When the reporter arrived she and I talked in the living room while the youth painted in the kitchen Barb was close by and chimed in when I needed help. Then she asked the youth to tell about their fish and why they painted it the way they did.

Once everyone who wanted to be interviewed had told their story, surprisingly the reporter hung around for another hour or so. The kids finally relaxed and the usual chatter kicked up. Every now and again I would hear her recording device click on as the kids discussed topics like intelligent design versus big bang, atheism, etc. For a while we interviewed her about being a reporter. She was patient and kind with her answers.

Once in a while someone would say something a little thoughtless, perhaps a little unkind in the way that teenagers so casually do. One youth pulled me aside asking, "you don't think that made us all look bad, do you?" Being in the major religious minority, they harbor an understandable fear of being misconstrued or singled out based on faith.

Anyway, the evening went on without a hitch. Each of the youth made a contribution to the canvas that they can be proud of. All that's left to do is auction it off. The auction, at this time, is planned to be on eBay beginning on November 16th and run for about a week. If you know anyone who wold like to make a bid, please pass this information along to them. The proceeds will likely go to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation; however, we are still exploring our options on that front.

We're testing the power of the arts to transform hearts and create awareness. Cross your fingers!

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