(See the broadcast version of this story aired 12/27/14 here.)
Dec. 22, 2014
MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) – During a season of giving, sharing, and peace, the country is plagued by protests, violence, and tension.
Meanwhile, there’s a small but growing faith in north Alabama that promotes equality and peace, no matter what.
It’s the Baha’i faith, and anyone can become a member.
In Madison, an international holiday brunch attracted a crowd of 100 parents and children, Madison Mayor Troy Trulock and his wife, Santa Claus, and Chaos, the mascot for the Huntsville Havoc.
The director of the school is Ruhi Jahanpour, a native of Iran and member of the Baha’i faith. Her school is attended by children from various countries and backgrounds and that’s just how she wants it. To her, and her faith, everyone is equal.
“One of the principles of the Baha’i faith is admonition of all kinds of prejudice,” said Jahanpour. “And we believe in the oneness of mankind. Everybody is the same, regardless of their nationality and their religious background or race, color.”
She said there are about 50 to 60 people of the Baha’i faith in Huntsville. Anyone can join.
Her 19-year-old daughter, Samineh Hiebert, is the next generation and helps educate others about the religion.
“It’s been more common that people have heard of it now,” Hiebert said of people who recognize the name of the religion.
Hiebert has trained to teach middle-school children about the faith, saying that’s the age to connect with them about peace and equality.
It’s an answer to protestors’ complaints over racism.
“Racism does still exist,” said Hiebert. “But I think what you can take away, especially with Baha’i faith is that everyone is the same, no matter what their skin color. Everyone’s good at heart.”
She and her mother agree the tension in the world comes from a lack of education.
“People do things in the world out of ignorance and in the Baha’i faith, education is very important,” said Jahanpour.
It’s why she pursued a career in education.
In her spare time, she travels the world to speak about atrocities she says are still carried out against Baha’is in Iran. Her daughter insists the hatred is passed down through generations due to a lack of education.
“They believe something different so therefore it must be bad,” said Hiebert. “And… more education needs to be said that these people believe the same thing.”
Jahanpour abides by her faith and teaches her young students reading, writing, math and manners — universally appreciated.
The Baha’i faith was formed in 1863 in Iran.
Jahanpour said six years later, some 20,000 Baha’is were killed by those who hated the religion.
There are some 5 million Baha’is living around the world in more than 200 countries and territories.
People from all backgrounds and religious beliefs are welcome at the Baha’i Center of Huntsville, located at 3209 Pulaski Pike, Huntsville, AL. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.