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News

Montreal, July 7, 2020 – There are already significant efforts underway to learn how to create models of unity in neighborhoods and communities throughout the nation. Baha’is have been persistently engaged in such efforts for many years. The aim is not unity in sameness—it is unity in diversity. It is the recognition that everyone in this land has a part to play in contributing to the betterment of society, and that true prosperity, material and spiritual, will be available to us all to the degree that we live up to this standard. We should earnestly discover what is being done, what truly helps to make a difference, and why. We should share this knowledge throughout the country as a means of inspiring and assisting the work of others. If we do this, we could soon find ourselves in the midst of a mass transition toward racial justice.

Eddie Elliot (the first Montrealer from African descent who accepted the Bahá’í Faith) participated as a representative of the National Spiritual Assembly, in the African International Teaching Conference held in Kampala, Uganda, in February 1953 but his untimely death in July 1953 while working on a high voltage transformer left the Canadian Bahá’í Community bereft of one of the few African Canadians to have embraced the Bahá’í Faith in Canada at that time. Eddie Elliot was known as a “very pure and distinguished soul,” having “warmth and strength,” serving as the “first bridge between Black and White communities in Montreal.” At one time he was member of the city’s Inter-Racial Board and the Committee of Management of the Negro Community Centre. According to Amine De Mille, a Bahá’í and a freelance writer, ”he distinguished himself by his loyal services, his honourable character, and his beautiful singing voice.”

Another African Canadian who had become a member of May Maxwell’s Fratority Club in those early days of the Faith in Montreal, although not a Bahá’í, was Dr. Phil Edwards (1907-1971), an Olympic champion and apparently, the first black West Indian to graduate as a medical student from McGill University, Montreal. A middle-distance runner, he participated in three Olympic games (1928, 1932, 1936) and in the 1934 British empire Games, winning increasingly greater honours. Apparently, Dr. Edwards also attended firesides in the Maxwell home. It was another eight years before another African Canadian – Mrs. Violet States (née Grant) – was to enroll in the Bahá’í Faith in 1942. Mrs. States was the organist in Rev, Este’s church, and the only other member to have joined the Bahá’í Community from that congregation.

The Bahá’í interest in reaching African Canadians was not confined to Montreal only. We know that Louis Gregory undertook a trip to Vancouver to speak in five meetings in early 1920’s. Bahá’í attention to African Canadians on Canada’s east coast, and in Toronto, achieved a number of results, either in terms of establishing general relations between the Bahá’í Community and African Canadians, or in terms of an increase in adherents, however modest. Such results occurred in the late 1960s.

One fifth of the membership of the Bahá’í Community In Montreal, at the present time, is comprised of African Canadians from various ethnical backgrounds. They are actively involved in the activates of the Faith for the betterment of the World.

“Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.” -Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words

 

 

Photos: Montreal's Bahá’í Community circa 1930 - Eddie Elliot is in the back row left

            Rowland Estall, an early Montreal Bahá’í (1906 - 1993)

            Violet States at a concert in Montreal (1950)

Sources : W.C. van den Hoonaard,  The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

            Canadian Bahá’í News, April 1953

            Montreal Star, 11 July 1953

            Montreal Council, 1928

            McGill Student Registration Records 1930

            Rowland Estall, 1977

            Golgasht Mossafai, interviews with Violet States and Raymond Flournoy 2001-2016

Montreal, July 1, 2020 – It is essential for us to join hands in a process of learning how to create models of what we want to see in every dimension of humanity’s life, as we learn to apply the principle of oneness through practical engagement and experience.

An essential element of the process will be honest and truthful discourse about current conditions and their causes, and understanding, in particular, the deeply entrenched notions of anti-colour that pervade our society. We must build the capacity to truly hear and acknowledge the voices of those who have directly suffered from the effects of racism. This capacity should manifest itself in our schools, the media, and other civic arenas, as well as in our work and personal relations. This should not end with words, but lead to meaningful, constructive action.

In 1934, the Montreal Spiritual Assembly received a letter from the National Amity Committee of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, encouraging it to promote racial amity by holding meetings “for the purpose of bringing together intelligent and open-minded citizens,” presenting scientific facts concerning race, and apprising people “who know little or nothing of Negro culture, to hear what these are striving for, and what are their ideals.” Speakers at these gatherings could be those who were not Bahá’ís, but who would endorse the Bahá’í principles of the unity of humanity, “otherwise there will be no result.” The letter encouraged “Bahá’ís as a body (to) respond to the needs and aims of alien people within their midst.”

