Bahai News - Local Baha'is celebrate annual World Religion Day

Local Baha'is celebrate annual World Religion Day

Presentation of New Age music unites themes of Hinduism, Christianity
By Susan Hsu
The Daily Northwestern

The Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette wove messages of religious peace into a backdrop of new age music Sunday while celebrating World Religion Day.

About 100 people, including Baha'i members and visitors, came to the temple to hear the New Millennium Ensemble's musical interpretation of religious reconciliation.

Using a combination of music and narration, the interfaith program highlighted parallels between themes of Christianity and Hinduism.

"It made sense," said Chirag Patel, 17, a regular visitor at the Baha'i House of Worship. "I like the idea of having unity among all religions."

The program featured a lyrical presentation of new age and electronic music, directed by George Wolfe, music professor at Ball State University in Indiana. In a three-movement work, Wolfe improvised on the saxophone while two narrators read sacred text from Christian and Hindu scriptures.

"In the new millennium, there's a need now for bridges to be built amongst the various ethnic groups in the world," Wolfe said. "We have a multicultural society, so it's time we built bridges and realized the common roots."

The need to recognize common origins and goals among religions is a main theme underlying the Baha'i faith, said Dorita Fuller, coordinator of programs and services at the House of Worship.

"There is so much dissension and confusion among people all over the world about how they will get along and what will create a comfort and appreciation," Fuller said. "The anxiety among people who look for that harmony is high."

Members of the Baha'i faith follow the teachings of Baha'u'llah, a prophet who founded the faith and strove to unify people of all races and creeds in faith, conscience and devotion.

Because all the truths in the world come from one source and one god, the world must unify under one banner, Fuller said.

"It's a new concept and a very old concept to others," said Pamela Barrett, volunteer services coordinator at the House of Worship. "If there is only one god, then God created all religions."

The use of music is effective in communicating this message, said Wolfe, who embraces the principle of unity in religion.

"I feel music is a vehicle where it captures people's attention," Wolfe said. "I decided that putting it in a musical context, you get [people's] attention and get them to think about it more deeply."

Harsha Abeyaratne, the pianist and one of the narrators, said the musical narration added an artistic aspect to the message.

"I think there's a continuity and fluidness," said Abeyaratne, who is Buddhist. "With the music there, it makes it a lovely piece of art, something you can look into."

Audience members said the event raised interesting ideas about the common roots of religions.

Wolfe's presentation had a lot of meaning in it, said Mahvash Rouhipour, who was born into a Baha'i family. One must put aside the traditional ways of viewing religions, she said.

"When you say you're right or I say I'm right, we have to think about it and investigate it," Rouhipour said.

World Religion Day began around 1950 with the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States.

Through this event Barrett said she hopes people will develop a better understanding of the possibilities for world unity.

"Religion is important to the world and the Baha'i faith is a religion for the whole world," Barrett said.

©Copyright 1999, The Northwestern Daily
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