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Montreal, February 4, 2018 - On the occasion of World Week of Interfaith Harmony, the Bahá’í Community of Montreal organized two "Open House" evenings at the Bahá'í Shrine inviting Inter-Faith Organizations to come and visit this sacred place.

The first meeting took place on Sunday February 4th and the second on Wednesday February 7th during the regular schedule of the Shrine.

World Interfaith Harmony Week is an annual event to be observed during the first week of February starting in 2011.

World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations in resolution A/RES/65/5 adopted on 20 October 2010. In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and establishes World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.

Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the General Assembly of the United Nations encourages all States to support during that week the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.

Montreal, January 17, 2018 - Some 150 members of the Montreal Bahá’í Community gathered at the newly renovated Bahá’í Centre on 177 Pine Avenue East to celebrate the occasion and the 19 Days Feast. Representing a large variety of ethnic as well as age groups, they were coming together from nine different boroughs of our city.

 Two of the Assembly members in 1983 who were present at the Feast told the friends the story of how the Bahá’í Centre was purchased then. Kay Hopkinson, a member of the Bahá’í Community of Montreal at that time made a simple suggestion at a 19 days Feast to purchase a Place of gathering for the friends. As the procedure goes, the suggestion was forwarded to the Spiritual Assembly, the governing body which administers the affaires of the Community. The Assembly welcomed the suggestion and approved of it. The Montreal Community was relatively small and the Assembly had little money in its Bank account. The island of Montreal had some 15 municipalities with a Bahá’í Administrative Bodies until January 1, 2006 when the municipalities and Montreal joined together as one city.

 In early days of the Faith most meetings were held at the home of Architect Sutherland Maxwell and his wife May Boles where the Montreal Bahá’í Shrine is located now. As the membership of the Community grew, the Bahá’í activities were held at either YWCA downtown or at the home of the friends. Therefore, the expenses were little and the amount of money kept in the bank was also little.  The Assembly came up with a bright idea to organize a fundraising event and collect the necessary funds to purchase a Centre. The event was scheduled at the Negro Community Centre. It happened that an ice storm paralyzed all activities in Montreal and surroundings. There was little hope to have a large gathering and collect a lot of money!

 The Hand of the Cause John Robarts (one of the members of a Body by that name to help expansion and other activities of the Community) who lived in Rawdon, Quebec with his family was scheduled to be present at that fundraising event. His daughter who was supposed to drive him to the event was afraid that the treacherous ice covered roads might cause an accident and there was no way that they would go to the Fundraising. John, nevertheless, was determined to be in Montreal and nothing could stop him to do so! He put on his hat which he had worn while in Haifa visiting Shoghi-Effendi, the late Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, decided to take a taxi and arrived at the Negro community Centre! He had the intention to auction his hat in order to generate funds for the Montreal Bahá’í Centre.

 As it was expected, not very many people managed to be present at the meeting due to ice storm, nevertheless five thousand Dollars was raised that evening! The Spiritual Assembly appointed a committee to search for a suitable building to purchase and the present location was found. Unfortunately, it was located in residential area and it needed a permit from City Hall in order to be used for public activities. One of the above Committee members contacted the relevant office at the City Hall which denied the request without further discussion.  Another member tried again and managed to get hold of an official at the Mayor’s Office. When this official was informed of the purpose and activities in the Bahá’í Centre, the permission was granted without further question. The major problem was still lack of funds. The price of the property was $100,000 – a lot of money at that time! There were very few Bahá’ís then who owned a property and the late Raymond Flournoy was one of them. He managed to mortgage his own home in order to obtain a second mortgage and enable the Assembly to buy the property. Surprisingly, the anniversary of Raymond’s passing was on this day, November 17! 

 The Assembly was painfully paying the mortgage then coincidentally, the daughter of Architect Sutherland and May Maxwell, known to the Bahá’ís as Rúhíyyih Khánum, came to Montreal for a Conference. She heard that the Montreal Bahá’í Community has purchased a property and asked whether the mortgage has been completely paid? She was told that $20,000 is left to complete the payment! She thought for a moment and said that her mother, May Maxwell, had kept a Bank account in Montreal and she thought that there was exactly $20,000 in it! She generously donated the amount to the Montreal Bahá’í Community thus the mortgage was fully paid.