The aims were laudable and even far ahead of their times, but were still quite unlike contemporary attitudes in Bahá’í Communities. Then the new religion was largely seen by its adherents as primarily a movement “owned” by particular groups, which had to reach “out” to various races and people, rather than a movement belonging to all. An African Canadian adherent best expressed the question of “ownership” and had this to say when asked about the way she enrolled in the Bahá’í Community:

  • In those days you had to write a letter of intent to the Local Assembly stating that you believed in the Central Figures of the Faith and that you had read the book New Era, and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. When I met the committee, they talked with me and then asked me to step out into the hall while they discussed my acceptance. I knew that whether they accepted me or not, I was a Bahá’í – the Bahá’í Faith belonged to everyone. Why be formal about it?, I thought. They couldn’t keep me out, so they bring me in? it was my right.

The former perspective produced an ethnocentric view that defined the boundaries of the Bahá’í Community by those who were already members. This entailed a static view of community membership, whereby the boundaries were not extended outwards.

Another goal, according to the letter from the Amity Committee, related to the process of Bahá’í Communities educating themselves about the Bahá’í ideas of race relations. In this connection the Amity Committee summarized some of the past obstacles to racial unity in the form of “lack of intelligent information, by too great diversity of opinion, by minor prejudices, by sentimentality and over emotionalism.”

The narrative of Edward (Eddie) Elliot (1898-1953), a Hydro-Line worker and among the first African-Canadians to enroll to the new religion in Canada illustrates the kind of ties members of minority group would develop with other Bahá’ís. He had come to the Bahá’í Faith through Reverend Este’s Church. His mother has been a maid in the Maxwell household and Eddie Elliot and Mary Maxwell were close childhood friends. Rowland Estall (one of the early Montreal Bahá’ís) speaks further about Mr. Elliot’s involvement with the Bahá’í Community:

  • … as a youth, he (Elliot) was both part of the Bahá’í youth group and of a social club organized by (Mary Maxwell) called the “ Fratority Club.” By this word Mary Maxwell meant to put together the words “fraternity” and “sorority” and had invited people to belong to it, mostly young students at McGill, who would otherwise not have been able to find membership in the exclusive fraternities and sororities around the campus…

In later years, Elliot was often chair of the local Spiritual Assembly of Montreal, although he remained a member of the Negro Church – retaining membership in one’s church was not an uncommon practice among Bahá’ís during those early years. Elliot would arrive at the Maxwell home after dark to not to arouse suspicion among Maxwell’s neighbours.

In a conversation Rowland Estall asked Elliot “when are you coming to the fireside (informal gatherings at Maxwell’s home)? And he said “after dark, you know I wouldn’t come when it’s light.” So nine o’clock he would show up and it was time to go home. These are the sad things about those days…

One of the people who was the member of Reverend Este’s Church, was the 14 years old Violet States (née Grant). Violet and Elliot’s parents have had moved to Canada from West-indies as labourers. The men mostly worked in the Rail Road Company, CN and the women worked as maids, such as Elliot’s mother who worked at Maxwell’s home. Elliot carried a Sunday School program in the church and Violet attended those classes. She remembers that Elliot would get up at a certain hour and leave saying that he had to attend another important meeting. Finally Violet one day asked him about those important meetings that Elliot was attending.

Elliot talked to Violet about the Bahá’í Faith and she accepted the message without any hesitation. She worked in various Montreal Schools as a music teacher. She was also a member of all women Symphony which gave its first performance in the Carnegie Hall, New York. She was nominated by the city of Montreal as one the ten women who build this city and received a certificate of honour from the Montreal Mayor herself!

Violet is still alive and healthy and lives in a retirement home in Montreal. She is 96 years old!

Photos : The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Montreal, 1948 - Eddie Elliot is at the centre

               Violet State (née Grant)

W.C. van den Hoonaard,  The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

Estall, 1977

Golgasht Mossafai, interviews with Violet State and Raymond Flournoy

For Violet’s life stories :

Bahá'í Lady among the 20 exceptional Montreal women who are named “Builders of the City”

http://www.bahaimontreal.org/en-ca/news/122-baha-i-lady-among-the-20-exceptional-montreal-women-who-are-named-builders-of-the-city

Name a street or establishment in Verdun in honor of Violet States!

http://www.bahaimontreal.org/en-ca/news/138-name-a-street-or-establishment-in-verdun-in-honor-of-violet-states

Remembering an early pillar of the Bahá’í Faith

http://www.bahaimontreal.org/en-ca/news/93-remembering-an-early-pillar-of-the-baha-i-faith

Shrine of the Báb, Mount Carme, Haïfa, Israël * Photo: Golgasht Mossafai

Montreal, May 23, 2020 - In a dozen neighbourhoods in Montreal and around the world, Bahá'ís celebratedthe declaration of the mission of the Báb, the Herald of a Universal Faith. These celebrations wereorganized by online Communications Applications  with the participation of a large number of participants.

