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Baha’i faith picnic celebrates diversity in community

POSTED: June 19, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sara Guevara/The Times

Joan McGovern, right, talks with Iana Zeliski and her 2-week-old daughter, Victoria, at the Race Unity Day picnic Sunday at Wilshire Trails Park.

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Red and yellow, black and white were all welcomed to the Race Unity Day picnic at Wilshire Trails Park by the Baha’i faith of Hall County.

Race Unity Day took place Sunday and is a concept local Baha’i community members have celebrated at Longwood Park or Wilshire Trails Park for at least the past 10 years, said Baha’i community member Carol Hendrix.

"It’s about getting all the races and cultures together in fellowship and having good eats and having fun," Hendrix said.

Hendrix, an Alto resident, said the followers of the relatively new 164-year-old faith rejoice in the diversity of humanity and the unity of mankind.

She said the Baha’i believe that all men, women and children are born from the same race — the human race.

In its spirit of oneness and equality, the religion has no clergy, but has a national governing body in Evanston, Ill.

It also has an international governing body called the Universal House of Justice located in Haifa, Israel.

Joan McGovern of Forsyth County said Race Unity Day invites Baha’i communities to hold picnics or parties in an effort to educate nonmembers about the religion and to generate outlets for various races to intermingle to accomplish the greater goal of unity.

She said the day is a chance for people to come by and get to know members of the Baha’i community.

Hispanic, white and black park-
goers drifted into the pavilion Sunday and enjoyed the free hot dogs and fixings.

"We believe like the different flowers in all the gardens, we’re all beautiful together," McGovern said. "Really, when you put people together — different cultures, music, languages and skills — that’s the strength of America."

She said the Baha’i faith recognizes all religions in the world and prays to one God.

McGovern said as a member of the Baha’i faith, she has learned to embrace people’s differences in wealth, race and nationality.

"The way we were raised, we’re used to thinking when we meet somebody ‘How are we different?’ When I became a Baha’i, I turned that around and said, ‘How are we alike?’" she said.

"I can’t imagine my life without diversity anymore," McGovern said. "It’d be so boring."



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