The Arts

Exhibition at European Parliament tells the story of Baha'i contribution to social harmony

BRUSSELS - At its main building here in June, the European Parliament hosted a special exhibition highlighting the contribution that Bahá'í communities in Europe have made to promote social harmony.

Titled "The Bahá'í International Community: Promoting Unity in Diversity throughout Europe for over a Century," the display graced the Parliament building's main foyer from 10-13 June 2003.

The exhibition was officially opened by Jean Lambert, the member of the European Parliament who sponsored it, at a reception in the Parliament building on 11 June. More than 200 people, including Ana Palacio, the Foreign Minister of Spain, members of the Parliament, and other prominent people, attended the reception.

In addition, about 90 people attended an address given by Suheil Bushrui on "The Ethics of Globalization," as part of the day's events. [See Perspective Editorial]

Composed of 14 panels, the display tells the story in 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 projects and actions.

"The moment was quite auspicious, in that the opening of the display coincided with final deliberations on the draft European Constitution, which were being held in the same building," said Jean-Pierre Laperches, a representative of the Bahá'í community of Belgium.

"And the challenges facing the European Union as it proceeds forward with its integration are many," said Mr. Laperches. "So our goal was to share the vision that Bahá'ís have in terms of creating unity while at the same time showing respect for the rich diversity of culture, religion, and national backgrounds that exist on this continent."

The display, for example, takes note of projects like "The Institute for Social Cohesion," established in 2001 by the Bahá'í community of the United Kingdom to promote a discourse on cross-cultural harmony.

It also highlights the Bahá'í International Community's innovative collaboration with the European Union's Royaumont Process, which aims to strengthen stability and interethnic communication in Southeastern Europe.

There are well-established Bahá'í communities -- headed by national-level governing councils -- in all 15 member nations of the European Union, as well as in the 10 new nations which are scheduled to join the EU in 2004.

"Bahá'ís are convinced of the necessity of international collaboration and support the principles underlying the European Union," said the head of the Paris branch of the Bahá'í International Community's Office of Public Information, Christine Samandari, who noted 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. They have national governing bodies in 37 European countries and territories.