This day is also important for the entier world because the first Morse communication signals weretransmitted from Baltimore; a telegraph message made up of dots and dashes! A curious message; "Whathath God wrought." The author of the message; an Old Testament verse (Number 23:23); was none otherthan Annie Ellsworth, who was looking for a suitable sentence, at the request of Samuel Morse, designer ofthe alphabet of the same name, to be transmitted by Morse Codes. It is not certain whether Annie foundthis verse by chance or that she took her time to find a sentence that could convey the importance of theevent! The event occurred in the basement of the Capitol building in Washington D.C., the place where thecountry's Supreme Court is located. Annie's attention was drawn on a Bible in the room and, probably, shethought she could find a sentence of an importance significance in this book to convey the importance of that remarkable event and strange enough, she found it!

Samuel Morse was not meant to mark the history of telecommunications. Can you imagine that, by trade,he was an artist painter! This idea of sending messages at the speed of electricity would have come to himat the time of the death of his wife... He was on a trip to Washington for a portrait of General de La Fayetteand, learnt too late of his wife's condition, he was unable to return in time to bid her farewell. He thenpromised to invent a way to transmit information faster than at the speed of mail.

Morse was 600 kilometres away in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. The destination of the message wasBaltimore. The speed of transmission was thirty characters per minute nevertheless this short messagetransformed the history of telecommunications around the world! Since then, the Morse Code has falleninto disuse, replaced by radios, laptops, and even the Internet!

Samuel Morse's device, telegram, the Bible in question, telegraph message in the form of dots and dashesare currently at the Science and Technology Museum in Washington D.C.

During the same 24 hours, in the upper chamber of a modest residence in a poor neighbourhood of Shiráz,Iran, the son of a mercer, descendent from the prophetic lineage of Abraham and Muhammad, inaugurateda New Dispensation for humanity, a unifying Revelation that prompts the future global relationship of humanbeings, the New Era of humanity!  The life and teachings of the Báb symbolises a turning point in thehistory of mankind.

Born Siyyid Ali-Muhammad in 1819, he took the name Báb, which means "The Gate" in Arabic. Its publicmission, from 1844 to 1850, represented a spiritual revolution that overturned the social, political andreligious order that prevailed in Persia, opening the door to the new unifying vision of Bahá'u'lláh. The Bábwas a Messenger of God in the succession of divine educators who came over the centuries, includingAbraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. The Báb appeared at a time inhistory when the cultures and peoples of the world were getting closer than ever before. The 19th centurysaw a series of profound economic, political, scientific and cultural changes that an eminent historian calledit the "transformation of the world."

Montreal, June 23, 2020 – To create a just society begins with recognition of the fundamental truth that humanity is one. But it is not enough simply to believe this in our hearts. It creates the moral imperative to act, and to view all aspects of our personal, social, and institutional lives through the lens of justice. It implies a reordering of our society more profound than anything we have yet achieved. And it requires the participation of all humans of every race and background, for it is only through such inclusive participation that new moral and social directions can emerge.

One of the early Bahá’ís of Montreal, Rowland Estall, Gives us the following account of Mrs. Maxwell’s work among the African Canadians of Montreal :

The (Maxwell) home was full of people, the Bahá’ís and many members of the Negro United Church of which Reverend Charles Este was pastor. Mrs. Maxwell had addressed Reverend Este’s congregation the previous Sunday and had invited the congregation to visit her the following Thursday, or so. During the course of the evening, I was sitting beside Mrs Maxwell in Mr. Maxwell’s study and a maid came and said that Mrs. Maxwell was wanted at the front door. A policeman had arrived in response to a complaint from a next-door neighbour that there was some disturbance in the neighbourhood.  Mrs. Maxwell said that she was simply entertaining guests and invited the policeman to see for himself. Somewhat embarrassed and obviously taken aback by Mrs. Maxwell’s charm and graciousness in inviting him to come in, he demurred and departed. This was one incident which demonstrates the hostility of some of the neighbours in that exclusive residential district at the time and to Mrs. Maxwell’s unconcern for the prejudices of her neighbours.

