Baha’i summer schools aim to illumine path to racial amity

April 17, 2019
Baha’i summer schools aim to illumine path to racial amity

Every human creature is the servant of God. All have been created and reared by the power and favor of God; all have been blessed with the bounties of the same Sun of divine truth; all have quaffed from the fountain of the infinite mercy of God; and all in His estimation and love are equal as servants. He is beneficent and kind to all. Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature. All must be considered as submerged in the ocean of God’s mercy. We must associate with all humanity in gentleness and kindliness. We must love all with love of the heart.
—‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from an April 25, 1912, talk quoted in The Promulgation of Universal Peace

“Walking Together on a Path Towards Racial Amity and Oneness” will be the focus of programs at the seasonal and permanent Baha’i schools nationwide starting this spring and summer, and a task force is busy developing materials for study, consultation, reflection and action.

Operating under the national Office of Education and Schools (OES), the task force is working with a diversity of friends to model and test ways of carrying out the program. Among things the group seeks to learn is how the concepts involved are being understood and how small groups in consultative spaces can be a catalyst for advancing communities and families who come to see themselves as protagonists in building community.

As with this 2018 session in Minnesota, Baha’i summer schools have a long tradition of bringing diverse groups together for study and reflection. Photo courtesy of the Office of Education and Schools

“We are very excited about the developing program and delighted to be a space to learn about this all-important conversation throughout the United States,” says Kaveh Shahidi, national coordinator of schools committees for the OES.

While the program is still under development, a few elements have emerged:

  • The aim will be to immerse participants intensively in the subject of freedom from prejudice and how it applies to building genuine friendships in neighborhoods, where all are called to put the Word of God into action on this “most vital and challenging issue.”
  • Baha’is are encouraged to invite guests, including friends and family, from beyond the enrolled community of Baha’is.
  • The program will use excerpts from Baha’i writings and messages on the principles surrounding racial justice and unity. Selected passages for study of the topic will be sent in advance with each registration package.  
  • Study at the schools will include consultation on the implications of the Baha’i writings, reflection, and planning of systematic next steps that individuals and families can take as teams on their return to their home communities.

The Office of Education and Schools is helping the task force to train a key facilitator for each seasonal school; in turn, small-group facilitators will be chosen to work with groups of about 20.

With six sessions of roughly 90 minutes each, the program will be designed to be offered over periods of anywhere from two to five days. The program will use case studies, arts, questions engaging both mind and heart, and space for everyone to share experiences on the path toward understanding nobility and unity. There will even be a session where participants can gain experience in home visits.

“As expected, this a significant area of learning. Hence, the challenge before schools is how to focus and adopt a long-term vision of capacity building to advance understanding on this topic collectively,” notes Shahidi.

“The beauty of this program is that it will welcome both Baha’is and friends of the Faith to strive together in true friendships, applying the Word of God in uprooting the intractable racism and prejudice we see in America,” adds Jeff Albert, director of OES.

See the Events Calendar for dates of summer schools beginning in June across the country.

Also see links for upcoming program schedules for Bosch (California), Green Acre (Maine) and Louhelen (Michigan) Baha’i Schools.

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