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Montreal, July 10, 2022 – In Montreal as well as all over the world, the Bahá’ís commemorated a tragic event, unprecedented in the religious history of humankind! The execution of a Messenger of God by firing squad, the first such execution in Iran!

On the evening of the very day of The Báb's execution, which fell on the ninth of July 1850, during the thirty-first year of His age and the seventh of His ministry, the mangled bodies (of the Báb and His companion, Anis) were transferred from the courtyard of the barracks to the edge of the moat outside the gate of the city.

Before the trogic execution of the Báb two highly significant incidents occurred, incidents that cast an illuminating light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the opening phase of His martyrdom. The farrash-bashi had abruptly interrupted the last conversation which The Báb was confidentially having in one of the rooms of the barracks with His amanuensis Siyyid Husayn, and was drawing the latter aside, and severely rebuking him, when he was thus addressed by his Prisoner: "Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall it be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention." To the Christian Sam Khan -- the colonel of the Armenian regiment ordered to carry out the execution -- who, seized with fear lest his act should provoke the wrath of God, had begged to be released from the duty imposed upon him, The Báb gave the following assurance: "Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you of your perplexity."

Sam Khan accordingly set out to discharge his duty. A spike was driven into a pillar which separated two rooms of the barracks facing the square. Two ropes were fastened to it from which The Báb and one of his disciples, the youthful and devout Mirza Muhammad-'Ali-i-Zunuzi, surnamed Anis, who had previously flung himself at the feet of his Master and implored that under no circumstances he be sent away from Him, were separately suspended. The firing squad ranged itself in three files, each of two hundred and fifty men. Each file in turn opened fire until the whole detachment had discharged its bullets. So dense was the smoke from the seven hundred and fifty rifles that the sky was darkened. As soon as the smoke had cleared away the astounded multitude of about ten thousand souls, who had crowded onto the roof of the barracks, as well as the tops of the adjoining houses, beheld a scene which their eyes could scarcely believe.

The Báb had vanished from their sight! Only his companion remained, alive and unscathed, standing beside the wall on which they had been suspended. The ropes by which they had been hung alone were severed. "The Siyyid-i-Báb has gone from our sight!" cried out the bewildered spectators. A frenzied search immediately ensued. He was found, unhurt and unruffled, in the very room He had occupied the night before, engaged in completing His interrupted conversation with His amanuensis. "I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn" were the words with which the Prisoner, so providentially preserved, greeted the appearance of the farrash-bashi, "Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention." Recalling the bold assertion his Prisoner had previously made, and shaken by so stunning a revelation, the farrash-bashi quitted instantly the scene, and resigned his post.

Sam Khan, likewise, remembering, with feelings of awe and wonder, the reassuring words addressed to him by The Báb, ordered his men to leave the barracks immediately, and swore, as he left the courtyard, never again, even at the cost of his life, to repeat that act. Aqa Jan-i-Khamsih, colonel of the body-guard, volunteered to replace him. On the same wall and in the same manner The Báb and His companion were again suspended, while the new regiment formed in line and opened fire upon them. This time, however, their breasts were riddled with bullets, and their bodies completely dissected, with the exception of their faces which were but little marred. "O wayward generation!" were the last words of The Báb to the gazing multitude, as the regiment prepared to fire its volley, "Had you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you."

Nor was this all. The very moment the shots were fired a gale of exceptional violence arose and swept over the city. From noon till night a whirlwind of dust obscured the light of the sun, and blinded the eyes of the people. In Shiraz* an "earthquake," foreshadowed in no less weighty a Book than the Revelation of St. John, occurred in 1268 A.H. which threw the whole city into turmoil and wrought havoc amongst its people, a havoc that was greatly aggravated by the outbreak of cholera, by famine and other afflictions. In that same year no less than two hundred and fifty of the firing squad, that had replaced Sam Khan's regiment, met their death, together with their officers, in a terrible earthquake, while the remaining five hundred suffered, three years later, as a punishment for their mutiny, the same fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon The Báb. To insure that none of them had survived, they were riddled with a second volley, after which their bodies, pierced with spears and lances, were exposed to the gaze of the people of Tabriz. The prime instigator of The Báb's death, the implacable Amir-Nizam, together with his brother, his chief accomplice, met their death within two years of that savage act.


*Báb's birthplace in Iran

Source: Shoghi Effendi, GOD PASSES BY

Photo Bahá'į World Center Archives: Sàm Khàn, - Colonel of the Armenian regiment in charge of the execution of the Báb.