 The beautifully renovated Bahá’í Centre is open to the public, has a library to purchase Bahá’í Books as well as a reading library accessible during the opening hours of the Centre.

Saint-Laurent, October 26, 2017 - The celebration of Unity in Diversity to build a better future together! - aimed at bringing together citizens who are concerned about the Laurentian community and who are eager to improve it - took place in a warm atmosphere of unity, respect and sharing at Cégep de Saint-Laurent , with the participation of about thirty people including the Mayor of Saint-Laurent, Mr. Alan DeSousa who opened the meeting with a word of welcome. The representatives of the following institutions and organizations that were part of the round table talk are as follows: CEGEP Saint-Laurent, Center for Young Immigrant Women, Saint-Laurent Social Organizations Committee, Saint-Laurent Baha'i Community, Montreal Police Service - Neighborhood Station No. 7 and YMCA Saint-Laurent. The event was organized by the Baha'i Community of Saint-Laurent in partnership with the Cégep de Saint-Laurent.

During this event of reflection and exchange, each panelist tried to define ways that should allow to achieve unity in the rich diversity of our borough. How to promote this richness, to welcome the other while respecting our values and those of others? How to understand each other, to appreciate one another and to establish harmony between all? How to combine our energies and put it in the service of the common good? How to put forward and make known our strength as a borough?

In his address, the Mayor of Saint-Laurent, Alan DeSousa, said: "This community is rich in many cultures from here and elsewhere, who have learned to live together in harmony ... We are very happy for this initiative and wish that you would share the results of your discussions. "

As a highlight to mention was the humorous testimony of a young Cégep Saint-Laurent student via a video clip on Racial Discrimination produced by the Cégep. There was the enthusiasm of the members of the round table for the idea of unity in diversity and which were themselves united and complementary in their statements about what can be done, concretely, to promote true unity in diversity. Also note the richness of the remarks during the period of exchange and discussions with all the participants, without forgetting the social part which allowed us to forge bonds of friendship!

The photo shows: Alan DeSousa, Mayor of Saint-Laurent, Ariane Bureau, Pedagogical Advisor for Student and Intercultural Life at Cégep de Saint-Laurent and Round Table Facilitator, Gigi Vidal, Director of the Community Affairs Office of the Baha’i Community Montreal, Régine Alende Tshombokongo, CEJFI Director, Margot L.-Leonard, the representative of the Baha'i Community of Saint-Laurent, COSSL Executive Director, Maria Ximena Florez, Director of the YMCA Saint-Laurent, Marie-Josée Meilleur, the pedagogical advisor in French at Cégep de Saint-Laurent, Rosine Sicignano, the pedagogical advisor of the Continuing Education Direction, Cécile Hernu, the Commander of the Montreal Police Service, Neighborhood Station No. 7, Cédric Couture, and the young comedian Mehdi Agnaou.

Seeds planted over the last seven years bore fruit in a Montreal, Que., neighbourhood as those working in the community celebrated Bahá’u’lláh’s birth.

The Bahá’í community-building process started in the Côte des Neiges neighbourhood in 2010. Currently, a group of nearly 20 individuals live and serve there, including both Bahá’ís as well as friends from the wider community. Together they planned a celebration for the bicentenary of the Birth of Bahá’u’lláh.

The event was the culmination of weeks of effort to undertake home visits to explore the importance of Bahá’u’lláh’s message, primarily with young people and their parents. The youth each came up with ideas of how they could contribute: by making posters for the event, ushering guests as they arrived, writing speeches about how Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings have influenced their lives and reading prayers at the celebration. Adults in the community prepared meals, drove children to the event and beautified the venue.

Around 130 participants attended the event, 70 of whom were friends of the Faith. The celebration was incredibly joyful and moving. The short speeches that were given regarding the influence of Bahá’u’lláh moved some to tears.

