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Montreal, March 21, 2021 – Several neighbourhoods celebrated the Bahá’í New year 178 B.E via video conference with joy and happiness. In one community, the refreshments were served via a special courier to the friends who were gathered on line! Stories, songs and video clips of Naw-Rúz celebrations in Iran and other countries of the world were shared.

Celebrations were followed by an all Montreal Community 19 Days Feast. The first day of the month of Bahá (Glory) in accordance with the Bahá’í Calendar. Close to one hundred adults and children participated in the Feast. The program was dedicated to the children and many of them participated in Devotional and musical presentations.

Naw-Rúz (also known as No Rouz, Nowruz, or Noruz), translates to "New Day" in English is the Bahá'í and Persian New Year, which occurs on the date of the vernal equinox. The holiday is fixed as March 21 for Bahá'ís in all countries outside the Middle East, regardless of exactly when the equinox occurs. However, those who celebrate this day culturally, rather than religiously, celebrate on the exact day of the equinox. Naw-Rúz dates back approximately 3,000 years and is rooted in Zoroastrian Faith. Zoroastrian is an ancient Persian religion that predates Christianity and Islam. Millions of people around the world celebrate this holiday.

The Baha’i celebration of Naw-Ruz is one of the nine Bahá'í Holy Days on which work is suspended, and it was established by Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá'í Faith, to mark the feast day following the 19-day month of fasting. (The Bahá'í calendar is made up of nineteen months, and each month consists of nineteen days). The Bahá'í fast is essentially a reflective time of year, where those who are able, abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.

To Bahá'ís the new year also symbolizes the renewal of time in each religious dispensation.`Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u’lláh’s son and appointed successor, explained the significance of Naw-Rúz in terms of the equinox and spring-time and the new life it brings. In ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s words:

"… This sacred day when the sun illumines equally the whole earth is called the equinox and the equinox is the symbol of the divine messenger. The sun of truth rises on the horizon of divine mercy and sends forth its rays on all. This day is consecrated to this commemoration. It is the beginning of the spring. When the sun appears at the equinox it causes a movement in all living things. The mineral world is set in motion, plants begin to sprout, the desert is changed into a prairie, trees bud and every living thing responds, including the bodies of animals and men."

The rising of the sun at the equinox is the symbol of life and the human reality is revivified; our thoughts are transformed and our intelligence is quickened. The sun of truth bestows eternal life, just as the solar sun is the cause of terrestrial life.

The day of the appearance of God’s messenger on earth is ever a sacred day, a day when man commemorates his lord.

"It is New Year … now is the beginning of a cycle of Reality, a New Cycle, a New Age, a New Century, a New Time and a New Year. … I wish this blessing to appear and become manifest in the faces and characteristics of the believers, so that they, too, may become a new people, and … may make the world a new world, to the end that … the sword be turned into the olive branch; the flash of hatred become the flame of the love of God … all races as one race; and all national anthems harmonized into one melody. – ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

As with most Bahá'í Holy Days, there are no particular fixed rituals or practices associated with the holiday. With adherents from so many parts of the world, the Bahá'í Faith makes careful attention not to impose one cultural tradition upon other traditions but rather to encourage an organic international Bahá'í culture that emerges based on the Holy Texts and not on personal or cultural traditions. So, on an international level, the celebration is generally observed with a meeting consisting of prayers, feasting and joyful celebration open to all. What that actually looks like from one place to another largely depends on the way in which a Bahá'í family or community chooses to celebrate the Holy Day.

Although celebrated in a different fashion, Naw-Ruz is also celebrated by Iranians and Zoroastrians as the new year. The origins of Naw-Ruz are unknown but it is thought to have begun as a pastoral spring festival. As time turned, Naw-Ruz gradually became a secular holiday in Persia and, as such, continued to be observed even after the spread of Islam in Iran. Muslim kings in Iran, like their Zoroastrian predecessors, celebrated Naw-Ruz with great magnificence.

Though not a Bahá'í tradition, some Bahá'ís from Persian background honour the traditions associated with their cultural heritage by infusing their celebrations with elements of a traditional Persian celebration of Naw-Ruz. These traditions might include families gathering in new or freshly cleaned cloths or the decoration of tables with fruit, cakes, coloured eggs and other treats, as well as symbolic objects such as a holy book and a mirror. Among the best known customs of Iranian Naw-Ruz is the “haft-sin” – which in English translates to the `seven S’s’. These are seven objects whose Persian names begin with the letter ‘S’ such as hyacinths, apples, lilies, silver coins, garlic, vinegar and rue, which are chosen and decoratively arranged on a table.

Persian traditions or not, Naw-Ruz always comes with generous hospitality and a delicious feast to enjoy!

 

Montreal, February 25, 2021 - From sunset on February 25th to sunset on March 1st, Montreal Bahá’ís join Bahá’ís around the world in celebrating the festival of Ayyám-i-Há by spending time with friends and family, helping those in need through acts of charity, and spreading joy by giving gifts. “Ayyám-i-Há” is an Arabic phrase which can be translated as “Days of Há”, Há is the Arabic letter corresponding to the English H – commemorates the transcendence of God over his attributes, since its name "Há" has been used as a symbol of the essence of God in the Baháʼí Holy Writings. Under the Arabic numerology system, the letter Há has the numerical value of five, which is equal to the maximum number of days in Ayyam-i-Há.

