Exhibition opens in Europe

11 June 2003

BRUSSELS — A special exhibition highlighting the contribution to social harmony made by Baha'i communities in Europe was officially opened today at the main building of the European Parliament here.

Hosted by the Parliament, the display is titled "The Baha'i International Community: Promoting Unity in Diversity throughout Europe for over a Century." It will grace the Parliament building's main foyer until 13 June 2003.

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

In addition, about 90 people attended an address given by Professor Suheil Bushrui on "The Ethics of Globalization," as part of the day's events. Prof. Bushrui holds the Baha'i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland.

Composed of 14 panels, the display tells the story in words and photographs of how the Baha'i communities of Europe have sought to promote peace, cross-cultural integration, religious tolerance, and business ethics through a variety of concrete projects and actions.

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Socrates Maanian, secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Greece introduces the exhibition to Efstratios Korakas, a member of the European Parliament. (Photo: European Parliament)

"Many people in Europe, especially its leaders, are very familiar with the persecution that Baha'is have faced in Iran," said Silvia Frohlich, a representative of the Swiss Baha'i community who assisted the Paris branch of the Baha'i International Community's Office of Public Information in the design of the display.

"This exhibition aims to show the degree to which the Baha'i communities of Europe are involved with the life of society at large, and are seeking to promote and contribute to social progress on a number of fronts," said Ms. Frohlich.

"We think many people will be surprised by the kinds of projects and activities Baha'is are engaged in throughout Europe."

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

It also highlights the Baha'i International Community's innovative collaboration with the European Union's Royaumont Process, which aims to strengthen stability and inter-ethnic communication in Southeastern Europe.

There are well-established Baha'i 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.

"Baha'is 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 Baha'i International Community's Office of Public Information, Christine Samandari, who noted that the Baha'i Faith was first established in Europe in 1898.

Baha'is 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.