In his speech, one 13-year-old shared, “The junior youth group helped me to think about the meaning of life; for example, what is our purpose here on earth? It helped me establish my own identity – to know who I am and how I should act towards others. It developed my capacity to serve society and to work with others to help the community … and showed me the importance of true friendship.”

A portion of the film Light to the World was also shown and the event concluded with a dance celebration utilizing music from all over the world – a befitting tribute to the diversity of those in the neighbourhood.

Following the bicentenary celebrations, plans were made to expand the educational process by starting study circles, a children’s class, a junior youth group and accompanying friends as they arise to serve as teachers and animators. Dates for a junior youth camp and a children’s festival have been set and are in the process of being planned.

– Aayah Amir

Saint-Laurent, September 20, 2017 - The 25th International Day of Peace was celebrated on September 21, 2017 at Beaudet Park under a bright sunny day with participation of about forty students from LaurenHill Academy and l'École internationale des apprenants (école Dar Al Iman). Some forty adults including elected representatives as well as representatives from Saint-Laurent organizations were also present. The event was organized by the Borough in collaboration with the COSSL and the Bahá'í Community of Montreal.

 The International Day of Peace, established by the United Nations, was celebrated for 25 consecutive years at Beaudet Park emphasizing the topic; "Together for Peace: Respect, Dignity and Security for All". The commemorative plaque, which was unveiled at the ceremony, will soon be installed at Beaudet Park to commemorate both Canada's 150th and the 25th anniversary of the Park's designation as a "Peace Park".

 In his address, Saint-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa said: "Saint-Laurent wishes to highlight the International Day of Peace by launching a public call to bring people together and to demonstrate the importance of peace for our community. This community is rich in multi-culturalism, Men, women and children from all over the world, who have learned to live together in harmony. We are fortunate, in Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada, to live in a peaceful world. Nevertheless, we, children as well as adults, also have a responsibility to preserve peace around us. "

 Among the most touching moments of the event were the peace quotes recited in various languages ​​by a dozen LaurenHill Academy students, as well as the testimonial of a Syrian refugee, Mrs. Howida Tannous, who left her country of origin a year and a half ago, with her three children, and now living in Saint-Laurent.

“To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.”
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted by J.E. Esselmont in Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 83.

Whether the Bahá’ís celebrate Christmas, is an interesting question!

The Bahá’ís believe, Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, was the Promised One of all religions. Therefore, all major religions are true, from God and the Bahá'í Faith is the one for the present age. It will be almost impossible to celebrate the festivals of all of the religions, so the Bahá'ís celebrate their own festivals instead. Events in the life of Bahá'u'lláh and the early history of the Faith mark the Bahá'í Holy Days. The following account demonstrates the profound respect that the Bahá’ís have for Christ. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (son of the Prophet Founder of the Bahá’í Faith) traveled to the West in 1911 after forty years of imprisonment, he went to England from the Middle East, and among his hectic schedule of meetings and public addresses, He: …witnessed a performance of “Eager Heart,” a Christmas mystery play at the Church House, Westminster, the first dramatic performance He had ever beheld, and which in its graphic depiction of the life and sufferings of Jesus Christ moved Him to tears.
– Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 284.

The drama, written by the English poet and playwright Alice Mary Buckton, who later received ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at her home in Byfleet Surrey, tells the tragic story of a woman who fervently prepares for the Christmas visit of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, but then vacillates when a homeless refugee family shows up at her door. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá wept during the scene in which the Holy Child and His parents, overcome with fatigue, and suffering from hunger and thirst, were met with the hesitation of Eager Heart to admit them to the haven of rest which she had prepared, she, of course, failing to recognize the sacred visitors. [Abdu’l-Baha], afterwards, joined the group of players. It was an arresting scene. In the eastern setting. The Messenger in his eastern robes, speaking to them, in the beautiful eastern words, of the Divine significance of the events which had been portrayed.”
– The Baha’i World, Volume 4, p. 379.

