COMMUNITY COMMENTARY:

I was interested in the opinions expressed by various clergy in the In Theory article, “Wide-ranging Sunday school curriculum” (March 29).

I happen to know the organizers of this children’s class and the religious community for which it is a core activity.

These types of children’s classes are not, as a couple of the commentators stated, a “destructive . . . New Age indoctrination” nor are they an attempt to create a generic, watered-down version of each religious tradition that will confuse the children.

These classes are, in fact, organized by members of the Baha’i faith and impart the essential principles of that faith: that there is only one true God; that He has revealed and will continue to reveal Himself progressively throughout history at various times and to various people; that there is therefore only one religion of God, the various chapters of which we call Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam or Baha’i; and that humanity is one, and all are God’s children.

The Baha’i faith is a world religion whose purpose is the unification of the peoples of the world in one universal cause, one common faith.

They are followers of Baha’u’llah (“the Glory of God,” 1817-1892), whom Baha’is believe to be the Promised One of all religions and the most recent of the great founders of religion or divine revealers that Baha’is call “Manifestations of God.”

In these classes, each religion and its traditions is respected; at the same time, the teachings of the Baha’i faith are shared in a spirit of love, as a gift to children and parents alike.

Baha’is believe, in the end, that there is a central truth taught by all the religions for the spiritual and ethical foundation of civilization: the Golden Rule, stated in such forms as “Wish not for others, that which you would not wish for yourself,” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” etc.

It is fair to say, in my opinion, that some of the writers who disliked the idea of these classes are not sympathetic to the Baha’i faith or to its teaching of the oneness of religion.

But the classes are, in fact, the reflection of a religious tradition — the Baha’i Faith — more than 160 years old.

No one who attends the classes, whether child or parent, is ever pressured to accept Baha’i beliefs or to become a Baha’i.

For the many parents who want their children to learn tolerance and to live the Golden Rule, these Baha’i children’s classes are an important step in their spiritual development. But they are neither a mishmash of watered-down doctrines nor a conspiracy to deceive people of other religious beliefs.

I find it interesting that in Australia, where voluntary religious instruction is permitted in schools under state-approved curricula, some of the most popular classes are those provided by the Baha’i community, where students learn about the Baha’i faith and all the other faiths gain an appreciation for their similarities and differences and become aware of the deepest spiritual currents that motivate people in the wider world beyond the confines of their own synagogue, church, mosque, school or town.

I say bravo to the Baha’is for spearheading this movement to provide children with ethical and spiritual anchors for the global community of the 21st century.


 WILLIAM P. COLLINS is a resident of Alexandria, Va.

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