Baha'i News -- Event stresses peace, understanding Posted on Thu, Mar. 14, 2002

Event stresses peace, understanding

Herald Staff Writer

MANATEE - Understanding and accepting the beliefs of others was the message delivered by speakers at the 16th annual gathering of the Interfaith-Interracial Council of Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Members of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Baha'i faiths stressed the importance of tolerance and love for all members of the community. About 100 people of various faiths and backgrounds had breakfast together Wednesday morning at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium.

The event comes at a time of racial and religious clashes within the local community and beyond.

The Palmetto Police Department has been plagued by incidents of racial intolerance, which led to the hiring of a new police chief. Elsewhere in the world, religious and ethnic differences have been at the root of violent conflicts.

Palmetto Mayor Larry Bustle, elected in November, said speeches of tolerance and understanding are "very timely and very important." The messages reflect recent efforts in Palmetto, where diversity training is now offered to city employees, he said.

"It's important for us to all be together and hear different opinions about how we can work together," Bustle said.

Bustle, along with Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, who uses only one name, were the only Manatee mayors in attendance.

Nina Burwell, council president, said barriers must be removed in the community between those of different religions, cultures and race. This takes courage, she said, but the power of diverse ideas and wisdom creates understanding.

She called for an end to racial injustice and bigotry. "If the sun does not discriminate on whom it shines, why should we?" Burwell asked.

Keynote speaker Don Roberts, a Methodist pastor and director/chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries, used his five siblings as examples of a diverse family with opposing views on "almost everything," yet he noted they all have the same parents.

Others taking part in the service included Laurie Zimmerman of the Baha'i faith, Rabbi Barbara Aiello and Toufick Etyem, of the Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton.

"I think it's a very good event to bring together different cultures and different religions to give us an opportunity to hear each other's views. It's important we understand," said Tony Stephens, executive director of the Palmetto Youth Center.

The youth center, along with Brenda Bryant, director of HOW (Homeless, Orphans and Widows), and Adelaide Tesh Robinson, a volunteer at Manatee Memorial Hospital, were presented with this year's humanitarian awards by the council.

Tim W. McCann, Bradenton city government reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2620, or at twmccann@bradenton

©Copyright 2002, Brandenton Herald

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