Baha’is among voices of faith offering perspective in troubled time

May 21, 2020
Baha’is among voices of faith offering perspective in troubled time

Updated frequently — latest: May 21, 2020

Phil Wood, a Baha’i in Hutchinson, Kansas, has been sharing his thoughts on living through the COVID-19 pandemic in periodic opinion pieces for The Hutchinson News.

In the most recent, posted May 16 to the newspaper’s website, he expressed a longing for person-to-person contact but noted the opportunities that communication via online video has afforded area residents.

“It has brought folks together in ways I never thought possible,” Wood wrote. “In many cases it has expanded our vision of what can be achieved in our town when we cooperate. The Zoom meetings have frequently provided firsthand information about activities we do not usually have.”

He added that dialogues in the community have taken on “some of the features of consultation, a decision-making process used by Baha’i communities all over the world.”

To reinforce that point, Wood quoted from an article in The Baha’i World, a publication of the Baha’i World Center, titled “The Role of Public Institutions in Ensuring Social Well-Being.”

The article notes, “By prizing humility over forcefulness, dialogue over debate, and truth over victory, consultation opens the way to a mode of making decisions in which options are dispassionately assessed and a variety of perspectives serve to build a more complete vision of social reality.”

And it asserts that even though such “a model of genuine deliberation is clearly a departure from those dominant in the political systems in the world today, … signs abound that humanity is tiring of growing levels of partisan gridlock and rancor preventing government from living up to its potential.”

***

One of the many mainstream media articles published during the pandemic about people of faith centers on an Albany, New York, family. 

The Times-Union story, titled “Meet three of the world’s 6M Baha’i,” features Fardin Sanai, Michele Susko and their daughter, Roya, 13.

It provides an outline of their Baha’i beliefs and how they came to embrace the Faith. And in a Q&A, the three family members talk about their faith community and what it means to be a Baha’i in a predominantly Christian culture.

***

In Cincinnati, Ohio, Nabil Hamadani recorded a message of hope on behalf of the Baha’i community for broadcast April 15 on WKRC-TV. The station had asked spiritual leaders “for their thoughts during these trying times.”

“Good Morning Cincinnati” anchor Sheila Gray introduced the segment, summing up the Baha’i message as “we are stronger together.” And as Hamadani’s statement concluded, she exclaimed, “Wow! That was really strong. I love that.”

Sporting a Cincinnati Festival of Faiths t-shirt, Hamadani told viewers that “in these times of uncertainty, seldom has it been more evident that society’s collective strength is dependent on the unity it can manifest in action,” and he lauded an increasing “solidarity” among faith communities to “work for everyone’s betterment.”

“Life and all the progress that we’ve made brings with it crises, but history is a great witness that each crisis is followed by bigger victories,” Hamadani noted. 

“However difficult current situations might get and however stretched we are as a society, I think through patience and composure humanity ultimately will … emerge on the other side with greater insight and with a far greater appreciation of its oneness and interdependence.”

***

See also the message of hope Johanna Merritt Wu, a Baha’i in West Lafayette, Indiana, recorded for broadcast on WLFI-TV.

See as well the thoughts of inspiration and encouragement recorded by Michael O’Neal, a Baha’i in Savannah, Georgia, as part of a series inaugurated by Mayor Van Johnson.

***

Tony Baker represents the Baha’i community in an interfaith hour of prayer organized by Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Mayor Allen Joines. Screenshot from video

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Mayor Allen Joines organized a “Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Citywide Hour of Prayer and Inspiration” that was streamed on Good Friday, April 10, and archived on YouTube.

Tony Baker, a Baha’i in Winston-Salem, joined representatives of several faith communities — including Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist — in offering prayers and thoughts on the resilience of the human spirit and the crying needs of these times. 

Baker offered prayers from the Baha’i writings on healing and assistance for the homeless and for those who suffer from food disparities. 

He concluded: “On behalf of the Baha’i community, our prayer is that our community, our nation and the world remain safe, peaceful and healthy.”

***

In Tampa, Florida, the Tampa Bay Times asked faith representatives to “offer words of wisdom for a time such as this” with Easter, Passover, Ridvan — a Baha’i festival celebrated April 20–May 1 — and Ramadan following each other in close order.

John Hatcher, a Baha’i in Plant City, quoted a message from the Universal House of Justice, global governing council of the Baha’i Faith: 

“Seldom has it been more evident that society’s collective strength is dependent on the unity it can manifest … and we know that you are giving your support to the essential efforts being made in this regard to protect the health and welfare of all.”

He said the “objective of Baha’i communities throughout the world is helping to establish and foster vibrant and spiritually motivated neighborhoods” and he said this crisis “has not deterred that spirit.”

Hatcher offered the hope of Baha’is, in closing, that when people emerge from this crisis they “may never forget the lessons we will have learned from regarding one another as members of a unified and loving human family.”

***

See also the contribution of Lolita Pagarani Cain, a  Baha’i in McAllen, Texas, to a Hidalgo County judge’s call for faith representatives to lend spiritual support to residents through a Zoom conference call.

***

In Enid, Oklahoma, an Enid News & Eagle series titled 2020 VISION offered a detailed look at the Enid and Edmond Baha’i communities in a feature story, “Principles of unity, equality and peace emphasized in local Bahá’í community.”

The article touched on the history and teachings of the Baha’i Faith in the world before turning to the local Baha’i community. 

Nathan and Jodi Palmer were quoted about why they embraced the Faith and how the Enid community has evolved to the point it has about 50 members.

Because Enid Baha’is often travel to Edmond for larger gatherings, Terri Angier described that community and its Baha’i Center for the article.

***

In San Diego, California, Allysene Watson gave his congregation, University Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), an 18-minute introduction to the Baha’i Faith and the ways the church is partnering with the Baha’i community to achieve goals of social justice.

Stories from the life of Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith, were integral to Watson’s presentation.

***

Richard Pellegrino says the support of family, friends and colleagues pulled him through the dark days of battling COVID-19.

“When you feel your body is failing and you want to give up, your mind and spirit want to give up, it’s that support. It’s those prayers. It’s those cheerleaders who are saying, ‘You can do this.’ They push you and keep you going. It’s real,” the Mabelton, Georgia, Baha’i told Faith Abubey of WXIA-TV in Atlanta for an April 15 news segment.

“That’s what pulled me through. That’s what made me want to fight and say I can’t give up. If people aren’t giving up on me, I can’t give up on them.”

Pellegrino is a fighter by nature. He’s known in and around Cobb County as a social justice advocate, notably with the Cobb Immigrant Alliance and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

But when a mild fever and dry cough led to trouble breathing, the 65-year-old went to the emergency room. On his third trip there, Pellegrino was admitted and tested for the coronavirus. After many different treatments were tried, he was placed on a ventilator and kept on it for a week. He was unsure he would survive.

“When you can’t breathe, when you can’t catch your breath, it’s the worst feeling,” he told the reporter. “Even when I had pneumonia, it was nothing like this. [Battling COVID-19 felt like] the worst thing in the world.”

Finally, after 19 days in the hospital, he was released on April 3 and greeted by a throng of children and grandchildren who had kept his spirits up with messages and brightly colored drawings.

“That was just great,” he recalls of having the warm sun on his face as he bathed also in the love of family. “How warm it was, in spring. Like, you know, there was a rebirth!”

Now Pellegrino wants — once he’s stronger — to start a community fundraiser for all his medical heroes. Once a fighter, always a fighter.

 


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