Creativity a theme of summer schools
TOHANU NOU, Romania — Participants at a Baha'i summer school here visited the summer residence of Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938), the first monarch to embrace the Baha'i Faith.
The excursion to her castle in the scenic region of Bran was part of a program characteristic of a string of summer schools across Europe this year.
Baha'i summer schools worldwide balance devotional, study, and recreational aspects.
The visit to the castle was an opportunity to remember and be inspired by historic figures of the faith such as Queen Marie, and the Baha'i who introduced her to the Faith, Martha Root.
Common themes of schools held in countries such as Romania, Norway, Ireland, Slovakia, and Croatia were the creative ways of approaching devotional meetings, study circles and children's classes -- the "core activities" now being carried out by Baha'is throughout the world.
In Romania, the emphasis was on workshops, and how Baha'is and their friends could improve the way they carried out the community's core activities.
"Workshops involved participants preparing skits, decorating prayer books, making invitations for devotional meetings and study circles and learning how to tell stories," said Della Marcus, a participant.
One of the sessions, presented by Chris Ruhe, was on how to write songs, and another, by Ehsan Erfanifar, was about the importance of holding devotional meetings.
More than 300 Baha'is gathered for Norway's summer school at Beitostolen, where they enjoyed recreational walks in that spectacular mountainous region.
A guest speaker, Dr. Hossain Danesh of Canada, addressed the topic of how to mature as human beings within the context of family, work, and Baha'i service.
One session explored the case study of a social and economic development project, and another focused on the importance of agriculture in society.
"In the afternoons there were different choices of activities and there were specific programs for children, junior youth and senior youth all throughout the school," said a participant, Britt Thoresen.
In Ireland too there were programs for the younger members of the Baha'i community.
Junior youth built a large wooden swing and a "watch tower" as part of the recreational program at the country's summer school, attended by more than 500 people in Waterford city, 14-22 August 2004.
Other recreational activities included soccer, swimming, face painting, and tie-dying.
"Awakening the Spirit" was the theme of the school, which mixed panel sessions and workshops with traditional lecture formats. Visiting speakers included scholars and writers Wendy and Moojan Momen, and Rita and Viv Bartlett.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the United Nations International Year of Family, the school invited the people of Waterford to participate in an open day that had the theme "Celebrating the Family." That event followed a talk on the topic in the City Hall and a visit to the school by the Mayor of Waterford, Councillor Seamus Ryan.
The principal guest speaker at the national summer school was Dr. Firaydoun Javaheri, a member of the Universal House of Justice, who spoke about the role of the Baha'i Faith in the 21st century.
Actor and comedian Omid Djalili and his wife, Annabel, presented a drama workshop. Known for his roles in such movies as "The Mummy," "Spy Games," and "Gladiator," Mr. Djalili was on a return visit with his family to Slovakia, where he lived from 1991-93.
He drew widespread media attention -- television channels, radio stations, and newspapers covered aspects of the event, which was held in the Low Tatras from 31 July to 5 August.
Other speakers included Raymond and Furugh Switzer, who talked about marriage, family life, and managing time and money.
Croatia and Slovenia
The summer school of Croatia and Slovenia was held 21-28 August in Seline, Croatia.
The participants came from the host countries of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as nearby Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia and Montenegro. Others came from Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
The theme of the sessions was "Living by the will of God," and the titles of the presentations included "Baha'i family identity," "Spirituality at work," "Marriage and finding a partner," "Baha'i burial laws and writing a will," and "Prayer."