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Bahá'ís stimulate the mind and the soul at 'firesides'

September 03, 2001


For The Times Herald

Arriving at a Bahá'í fireside an hour early throws one into a hectic whirlwind of preparation for a lively evening of discourse and friendship.

Despite frantically gathering food and organizing his home to receive almost a dozen area Bahá'ís, David Fiorito of King of Prussia welcomed questions about his religion. Beads of sweat glistened on his forehead as he moved throughout the kitchen, cutting fruit, making coffee or fielding an intrigued visitor's questions.

As the scheduled time for the fireside ap-proaches, David's mother and sister arrive. They are not Bahá'ís, but they come to nearly each fireside to join the conversations that touch upon subjects that are rarely found in any social circle.

"It gives me a chance to exercise a muscle that I don't get a chance to exercise anywhere else," said Eileen Fiorito-Noll of Conshohocken, Da-vid's sister, who is a Presbyterian.

One by one, the Bahá'ís arrived, filling David's living room with nine open and warm individuals, hailing from a wide variety of personal backgrounds. Not everyone present has officially signed their name as a Bahá'í, but they all share the love of religious discussion that makes the evening flow with a sense of candid expression and free inclusion. Anyone is welcome to attend a fireside, even if they are not Bahá'ís.

"The embracing of all religions lines up with my philosophy," said Frank Curnow.

As a member of the Catholic church, Curnow offered his views and experiences throughout the evening's discussion on angels, which extended into a broader talk on the relationship of people to God. All opinions are free in this setting, and Bahá'ís welcome the opportunity to learn from individuals with different religious backgrounds.

"Every human being is seen as a child of God and we are all, in essence, equal," said David Fiorito.

David steered the discussion with his prior research on the subject to have sources from Bahá'u'lláh's writings to share. He offered interpretations of the writings, which can be rather cryptic, to those present who do not readily pick up the central message.

From this basic foundation, the members of the discussion built an intellectual and spiritual conversation, engaging everyone, whether one chose to remain silent and contemplate the comments or to throw one's ideas into the mix. Everything is welcome and no one leaves with the sense of being wrong.

The sense of free thought without exclusion attracts many Bahá'ís who struggle with the concept of many other religions that there is only one path to salvation.

"I couldn't understand why if you only were in their religion you would be saved," said Julianna Gross of King of Prussia.

The Bahá'ís do not include a tenet of exclusion in their faith, opting instead to include everyone in their attempt to show the world that we are all brothers and sisters under one majestic Creator who shares his wisdom in religion to us in many different formats.

"One basic difference is nobody is superior because it is a message from God," said Reena Bookwala of King of Prussia.

Anyone interested in learning more about the Bahá'í Faith can contact any Bahá'í to receive literature or discuss the religion. The national web site for the Bahá'ís is

©Copyright 2001, Times Herald

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