Written by Don Byrd

I write often about the challenges faced by religious minorities in the United States, and for good reason. So it’s nice to be able to pass along a positive news story about refugees escaping persecution and finding a home here. AZCentral reports on the community of Bahá’ís that have settled in Arizona, among the nearly 2,000 that have fled Iran since 1979, when all non-Muslims in the country began to be marginalized and oppressed.

In the United States, the report suggests, Bahá’ís have found that religious freedom for all means more peaceful and interactive communities. Among the people interviewed for the story is Johnny Martin, a Muslim student at Arizona State University who “began attending Tempe Bahá’í community events.”

Here is an excerpt:

Though ASU’s Martin is a Shi’a Muslim, decades of documented hatred and oppression toward Bahá’ís in Iran has had no effect on his relationship with refugees in the Tempe Bahá’í community.

“By my faith identity, I am part of the group that is their oppressor,” Martin said. “(But) the Bahá’ís that I’ve met in Phoenix — many of whom are refugees or are connected to refugee communities — have shown me that me being Shi’a Muslim doesn’t in any way make them feel anger or hatred or mistrust towards me.”

Kaveh Shahidi said even granting an interview for this story could have been “life-threatening” in Iran. He is grateful for the degree of religious freedom his family has found in the U.S.

The refugee program has been one important expression of our national commitment to religious freedom for all. It’s nice to see news coverage that affirms its successes.