Also known as intercalary days, Ayyám-i-Há falls outside the 19 Bahá’í months of 19 days and aligns the Bahá’í calendar with the 365-day Gregorian solar calendar. It also serves as a period of spiritual preparation for the annual Bahá’í Fast (March 1-19), when Bahá’ís abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset, and Naw Rúz (March 20), the Bahá’í New Year, celebrated on the first day of spring.

Around the world, the festival of Ayyám-i-Há is celebrated in many ways. In Montreal and out of the present pandemic, you can expect to see gift exchanges, with friends, and between family members, large meals, service projects and children's parties. Several schools in Canada invite parents of Bahá’í children to make a presentation in front of their classmates.

Across the country, in various neighbourhoods, groups of friends who participate in the community building process promoted by the Bahá’ís discover a period of rejoicing at the Ayyám-i-Há Festival during which they can strengthen their bonds of love and friendship with their neighbours.

Of this period Baha’u’llah writes:

It behoveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name.

 

Montreal, October 18, 2020 - In Montreal's neighbourhoods, as well as in numerous cities and towns around the world, members of the Bahá’í Community and their friends gathered in large numbers to celebrate the birth of the Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb, and the Founder of this movement, Bahá'u'lláh, via teleconference.

The Báb, whose name was Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad, was born in the city of Shiraz, the first day of muharram of the year 1235 after the Hegira corresponding to October 20, 1819 AD, while Baha'u'lalh was born in Tehran on the second day of muharram in the year 1233 after the Hegira corresponding to November 12, 1817.

In 2014, the Universal House of Justice, the institution that runs the affairs of the Bahá’í Community around the world, decided to celebrate the two Holy Days on the first and second day after the eighth new moon after Naw-Rúz (the Bahá’í New Year), starting on March 20, 2015. Thus, from March 20, 2015, the day the birth of Baha'u'l'lh will be celebrated after that of the Báb and therefore subject to change from year to year.

The Báb, whose name was Siyyid Ali Muhammad, was born in the city of Shiraz, on the first day of Muharram, in the year 1235 A.H. He belonged to a house which was renowned for its nobility and which traced its origin to Muhammad Himself. The date of His birth confirmed the truth of the prophecy traditionally attributed to the Imam Ali: "I am two years younger than my Lord." Twenty-five years, four months, and four days had elapsed since the day of His birth, when he declared His Mission. In His early childhood He lost His father, Siyyid Muhammad-Rida, a man who was known throughout the province of Fars for his piety and virtue, and was held in high esteem and honour. Both His father and His mother were descendants of the Prophet, both were loved and respected by the people. He was reared by His maternal uncle, Haji Mirza Siyyid Ali, a martyr to the Faith, who placed Him, while still a child, under the care of a tutor named Shaykh Abid. The Báb, though not inclined to study, submitted to His uncle's will and directions.

He declared his divine mission as related by His first disciple: "'That night, that memorable night, was the eve preceding the fifth day of Jamadiyu'l Avval, in the year 1260 A.H.

It was about an hour after sunset when my youthful Host began to converse with me. "Whom, after Siyyid Kazim (the leader of Shaykhism - 1793–1843)" He asked me, "do you regard as his successor and your leader?" "At the hour of his death," I replied, "our departed teacher insistently exhorted us to forsake our homes, to scatter far and wide, in quest of the promised Beloved. I have, accordingly, journeyed to Persia, have arisen to accomplish his will, and am still engaged in my quest." "Has your teacher," He further enquired, "given you any detailed indications as to the distinguishing features of the promised One?" "Yes," I replied, "He is of a pure lineage, is of illustrious descent, and of the seed of Fatimih. As to His age, He is more than twenty and less than thirty. He is endowed with innate knowledge. He is of medium height, abstains from smoking, and is free from bodily deficiency." He paused for a while and then with vibrant voice declared: "Behold, all these signs are manifest in Me!" He then considered each of the above-mentioned signs separately, and conclusively demonstrated that each and all were applicable to His person.

This night," He declared, "this very hour will, in the days to come, be celebrated as one of the greatest and most significant of all festivals. Render thanks to God for having graciously assisted you to attain your heart's desire, and for having quaffed from the sealed wine of His utterance. 'Well is it with them that attain thereunto.

Baha'u'lláh was the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, which advocates universal peace and unity among all races, nations and religions.

At the age of 27, Bahá’u’lláh became a disciple of the Báb, who began to preach that God would soon send a new prophet similar to Moses, Jesus or Muhammad.

Bahá’u’lláh's mother was so captivated by him that she could not contain her wonder at her behaviour. "This child never cries," she said. "It is different from other babies who cry, cry and never rest easy in their childhood...”  

 At the age of five or six, Bahá’u’lláh had a dream that he described to his father. In this dream, he was in a garden. Huge birds attacked Him from all sides, but could cause him no harm. He then went into the sea and while He was swimming, the birds of the air and the fish of the sea attacked him, but without harming him.

