Baha's to hold discussions

June 20, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Local followers of an old Iranian religion that teaches equality will hold a series of panel discussions through the summer to discuss issues such as race and gender relations in the Eastern Panhandle, according to organizers.

The panel discussions will revolve around the Baha'i faith, a century-old Iranian belief that stresses that everyone is equal despite their race, said Julie Gregg, secretary of the spiritual assembly of Baha'is in Jefferson County.

The Baha'i faith also teaches that no religion is superior to other ways of worship.

"Everyone is pretty equal with that point of view," said Gregg. "What counts is your righteousness and your value as an individual," she said.


Pete Ashelman of Shepherdstown, who has always followed the Christian faith, said the Baha'i religion provides a unique way to deal with modern societal issues.

Ashelman said the Baha'i belief teaches that the "Earth is one country and mankind its citizens."

There are about a dozen Baha'i followers in Jefferson County, while others are scattered in the Martinsburg and Hagerstown areas, Gregg said.

Beginning this month and continuing through August, the group will hold three panel discussions revolving around a theme of "The Oneness of Humanity," according to organizers.

The first panel discussion, to be held at 7 tonight at the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, will deal with race relations in the area, said Gregg.

Members of that panel will include Rose Hilpert, a social worker from the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg; Manouchehr Mohajeri, a Shepherd College professor and follower of the Baha'i faith; and Bill Gregg, Julie Gregg's husband and follower of the Baha'i religion.

Julie Gregg said she began noticing discrimination in the area while trying to find housing and employment for her son-in-law, who is black.

Gregg said she is not sure what the other two panel discussions will deal with, but gender relations is one topic expected to get attention.

The second panel discussion will be July 18 and the third one will be Aug. 15.

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