Montreal, June 19, 2012 – Some 357 participants as well as 89 friends via videoconference, from multiple background and nationality attended a weekend long conference, the third in Montreal area, in large auditorium of Dawson College. They came from all over the city including Montgérégie-Ouest area - Bahá’ís with their friends, neighbours and work colleagues, in order to be an active partner in “Bahá’u’lláh’s Vision for Humanity”.

Visionaries such as Alan DeSousa; who is a City Councillor from Montreal and the Borough Mayor of Saint-Laurent as well as currently vice-chairman in charge of Sustainable Development, the Environment, Parks and green spaces, took an active part in the workshops and plenary sessions of the conference.

Called by the Universal House of Justice, these conferences will give the participants an opportunity to gain greater insight into the nature of the spiritual enterprise in which they are engaged, a sense of the distance traversed thus far, and a deeper understanding of the exigencies of the current stage in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan. They will strive to enhance appreciation of the privilege of being part of a community that has set its gaze upon the spiritual and material transformation of society, and of the bounty of being connected by bonds of love and camaraderie with brothers and sisters in a global effort, each one labouring within the same framework for action, all united under the sheltering shadow of the Covenant.

The first of three Conferences being organized in our cluster of Greater Montreal, especially prepared for Chinese friends, was of great significance. There were 136 participants, the vast majority from the community at large.

It was held at the Sarto-Desnoyers Community Centre in Dorval on May 14th—entirely in Mandarin!

As far as we know, writes Montreal Assembly in a letter addressed to the Community, it’s the first time in Canada that a Bahá’í gathering has taken place in one of the languages of China without translation. Added to the plenary and small group discussions, a lively children’s program made it possible for many families to attend.

Feedback was very good and plans have been made for a variety of activities over the course of the summer with families, youth and junior youth to build on friendships and conversations began at the Conference.

On May 21-22, the Conference for three neighbourhoods of Côte-des-Neiges, Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Parc Extension began at Collège Bréboeuf with 250 participants, only 50 of which were Bahá’ís and the rest from the wider community. Whole families came, along with 90 Junior Youths. Its plenary and small group discussions were equally accompanied by a well-planned children's and junior youth program.

The Montreal Conference, included friends from Montgérégie-Ouest and all over the island, was held at Dawson College. The program included some 20 workshops with specific themes such as Building Vibrant Communities, Contributing to Social Transformation and Educational Endeavours and Training Institute, were a part of consultation. The youths and children also had their own workshops and themes to work on! They used art as medium par excellence to express their views on How to Make a Better World!

Of the thousand conferences being held worldwide during the next few months, over 80 conferences are being held in Canada. The conferences’ themes are based on Inspiring individuals and communities to release the potential that lies within.

Montreal, February 25, 2022 - What could be a better tribute to the Master, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who loved children dearly, than for the little ones in our community to use their creativity to express their thoughts and feelings about Him? And what better time to show what they have done than during the festive days of Ayyam-i-Há?

Whether in children’s classes or privately in their homes, our children have responded wholeheartedly to the invitation to create an artwork in His honour. They will be exhibited online at the website of the Montreal Bahá’í Community (http://bahaimontreal.org/fr-ca/la-foi-bahaie/vie-communautaire/les-classes-pour-enfants) starting on February 25th, the first day of Intercalary Days. At the same time, the original works will be on display at the Montreal Bahá’í Centre, beginning the same day and remaining until Naw Ruz.

The Young Artists who contributed to the success of this exhibition are:

Angelica, Chris Chen, Izzy, Kieran, Kitowin, Lucca, Ziuyuan, Danny, Clara Lebensold, Luke, Oscar, Sarah, Isabelle, Volador, Nasim, Bennett Talwar, Leili Lencucha, Asher Daley, Giorgia Daley, Yasmin Agigi, Layna, Bahar, Joy, Chloe Aquine, Emory, Anie, Jaeda, Tajalli Hopkins, Leroy Hopkins, Xiuyuan et Xue Qin.

Montreal, May 29, 2022 – The World Bahá’í Community as well as several Bahá’í Communities on Montreal Island commemorated the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet founder of the Bahá’í Faith which occurred on this day in 1892.

The commemoration of His passing is called the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, and Bahá’ís throughout the world pay their respects with prayers and selected Bahá’í Writings. It is also one of nine days in the Bahá’í calendar year where work should be suspended.

