Freedom to Believe" will be the theme when the Baha’i Community of Bergen County hosts the ‘0th annual Interfaith Brotherhood-Sisterhood Committee of Bergen County’s brunch. William L.H. Roberts, treasurer of the U.S. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is, will speak about the need for freedom to express and practice religious beliefs without fear or interference.
The event celebrates ‘0 years of faith-community bridge-building. Joy Kurland of the Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA
Federation of Northern New Jersey recalled that the first breakfast on Presidents’ Day weekend in 1987, and sponsored by the Bergen County Council of Churches, the JCRC of the federation’s precursor the United Jewish Community, and the county’s Roman Catholic parishes attracted 350 people.
Dr. William L.H. Roberts will be the featured speaker at Sunday’s Interfaith Brotherhood-Sisterhood Committee’s brunch.
The organization was formed to increase dialogue among local faith communities and to foster respect and understanding, she said. The Brotherhood/Sisterhood Committee plans an annual event that promotes "unity within our diversity" and explores opportunities to improve ties. Since 199′, the Muslim Baha’i, Sikh, Hindu, and Jain communities have also gathered under the Brotherhood-Sisterhood committee’s umbrella.
In past years, brunch themes covered the challenges religious communities face in an increasingly fractured, polarizing world from government funding of faith-based communities to interfaith cooperation as a means to social justice.
Speaking for this year’s host community, Joanne Karnik, a Bahai committee member, said that the brunch reflects the Baha’i belief in the unity of all religions. She is impressed and happy to meet the people from other faiths she has been working with on this project. "This committee, " she said, "is not just about the brunch. We have been working together for a year on bringing the genocide in Sudan to everyone’s attention and to effect some actual changes there. This is very gratifying."
Habib Hosseiny, a program participant from the Baha’I community who has been involved with the interfaith brunch for 13 years, said, "From the beginning, I felt that this event epitomizes the essence of the Baha’i faith."
Beth Hubbard, a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Teaneck said that the Baha’i religion (there are between 5-6 million adherents internationally) "was developed in Iran in 1844 by Siyyid Ali-Muhammad (known as the Bab) of Shiraz, who was originally a Muslim. The basis of the religion is that all religions follow the One God, and that religious figures like Buddha, Moses, Zoroaster, Jesus, Mohammed, and other prophets are all God’s messengers."
The Bab predicted that he would be followed by Baha’u’llah, the actual founder of the Baha’i faith in 1863. As the Bab’s teachings spread, the Islamic government saw the religion as a threat and attacked them. The Bab was imprisoned and executed by a firing squad in Tabriz on July 9, 1850, and later his body was smuggled to Palestine and buried in a shrine on Mount Carmel in Haifa, now a place of pilgrimage.
The Baha’i have an international government of their own, with a hierarchy that comes right down to the local level when nine or more Baha’i livie in a town they form a Local Spiritual Assembly. There are a number of these assemblies scattered around the country and in Teaneck, there is the Wilhelm Baha’i Property, a community center.