His father asked a renowned seer to interpret the dream. "This dream means," replied the seer, "that the Child will be the founder of a great Cause, and that all the rulers and scholars of the whole world will attack Him, but, in the same way as birds and fish, they will not be able to harm Him. He will be victorious over all of them! »  

When Bahá’u’lláh was seven years old, one day His mother considered the elegance of his allure as he walked from here and there, and said, "He's a little short in size," but his father replied, "This doesn't matter. Don't you know His skill and abilities? Such intelligence! And such a perception! It's a flame of fire. Even young as He is, He surpasses mature men.”

When difficult problems were discussed and no one seemed able to solve them, the young Blessed Beauty provided the solution.

While He was still a child, the Blessed Beauty observed that a government tax collector, on three different occasions, had approached His father and asked, in an unjust and cruel way, for the payment of taxes. Unable to bear the injustice of all this, although still in his early childhood, Bahá’u’lláh rode His horse and his ride lasted two days to Tehran. When he got there, he sought to have the unjust and tyrannical tax collector dismissed. He was able to obtain the necessary papers for his impeachment and returned to his parents.

In the name He bore He combined those of the Imam Husayn, the most illustrious of the successors of the Apostle of God -- the brightest "star" shining in the "crown" mentioned in the Revelation of St. John -- and of the Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, the second of the two "witnesses" extolled in that same Book. He was formally designated Bahá'u'lláh, an appellation specifically recorded in the Persian Bayan, signifying at once the glory, the light and the splendor of God, and was styled the "Lord of Lords," the "Most Great Name," the "Ancient Beauty," the "Pen of the Most High," the "Hidden Name," the "Preserved Treasure," "He Whom God will make manifest," the "Most Great Light," the "All-Highest Horizon," the "Most Great Ocean," the "Supreme Heaven," the "Pre-Existent Root," the "Self-Subsistent," the "Day-Star of the Universe," the "Great Announcement," the "Speaker on Sinai," the "Sifter of Men," the "Wronged One of the World," the "Desire of the Nations," the "Lord of the Covenant," the "Tree beyond which there is no passing." He derived His descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father of the Faithful) through his wife Katurah, and on the other from Zoroaster, as well as from Yazdigird, the last king of the Sasaniyan dynasty. He was moreover a descendant of Jesse, and belonged, through His father, Mirza Abbas, better known as Mirza Buzurg -- a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial circles of the Court of Fath-'Ali Shah -- to one of the most ancient and renowned families of Mazindaran.

"In God's eyes, these two days (birth of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh) are one," Baha'u'lah says in His Most Holy Book, the Kitab-i-'Aqdas.

 Photos : Room in which the Báb was born and the view of Tihrán where Bahá'u'lláh was born.

Referances : Nabil Narrative, London, UK: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. 1953

God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1944

Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy Book, the Universal House of Justice, Haïfa, 1992

Talks given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Haïfa, from “Habib Recollections” Bahá’í Publishong Trust, Persia 118 B.E.

Montreal, January 18, 2021 - Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Member of Parliament for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, Quebec – despite his busy schedule, Marc Garneau, held a meeting with representatives of the local and national Bahá'í Communities on Monday.

The purpose of this meeting was to offer the Minister our very sincere congratulations on his appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. The Delegation expressed the appreciation of the Canadian Bahá'í Community for the Minister's efforts to ensure the well-being and safety of our communities as well as all Canadians. We also wish Minister Garneau a successful mandate in his Community and political commitments.

Marc Garneau, the Minister of Foreign Affairs since January 12, 2021 - is part of the crew of three NASA missions, in 1984, 1996 and 2000. President of the Canadian Space Agency from 2001 to 2006, he became Chancellor of Carleton University in Ottawa in 2003. Since 2008, he has been a Liberal member of the Canadian House of Commons, representing the Quebec ridings of Westmount—Ville-Marie and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount. Since November 2015, he has also been Canada's 31st Minister of Transport in Justin Trudeau's cabinet.

Minister Garneau knows well the Canadian Bahá'í Community, its principles, its objectives of Unity of humanity and Universal Peace. During his travels he has visited the Bahá'í Gardens in Haifa and the World Centre. 

This meeting, which took place by teleconference, was cordial and warm. The Delegation expressed its hope that it would be able to welcome the Minister on the occasion of the centenary of the death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s ascension at the Bahá'í Shrine in November, if circumstances permit.

Montreal, September 25, 2020 – Over 50 friends as well as some Spiritual Assembly members of Cornwall, ON joined together to say farewell to a remarkable human being, Patricia Shayne who lived for long years in Montreal, via video streaming. On a beautiful autumn day, the funeral service was held at Alexandria, ON where Pat lived during the last decades of her life.

In a cablegram addressed to the British Bahá’í Community dated April 25, 1951, the late Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, Shoghi-Effendi, mentions of “ … the sterling qualities of fidelity, tenacity and intrepidity of the British followers of the Faith.”  These qualities were indeed part of Patricia Shayne’s existence throughout her life! 

Patricia was born in Brighton, England to George and Lilly Mae Nichols on October 12, 1927 and died peacefully at Sandfield Place Residence in Cornwall, Ontario on September 21, 2020.

During the Second World War, she met and married a Canadian soldier Marcel Jacques and immigrated to Canada in 1946 on the Queen Mary with her son and only child Raymond to join her husband in Montreal.