For almost 40 years Bahá’u’lláh suffered imprisonment and banishment, originally from His birthplace in Persia (present-day Iran), to Baghdad, and then to the Ottoman cities of Constantinople, Adrianople, and then finally to the infamous prison city of Akka (in present-day Israel), where He was held in a cold and damp cell for almost two years.

During the last years of His life, Bahá’u’lláh was held under house arrest in the Mansion of Bahji, outside Akka.

The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh is located within the precincts of the Mansion of Bahji, and is considered to be the most sacred and holiest spot on earth for Bahá’ís.

One of the most befitting descriptions relating to the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh was written by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By:

Already nine months before His ascension Bahá’u’lláh, as attested by Abdu’l-Baha, had voiced His desire to depart from this world. From that time onward it became increasingly evident, from the tone of His remarks to those who attained His presence, that the close of His earthly life was approaching, though He refrained from mentioning it openly to any one. On the night preceding the eleventh of Shavval 1309 A.H. (May 8, 1892) He contracted a slight fever which, though it mounted the following day, soon after subsided. He continued to grant interviews to certain of the friends and pilgrims, but it soon became evident that He was not well. His fever returned in a more acute form than before, His general condition grew steadily worse, complications ensued which at last culminated in His ascension, at the hour of dawn, on the 2nd of Dhi’l-Qadih 1309 A.H. (May 29, 1892), eight hours after sunset, in the 75th year of His age. His spirit, at long last released from the toils of a life crowded with tribulations, had winged its flight to His “  other dominions,”   dominions “  whereon the eyes of the people of names have never fallen,”   and to which the “  Luminous Maid,”   “  clad in white,”   had bidden Him hasten, as described by Himself in the Lawḥ-i-Ru’ya (Tablet of the Vision), revealed nineteen years previously, on the anniversary of the birth of His Forerunner.

Six days before He passed away He summoned to His presence, as He lay in bed leaning against one of His sons, the entire company of believers, including several pilgrims, who had assembled in the Mansion, for what proved to be their last audience with Him. “  I am well pleased with you all,”   He gently and affectionately addressed the weeping crowd that gathered about Him. “  Ye have rendered many services, and been very assiduous in your labors. Ye have come here every morning and every evening. May God assist you to remain united. May He aid you to exalt the Cause of the Lord of being.”   To the women, including members of His own family, gathered at His bedside, He addressed similar words of encouragement, definitely assuring them that in a document entrusted by Him to the Most Great Branch He had commended them all to His care.

The news of His ascension was instantly communicated to Sulṭan Abdu’l-Ḥamid in a telegram which began with the words “  the Sun of Baha has set”   and in which the monarch was advised of the intention of interring the sacred remains within the precincts of the Mansion, an arrangement to which he readily assented. Bahá’u’lláh was accordingly laid to rest in the northernmost room of the house which served as a dwelling-place for His son-in-law, the most northerly of the three houses lying to the west of, and adjacent to, the Mansion. His interment took place shortly after sunset, on the very day of His ascension.

The inconsolable Nabil, who had had the privilege of a private audience with Bahá’u’lláh during the days of His illness; whom ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had chosen to select those passages which constitute the text of the Tablet of Visitation now recited in the Most Holy Tomb; and who, in his uncontrollable grief, drowned himself in the sea shortly after the passing of his Beloved, thus describes the agony of those days: “  Methinks, the spiritual commotion set up in the world of dust had caused all the worlds of God to tremble…. My inner and outer tongue are powerless to portray the condition we were in…. In the midst of the prevailing confusion a multitude of the inhabitants of Akka and of the neighboring villages, that had thronged the fields surrounding the Mansion, could be seen weeping, beating upon their heads, and crying aloud their grief.”   

For a full week a vast number of mourners, rich and poor alike, tarried to grieve with the bereaved family, partaking day and night of the food that was lavishly dispensed by its members. Notables, among whom were numbered Shí’ahs, Sunnis, Christians, Jews and Druzes, as well as poets, ‘ulamas and government officials, all joined 223 in lamenting the loss, and in magnifying the virtues and greatness of Bahá’u’lláh, many of them paying to Him their written tributes, in verse and in prose, in both Arabic and Turkish. From cities as far afield as Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut and Cairo similar tributes were received. These glowing testimonials were, without exception, submitted to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who now represented the Cause of the departed Leader, and Whose praises were often mingled in these eulogies with the homage paid to His Father.

