Bahai News - Baha'i conference is for all faiths
Baha'i conference is for all faiths
200 workshops planned for four-day gathering in Milwaukee
By TOM HEINEN
of the Journal Sentinel staff
Thousands of Baha'i believers, followers of a faith whose teachings say the
time has come for all people to be unified in a single global society, will
converge on Milwaukee next week for a national conference unlike any they
have held before.
Anyone interested in learning about the Baha'i faith may attend free
introductory presentations at 1, 2:30, 4, 5:30, 7 and 8:30 p.m. June 29 and
30 in the Crystal Ballroom of the Howard Johnson Inn, 176 W. Wisconsin Ave.
To attend the conference, at a cost of $30 for non-Baha'is, register
at the U.S. Cellular Arena from noon Thursday through the weekend.|
For information about the conference and the faith, log on to www.milwaukeebahai.com or call
Leaders of major Christian denominations and other faiths throughout the
Milwaukee area are not the only ones who have been invited to participate.
Invitations also have gone out to 10,000 non-Baha'is across the country.
And instead of dealing with internal matters or focusing narrowly on a few
issues, this conference will include at least 200 workshops designed to
strengthen Baha'i communities and the societies in which they live.
Most workshop topics fall under a few general categories: marriage and
family; equality of men and women; racial unity; human rights and social
justice; health; spirituality; and building strong communities.
A cornerstone of the four-day conference will be a presentation by Robert C.
Henderson, secretary general of the National Spiritual Assembly of the
Baha'is of the United States in Wilmette, Ill., on the faith's new five-year
community development plan. His talk is titled "How Do We Build the Kingdom
of God on Earth?"
"Normally, we would have a Baha'i conference and just the Baha'is would
come," said Tim Tyson, U.S. spokesman for the Baha'i faith. "This is
designed to be open to anybody who wants to come.
"What's truly unique about this, and this is a real paradigm shift, is that
this conference is specifically designed to demonstrate not only to the
Baha'is but to the general public the community building aspects of a
Slightly more than 8,000 people, mainly Baha'is, have pre-registered for the
conference, which runs from Thursday through July 1. About 1,000 or more
could register on site, said Jim Beasley, a spokesman for Baha'is in
southeastern Wisconsin. Registration and keynote speeches are at the U.S.
Cellular Arena, but workshops are spread out among various downtown hotels
and the Midwest Express Center.
One of the workshops, "Unity in Motion," is drawn from a weekly karate class
that is held at the Milwaukee Baha'i Center on W. Vliet St. Class members,
at least half of whom are not Baha'is, range in age from about 14 to 60,
Although the teacher has a black belt, the emphasis is not as much on martial
arts as it is on spiritual principles, self-discipline and how to avoid a
confrontation, he said.
"Most of these workshops are like that, not necessarily officially
sanctioned things, but it's the old 'think outside of the box, what are
you doing that's never been tried before,' " Beasley said.
The Baha'i faith traces its roots back to an Iranian nobleman who is known
today as Baha'u'llah, which means "The Glory of God". In 1863, he declared
he was God's newest messenger, the fulfillment of prophecies from past
religions and the bearer of new laws for modern society.
Baha'is believe that there is only one God, that there is only one race and
that traditional barriers of race, class, creed and nation are breaking down
in a way that will produce a unified world civilization.
The Baha'i faith prohibits its communities from accepting donations from
non-Baha'is and from proselytizing, but they can share information about
their faith in a low-key way with those who seek it.
Although its international headquarters is in Haifa, Israel, the faith has
spread from the Middle East across much of the world. There are 5 million or
more believers in more than 190 countries.
About 144,000 Baha'is live in the U.S., including an estimated 1,000 to
2,000 in Wisconsin, most in southeastern Wisconsin. Some of the first Baha'i
communities in the U.S. were established in Kenosha and Milwaukee in the
late 1800s and early 1900s.
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