After over 30 years of being together, the marriage unfortunately broke up in the late 1970s, and Pat subsequently married Jimmy Shayne, a Montreal Bahá’í. They lovingly lived together until Jimmy’s death in Alexandria in 2001.

Throughout life, Pat spared no effort to make her own mother feel welcome into her life after the death of her father in 1957 when her mother moved to Canada. She made every effort to make her mother’s life more pleasant and comfortable. 

When Pat married Jim Shayne, she embraced the Bahá’í Faith and pursued her new belief with the normal zeal and intensity. She always seemed to be very pleased that she made that choice. She liked the Oneness of all religions. Like her husband Jimmy she was an ardent promoters of its principles of the oneness of humanity.

Jimmy needing a lot of care during the last years of his life and Pat cared for him in every way possible, including reminding him of telephone numbers and to keep in touch with friends and the community activities in order to help him keep his mind sharp. Jim died at 96 years old.

She spent most of her life helping and serving others. She even made her mark at the Reddy Memorial Hospital in Montréal where she worked until her retirement. They still remember how she always went the extra mile to be of service. The union often complained about her doing more work than the job required! 

In addition to her work at the Reddy Memorial Hospital, she was quite a social bee and loved to be with people. She always found some way to be of service to others. She loved humor and loved to laugh. She had a calming effect on those around her. 

Pat was an amazingly resolute person who, according to her son Raymond, “always gave her all,” facing adversity with characteristic resilience and tough-mindedness both in England during the Second World War and in Canada after her immigration.”

The first thing you would notice after all that was her true kindness, humility, her gentle nature and courteous manners. She was not only a nurse’s aid by profession but she was truly a caring individual. 

When she heard that the Bahá’í Shrine in Montreal needed someone to go there and take care of it, she and Jimmy went there every weekend and sometimes during the week to clean the place and leave a bouquet of flowers on the table in the room where Abdu’l-Bahá gave all his talks in 1912. They both cleaned the windows of the ground and top floors of that house regularly and tried to make the place worthy of many visitors who came to that holy spot.

Pat was an avid learner until the end! She learned how to use videoconferencing and every Thursday afternoon attended a Ruhi Book session on line with some friends.

She had a great sense of humour and often made everybody laugh at the Feast. She loved the Faith and never missed a 19 days Feast in Verdun.

Pat, always prayed to the Beloved Master Abdu’l-Bahá. Her Master’s Voice was always next to her! She would listen to it while the birds of paradise were warbling their melodies in harmony. Pat and Jim had a number of Magnolia and yellow-throat warblers in their home while they were in Montreal as well as beautiful and colourful African violets. 

Pat was a true friend, someone in whose presence one is in paradise, in the spiritual world. One could not be with Pat and not to be in the spiritual world. 

Here is something Pat wrote for Jimmy's second book of poetry, "Time is just a place"  "There was nothing devious about Jim. . . . To be with Jim night and day, for me was like heaven on earth. And as his health declined, we used to sit on the sofa, every afternoon, and watch old movies, and hold hands, and side by side, let the seconds, and the minutes, and the hours, and the days, and the nights, and the weeks, and the months, and the years roll by, in our own world, mixed with prayers, and music, and it is not over. Our love continues." (Summer 2005). As Jim himself wrote: "No matter where we are, there is forever."  

The sun was shining and Dvojak’s Slavonic Dances were playing and just a thought came to mind: how wonderful that you were now soaring through the illimitable space towards your beloved Jimmy – and a tear was shed for you! Jimmy used to say, when a person prays it’s like dropping a letter in a mailbox.  If you don’t let go, the letter won’t go anywhere.

Patricia leaves her son Raymond, his wife Penelope, two grandsons Steven and Peter, and one great-grandson Zachary.

From Robert Michell to Pat:

You were

Sweetness upon sweetness,

A glowing face among us

Shining with the light

Of a most tender heart. 

I am sure that up there,

Jimmy is regaling you with

Many heavenly puns and stories. 

You have now earned your wings,

Within the pantheon of God’s elect.

I know you are shining down upon us

Waiting to welcome us with the

Same gentle embrace we all knew. 

References: Golgasht Mossafai, interview with Patricia Jacques 2013 

Tributes from : Marilyn Ghadirian, Buhran Zahrai, Golgasht Mossafai, Raymond Jacques, Marc Carriere (Jimmy’s PSW carer), Maury Miloff, Jane McMillan, Todd Lawson, Lise Vigneault and Maria Chouchtari

Photos: Jimmy Shayne and Patricia at their wedding ceremony.

Members of Cornwall Spiritual Assembly at the funeral

A collage from Pat’s life

A complete video documentary from Pat’s funeral can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/vIXnaXGndmw

Montreal, December 25, 2020 – It is recorded in 1911, in London UK, the extraordinary experience of a woman whose little girl, as the result of a dream she had had, insisted that Jesus Christ was in the world, and who, at the sight of `Abdu'l-Bahá's picture exposed in the window of a magazine store, had instantly identified it as that of the Jesus Christ of her dream -- an act which impelled her mother, after reading that `Abdu'l-Bahá was in Paris, to take the next boat for Europe and hasten to attain His presence! The frequent question of how was Christ born of the Holy Spirit is explained by `Abdu'l-Bahá: 

In regard to this question, the divine and the material philosophers disagree. The former believe that Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, while the latter deem such a thing to be impossible and untenable, and hold that He must have necessarily had a human father.