Montreal, January 22, 2022 – Friends, colleagues, pupils, musicians, journalists, artists, university professors, members of Black community, a judge and politicians as well as members of the Bahá’í Administrative bodies from all over Quebec and North America joined together to celebrate the life of an outstanding woman who served humankind in her Verdun community and other parts of the province for almost a century!

Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith “once compared the coloured people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.”

And that is how Violet was ; she shone forth the light of spirit at whomsoever came across her path!

It was impossible to listen to all remanences of over sixty friends attended her virtual commemoration, nonetheless everyone was united in this that Violet was their mentor, their guide and their helper in all their efforts!

The first message of recognition was sent from Marie-Andrée Mauger, the Mayoress of the Borough of Verdun where Violet  was born and resided all her life:  

« We will make sure to honour the memory of  Mrs. Violet States Grant, Grande Verdunoise.» was the message and she paid a glowing tribute to Violet on her Facebook page.

There were countless messages from Violet’s pupils. She taught in Verdun and Montreal public schools for 25 years and as a private piano teacher for 28 years. She taught music, in some cases, over one thousand students per week!

Her honourable Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, the first black judge in the history of Quebec and the first black dean of a law school at the University of Windsor, Ontario in Canada's history mentioned that she took music lessons with Violet when she was just six years old. Later in her life Violet introduced her to ‘Cross Roads Africa’ where she learned so much about life and international solidarity. What was remarkable about Mrs. States, she mentioned, was how much she cared about her students in elementary schools as well as those who took lessons in her home. She was refused to teach in public schools because of racial prejudices at the time so she taught music in her own home. It took her years before she was allowed to teach in public schools. She gave such an importance to students to become self-sufficient by saving their money at the Caisse Populaire Desjardins. Violet also encouraged the future honourable judge to join the Black Gospel Music Choir and learn about the history of Black Community. Violet taught her students they can overcome all obstacles regardless of its nature. She was a true spiritual mother to the community and her students. Violet’s students were her family!

Violet was frequently stopped in the street by her students and would receive words of gratitude from them especially those who have learned to save their money and that saving had become a significant start in their later life!

Violet was alert to difficulties her students were going through. In one occasion she encouraged one of her students to improve her English through correspondence with an Australian friend. Violet mentioned to this student that you are not only improving your English but you can also talk to your pen pal about the Bahá’í Faith. This correspondence has been continued for almost fifty years, the student said, and is still going on!

Violet was also a member of Montreal Coloured Women’s Club. She travelled with them to follow the slave trade route. Violet was a woman of social action in all walks of life. She played a major role in paying tribute to early Black Railroad Workers of Canada and official recognition of a historical Slave Cemetery in St. Armand, Quebec.

Violet was a part of Verdun Oral History Project and also a winner of athletic games in her school. Not surprising, the principle of the school did not give her the trophy she won during the school’s assembly because she was black. He went to Violet’s classroom and gave the trophy to her later without any ceremony!

Violet was a woman full of love, remarked one of the friends present, tenacious was another attribute which came to mind. Whenever Violet found an interesting idea or subject she persistently had to follow it up to achieve the goal!

There were numerous messages from Violet’s pupils; everyone was united in that Violet was a loving person who not only cared about her students but also for their families.

Violet rode her bicycle in Verdun streets every day until she was in her late 80s, either to go to work or go shopping.  

It was unbelievable to hear how much Violet went through racial prejudices throughout her life. Starting from her childhood until her late life; ringing in her ears: “N-, Black”- “N-, Black”! the rhyme of children’s voice during her school time. The only place she was free from prejudice, perhaps was the years she played music in an all women symphony orchestra. She travelled to New York in 1947 with the orchestra and performed in prestigious Carnegie Hall there. It was a period of terrific segregation in North America but nothing could stop Violet to do what she was intended to do! She was the only black woman in that orchestra!

Violet was a unique human being not only in the history of Montreal Bahá’í Community but in Verdun and Montreal where she served humanity for almost a century! It is heart-breaking to think such an outstanding person could be subject of discrimination in the society!

Peacefully, on January 4, 2022 in the afternoon, the pure soul of Violet States Grant flew to the World Beyond, five days short of being one hundred years old. She is always remembered fondly and lovingly by her students, the Montreal Bahá’í Community and Verdun Borough where she was born and served all her life of almost a century.

