Children conduct service in House of Worship
SYDNEY — A devotional service conducted by children was held in the Baha'i House of Worship here to celebrate Universal Children's Day.
The children, many of whom do not come from Baha'i families, read from the scriptures of the Baha'i Faith and other religions. An unaccompanied choir -- with members aged between five and twelve years old -- provided the music.
All the children participating in the event regularly attend Baha'i classes conducted either in government schools or after school hours.
About 6,000 primary school children in Australia are attending Baha'i classes in more than 300 state-run schools. Offered mainly to provide religious instruction to Baha'i children, the classes are also attracting many children from families who are not members of the Baha'i Faith.
The annual service, now in its 16th year, was held on 23 October 2005. It attracted 800 people, who filled the Temple to capacity. Some traveled many kilometers for the occasion.
"We believe that it is important that children participate in the service as much as possible," said one of the organizers of the service, Mrs. Pouneh Sedghi.
"They feel honored to be contributing in this way and practise for weeks leading up to the service. We believe that all children have wonderful qualities latent within them."
Positive comments came from many parents, including those who are not members of the Baha'i community, such as Jack Smoot and Alan Dickinson.
"The focus on the children was excellent," said Mr. Smoot, the father of Morgan, a Year Four (fourth year of primary school) pupil who was one of the readers.
Mr. Dickinson, the father of Daniel, a classmate of Morgan's, praised the inclusion of scriptures from all the world religions.
"I think the thing we probably need most in this world is religious tolerance," Mr. Dickinson said.
"All religions are supported and honored. I think that's the right way to go."
Angela and Gary Cowan traveled with their three young children from Gosford, a town just north of Sydney. After attending the service last year, they were keen to come back again.
"I think it's really special for my children to see other children taking the service," said Mrs. Cowan, a Baha'i.
Her husband, Gary, who is not a Baha'i, said he is encouraged by the development of his seven-year-old son since he started attending Baha'i classes.
"I think that since he has been participating, he has become such a level-headed kid -- it's amazing," Mr. Cowan said. "He is just really enjoying [being] part of the Baha'i culture and religion."
In the grounds of the National Baha'i Centre adjacent to the House of Worship after the service there was a variety of activities including performances by dance and music groups, face painting, story telling, and a display of children's art on the theme of respect for the environment, and for people of different races, cultures, and religions.
"This day is an opportunity for children to show their capacity and to feel the love and encouragement of the community around them." said Mrs. Sedghi. "So we organized activities which the entire family can enjoy."
(Report by Yvonne Perkins.)
(All photos, except of the House of Worship, by Saba Rouhani.)
(For a story on Baha'i classes in state-run schools in Australia see see http://news.bahai.org/story.cfm?storyid=361)