Baha'i News -- Interfaith luncheon will focus on uniting for peace

Interfaith luncheon will focus on uniting for peace: Leader says he will explore ways to build goodwill

DAILY MAIL STAFF

"Interfaith Growing, Uniting to Build Peace" is the theme for the 52nd annual Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council Luncheon.

The public event is set for 11:30 a.m. April 24 at John XXIII Pastoral Center, 100 Hodges Road in Charleston. The speaker is the Rev. Gregory Hayes, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Beckley.

"I plan to explore some steps necessary for people of goodwill to build peace in the community and the nation," he said. "I will talk about steps toward peace. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, it's imperative we unite to build peace.

"When you consider the violence done in the name of religion, it's important for people of different faiths to come together to build peace. It requires work. It is much like a marriage."

Soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Hayes and some other pastors tried to organize an interfaith prayer gathering. He heard comments from some who refused to attend because Muslims would be there praying to another God.

"There is only one God," Hayes said. "The persecution of Muslims for being who they are was wrong."

While there are similarities among religions there are also differences that define who we are and it is important to recognize those as well, he pointed out.

"I applaud the efforts of the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council," Hayes said. "When we consider peace and a just society we can rally around without debating theological fine points."

Hayes, a native West Virginian, is a third-generation Protestant pastor and an author. His most recent book is "The Search for Salaam: September 2001 and its Aftermath."

At this year's interfaith luncheon, donations will be accepted for Brookside Children's Home in Kanawha City.

The residential home is licensed by the state Department of Health and Human Resources and overseen by Union Mission Ministries. The home receives no federal or state monies and is supported totally through contributions.

Since Brookside reopened a year ago, 14 children have been assisted, said the Rev. Rex Whiteman, president and CEO of Union Mission Ministries. The facility is not licensed to treat children with substance abuse problems but helps youth in a variety of situations. Counseling is provided for children and their families.

"It's always a transitional situation," Whiteman said. "Many situations would bring children to us. There may be difficulties in the home for various reasons - the health of a parent, a death or a separation with the child is caught in the middle. Our goal is to get the child back with the family if the family structure is still intact.

"We are a Christian-based private facility," he said. "We provide Christian values and principles in a loving and direct way but not in a forced way."

Brookside has an interesting history.

"It was founded in the mid '30s as the Union Mission Children's Home," Whiteman said. "When the mission was downtown it took in orphans and even had midwives who delivered babies."

Some of these babies were left with the mission where they were put up for adoption. Whiteman said people sometimes call in search of their roots.

"The program has gone through a lot of development and changes," he said. "In 1987 it closed and the property was leased to Shawnee Hills."

In 1997, Union Mission began a $1.5 million fund-raising drive to renovate and reopen Brookside in order to help children caught in the midst of difficult situations. Brookside reopened in March of 2001. It costs about $500,000 a year to operate the facility located on South Park Road.

"An ongoing need is staffing and house parents," he said. "We've been slow starting because there are not enough house parents. Our house parents are residents. It becomes their life."

Whiteman said he is grateful to the Kanawha Valley Interfaith Council for choosing Brookside Children's Home as this year's project.

The luncheon is sponsored by Council of Catholic Women, Temple Israel Sisterhood, Islamic Association of West Virginia, Orthodox (Eastern and Greek), Church Women United, Vedanta Society and Baha'i.

Seating to the luncheon is limited. Tickets are $10 each. To receive tickets by mail, send $10 for each with checks made payable to KVIC. Include a self-addressed return envelope. Reservations for free childcare should be included with ticket order. Parents are asked to bring bag lunches for children.

Send ticket orders to: Mailbox Plus Inc., 1652 Fourth Ave., Charleston, WV 25312. Mail orders must be received by April 17. Tickets may be purchased directly until April 19 at Mailbox Plus, located just off Patrick Street. For more information call 346-1585.

Writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith can be reached at 348-1246 or by e-mail at charlotte@dailymail.com.

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