Social harmony display at European Parliament

STRASBOURG, France — An exhibition on social harmony produced by the Bahá'í International Community graced the first floor gallery of the Winston Churchill Building at the European Parliament 10-12 February 2004.

Titled “The Bahá'í International Community: Promoting Unity in Diversity throughout Europe for over a Century,” the 17-panel display told the story, through words and photographs, of how the Bahá'í communities of Europe have sought to promote peace, cross-cultural integration, religious tolerance, and business ethics through a variety of concrete projects and actions.

More than 150 people — including some 30 members of the Parliament — attended a reception on 10 February. The reception featured an address by Baroness Sarah Ludford, a member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom who sponsored the exhibition.

“I believe this little-known religion of global reach is of interest to people like ourselves who work in an international context in this expanding and enlarging European Parliament,” said Baroness Ludford, who is not a Bahá'í.

She said that Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, “warned of the dangers of unconstrained nationalism and called for a system of global governance, which has led Bahá'ís to be particular supporters of the United Nations.”

The exhibition was created by the Bahá'í International Community to welcome the 10 new states that will join the European Union on 1 May 2004.

Also addressing the reception was Dr. Laszlo Farkas, a representative of the national governing council of the Bahá'ís of Hungary , which is one of the 10 new countries joining the EU.

“For us, the unification of different cultures and peoples is a natural process,” said Dr. Farkas. “Bahá'ís both in Europe and in the whole world are working for this unified human family.”

Other dignitaries at the reception included several judges from the European Court of Human Rights, representatives of the Council of Europe, members of the European Commission, and a number of ambassadors and diplomats. As well, a number of prominent personalities from the Strasbourg region were present.

“The idea of social harmony, which this exhibition seeks to promote, is of critical importance as the European Union becomes larger,” said Lucien Crevel, chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of France, one of the 37 national Bahá'í governing councils in Europe.

“Over the years, the Bahá'í communities of Europe have sought to engender and encourage social harmony and progress, through a wide range of activities. It is this experience, which the exhibition seeks to highlight, that we hope will be helpful to the Parliament, and its members,” said Mr. Crevel.

The exhibition, for example, took note of projects like The Institute for Social Cohesion, which was established in 2001 by the Bahá'í community of the United Kingdom to promote cross-cultural harmony.

It also highlighted the Bahá'í International Community's innovative collaboration with the Stability Pact for Eastern Europe (formerly known as the Royaumont Process) to strengthen stability and interethnic communication in Southeastern Europe.

And it discussed projects in some of the new member-states, such as the Mesed (Story-telling Mothers) of Hungary , which empowers women to work for greater social harmony.

“Bahá'ís are convinced of the necessity of international collaboration and support the principles underlying the European Union,” said Christine Samandari, representative of the Bahá'í International Community, noting that the Bahá'í Faith was first established in Europe in 1898.

Bahá'ís reside in more than 6,000 localities throughout Europe , and they have established some 976 locally elected governing councils, which administer their communities at the local level. As noted, they have national governing councils in 37 European countries.