Here is the link to the Commemoration video recording:  https://vimeo.com/676665687  

Montreal, May 23, 2022 – On this day, all over Montreal clusters as well as over one hundred thousand localities throughout the world, various Bahá’í Communities celebrate the Declaration of the Mission of the Báb, the Herald of this universal Faith.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith who visited Montreal in 1912 and was the guest of the well-known architect William Sutherland Maxwell, was born in this very night. The following is a narrative from what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says about the Báb:

 As for the Báb*—may my soul be His sacrifice! — it was at a young age, that is, in the twenty-fifth year of His blessed life, that He arose to proclaim His Cause. Among the Shí‘ihs it is universally acknowledged that He never studied in any school, nor acquired learning from any teacher. To this the people of Shíráz, each and all, bear witness. Nevertheless, He suddenly appeared before the people, endowed with consummate knowledge, and though but a merchant, confounded all the divines of Persia. Alone, He undertook a task that can scarcely be conceived, for the Persians are known throughout the world for their religious fanaticism. This illustrious Being arose with such power as to shake the foundations of the religious laws, customs, manners, morals, and habits of Persia, and instituted a new law, faith, and religion. Though the eminent men of the State, the majority of the people, and the leaders of religion arose one and all to destroy and annihilate Him, He single-handedly withstood them and set all of Persia in motion. How numerous the divines, the leaders, and the inhabitants of that land who with perfect joy and gladness offered up their lives in His path and hastened to the field of martyrdom!

The government, the nation, the clergy, and prominent leaders sought to extinguish His light, but to no avail. At last His moon rose, His star shone forth, His foundation was secured, and His horizon was flooded with light. He trained a large multitude through divine education and exerted a marvellous influence upon the thoughts, customs, morals, and manners of the Persians. He proclaimed the glad-tidings of the manifestation of the Sun of Bahá to all His followers and readied them for faith and certitude.

The manifestation of such marvellous signs and mighty undertakings, the influence exerted upon the thoughts and minds of the people, the laying of the foundations of progress, and the establishment of the prerequisites of success and prosperity by a young merchant constitute the greatest proof that He was a universal Educator—a fact that no fair-minded person would ever hesitate to acknowledge.

 

*‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to the Báb by His title Hadrat-i-A‘lá—His Holiness the Exalted One—but He will be designated here by the name under which He is known in the West.

Photo: Golgasht Mossafai - The pulpit from which the Báb proclaimed His mission publicly at the Vakil Mosque in Shiráz.

Montreal, January 8, 2022 - On the night of January 4, 2022, the soul of Violet States (née Grant), a devoted servant of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, took its flight to the Garden of the Immortal Kingdom of God. She is and will forever be the first woman of her race to become a Bahá'í in Montreal. She was 98 years old!

A courageous woman that nothing could stop her from achieving her life's goals, born in Verdun to Jamaican immigrant parents. Violet did not grow up in the upper echelons of classical music, but her father, a railroad worker, insisted that she take piano lessons in addition to her regular schooling.

Undeterred by racial prejudice, the young woman set her sights on becoming a music teacher herself and was even accepted at McDonald Teacher College, the former music faculty of McGill University.

When the principal of the school met her in person and realized that she was black, he dissuaded her from starting her studies, claiming that few parents would accept a person of colour teaching their children.

Far from discouraging her, this refusal motivated her to find another way to achieve her goal. With the help of a scholarship, she entered the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal to complete a major in piano.

It was in 1940 that Violet, a young pianist, attended the very first concert of the Montreal Women's Symphony on Mount Royal, an all-women orchestra assembled by conductor Ethel Stark. This event became her love at first sight and naturally she wanted to join.

She, therefore, became the first black woman ever to play in a professional orchestra in North America. This particular symphony orchestra did not have a piano in its ensemble but it never deterred Violet to find a way! She found out that the orchestra was missing a clarinet player!  Violet jumped to action and decided to learn this instrument which is entirely different from a piano! Three years later, she passed the auditions with flying colors and was accepted into the ensemble!

It was with this orchestra that in 1947, when segregation reigned everywhere in the United States, she became the first black woman to play at Carnegie Hall, the prestigious concert hall in New York.

At a time when women had just won the right to vote and segregation was at its worst, she had an outstanding career, paving the way for the next generation. Violet was also very involved in her borough, among other things, by volunteering to direct an amateur choirs. Her role in the community was already recognized in 2002, when she was awarded the title of Grande Verdunoise!

