Other faiths to help Bahais mark World Religion Day

January 15, 1995|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Members of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Unitarian Universalist communities will join the county's Bahai community today in the annual Bahai World Religion Day observance.

The celebration at 7 p.m. at The Other Barn in Columbia will mark the first time that members from other faiths have been invited to speak at the observance, intended to promote unity among the world's religions, said Carolyn Alperin, a Bahai who helped organize the event.

"If you study all the religions, the principles are the same: You love your neighbor as yourself; live a good life; chastity, honesty, all the virtues," said Ms. Alperin, one of about 100 Bahais in Howard County. "We're not as different as [some] think we are."

Others in the county's religious community praise the Bahai group's activities.

"They're trying to do many things like we're trying to do, bringing a more spiritual dimension to the world," said Rabbi Martin Siegel, who leads the Columbia Jewish Congregation. "They have suffered for it, like we have, and were severely persecuted."

The Bahai faith is named after founder Baha' Allah, who was born Nov. 12, 1817, in what is now Tehran, Iran. Proclaiming himself a messenger from God, he taught that the world's religions came from one God who sent successive messengers, including Abraham, Moses, Christ, Krishna and Mohammed.

Because he lived in a Muslim-dominated world, Baha' Allah was exiled for his teachings and imprisoned. Muslims, believing divine revelation ended with the prophet Mohammed, considered Baha' Allah teachings blasphemy and persecuted his followers.

To remember how their founder stressed the harmony of the world religions, Bahais every year celebrate World Religion Day the third Sunday in January. The day was initiated by the national administrative body of the Bahais of the United States in 1950.

Worldwide, there are 5 million people who practice Bahaism. , The Bahai Community of Howard County is 30 years old, said Ms. Alperin.

"The Bahai faith has given me a broader perspective, especially with the concept of progressive revelation, God sending different messengers at different times," said Ms. Alperin, a former Christian.

Being a Bahai also has helped her to respect and understand other religions. "I don't feel my religion is better than anyone else's," she said.

The Rev. Robert A. F. Turner, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Baptist Church in Wilde Lake, plans to attend today's celebration.

"Theologically, I don't think we have much in common," Mr. Turner said. "But both groups want to do some good in this world. We may not give the same source the credit."

He said Christians and Bahais share what he calls such "core values" as honesty, integrity and compassion. They also care about the future of young people, the homeless and others in the community who need assistance, he said.

Columbia, known for its ecumenical exchanges in the four interfaith centers, is a good site for members of different faiths to come together and discuss their differences, Mr. Turner said.

"I think people are more open to coming together despite the theological differences," Mr. Turner said. "I think the problem is with leadership, not theology."

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