 

In the Qur’án it is said: “And We sent Our Spirit to her, and He took before her the form of a perfect man”,[1] meaning that the Holy Spirit assumed a human form, as an image appears in a mirror, and conversed with Mary.

The material philosophers believe that there must be pairing, and assert that a living body cannot come into being from a lifeless one or materialize without the union of male and female. They believe that, beyond man, this is impossible in animals, and that, beyond animals, it is impossible even in plants. For this pairing of male and female exists in all the animals and plants. They even argue that the Qur’án itself affirms this pairing of all things: “Glory be to Him Who hath created all the pairs, of such things as earth produceth, and out of men themselves, and of things beyond their ken”;[2] that is, man, animals, and plants are all found in pairs. “And of everything have We created two kinds”;[3] that is, We have created all things in pairs. 

Briefly, they say that a man without a human father cannot be imagined. The divine philosophers, however, reply: “Such a thing is not impossible, although it has not been observed, and there is a difference between that which is impossible and that which has merely not been observed. For example, in the days before the telegraph, the instantaneous communication of East and West had not been observed but was not impossible; likewise, the photograph and the phonograph had not been observed but were not impossible.” 

The material philosophers insist upon their belief, and the divine philosophers reply: “Is this terrestrial globe eternal or was it originated?” The material philosophers answer that, according to well-established scientific findings, it is proven to be originated; that in the beginning it was a molten sphere and gradually became temperate; that a crust was formed around it; and that upon this crust plants came into being, then animals, and finally man.

The divine philosophers say: “It follows clearly from your statement that the human species upon the terrestrial globe was originated and is not eternal. Then surely the first man had neither father nor mother, for the existence of the human species has an origin in time. Now, which is more problematic: that man should come into being, albeit gradually, with neither father nor mother, or that he should come into being without a father? As you admit that the first man came into being with neither father nor mother, whether it be gradually or in a short period of time, there can remain no doubt that a man without a human father is also possible and logically admissible. One cannot therefore simply reject this as impossible, and to do so would betray a lack of fairness. For example, if you say that this lamp was once lit with neither wick nor oil, and then say that it is impossible for it to be lit without the wick, this betrays a lack of fairness.” Christ had a mother, but the first man, according to the material philosophers, had neither father nor mother.

References : Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By

 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions

  1. Qur’án 19:17; cf. Luke 1:26–8
  2. Qur’án 36:36
  3. Cf. Qur’án 13:3

 

Montreal, September 21, 2020 - Under a bright sun, in a warm and respectful musical atmosphere, the traditional International Day of Peace ceremony took place in Saint-Laurent at Beaudet Park, also known as the "Peace Park"! This ceremony, redesigned in accordance with the health regulations of the Directorate of Public Health, brought together elected officials including  members of the Saint-Laurent City Council, a dozen representatives of the institutions and community organizations of the borough, the Intercultural Committee of Saint-Laurent and two students representing the International School “des apprenants”.

This event is held annually in partnership with the Saint-Laurent borough, the Saint-Laurent Intercultural Committee of COSSL (Committee of Saint-Laurent Social Organizations) and the Bahá'í Community of Montreal.

Aref Salem of the Saint-Laurent Borough Council, for whom the theme of peace and community security are very important subjects, spoke about the importance of building together a healthy planet where we would live in harmony with others. Gigi Vidal, representing the Saint-Laurent Intercultural Committee, spoke about the important causes of conflict, including materialism, over-armament, prejudices of race, colour, creed, nationhood, gender, etc. She concluded by saying that "world peace is not only possible but inevitable" and that we must work to have unity in diversity and social justice. The representative of the Cari Saint-Laurent presented the drawings of the children of the members of the Cari Saint-Laurent, the ABC Centre and the Bon Courage Centre. The Lions Club representative presented their peace poster program and the works of finalists aged 11 to 14 from previous years. The two students from the International School of “des apprenants” shared one of their works and a very touching poem they composed on the theme of peace.

Like every other year, one minute of silence was observed in memory of those who are the victims of war, intolerance, injustice and all other prejudices!

At the end of the ceremony, a duo of musicians sang and made the participants dance to celebrate peace!

 

Caption of the group photo : The borough councillor for the District of Côte-de-Liesse, Jacques Cohen, the City Councillor for the District of Norman-McLaren, Aref Salem and the City Councillor for the District of Côte-de-Liesse, Francesco Miele, surrounded by several members of the Saint-Laurent Intercultural Committee.

You can watch a video clip of the event at the following link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CxycTsj4Q8

Montreal, November 25, 2020- In Montreal's neighbourhoods as well as around the world, hundreds of thousands of friends have organized virtual meetings to commemorate these two major events on the Bahá'í calendar.

On the day of 'Abdu'l-Bahá ascension, on November 29, 1921, ten thousand people, Jews, Christians and Muslims, of all faiths and denominations, gathered on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land to mourn the passing of a being celebrated as the essence of "virtue and wisdom, knowledge and generosity." He was a living example of self-sacrifice," a Jewish leader said that day, describing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son and chosen successor of Bahá’u’lláh. A Christian orator referred to him as the one who had led humanity to the "path of Truth," as a "pillar of peace," added a prominent Muslim leader, and as the embodiment of "glory and greatness." At his funeral, a Western observer reported, "a huge crowd had gathered, grieving His ascension but also rejoicing also for His life."

