Baha'i News -- A day to celebrate diversity while embracing unity

A day to celebrate diversity while embracing unity

By: Linda J. Field, Special Writer

Last Sunday was declared Unity Day, both by the Baha'i religion and through a proclamation by Lawrence Township. Between 150 to 175 residents gathered in Village Park to celebrate just that, forgetting their differences in background, race, career and faith to become instead friends and neighbors.
   The day could not have been clearer, with blue skies, sunshine and moderate temperatures encouraging people to get outside and celebrate. Village Park filled with color and music supplied by various groups.
   Children were kept busy with games and entertainment. Adults took some time to sample the diverse spread of foods, provided by Baha'i Faith of Lawrence Township.
   For township resident and Baha'i member Shu Shu Costa, Unity Day has been a successful event that has grown over the eight years it has been held in the Lawrence.
   She said the idea of Unity Day started in 1957 as a suggestion by the Baha'is of the United States, and it spread nationwide. The Lawrence group is made of about 25 members, forming a vibrant community with many children.
   "This day is to make us more aware of our unity, especially racial," said Ms. Costa. "The event is supported by Lawrence officials and local businesses. It has been interesting to watch it grow over the past eight years, to the 150 we had attending last year. Ours is a very peaceful faith. It speaks to me, has moral and spiritual values as well as participation in the community."
   Unity was the word of the day, in all forms and the feelings it may inspire.
   "We see a lot of people coming from everywhere, it's all very nice," said Annick Elziere, a native of France and now a resident of Lawrence. "We see a lot of new people, and that's the idea. One day the whole of Lawrenceville will know each other. That's what we're trying to do, to have people forget who they are and where they come from. Make it just one big party. There is hope. All it takes is believing it. We can see it growing with the young ones."
   Township resident Bill Agress, better known as the man who portrays Col. Hand at all those re-enactments, attended with his son, Andrew. Both were sampling the foods available while talking about the day.
   "It's wonderful," said Mr. Agress. "It gave me a chance to talk to my son about the whole idea of how we judge people."
   Andrew, a first-grader at Abrams Hebrew Academy in Pennsylvania, seemed to get the idea.
   "We should judge people by their behavior, not by how they look," he said.
   Councilman Rick Miller was at Unity Day early to meet and greet his friends and neighbors, as well as share some thoughts on Unity Day before the speeches and official duties took over.
   "Unity Day is a great event," said Mr. Miller. "The Baha'is put it on every year to build community within our township. It helps us to understand each other, despite our coming from different backgrounds. It is also a day to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity within Lawrence."
   Township resident Camm Maguire often is seen at interfaith gatherings around holidays as a representative of the Baha'i faith. He was busy setting up the tent for musicians, getting wiring adjusted and in general making sure the entertainment would go off just fine.
   "I'm very grateful for today's event," said Mr. Maguire. "This is a rare opportunity for strangers to get together to learn about each other and share together. I feel events like this would lay the foundation for world peace. It would work on the international level to bring leaders together."
   Patrick Deneen enjoyed the event's many offerings.
   "It's a fabulous day," said the township resident who was attending Unity Day with his wife, Inge. "There's good food, good company and good music, especially the Irish music playing now. The purpose of the event is praiseworthy, to recognize unity through a special event. But that's something we should practice every day."
   The event made a time for reflection for some who attended, including Sharon Karnik of Ewing.
   "Lawrence is becoming quite a place for interfaith events and diversity," said Ms. Karnik. "Most of the problems we encounter in the world are brought about because we don't celebrate our differences. In fact, there is nothing greater to celebrate than our diversity."

©Copyright 2002, The Lawrence Ledger

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