profile of Baha'is, gather for World Congress
Unity-minded Baha'is holding world meeting By GEORGE W. CORNELL AP Religion Writer NEW YORK (AP) - "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." So wrote Baha'u'llah, the 19th century Persian founder of the Baha'i faith, expressing its central principle of a unified, cooperating world. Adherents see that ideal as an urgent, developing reality as they gather here from around the world. "In many ways, societies all over the world are moving in that direction, recognizing shared responsibilities of nations for the common good of mankind," said Robert Henderson, U.S. secretary-general of the movement. Its World Congress meets at the Ja-vits Center here Nov. 23-26 in the first international gathering of Baha'is since 1963 in London. Nearly 30,000 of them are expected from about 200 countries. Henderson, of Wilmette, HI., the administrative center of VS. Baha'is, said modern societies have reached the point where it's no longer reasonable "to think only of what's good for a nation, but what's good for all people." He said in an interview that in dealing with the economy, environment, peacekeeping and many other fields, "nations are moving toward higher and higher degrees of cooperation." They "recognize that the common good can't be protected unless they work together," he added. Asked about opposition to such trends, the entrenched nationalism, patriotism and widespread aversion to international government, he said the United Nations initially faced that kind of opposition. "That prejudice will die out simply because it doesn't work. Well find that nations that are unable to cooperate do not fare well," he said. "You can't be isolated and prosper at the same time. You've got to plunge into the world." The Baha'ism, formed in 1863 by Baha'u'llah as an offshoot of Islam, teaches that all races, all nations and all religions are essentially one under one God. "We accept the authenticity of all the great religions," Henderson said. "Religious truths are relative and progressive. As human beings have grown up, God sent divine teachers, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and in this day, Baha'u'llah." The faith teaches equality of the sexes, the basic harmony of science and religion, compulsory, universal education, the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty, and work in the service of justice and peace. Baha'is teach traditional morality, paralleling the Ten Commandments, and have no clergy. They hold that sex relations should be confined to male-female marriage. While taking no official position on abortion, they teach life begins at conception. They believe in an afterlife, but don't use such terms as heaven and hell. "We believe the closer you are to God, the better your afterlife will be. The degree is up to you," said Brad Pokorny of PeekskilL N.Y., editor of the Baha'i international newsletter, One Country. There are about 125,000 Baha'is in this country, about 5 million around the world, up from about 3.5 million in 1986. Pokorny said the total was growing at about 3.6 percent a year. National spiritual assemblies are organized in 165 countries, with world headquarters in Haifa, Israel. Some o 1 n h 7 J H.'