Nov 27, 2019
By Shabnam Sadeghi

Baha’i’ in Nursing: Putting My Beliefs into Action

Take away messages:

  • Past experiences are the foundation our current perspectives.
  • Religious persecution and witnessing rights violations in her native country of Iran, shaped the author’s perspective as to what constitutes excellence -believing in oneness of humanity and selfless service to others.
  • In pursuit of those ideals, the author found nursing to be an empowering profession that enables her to practice her beliefs by advocating for the physical and psychological well-being of others.

I had the opportunity to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a question at the Nanaimo (Vancouver Island University) town hall in February 2018 about assisting Baha’i’s in Iran who have severely limited rights in their own country. My advocacy for the protection of the rights and well-being of others, regardless of their racial, ethnical and religious background, stem from the belief that “the earth is but one country and humankind its citizen”. I strongly believe nursing career will empower me to practice this belief. The following is a brief account of my personal experiences that lead me to gain this perspective.

“Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.” These are the words of Baha’u’llah, the prophet founder of the Baha’i’ faith. As a member of the Baha’i’ community, I was taught that the universe is like the human body—all the members are connected and linked with one another, and pain and suffering of one part affects the whole body. Therefore, the collective well-being of humanity depends on the health of all societies, despite the geographic distance and cultural differences between and among them. I was taught that serving others selflessly is the most meritorious of all deeds, and that having the ability to identify with the pain and suffering of others, and going above and beyond to alleviate their pain, defines excellence.

Although I was raised with these principles, their true significance was revealed to me through the religious persecution that my family and I endured in my native country of Iran. What made my experience even more meaningful was witnessing the persecution of others, how grossly their basic rights were violated, and the toll that this mistreatment took on their physical and psychological well-being. Absence of due process and lack of an independent judiciary to seek justice was, and unfortunately still is, the norm in Iran. I will always remember witnessing how quickly the health of a cellmate, who was imprisoned for protecting herself against a male intruder, deteriorated after being informed that her appeal was rejected. It was through such a poignant experiences that I learned, at first hand, how social issues such as equity and justice are so closely linked to health.

This was the driving force behind my choosing a career in nursing—one that aims to alleviate the pain and suffering of others, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or religious background. Being empowered to advocate for the well-being of others on a daily basis is truly fulfilling. In addition, my past experiences have engendered the belief that this advocacy is not, and should not, be limited to the boundaries of a hospital or even a country. To me, nursing is an act of caring that should cross all boundaries, and it may require extending advocacy for the well-being of others beyond any artificial ceilings. I believe this mindset will not only enable me to practice this profession at a greater capacity, but also allow nursing to claim its rightful place in all social arenas.

As a nursing student, I believe that, aside from acquiring professional knowledge and skills, active engagement in social debates concerning the welfare of others gives me invaluable experience and perspectives that I can utilize in the future to be a more effective caregiver. I strive to extend advocacy for the health of all because we are all “fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch.”

Acknowledgement

The author would like to thank Prof. Linda Shea and Dr. Arash Naziripour for their support in the development of this article.

Additional resources

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Baha’i’s in Iran, Town Hall in Nanaimo, BC. (2018).

Gleaning from Writing of Bahaullah. 1990. US Bahá’í Publishing Trust

Shabnam Sadeghi was born in 1980 in Iran. As Iranian Baha’i, she was denied access to post-secondary education. She came to Canada as a refugee in 2015, and is now in the BSN program at Vancouver Island University. Her goal is to work with UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders in order to advocate for human rights.
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