Baha'i News -- Baha'is run for racial unity June 3, 2000

Baha'is run for racial unity

By JOHN STROMNES of the Missoulian

Runners living, eating, solving problems together for three months

ST. IGNATIUS - Baha'is from the Flathead Reservation are gearing up to greet a group of nine young runners who left Seattle on May 28 on a transcontinental run across the United States to promote racial unity.

The event is sponsored by Baha'is of the United States.

The group comprises three American Indians, a Pacific Islander, an African American, an Asian, a Latino, a Persian and an Anglo American.

Mary Bradley and Jeanie Morrow, the St. Ignatius women who are coordinating the run through the Flathead Reservation, said the runners will enter Montana on Monday and stay overnight at Noxon.

"The Noxon community has gone all out to greet them," Morrow said. A community potluck to meet the runners is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Noxon school.

"All we do is show people the flier (announcing the event) and they want to be involved," Morrow said.

On Tuesday, the runners will make their way to Plains, where another community dinner is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Methodist Church.

On Wednesday, the group will enter the Flathead Reservation.

They plan to spend the night at St. Ignatius. A traditional stew-and-fry-bread dinner is planned for the runners and all other interested people at the St. Ignatius Long House at 6 p.m. This is not a potluck; the dinner is free to all, Morrow and Bradley said.

Thursday will be a rest and recreation day for the runners. They will visit the People's Center at Pablo at 4:30 p.m. Drummers, dancers and the public are welcome to join them.

They will depart for Somers on Friday and continue east over the weekend.

They expect to end their run on the Shinnecock Reservation near New York City in mid-August.

What is the motive?

"They are modeling racial unity. They are living together, eating together and working out their problems together for three months," Morrow said.

She said she hopes others take a hint from the runners on how to get along.

"I think that through talking and associating with people all across America, these Baha'i runners will get people excited about doing something themselves in their own area to promote racial unity," she said.

The Baha'is of America are not associated with a small group based in Missoula, the Baha'is Under the Provisions of the Covenant, which Morrow said espouses apocalyptic doctrines foreign to orthodox Bahai's.

The Baha'i faith is a worldwide modern religion founded by an Iranian Muslim leader who died in 1892. Bahai's have suffered severe persecution in some countries, where any religious dissent is seen as a political threat to state-sponsored religions.

"The Baha'i faith teaches that all religions are part of the religion of God, just different chapters in that religion," Morrow said. It stresses principles of universal brotherhood, social equality and racial unity. About 15 Baha'is live on the Flathead Reservation, and there are about 300 in Montana. Many American Indians are attracted to the faith, perhaps because of its emphasis on brotherhood, racial equality and unity.

"I thought Baha'is were mostly white people. But I went to the 91st National Convention, and I came out of there with entirely new ideas. Bahai's are ethnically diverse, but it is all one family," said Bradley, a Salish Indian and native Salish speaker.

Morrow said Baha'is are optimistic about the future.

"We believe that the world will get better and we will all grow spiritually," she said.

The runners symbolize the spiritual growth that is possible for everyone, she said.

"They are not professional athletes; they are just committed youths," she said.

Reporter John Stromnes can be reached at his Polson office at (406) 883-6684 or at jstromnes@missoulian.com.


©Copyright 2000, The Missoulian

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