News from Around the Region

A handful of youth demonstrate the power of devotional meetings to use Bahá’u’lláh’s Words to transform lives and build community.

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Youth and Peace Building

“Difficult Questions” Addressed by Racial Forum

An audience of more than 50 people participated in a discussion of challenging issues faced by the Bahá’í community. The August 9 Regional Council’s Racial Justice and Unity Forum featured three presenters: Van Gilmer, Sahar Sattarzadeh, and Masud Olufani, in a panel discussion moderated by Gwen Etter-Lewis.

Each presenter selected one of five questions they received ahead of time and shared their personal reflections.

Toledo Race Amity Festival Eases Tensions

“In a time when racial tensions continue to churn across the country, members of the local Bahá’í Faith community are working to foster friendships to bridge the divides,” commented Alexandra Mester in her May 21, 2021 article in Toledo’s The Blade.

More than 30 people attended a Race Amity Festival May 14 at Wildwood Metropark in person, while more attended virtually, she reported. People of varying backgrounds and faiths, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahá’í, listened to speakers and participated in group discussions. Activities also included ice-breakers, music and dance performances.

Youth and Peace Building

On June 14, a handful of youth demonstrated the power of devotional meetings to use Bahá’u’lláh’s Words to transform lives and build community.

The gathering on Zoom, attending by more than 50 participants touched hearts, opened minds and awakened souls — through music, visual arts and the power of the Creative Word.

“That was among the more powerful and inspiring presentations I’ve seen/participated in…” wrote Dennis Stafford of Columbus, Ohio.

Pandemic Grows Meditative Devotional

Here is how my meditation class became a devotional meeting for a few Bahá’ís and lots of other interested souls.

The format starts with guided relaxation to achieve a meditative state. Then I recite topical quotations from varied religious traditions, including a generous selection of my favorite Bahá’í Writngs, interspersed with music on my flute.  We end with silent meditation to allow the sacred nature of the Writings to transform our hearts and souls.

Afterwards, some will stay to chat about their reactions to the quotes. This was the time for a lot of teaching by the Bahá’ís in attendance, since so many of the “Community of Interest” admired the beautiful quotes. 

Race Unity Day Becomes Race Unity Week

Update: Detailed schedules added.

Race Amity Day, a tradition started in 1921, will take on special significance this year, given the enormity of the events of the past 12 months.

In Columbus and Dayton Ohio, the Bahá’ís and Interfaith Forums will coordinate a series of in-person gatherings that will also be streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live.

The following weekend, Dr. Eric Dozier will lead a musical reflection on the history and significance of Juneteenth.

June Race Unity Events in Dayton — Join Online

Join the Dayton Ohio Interfaith Forum in June to celebrate the Centennial of the first Race Amity Conference.

Including a presentation on June 19th by Eric Dozier on the Significance of Juneteenth — Black Cultural Arts and Dialog — from Emancipation to today.


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News About the Region

from the national Bahá’í website for the United States,


Retrospective: A Blossoming of initiatives in the Midwest

Though diverse in focus, these initiatives shared a common thread of building networks of people in the Midwestern states dedicated to sharing Baha’u’llah’s teachings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Ohio.

In Ohio, cluster teams came together to learn from each other as they strove toward the shared goal of advancing through the milestones.

… Participants also read the names of departed Ohioan Baha’is as part of a devotional program that concluded the gathering.

More at


Midwest Youth conference participants seek solutions to racism

Summer 2020 will long be remembered for protests against racial injustice that filled the streets of many U.S. cities. Young people have been at the forefront of this movement, impatient with the nation’s status quo — a feeling no doubt shared by many young Baha’is. 

The Midwest Youth Conference, July 18–19, sought to develop a response to this social reality. Held via online videoconference, it attracted 75 participants from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

More at


Ellie Mzehem
Warren, Ohio

My spiritual journey began when I was a very young child. I was raised by two wonderful parents who emigrated from Greece to the United States. Our home in Ohio was like the United Nations. My parents opened their home and hearts to people of all faiths and nationalities.