Violet joined the Bahá’í Faith on January 8, 1961 in Verdun and has served as a member of the Verdun Spiritual Assembly, serving for many years as the Secretary of that Institution. She was the first woman of her race in Montreal to accept the Faith.

Due to her dedication and generosity, the city of Verdun would have liked to name a street or an establishment in Verdun in her honour. However, she was chosen as the City Builder to represent Verdun which has later become a neighbourhood of Montreal!

She also participated in projects such as honoring the first black railroaders and the official recognition of a slave cemetery in St-Armand, Quebec. She also opened, in collaboration with the Caisse Populaire Desjardins, savings accounts for all students at Verdun Elementary School and through this project, she taught the children the importance of saving for the first time.

Finally, Violet Grant States proved the principal of McDonald Teacher College wrong, having taught music to thousands of young people, both privately for 28 years and in public schools for 22 years.

Bahá’u’lláh,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has said, “once compared the coloured people to the black pupil of the eye surrounded by the white. In this black pupil is seen the reflection of that which is before it, and through it the light of the spirit shineth forth.

May her radiant soul progress in the Eternal Worlds of God where no prejudice and rancor exist!

Montreal, 24 March 2022 - The 23rd edition of Action Week Against Racism and for Equal Opportunities (AWARE 2022), which is celebrated by the United Nations every year on 21 March, has as its theme this year "Welcoming Refugees and Migrants in Quebec". As part of these activities, the Bahá'í Community of Saint-Laurent organized a round table on racism and racial prejudice in the form of a common meeting to reflect and exchange on possible solutions to eliminate the causes of racial prejudice. This virtual meeting took place in the presence of about forty people coming from all walks of Laurentian society and elsewhere in Montreal. The two guest speakers were Ms. Éliane Gabbay and Ms. Carmelle Rukiza.

Mr. DeSousa, Mayor of St. Laurent, Vana Nazarian, City Councillor and member of the Côte-de-Lièsse District Borough Council were among the dignitaries present at the meeting.

Two musical performances were included in the program: the video of “O Peoples of the World!” composed by Lucie Dubé and her choir which brought together 40 choral voices on the Unity of Humanity - text extracted from the Bahá'í writings and at the end, the presentation of another extract from the Bahá'í writings on Racial Harmony read by Janie and accompanied by guitar by her sister Oréanne Cardinal-Fernandez.

The mayor of Saint-Laurent, as usual, began the meeting with his inspiring and encouraging words for those who work in the path of unity of humanity, especially racial harmony. He gave the example of the St. Laurent neighborhood, a highly multicultural and multiracial community representing 53.5% of visible minorities, different ethnicities and languages that have been living in harmony on the territory for a long time.

Despite the current conflicts in the world, says the mayor, we must never be discouraged because ultimately we have no choice but to learn to live in peace! We think a lot about the people who are suffering now because of the situation in Ukraine, continued Mr. de Sousa, and we hope that, after tonight's discussion, we can come to a conclusion and think about ways to eliminate the conflicts! 

Our first speaker, Ms. Eliane Gabbay, was a partnership advisor at the Ministère de l'Immigration et des Communautés Culturelles, now known as MIFI (Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l'Intégration) and sat on the Board of Directors of CARI Saint-Laurent for many years.  She is currently a project manager at the Centre d'appui aux communautés immigrantes de Bordeaux Cartierville (CACI).

She has done a detailed analysis of the causes of unconscious prejudice, integration of immigrants, the role of the media in reinforcing prejudice, the role of parents and educational institutions and finally the role that history has played in justifying this action. From the age of three, Ms. Gabbay said, children begin to have prejudices because of the influence of family and surroundings. 

She also mentioned the importance of the role of the family and the education given to children. It is desirable that parents promote the integration of races and colours in the life and education of children. Having friendly relationships with other cultural communities and encouraging frank conversations to build bridges and collaboration between people are essential.

In her speech, Ms. Gabbay was asked to answer the following questions:

a.         Unconscious racial prejudice and the ways in which the causes of racial prejudice can be eliminated.

b.         The role of society, especially the family and the environment in the fight against racism and prejudice in order to build a dynamic, just and inclusive community.

Carmelle Rukiza, our second speaker who considers herself a global citizen and believes in the unity of humanity, spoke on "How can individuals and institutions work together to strengthen racial equity in our communities?"