Throughout the East and the West, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had acquired the reputation of an ambassador of peace, a champion of justice, and the principal interpreter of a new Faith. During his travels in North America and Europe, he had proclaimed by word and example, with strength and persuasion, the essential principles of his father's religion. Addressing the great and the humble and all who crossed his path, he affirmed that "love is the greatest law," that it is the foundation of "true civilization," and that "what humanity urgently needs is cooperation and reciprocity" among all its peoples.

Here is how an American observer describes him: He found a large and enthusiastic audience towards him, eager to greet him personally and to listen to his spiritual message of love from his mouth... Beyond words, something indescribable emerged from his personality that went straight to the heart of all who acceded in his presence. A dome-shaped face, a patriarch's beard, eyes that seemed to see beyond time and the senses, a soft but clear and penetrating voice, a clear humility, a love never defaulted, but above all, a sense of authority mixed with a feeling of gentleness that conferred upon all his being the rare majesty of spiritual elevation , all this made him someone apart, while making him close to the most humble soul; all this, and much more indefinable I-don't-know-what, has left in its many... friends, indelible and unspeakably precious memories.

And yet, as attractive as his personality was and his deep understanding of the human condition, they cannot be enough to do justice to the unique rank of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá in religious history. In Bahá’u’lláh 's own words, He was the "Trust of God," "a shelter for all humanity," "the supreme blessing," and "the ancient and immutable Mystery" of God. The Bahá'í Writings further affirm that "in the person of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and supra-human knowledge and perfection have been melted down and are in complete harmony."

The problem of succession has been crucial in all religions. The fact that it could not be resolved inevitably created rancour and division. The ambiguity surrounding the true successors of Jesus and Muhammad, for example, has led to divergent interpretations of the Holy Scriptures and a profound antagonism both within Christianity and Islam. For his part, Bahá’u’lláh  was able to preserve his Faith from the schisms and built impregnable foundations for it through the provisions of His Will, the "Book of My Covenant." " When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed," he writes, "and the Book of my revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root. The object of this sacred verse is none other than the Supreme Branch [‘Abdu’l-Bahá]. »

By appointing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to succeed him, Bahá’u’lláh gave Him the means to spread his message of hope and universal peace to the four corners of the planet, in order to achieve the essential unity of all peoples. "May the glory of God rest upon Thee, and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee.," Bahá’u’lláh  writes, referring to His son, "Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee!"

In short, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá represents the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, the intermediary charged with ensuring the unity of the Bahá’í Community and preserving the integrity of its teachings.

 

List of sources : Hasan Balyuzi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá – George Rolland Publishing, 1971

The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, A compilation – Bahá’í Publishing Trust, London, 1963

The Universal House of Justice, The Most Holy Book – Bahá’í World Centre, Haifa, 1992

 

Montreal, September 10, 2020 - As the end of his stay in Montreal approached, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spent a quiet Sunday atthe Windsor Hotel. He gave speeches in the morning and afternoon. Speaking to his friends on the last day inMontreal, he said, "I have sowed the seeds. You have to water them. You must educate souls in divine morality, makethem spiritual and guide them towards the unity of humanity and universal peace. »

The next day was another rainy day, but the departure of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for Toronto (en route to Buffalo) had alreadybeen arranged. 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s chronicler, Mahmúd, was asked to take care of the Master's luggage, but it was thehotel staff who took care of it. 'Abdu'l-Bahá expressed his concern to Mahmúd because his luggage contained valuablewritings and documents that he intended to offer to "libraries in London and Paris." As everyone was to learn later, atthe Grand Trunk Railway station (now the Canadian Pacific Railway), the Customs Chief Inspector and his assistants letthe luggage pass without any inspection, stating that they had no reason to inspect the luggage of the Bahá’ís. At thisdeclaration, the Master's face blossomed like a rose, and he spoke of the value of sincerity and loyalty, which are thesource of the prosperity and tranquillity of the peoples of the world.

There is no doubt that the visit of 'Abdu'l-Bahá affected a much larger number of people than the mere 2,500 whocame to hear him or who came into contact with him. Some 440,000 readers of the dynamic Montreal press, inEnglish and French, were informed of his visit and his teachings. Leaving behind the emotion of the many people who came to bid him farewell, 'Abdu'l-Bahá embarked the train International Limited, which left Bonaventure Station at9:05 a.m. to Toronto and then Buffalo, New York.

It was in the afternoon of September 9, 1912, that Jim, a little boy of four years old, while sitting on a fence just outside the town of Oshawa, Ontario, alongside the railroad tracks, watched a train hurtle by. At about 3:30 p.m., he saw through one of its windows something that so overwhelmed him that he fell backwards off the fence and onto the grass below. He described what he saw as “a man wearing a long flowing white robe waving from the train.” Later in life he would explain that this was his earliest surviving memory. “Now I know who that old man was,” he said. “It was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá when he was in this country.” It had taken Jim Loft decades to make the connection. On October 23, 1931, Jim married Melba Whetung, who was raised on the Curve Lake Ojibwa First Nation. Like Jim, she had a keen interest in spiritual topics. It was Melba’s friend Emma who first spoke to her about Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Jim Loft’s ancestral home was the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory but he grew up in Oshawa, Ontario. He was greatly affected by the prejudice he encountered growing up an aboriginal in rural Canada. Though submerged in a society that had little regard for him, Jim believed from childhood that racial equality was a just principle, and he later noted that he felt a strong pull to spiritual matters. During his difficult teen years, he would often ask God’s help to inspire him to help alleviate the poverty, oppression and alcoholism that plagued his people.

