Baha'is celebrate garden of humanity
"As Baha'is, we believe mankind is one; we are all one family," said Joan Hutchens, the event's master of ceremonies. "Like flowers, we are all different but all in one garden, and diversity brings life and beauty to the garden."
Those light-hearted metaphors did not stop speakers at the event from condemning "the social disease of racism," as Hutchens put it.
"Our teachings tell us that, until we get rid of racism in America, we will not have peace in the world," she warned.
The two local groups of Baha'is in Charlotte County honored Nina Burwell for her service to the cause. Between sets by musicians Steve Blackwell and Friends, they ate barbecue and chatted with each other and passers-by, hoping to create an awareness of racism.
The Baha'i faith traces its doctrines of racial tolerance, social justice and gender equality to its founder, Baha'u'llah, a Persian (now Iranian) prophet who announced his revelations in 1863. His progressive attitudes didn't make him popular with Iran's Islamic clergy, and Baha'is have been the victims of persecution in their homeland ever since.
The religion has meanwhile spread around the world, partly because it preaches peace and doesn't invalidate other beliefs. Hutchens said Baha'is see Baha'u'llah and his immediate predecessor, the Bab ("Gate"), as only the most recent in a series of God-sent prophets.
With civilization ever-changing, new spiritual laws are required for mankind to grow. While venerating the Bible as a true book of God, the Baha'is also seek accord with modern science.
"If you have religion but don't believe in science, it's fanaticism," Hutches said. "If you have science without religion, it's materialism. Baha'u'llah is the newest messenger who came to unite mankind. That's what religion is supposed to do anyhow."
You can email Malcolm Brenner at firstname.lastname@example.org
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