This event might have been a part of a joint activity with the work of International Amity Committee which had a successful local meeting in Montreal in 1929-30.

The visit to Montreal of Louis Gregory, the most prominent African American Bahá’í, during the summer of 1924, had no doubt reinforced May Maxwell’s own work in race relations. By 1927 the Bahá’í Community of North America had reached a turning point in improving its racial climate. When the 19th National Convention of the North American Bahá’í Community was held in Montreal in April, race “was discussed at length and with unprecedented frankness”. Days before the National Convention, the National Spiritual Assembly had organized a “World Unity Conference” on 24-28 April 1927 and the Montreal Bahá’ís also held a Race Amity Meeting on 2-4 March 1930.

The following is an eye-witnessed account of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá meeting with some youths in New-York, in 1912:

‘Abdu’l-Bahá was standing at the door and He greeted each boy as he came in; sometimes with a handclasp, sometimes with an arm around a shoulder, but always with such smiles and laughter it almost seemed that He was a boy with them. Certainly there was no suggestion of stiffness on their part, or awkwardness in their unaccustomed surroundings. Among the last to enter the room was a colored lad of about thirteen years. He was quite dark and, being the only boy of his race among them, he evidently feared that he might not be welcome. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saw him His face lighted up with a heavenly smile. He raised His hand with a gesture of princely welcome and exclaimed in a loud voice so that none could fail to hear; that here was a black rose.

The room fell into instant silence. The black face became illumined with a happiness and love hardly of this world. The other boys looked at him with new eyes. I venture to say that he had been called a black-many things, but never before a black rose.

This significant incident had given to the whole occasion a new complexion. The atmosphere of the room seemed now charged with subtle vibrations felt by every soul. The boys, while losing nothing of their ease and simplicity, were graver and more intent upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and I caught them glancing again and again at the colored boy with very thoughtful eyes. To the few of the friends in the room the scene brought visions of a new world in which every soul would be recognized and treated as a child of God. I thought: What would happen to New York if these boys could carry away such a keen remembrance of this experience that throughout their lives, whenever they encountered any representatives of the many races and colors to be found in that great city, they would think of them and treat them as “different colored flowers in the Garden of God.” The freedom from just this one prejudice in the minds and hearts of this score or more of souls would unquestionably bring happiness and freedom from rancor to thousands of hearts. How simple and easy to be kind, I thought, and how hardly we learn.

When His visitors had arrived, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had sent out for some candy and now it appeared, a great five- pound box of expensive mixed chocolates. It was unwrapped and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked with it around the circle of boys, dipping His hand into the box and placing a large handful in the hands of each, with a word and smile for everyone. He then returned to the table at which He had been sitting, and laying down the box, which now had only a few pieces in it, He picked from it a long chocolate nougat; it was very black. He looked at it a moment and then around at the group of boys who were watching Him intently and expectantly. Without a word He walked across the room to where the colored boy was sitting, and, still without speaking, but with a humorously piercing glance that swept the group, laid the chocolate against the black cheek. His face was radiant as He laid His arm around the shoulder of the boy and that radiance seemed to fill the room. No words were necessary to convey His meaning, and there could be no doubt that all the boys caught it.

You see, He seemed to say, that he is not only a black flower, but also a black sweet. You eat black chocolates and find them good: perhaps you would find this black brother of yours good also if you once taste his sweetness.

Again that awed hush fell upon the room. Again the boys all looked with real wonder at the colored boy as if they had never seen him before, which indeed was true. And as for the boy himself, upon whom all eyes were now fixed, he seemed perfectly unconscious of all but ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Upon Him his eyes were fastened with an adoring, blissful look such as I had never seen upon any face. For the moment he was transformed. The reality of his being had been brought to the surface and the angel he really was revealed.

Photos : 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í with children, New York, 1912

Louis Gregory and his British Wife Louisa Mathew Gregory

Références : 'Abdu'l-Bahá'í – Mahmud’s Diary

W.C. van den Hoonaard,  The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom

Montreal, April 8, 2020 - One of the most beloved and active members of the Montreal's Bahá'í community, Khosrow Saidi (1940-2020), left this mortal world for the immortal Kingdom of eternity! This unexpected news brought deep sadness and a deep sense of loss to the entire Bahá'í Community in Montreal.