In 1949, Jim and Melba settled on the Tyendinaga Reserve and dedicated themselves to serving and supporting the First Nations community. For Jim, the memory of the man in a flowing white robe waving to him from the train inspired him to his final day.

It was Jim’s idea to return to Tyendinaga and teach the Faith. On September 2, 1948 Jim wrote Shoghi Effendi introducing himself and asking if he should return to Canada. They were living then in Marysville, Michigan. On October 2, 1948, Jim received an answer written by Shoghi Effendi’s wife, ‘Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, in which she stated that Shoghi Effendi would “greatly welcome your returning to your own tribe”. The letter had an addendum in the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi in which he stated:

“Your most welcome letter rejoiced my heart and I hasten to assure you of a most hearty welcome into the Bahá’í fold … May the Beloved bless, protect and sustain you always and aid you to realize your heart’s desire. Your true brother, Shoghi.”

Jim and Melba , the first believers of Canada’s First Nation population, were very active in the Bahá’í community in Ontario. They attended regional conferences as well as National Conventions. However, while enduring extreme poverty during this time, they relied upon their faith and reached out for advice again to Shoghi Effendi. His response was for them to seek the guidance of the National Spiritual Assembly and that they would hopefully find work to sustain the family that would allow them to stay in their community.

In 1971, Jim and Melba celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Two years later Jim died of a heart attack at the age of 65. It was Jim who brought the renewal of the Peacemaker’s teachings through Bahá’u’lláh to the birthplace of the Peacemaker, the community of Tyendinaga; this was an act of honour and sacrifice that only Jim could have accomplished.

In 1976, Melba went on Pilgrimage to the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. One of the highlights of her trip was the mansion at Bahji where Bahá’u’lláh lived during the last years of his life and in which she spied a picture of the first Native American Local Spiritual Assembly in the United States that had been formed in 1948 on the Omaha Indian Reservation near Macy, Nebraska. The picture had been placed there by Shoghi Effendi in the doorway to his room.

The beautiful focus of her mind led Melba to many accomplishments. Melba’s travels and teaching were not limited to North America. She also travelled in the summer of 1978 to Europe with a Bahá’í teaching team. She was honoured in many ways, one of which was the use of her Indian or spiritual name for the Gathering room in the Yukon Bahá’í Center. Her spiritual name was Kinaaj-Kwe which can be interpreted as good, kind and gracious lady.

On November 22, 1985 in the morning, Melba’s spirit took flight after a long illness. At her funeral, Chief Earl Hill, the Chief of the Tyendinaga First Nation, was a pall bearer.

In 1986, a Native Council was held in Iqaluit, Nunavut. A special ceremony honored Melba’s memory and life. ‘Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhiyyih Khánum attended and stated that she found the ceremony the most moving part of the occasion, which unified everyone present. At the gathering she urged Aboriginal people to stay in touch with culture and tradition as a foundation for faith as Melba had done.

Melba was buried next to Jim. The inscription on their grave stone reads: “Bahá’í Pioneers, Alfred “Jim” Loft 1908-1973, Melba Whetung Loft 1912-1985, The Guardian’s obedient servants.” Jeannie Seddon, a friend of the Lofts, wrote of Jim: “He is a Canadian hero whose life will be an inspiration to future generations as it has been to his family”.

Images:

Golgasht Mossafá’í,  -Melba Loft in London, UK – summer of 1978 with a friend from the Bahá’í teaching team.

© Bahá’í World, 1948 – Jim Loft

-The members of the all-indigenous Local Spiritual Assembly of Macy, Nebraska, on the Winnebago reservation proudly display the Greatest Name. Photo courtesy of Susan Bishop 

Source:


Mossafai , Golgasht :Personal notes, “Interview with Melba Loft”: London, UK: Harrow Times Newspaper, 1978.

Mossafai , Golgasht : film script «’Abdu’l-Bahá, the Montreal Sojourn»

Mossafai , Golgasht : Bahá’í Chronicles article on Alfred and Melba Loft

-Loft Watts, Evelyn and Verge, Patricia “Return to Tyendinaga: The Story of Jim and Melba Loft, Bahá’í Pioneers”, Essex, Maryland: One Voice Press, 2011

-The Bahá’í World, Kidlington, Oxford: George Ronald Publisher. Volume XVI and XIX

- Mahmúd Diary, volume 1 in persian, 1914

Montreal, November 4, 2020 - In honour of three servants of humanity, friends from the Bahá’í communities of Montreal, Laval and Ottawa gathered for a teleconference commemoration meeting. Tribute, prayers and songs accompanied the souls of these three friends who left us in a short interval.