Inspired by the Bahá'í teachings, she shared the belief that young people can make meaningful contributions to the betterment of the world.  Living in Paris, she is the facilitator of a spiritual empowerment program for pre-teens aged 11 to 15 that aims to strengthen the development of intellectual and moral skills, develop their talents and qualities to plan and carry out a wide variety of service projects in their community (e.g. visiting the elderly, tending a community garden, etc.) This group of young people has given themselves the name: "The Happy Helpers"!

During the questions and comments period with Ms. Gabbay and the participants many themes on prejudice were discussed. Mr. Mayor commented that one of the reasons for prejudice is lack of knowledge of others. Being anchored in one's homogeneous environment and isolating oneself from others gives us certain prejudices. To solve this challenge, in Saint-Laurent, public spaces have been created to promote multicultural and multiethnic get together. These spaces give musicians and artisans of all trades, including the culinary arts, the opportunity to share their talents with others and to break down some of the barriers that cause prejudice.

The presentations of the two speakers were very enriching. They gave us the opportunity to reflect together on racism, discrimination and racial prejudice which is one of the afflictions of our society! These ideas on how to move our community towards a vision of racial unity to build together a more just, equitable and inclusive world, so that we can live better together, encourage us to be proud of our Unity in Diversity!

 

Montreal, 27 November 2021 - Many friends in Montreal neighbourhoods gathered to commemorate the centennial birthday of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, one of the central figures of the Bahá'í World Community.

The Friends of Saint-Laurent in partnership with the neighbourhood's Centre d'action bénévole et communautaire organized a teleconference meeting during which a donation of 11 digital tablets to support"L'ABC DES AÎNÉS" was offered to the Centre ABC. This tool is to enable our seniors to keep in touch with their family, to have access to online leisure activities (games, movies, music, etc.)

About 40 people including the Mayor of Saint-Laurent Alan de Sousa, members of the City Council, the Member of Parliament (federal) for Saint-Laurent, Mrs. Emmanuela Lambropoulos, the MNA, the Executive Director of the Centre d'action bénévole et communautaire as well as several other community organizations were present.

In his speech, Alan DeSousa, Montreal City Councillor and Mayor of Saint-Laurent, noted that "the powerful message of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the equality of the human race and universal peace has taken root throughout the world.”

"The Bahá'í Faith teaches us that we must be actively concerned with the needs of humanity," continued Mr. DeSousa. "I have seen this teaching move from words to reality, thanks to the dedication and service of the local Bahá'í Community, which has been active here since 1956." In such a diverse city, he noted, "we need to achieve a community of thought, spiritual ideals and vision that brings people together."

A varied program of music, video and a presentation on the life and charitable works of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was presented. During the testimonial period, one of the participants, Michel Atallah, whose family lived in 'Akká and Haifa area during the period of the Ottoman Empire, related the memories of their friendship with 'Abdu'l-Bahá and his family. This relationship lasted at least three generations in his family.

Another event in connection with the commemoration of the centennial of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's passing was a reception hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly. This intimate gathering, held at the Visitor Centre of the Montreal Bahá'í Shrine, was attended by an impressive number of dignitaries such as Most Rev. Christian Lépine , Archbishop of Montréal, professors from universities, religious organizations, the Human Rights Centre, City Councillor, and a professor from the Urbaniana University in Rome.

Originally from Persia, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spent most of His life as a prisoner and exile because of His Faith. In 1912, shortly after His release from the notorious Ottoman prison of ‘Akká, He came to Montreal at the age of 68 on a tour of North America, Europe and Egypt.

A well-known ambassador for peace in Europe and North America, 'Abdu'l-Bahá arrived in Montreal to draw the attention of the people of Canada to the vital and essential importance of cooperation among the world's inhabitants in order to stop a devastating war that soon afterwards ravaged humanity!

As a result of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit, the residence of architect William Sutherland Maxwell, located on Pine Avenue West in Montreal and itself designed by its owner, was designated the only Bahá'í Shrine in the West.

During His visit, He addressed thousands of people in various churches, lecture halls, and had personal meetings, including with Robert Stanley Weir, author of our national anthem "O Canada", Archbishop Paul Bruchési of Montreal, and the Rector of McGill University, Sir William Peterson.

"The apostle of peace", "the oriental sage", "the oriental seer" were some of the names given to Him by Montreal's English and French press in some 34 newspaper articles published during His nine-day visit.

