Baha’i program reaches out to cable TV audience near Philadelphia

March 6, 2022
Baha’i program reaches out to cable TV audience near Philadelphia

By Christopher Carpenter

A group in suburban Philadelphia has taken to the airwaves in an attempt to show the larger community how the area’s Baha’is put faith into action. The Baha’is of Radnor, Pennsylvania, a town of 33,000 that lies 13 miles west of Philadelphia, began producing a 25-minute interview show called Baha’is Today in September 2019. The program airs on a local public access cable channel, MLTV–Main Line Network.

Babak “Bob” Etemad, host of Bahá’ís Today.

Babak “Bob” Etemad, a member of the Radnor Baha’i community and the current program host, says the program features Baha’is who are working for social change and community building. It’s “about the teachings in action,” Etemad says.

The monthly show can be accessed through Main Line Network’s YouTube page. Each show also runs on the cable channel about five times over the course of a month.

Inspiration for the program sprang from the Etemad family’s friendship with Anne Patricia Minicozzi, a professor of religion at Villanova University. She collaborates with Gity Etemad, Babak’s mother, on interfaith and anti-racism efforts.

Minicozzi had her own program on the local access channel, and Gity — a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly, the governing council for Radnor’s Baha’i community — thought local Baha’is could do something similar. So Gity, with her husband, met with the station’s general manager.

“He was so wonderful,” Gity says. “He was warm and said, ‘Of course, this is a public service and this is public service TV.’” The manager also suggested calling the program Baha’is Today, which Gity instantly liked.

When the Assembly asked her to coordinate the effort, Gity enlisted the help of her granddaughter, Nadia Etemad, who was majoring in journalism in college, and Nadia became the first program host.

Each program mentions the Baha’i Faith at the outset, and the Baha’i teachings and principles are mixed into the overall dialogue.

“We have had truly, truly wonderful guests,” Gity says. Interviewees come primarily from the western suburbs of Philadelphia, which lie in Delaware and Montgomery Counties, and the target audience comes from the same area.

After the pandemic hit the United States in early 2020, the program transitioned from in-person to remote interviews. Babak took over as host when Nadia returned to college.

One recent program aired in November 2021. It features Robert Harris, a healthcare executive and community service worker, discussing Baha’i efforts to address racism in America. The interview shares the ways the junior youth spiritual empowerment program teaches service to humanity as a life goal. Drawing an analogy to the Christian admonition “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” Harris paraphrases a Baha’i quote. “In the Baha’i tradition it says (to) prefer your neighbor to yourself. Give more. Sacrifice for others.”

Harris also offers comments on the example of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, and explains the significance of the 100th anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s passing, which was observed on Nov. 27.

Other previous programs feature:

  • A community member who initiates ongoing discussions called “Uncomfortable Conversations,” which focus on the topic of race at the local level.
  • The executive director of Manna on Main Street, a program that supports people who face food insecurity.
  • A physics professor who speaks about the importance of overcoming implicit bias in science as well as personal prejudices.
  • A college student who began an organization called Sharing Excess, which redirects surplus food to hunger relief programs in Philadelphia.
  • An author and educator who speaks about how to teach children about the world and raise them as global citizens.

Gity says she enjoys the program and encourages both Baha’is and friends in the larger community to watch it. They welcome feedback from viewers.

“Many times at night, when we are just clicking from one channel to another, we see, ‘Oh, Baha’is Today is on,’” Gity says. “It’s very nice.”

 


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