Sat 23 Aug 2003
Scientist's suicide ran against Baha'i beliefs, Hutton inquiry is told
DR DAVID Kelly would have found nothing in his Baha’i religion to suggest suicide was morally acceptable, Lord Hutton will be told when he takes evidence next month.
Barney Leith, the head of the UK Baha’i community’s governing council, is expected to tell the inquiry that his religion - to which Dr Kelly converted - explicitly condemns suicide as it curtails the chance for spiritual improvement.
Writing exclusively for The Scotsman, Mr Leith suggests that the Baha’i faith would, if anything, have provided a religious dimension for Dr Kelly’s continued work for the United Nations as a means of promoting international community.
Mr Leith, the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the UK, said his faith’s key goal is for the people of the world to unite in a social, humanitarian order - a goal reflected in the ideals of the UN.
The faith is centred around Baha’u’llah, born in Persia in 1817. He is regarded by his followers as God’s latest, but not last, prophet - following a line which includes Abraham, Moses, the Budda, Jesus and Muhammad.
The central message of Baha’u’llah is that personal prejudices and international discord should be conquered - and that work towards this goal can be regarded as the moral equivalent of prayer.
Work for the UN - whether humanitarian or helping to disarm Iraq in the name of the international community - could be regarded by Baha’is as the an act which brings its followers "closer to God".
Mr Leith, himself a convert to the faith, says in his article that Baha’is see life as a vital opportunity for self-improvement - and the longer it is lived, the greater the chances of coming closer to God in the afterlife.
Suicide, he says, is inimical to the entire Baha’i teaching. "The gift of life is sacred: the act of suicide is condemned in the Baha’i teachings, as in other faiths," he said. "We firmly believe that life should be lived to its full extent - and cutting it short does not allow the spiritual development which we consider to be the purpose of this life.
"However, Baha’is do not condemn those who commit suicide. A Baha’i would take his or her own life only if he or she had been overwhelmed by pressure of some kind."
Baha’is also believe that employment which furthers the goals of the Baha’i teaching is in itself a form of religious service - and another means of self-improvement.
"Work done in the spirit of service is equivalent to worship," Mr Leith says. "Our duty is to engage with life; being of service to our fellow human beings. And this practical expression of the Baha’i faith takes many forms."
Lord Hutton may focus on whether working for the UN - which Dr Kelly did as a weapons inspector - would be seen as work in furthering the religious goal.
Mr Leith said the vision which inspired the UN does have a religious significance for Baha’is. "The ideals of the UN are important as they represent what we see as an ever-strengthening theme: globalisation bringing a new era of co-operation and communication among peoples who were previously at war," he said.
Mr Leith will give evidence to Lord Hutton on 2 September - and is expected to be the last witness to the inquiry before the evidence-taking stage is drawn to a close.
©Copyright 2003, The Scotsman (UK)
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