Bahai News - Hernando Bahais spread notion of unity

Hernando Bahais spread notion of unity

A recent gathering of local Bahai members provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of racial unity at home and abroad.

By JEAN JOHNSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 27, 1999

Imagine a world with everyone being equal -- men and women, races, religions, the elimination of all prejudice.

A world where there is a oneness of humanity.

This is what the Bahai faith strives for. In fact, the group's motto is "Oneness of Mankind."

The local Bahai community sponsored a free talk and video at its monthly gathering, held at the home of Bill and Carol Newell, treasurer and secretary, respectively, of the Bahai community. The subject of the meeting, the power of race unity, is one of the main thrusts of the Bahai faith.

During the meeting, members discussed founding a Hernando County branch of Campanytown, a multicultural camp with branches in other areas of Florida. The camp provides youngsters with a place to have fun and discuss preventing and solving multicultural problems.. The nearest camp for Hernando residents is in Pinellas County.

Two videos were also shown at the meeting, one that offered a worldwide view of the activities and plans of Bahais. The second video presented the efforts of Anisa Kent, an 8-year-old Bahai girl. Anisa couldn't understand prejudice and racism and wanted to know "why should we fight and fuss and why can't we all get along?"

In 1991, with the help of her parents and teachers, she formed Calling all Colors and moderated a Bahai-sponsored conference in Conway, S.C. Participants talked about how people could best get along together using the Bahais as an example. Racism and the effects of racism were discussed, in addition to ways to make youngsters more aware of acts of prejudice.

Out of this conference, which is still held annually, came the slogan "Color me human," which is used as bumper stickers and the names of children's clubs.

Color Me Human events are held in other cities and states; groups meet regularly in the St. Petersburg Bahai center and in Tampa in cooperation with other faiths.

In addition to discussion periods, participants play educational games and participate in creative dances and activities.

Hernando Bahai president Dori Peloquin's daughter, Miranda, was inspired by Anisa's progress and initiative regarding the Calling all Colors conferences. Peloquin said Miranda is eager to have a branch of Color Me Human in Hernando County.

Peloquin said her daughter, a 10-year-old, fourth-grader at Floyd Elementary School, will do her best to get something going close to home, where there are 16 members of the Bahai community. The board of directors is made up of Peloquin and the Newells.

Members, who believe in the oneness of all the major religions, are encouraged to read not only the Bible but the Koran and all other holy books "because they all have a message for us," Peloquin said. "They are all important for us." Members also are encouraged to attend and enjoy other churches.

The Newells, who are white, say they go out of their way to meet people of other races and cultures. They are members of the African-American Club of Hernando County and participate in the club's education committee and scholarship program.

Though the Newells have served the Bahai for 20 years, they are not dissatisfied with the 16-member group's size.

"We're not discouraged," Bill Newell said, "because the number who are aware of our existence is great as opposed to the none who knew we existed when we first came to the county. Now hundreds know we are here."


©Copyright 2000, St. Petersburg Times

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