Douglas Martin (1927 – 2020)

On September 28, 2020, Douglas Martin passed away at the Hazelton Place Retirement Residence at the age of 93. He was a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada and its general secretary from 1965 to 1985. From 1993 to 2005, he was an elected member of the international governing council of Bahá’í community, the Universal House of Justice.

Born in Chatham, Ontario on February 24, 1927, Mr. Martin was raised in a Presbyterian family. He began his life along a conventional path: studies in business administration and a successful career in public relations.

A few months after enrolling in the Bahá’í community, he met his future wife, Elizabeth. They married in 1956 and moved to a series of localities in southern Ontario as part of the growing expansion of Bahá’í communities throughout Canada.

Mr. Martin’s intellectual interests turned to history during those years. It was  an interest that, in subsequent years because of his ability to discern the forces of world history affecting the course of development of the Bahá’í community, was of immense value in his enormous contribution, both in writing and speaking, to the intellectual and cultural life of the rapidly evolving Bahá’í Cause. 

Mr. Martin championed the role of Indigenous members of the Bahá’í community and was keen to do all he could to learn French and support the emergence of a vibrant community of young Quebecois Bahá’ís. Following the Iranian revolution in 1979, he was at the forefront of an effort to resettle thousands of Bahá’ís fleeing religious persecution.

During those years Mr. Martin was a founding member of the Association for Bahá’í Studies, serving on its international executive committee from 1974-85. He co-authored, with Dr. William S. Hatcher, "The Bahá’í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion".

In 1985, he was invited by the Universal House of Justice to serve as the Director-General of the Bahá’í International Community's Office of Public Information at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. In 1993 he was elected to the nine-member Universal House of Justice, the supreme authority and governing body for a rapidly expanding Bahá’í world community, serving until his retirement from that body in 2005 when he returned to Canada.

The Universal House of Justice in their tribute to Douglas Martin wrote: 

 “The special gifts he possessed for presenting the Faith with clarity and vision shone through as much in his scholarly writings as in his public presentations, including in vigorous defence of the Bahá’í community in Iran. Much of this work was undertaken while he simultaneously discharged weighty responsibilities in the administration of the Faith. … His scintillating intellect and uncommon grasp of the grand forces of history, combined with his formidable powers of expression, were much in evidence during the years he spent as director-general of the Bahá’í International Community’s Office of Public Information, a prelude to the twelve years he served as a member of the Universal House of Justice. Resolute, ingenious, and blessed with piercing insight, he will be immensely missed.” 

Farzam Arbab, 1941–2020

Dr. Farzam Arbab (October 27, 1941 - September 25, 2020) was a member of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme governing body of the Bahá’í Faith. He was elected in 1993 and served until 2013.

Dr. Arbab was born into a Bahá’í family Tehran, Iran and later moved to America. He completed a BA at Amherst College, Massachusetts in 1964, a doctorate in physics at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1968. He served as president of Fundacion para la Aplicacion de las Ciencias (FUNDAEC), a nongovernmental development agency in Colombia, from 1974 to 1988, and continues to serve on its board of directors. He received an honorary doctorate in science from Amherst College in 1989.

From 1970 until 1980 he served as the Chairman for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Colombia. In 1980 he was appointed to the Continental Board of Counsellors for the Protection and Propagation of the Faith in the Americas, on which he served for eight years. In 1988, he was named to the Bahá’í International Teaching Centre, which has its seat in Haifa, Israel, and was a member of that body until 1993, when he was first elected to the Universal House of Justice. He passed away on 25 September 2020 in San Diego, United States. He was 78 years old.

The Universal House of Justice in their tribute to Farzam Arbab wrote:  

“He recognized that the verities contained in the Bahá’í writings concerning spiritual and social transformation and the entry into the Faith of the masses of humanity demanded persistent effort to learn how to bring them about; the investment of his whole being in this great enterprise was complete and constant. Throughout his time as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia, as a Continental Counsellor, as a member of the International Teaching Centre, and finally as a member of the Universal House of Justice for two decades, his unshakeable belief in the capacity of all of God’s children, especially of young people, was the hallmark of his service to the Cause. Always insightful, always discerning, always attuned to spiritual reality, this man of exceptional vision lived a life shaped by the harmony between scientific truth and true religion.” 

Violette Haake, 1928–2020 

Violette Haake, a former member of the International Teaching Centre, passed away on 24 September 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. She was 92 years old.

Violette was born into a Bahá’í family in Iran, later moving to America and Australia where she served as a pioneer and Auxiliary Board member. She was appointed as a Continental Counselor for Australasia in 1988 and then to the International Teaching Center. She was appointed to the International Teaching Center in 1998.

The Universal House of Justice in their tribute to Violette Haake wrote: 

“Whether when pioneering, or during her time as an Auxiliary Board member, or as a Continental Counsellor in Australasia, and most especially in the ten years she served as a member of the International Teaching Centre, her intrepid spirit and radiant enthusiasm for teaching were ever in evidence as she rallied the friends, particularly the youth; poured out encouragement; and fanned the flame of love for Bahá’u’lláh in the hearts. Violette possessed a character that blended extraordinary resilience, steadfastness, and inner strength with unfailing kindness, a nurturing instinct, and true joy. To the last, hers was a life devoted to the service of the Lord.”

 

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