"He spoke to various audiences about the oneness of religion, the eradication of prejudice, the equality of women and men, science and religion, the search for truth and economic justice. He warned, prophetically, of the imminence of war in Europe.

In 1912, the New York Times quoted 'Abdu'l-Bahá as saying, "The time has come for mankind to raise the banner of the oneness of the human world, so that dogmatic precepts and superstitions may end."

These are some of the principles that the community in and around Montreal is striving to implement in their lives and communities through Bahá’í-inspired educational programs. They will commemorate the centenary of His death online and in small face-to-face gatherings.

The legacy and impact of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to Montreal lives on and this year reminds us that His words and teachings are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

 

References : « ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Canada », publication of Bahá’í Canada

Canadian Bahá’íNews Service: https://news.bahai.ca/en/articles/centenary-of-the-ascension-of-abdu-l-baha-marked-at-the-baha-i-shrine.html

 

Montreal, March 21, 2022 - "The world is in travail, its agitation increasing day by day," wrote Bahá'u'lláh in one of His tablets! Despite all, Bahá'ís around the world celebrated the spring equinox, the Feast of Naw-Rúz, in their respective communities. In Montreal, friends had small celebrations by teleconference except at the Youth Center in Côte-de-Neige where there was a celebration with many young people accompanied by friends and some parents!

"Naw-Rúz" is the holiday celebrated by Bahá'ís around the world on the first day of Spring, the beginning of the Bahá'í calendar and year, on March 21!

What could be more logical and natural, indeed, than to begin the year on that day? So His Holiness the Báb, who instituted the new calendar of the Bahá'í Era, chose this date (March 21) as the day of the New Year, a choice later ratified by Bahá'u'lláh. As in Iran this day was already a festival and carried the name of "Naw-Rúz", it was kept for our Festival of the Bahá'í New Year.

But what did it represent in ancient Persia, since this festival probably dates back at least three millennia?

"Naw-Rúz" means in Persian, word for word: New Day. In Iranian mythology it is said that the Supreme God created the Universe in six days: successively the Sky, the Earth, the water, the plants, the animals and, on the sixth day, Man... The day of each of these creations was celebrated with a festival: the day of the appearance of Man was called "Naw-Rúz".

Until the year 538 BC, "Naw-Rúz" was only the Festival of the Creation (of Man). From this date, the Iranians will make coincide the day of the New Year (celebrated until then at the beginning of the autumn) with this festival celebrated on the first day of Spring.

This change of date was made under the reign of the Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great who freed the Children of Israel from the yoke of the Babylonians and was charged by God to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. Cyrus (of Mazdean or Zoroastrian religion) has an important rank since not only is he known as the first "promulgator" of a charter of Human Rights ensuring in particular religious freedom, but especially because he is called in the BIBLE: "the shepherd, the anointed of the Lord"!

For more than 2,500 years, the peoples of this region (including - apart from those of Iran - some inhabitants of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Caucasus, Turkey and Iraq) have joyfully celebrated this festival of "Naw-Rúz".

Independent and different from any other calendar, it would be one of the few to start on first day of Spring. In addition, on New Year's Day, this event is celebrated for 12 days, plus a 13th day during which one must leave the house for a joyful communion with Nature.

Despite the invasion of this region by Alexander of Macedonia, the armies of Islam, the hordes of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, and despite the vicissitudes of time, this festival has persisted and, being a common feature, has even served, in a way, to culturally unite the peoples of the Iranian Plateau...

In sum, in Iranian mythology, tradition and culture, "Naw-Rúz" is considered the Festival of the Creator, of the appearance of Man, the Festival of Nature, Fertility, Hope and Peace. It is also the Feast of the Family, of Respect for the head of the family and the elderly, of Friendship, Generosity, Joy and Children...

We can see that the name "Naw-Rúz" is worthy of a Bahá’í New Year!

Here is what the sixth Imam of the Shi'a says about this festival:

"Naw-Rúz is the Day when God made a Covenant with the souls of His servants to acknowledge Him as the One and to follow His Envoys and His proofs. It is the Day when the Sun lit up the world, the breeze rose to fertilize the plants and the earth became green. It is the Day when Noah's Ark finally touched the earth, when the Angel Gabriel brought the Revelation to His Holiness the Prophet, the Day when the latter broke the idols, (...) the Day when the Qá'im (the Promised One) of Muhammad's lineage, that is, His Holiness the Possessor of Creation, will reveal Himself!

N.B. the group photo was taken before the health restrictions!

 

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