The Bahá'í Faith is all about unity, and Bahá'ís do not wish to cut themselves off from the rest of humanity. Christmas is celebrated by most people in Canada and elsewhere and the Bahá'ís join in these celebrations with their Christian friends. Nevertheless, they do not celebrate Christmas amongst themselves. In a Bahá'í family, for example, where the parents and children are Bahá'ís, they do not usually buy one another Christmas presents. But if grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are not Bahá'ís, the Bahá'í family will exchange presents with them and will celebrate with them. The Bahá'í children at school will happily join in the nativity play and sing carols. This is not a problem, because Bahá'ís revere Christ as a Messenger of God. In fact, Bahá'ís believe Bahá'u'lláh to be the Return of Christ. Bahá'ís respect everyone's beliefs therefore they do not see any difficulty with joining in the celebrations of their friends who might be Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim or of any other beliefs. In countries where for instance Buddhism might be the main religion, Bahá'ís will celebrate Buddhist festivals with their friends and relatives who are not Bahá'ís. Exchange of presents is done usually during a celebration at the end of February, the four or five days designated as “Days of Giving”, when there will often be parties for both children and adults. Children may also receive gifts on some of the other Holy Days.
 
What is New Year to the Bahá’ís
Bahá'í new year is celebrated at a different time. The Bahá'í Faith calendar, and the Bahá'í new year falls on the 21st March each year. It is known as Naw Rúz in Persian or the New Day. However, if Bahá'ís are invited to join in festivities on 31st December they will quite happily accept, just as they are quite happy to invite anyone to a celebration for Naw Rúz. In fact, Bahá'ís enjoy hosting parties and inviting their friends to Holy Day celebrations. This is all part of bringing people together to build the unity which the world so desperately needs today.

MONTREAL, July 20, 2017 - "Her name was mentioned often when we created Toponym'Elles (Project : Homage to Citizens). Several citizens would have liked to call a street or a Verdun establishment in her honor, but it was unfortunately, or rather happily, not possible because she is still alive. That's why we immediately thought of her as a Builder of the City, " says the councilor and member of the executive committee, Culture, Heritage, Design, L'Espace pour la vie et status of women at Ville de Montréal, Manon Gauthier.

La Grande Verdunoise, for the Verdun Borough, Mrs. Violet Grant States was honored as the "First Black Woman to be accepted in a major orchestra in Canada", having worked in the community environment as well as in the schools as a music teacher.

Violet, the first Black Woman to have been part of a professional orchestra in North America, has never been one who is discouraged by a refusal. At a time when women had just won the right to vote and where segregation was at its height, she had an exceptional career, paving the way for future generations. That's why she was chosen as the “City Builder” to represent Verdun.

This is an honor indeed for an ex-student who was not only dismissed from McDonald Teacher College, the former faculty of music at McGill University because she was of the black race but also was dissuaded by the school's director to abandon her studies, claiming that very few parents would accept that a person of color teaches their children!

In 1940, Violet, then a young pianist attended the first concert of the Women Symphony of Montreal, an orchestra which was brought together by Conductor Ethel Stark and composed exclusively of women. It was with this orchestra that in 1947, when segregation reigned throughout the United States, Violet, the first Black Woman, to play at Carnegie Hall, a prestigious New York concert hall.

Violet adhered to the Bahá’í Faith on January 8, 1961 in Verdun and served as a member of the Verdun Spiritual Assembly, serving for many years as the Secretary of this institution. She is the first woman believer of her race in Montreal who accepted the Faith.

The borough council of Verdun on May 2 started its session with a tribute to this exceptional Verdunoise, Violet Grant States, who, on the occasion of International Women's Day, was named “Builder of the City” in 2017 by the City of Montreal.

Having a fragile health, Violet could not attend the honor ceremony at Montreal City Hall. On June 9, 2006, Jean-François Parenteau, Mayor of the Verdun Borough, and Manon Gauthier, Member of the Executive Committee, Culture, Heritage and Status of Women in the City of Montréal, Madeleine Talbot, representing the City of Montreal - Borough of Verdun and Nicole Ollivier, representative of the City of Montreal, went to the Saint-Henri Residence for Elderly to meet Violet and present her the document of Recognition on behalf of Denis Coderre, the Mayor of Montreal. (See the photo)

Another dazzling success for the bicentenary of Bahá'u'lláh!

