On Dec. 14, a Moroccan tribunal sentenced three men of the Baha'i faith to death on grounds of their religious affiliation. Virtually the entire faculty of the Harvard Divinity School has supported an appeal to the United Nations to censure the decision.
The appeal, in a letter sent to Secretary-General U Thant, claimed that the ruling of the tribunal violated "the Charter of the U.N., the Declaration of Human Rights, and the United Nations Genocide Convention."
George H. Williams, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History, said that the immediate concern of the Divinity School faculty members is to save the lives of the three Baha'i. "The fact that people are sentenced to death for their religious beliefs and practices is unthinkable," he said.
The verdict, delivered by the Nador lower court, set Dec. 27 as the date of execution. On Christmas Day the Supreme Court of Morocco agreed to review the case. Its decision is expected by the end of January.
According to Samuel McLellan, a member of the Cambridge Baha'i Community, the International Baha'i Community plans to use every possible action and influence in an attempt to intervene in the case.
In addition to the press, the group hopes to attract the attention of private humanitarian interests. Williams also hopes "to encourage the Moroccan central government to live up to its constitution of religious freedom" by arousing world opinion.
In December, King Hassan II of Morocco had amended the Moroccan constitution to provide freedom from persecution for established religious groups. McLellan explained, however, that heretic groups were not protected under the new amendment. It is still uncertain whether the 300 members of the Baha'i religion are considered it heretics in the new ruling.
But Williams considered it improbable that the decision of the Nador court was a decision of the national government. He pointed out that during the trial many local groups demonstrated against the court.
In addition to saving the lives of the condemned men, the long-range aim of the Baha'i Community will be to prevent a national or universal persecution of minor religious sects.
"It is the appalling prospect of this spreading through this and other countries that has disturbed us," Williams said. "If this unjustified persecution were permitted, a larger attack on the Baha'i community would almost certainly result," he continued.
The trial was instigated at the insistence of Allal El Fassi, former Minister of Islamic Affairs, according to evidence the Community has obtained. El Fassi represented this conservative, orthodox branch of a group which urges discrimination against foreign elements in Morocco.