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Scouts embrace the unity of mankind

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Rebecca Bonner, 9, has memorized enough Baha’i prayers to earn herself a shiny, golden badge that features the globe and has the words, “Unity of Mankind” resting proudly on the North Pole.

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Rebecca Bonner and her scout leader, Catherine Shea

The Unity of Mankind Religious Award Program for Scouting, sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, is a Religious Emblems Program recognized by the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the USA.The Unity of Mankind Award provides scouts a chance to earn an emblem and certificate by studying the Baha’i Faith. There are three levels to the program for children and youth, as well as an adult program called the Service to Humanity Award.

Rebecca earned the Level 1 emblem about a year ago when she was a Brownie. Now a Junior Girl Scout, Rebecca plans to pursue Level 2 of the badge.

“It makes me excited,” she said. “I want to get more badges to learn about a faith and to help others.”

After all, Robert Lee “Doc” Edmonds, author of “In Our Own Way: Living a Scouting Life Through Faith,” and veteran Boy Scout volunteer, said that duty and service to one’s faith has been cornerstone to the Scouting program since it’s beginnings in the early 20th century.

“Scouting is deeply invested in spirituality,” he wrote. Lord Robert Baden-Powell, founder of international Scouting, believed that every faith blesses those who do their best, and every boy and girl should have a religion. It was also important to B-P, as he is affectionately known today, that Scouts respect all faiths regardless of how different they are from their own.

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“When writing the book,” explained Dr. Edmonds, “I received enthusiastic and unquestionable cooperation and support from every major faith group, organization, and leader across America desiring to speak in one voice through prayer Scouting’s salient principles of reverence, strong character, and helpfulness to others”.

According to the U.S. Baha’i Committee on Scouting, the Unity of Mankind Religious Award Program has been evolving since the 1970s and notes that many who pursue the badge are not of the Baha’i Faith.

Some people may not associate with a particular religion, but feel a sense of spirituality. The Unity of Mankind program offers a universal message with a global perspective that people can relate to.

Other faiths also offer religious badges and Rebecca, whose father is a Baha’i and mother is Catholic, plans to pursue a Catholic badge next.

To earn the emblem, scouts must be mentored by a member of the Baha’i Faith (if possible), study the Faith, memorize Baha’i prayers and work toward becoming a better world citizen.

The intensity of the program varies depending on the level the scout is pursuing and typically takes between three to six months to complete.

The goal of the Religious Emblems Program is to help individuals develop a better understanding and appreciation for their faith.

William Bonner, Rebecca’s father, is a practicing Baha’i and said that helping his daughter go through the program has helped him with his own faith. “It really made me look at things from a different point of view,” he said.

Bonner said the badge is perfect for his daughter, since she’s being raised in a cross-religious household. “My wife and I agreed to expose her to both religions,” he said. “It [the program] worked out really well.”

For more information on The Unity of Mankind Religious Award Program for Scouting, contact schools@usbnc.org or call (847) 733-3492 and visit the website: http://www.bahai.us/unity-of-mankind-scouting-award-program/