 Montreal, November 20, 2017 - The 40th edition of the Montreal Book Fair has been magical with six captivating days of book discoveries, rich exchanges and dynamic activities for all tastes. 119,000 visitors were welcomed and 2,000 authors as well as more than 1,000 publishing houses were present. The Bahá'í booth received more than 2,000 visitors including journalists, university professors and scientists.

This year, The Baha'i Publishing Trust offered visitors a theme related to the anniversary of Bicentenary of the Prophet Founder of Faith: "Bahá'u'lláh, His Call for the Unity of Humanity". Throughout the exhibition, from November 15 to 20, dozens of young people engaged in deep conversations about the principles that could change society. Three large multicoloured posters including Bahá'í principles adorned the walls of the booth, with a design of great beauty.

The 40th edition of the Montreal Book Fair was again marked by an astonishing amount of varied activities for readers of all ages and for all tastes! Among them, it was impossible not to marvel at the decorative panels of the Bahá'í Booth designed by a talented artist from the Montreal community, Elham Paiendeh.

Eighteen thousand young people were welcomed with their teachers during the three days reserved for them. A host of activities have been designed to draw their curiosity and increase their reading pleasure! Adolescents are more likely to read than we can think, and the Bahá'í Booth has given them a place to express their impressions.

 The experience of these six days of celebration makes it undeniable that the Montreal Book Fair remains an essential showcase for books and culture, as well as a place of exchange, discovery and listening. Pleased with the success of this 40th edition, the organizing Committee would like to warmly thank all of our collaborators, volunteers, illustrators, editors, readers and the media that supported us during this annual event!

Longueuil, Friday October 20, 2017 - An intimate concert was held in a historic hall in Longueuil, Quebec, in celebration of the Bicentenary of the Twin Birthdays of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh.

Featuring music composed by Lucie Dubé, some 100 invited guests heard the story of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and listened to exquisite settings of six of the Hidden Words of Bahá’u’lláh.

For many in the impressive, flower-filled hall, built in 1852—precisely at the time when Bahá’u’lláh was imprisoned in the Siyah Chal in Tehran—it was a first exposure to the powerful figure of Bahá’u’lláh and to the significance of His teachings in the contemporary world. Many were moved to tears by the music, the deep reverence for the text, the attention to the beauty of each detail of staging and lighting, and by the profound dignity and depth with which the significance of the subject matter was conveyed. The compositions were performed by a small choir and soloists, with the composer at the piano, accompanied by a string quartet.

The musical compositions of the Hidden Words, begun more than a year earlier, form the basis for a CD recording and booklet which briefly recounts the history of both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh and the nature of the Hidden Words as a work of sacred scripture, each of which is sung in French. Each invited guest received a personalized gift of the CD, and all were deeply touched by this unusually generous gesture.

Virtually the entire text of the beautiful booklet was memorized by a group of young professional actors, whose expressive narration of the basic history and spiritual principles of the Faith was interspersed with the choral music, the string accompaniment, and enhanced by dramatic lighting, to spellbinding effect.

The atmosphere of the evening and the joy which suffused all the participants, many of them devoted friends of the Faith, sprang from the remarkable spirit of prayerful and intense collaboration which went into bringing it to fruition, supported from beginning to end by the sacrificial contributions of both voluntary service and funds of many individuals, the community and the local institutions.

And on the wings of the music and text, the spirit of this undertaking will live on through the Bicentenary of the Báb, and into the future, touching in turn unnumbered receptive souls, who, stirred by this sublime gift, will go on to attract others to the Cause of the Blessed Beauty.

The music may be enjoyed, purchased/downloaded at 9Star Media (https://9starmedia.com/lucie-dube-les-paroles-cachees) or by writing to the Service de Distribution Bahá’í du Québec at:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to receive the booklet and a code for a free download of the CD.

 

Bahá'í Center

 

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Montreal Shrine

 

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