(photo credit: )
"Hizbullah would think it pretty neat if they destroyed our temple," said Albert Lincoln, secretary-general of the Baha'i International Community in Haifa, said Thursday.
"Shi'ites consider a Baha'i an apostate who can be killed for nothing," said Lincoln. "There are 350,000 Baha'i in Iran. They are excluded from higher education, including the last year of high school. If a Baha'i is killed in a traffic accident he is ineligible for compensation, because a Baha'i's life is worthless."
Members of the Baha'i community have been persecuted, and sometimes killed over the years by Muslims, especially by Shi'ites.
Nevertheless, Lincoln said it was important to remain optimistic.
"It is useless to sit in judgment," said Lincoln, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago Law School who grew up in a nominally Protestant household near Boston and embraced the Baha'i faith as a young man.
"Individuals have to deal with their own difficult experiences. Collectively, Baha'is look at their persecution in Iran and other places in a positive way. Many lost their lives because they refused to deny their faith. This courage and principled approach served to convey a message. Some persecutors have been so impressed that they have joined us."
Lincoln said that Shoghi Effendi, the great grandson of Bahaullah, the founder of the faith, made it clear in explications of previous teachings that Baha'is should not express political views.
"It's not because we fear the Hizbullah or anyone else," said Lincoln. "I think the Effendi's rationale was more the simple fact that there are Baha'is in every country. So there are Baha'is on both sides of every conflict. "Also, our goal is to be inclusive and keep all lines of communication open."
Fear of missiles has forced the Bahais to close their beautiful gardens in Haifa to visitors. "We don't want to risk the lives of our gardeners, our guides and, of course, our visitors."
The 700 workers at the Baha'i International Center are carrying on their work indoors. Like thousands of others, they rush downstairs to a bomb shelter when they hear the warning sirens.
Lincoln said that the Baha'i believe in the basic unity of all peoples and that the world is heading toward more oneness and the disintegration of borders and prejudices.
"But this unity and peace will not float down from the sky in a magical way. It has to take root in the hearts and consciences of people," he said.