More at


Celebrating Progressive Revelation

At a celebration in Saint Paris, Ohio, guests were offered an opportunity to work on a timeline of the progressive revelations of Messengers of God; make prayer cards; assemble flowers of various colors and shapes and place them in “God’s Garden”; learn about the life of the Bab; and “search” for a “gem” as the Letters of the Living searched for the Bab.

More at


Prayer, preparation and courage fuel growth in Indiana communities

With two young girls — Zinnia, 3, and Radia, 7 — Paith MacQueen Gruszynski needed in-home childcare, and in her ad she specified she was looking to hire someone willing to help them create a “prayerful home.” 

Kyra Potts responded. They formed a quick connection and spoke frankly about their personal lives during their first phone call. “Paith said that she would pray for me every day,” says Potts. “I just felt God throughout it all.”

More at

Civic Engagement

Public connections flourish at Baha’i centers of learning

Through a relationship with Children’s Theater Company (CTC) of New York and community partner The New Standard Academy, Louhelen Baha’i School has developed beneficial relationships in nearby Flint using theater and education.

Together with CTC, local community organizations and Baha’i institutions, Louhelen presented musical performances for schools at the local community theater located at New Standard and the University of Michigan-Flint. The musical Henry Box Brown was so well received, a relationship developed allowing the Louhelen outreach team to provide Baha’i-inspired after school programming, says Louhelen Administrator Cam Herth.

More at


John Davidson
Grand Rapids, Michigan

I was a child in the small town of Peru, Indiana, in the 1980s. I was raised by an atheist father and a Catholic mother who was pretending to be a Baptist. My mom insisted that my sister and I go to church every week, and I often questioned what we heard there.

When the Baptist preacher said that Buddha was a devil, I looked at my mother and asked, “Isn’t Buddha just like Moses but in Asia?” She just smiled and nodded without saying a word.

More at


Gregory Lawton
Grand Rapids, Michigan

My early experiences with religion were interesting. My uncle, Addison Lawton, was an influential Presbyterian minister. When I was 5, my family visited him, and on Sunday I was brought up to the front of the church. Reverend Lawton lifted me up in front of the congregation to baptize me, but I reached and grabbed him by the wrist. “Watch it, Buster,” I said. “What do you think you’re doing?” Even at 5, I didn’t believe in compulsion in religion.

More at


Indianans “Light Up the Night” for racial justice

Harrison Hill is a historic residential neighborhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It is home to people of diverse ancestries — and for many that’s a cause for celebration. The decades-long marriage of two of the neighborhood’s residents, Gayle and Akinlana (“Akin”) Bevill-DaDa, exemplifies the possibilities for interracial relationships. Gayle is white and Akin is Black.

More at


Cleveland reflection enriched by participation of Congolese families

Congolese refugees living in the Cleveland area participate in a community-building conference at LouHelen Bahá’i School in 2019.

Under the shade of an enormous tree, Baha’is in the Cleveland, Ohio, area met on Aug. 4 for what one participant called their “best cluster reflection meeting ever.”

Reflection meetings are held every three months to review Baha’i-initiated community-building efforts in a cluster of communities and make plans for the next three months.

Attendance at these gatherings in the Cleveland area had flagged in recent years, says Ron Frazer, …

More at


Peace sculpture advances vision

for Michigan Baha’i property

More than a century ago, Muskegon, Michigan, was seen as a possible place to build the Baha’i House of Worship for North America. That singular honor eventually went to Wilmette, Illinois.

But a Baha’i-owned property in Muskegon, only blocks from a Lake Michigan inlet, has evolved in its own purpose. This past summer saw the dedication of a peace sculpture to enhance a meditation garden established two decades ago.

More at

Stories from the US Bahá’í Newsletter

… about communities in the Midwest Region

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