In response to the call of the Universal House of Justice and as part of the activities of the expansion of the Bahá'í Faith, the Saidi family left Iran in 1975 to serve in Africa. The young family inspired by the love of the Faith, left their homeland for the first time to serve in an unknown continent.

When they left Iran, they only knew they would go to West Africa. Their journey took them first to Niger, to Togo and then to Ghana before landing in Ivory-Coast.

Mr. Saidi, was known for his jokes and his great sense of humor, always ready to help friends at any time, no matter the obstacle! He was always very positive, with immense confidence in the love and power of God. His life was dedicated to the Faith!

He particularly liked to have their home open to friends and guests! His family thought it was a prerequisite to have a guest at home for lunch, dinner or sleep. The important question of the day was "Who's the guest at home today?" Their house was known as the "Saidi Hotel" where hundreds of friends, pioneers and members of many Bahá'í Institutions gathered and stayed there.

In Abidjan, while in charge of the Centre for Broadcasting Education at the University of Ivory-Coast, he helped inaugurate the first Bahá'í Audiovisual Centre in West Africa. In this role, he oversaw the production of audiovisual material to help teach the Faith in many West African countries.

For the past 35 years, following political problems in Ivory-Coast, the Saidi family has moved its field of service to Montreal where Mr. Saidi served in various Institutions of the Faith, virtually until the end of his life.

In 2017, his health began to deteriorate: he slowly began to lose his voice, but not his smile and his habit of hugging everyone to show his affection. In 2018, his health has reached a critical stage. Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented the family from being with Mr. Saidi for the past four weeks before his soul took its flight to the kingdom of Ahá. However, we are confident that his soul felt their daily prayers during the last days of his life.

The Baha'i community in Montreal sends its deepest sympathy and love to his wife, Mehri, son Arash and daughter, Anissa, and her husband Poupak Jannissar and grandchildren, Bayan, Daryan, Leana, Mila and Kami. There was no better example of service than Mr. Saidi's with his hospitality and warmth of affection. We cherish his memory in the same way that he welcomed us, with great warmth he surrounded us and always lifted our hearts.

Hundreds of friends from all continents gathered in a virtual commemoration.

Montreal, June 16,  2020  - The close relationship  of the Montreal Bahá'í  Community with the “Black Roses” community continued through indefatigable work of Mrs Maxwell who was involved in the social and philanthropic work of the city.

In 1927 she became the honorary president of the Negro club of Montreal. The Club relieved hardship and aided the poor, and provided clothing to newly arrived West Indian immigrants. It operated soup kitchen for the unemployed, provided burial plots for those who could not afford any,  and its members volunteered as visiting mothers’ aids. The life of African Canadians in Montreal, numbering at least 1200 was dwarfed to an un healthy extent. Housing, education and other facilities were negligible, except for poolrooms and flats on St. Antoine Street, between Windsor and Guy.

One of the early contacts made by May Maxwell was one of the noted reformer Charles H. Este, pastor of Montreal’s only Negro Church who led the congregation from 1925 to 1968. The Church was the first of all agencies to concern itself with recreational, cultural and educational activities for African Canadians in the city. Rev. Este became a personal friend of the Maxwell household and visited with Mrs Maxwell at the 1963 World Congress in London, UK. He thus became a close friend of the Bahá’í community of Montreal.

A number of people from Rev. Este’s Church became Bahá’ís, including Mr. Eddie Elliot and the two daughters of Mrs Blackburn who had married an African Canadian man. They became members of the first Montreal Youth Group.

Mrs Maxwell’s interest in providing personal attention to the plight of African Canadians is reflected in an account from someone who visited her house at that time. The maid told the visitor that Mrs Maxell could not receive her today! Then Mrs Maxwell was seen rushing down the stairs to welcome the visitor apologetically explaining that she had a woman upstairs giving birth to a baby because she was black and none of the hospitals would take her. So she was bringing in her own doctor and having this baby to be born right in her house.

Giving a talk in 1912 to the students of Howard University in Washington, D.C., founded in 1867 to educate former slaves; the first predominantly black audience ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would address in America, He began by drawing attention to the diversity in the room. “Today I am happy,” he said, “for I see . . . white and black sitting together.” He then proceeded to reject prevailing black and white views about racial essentialism — the widespread belief that a person’s race was central to his or her humanity: “There are no whites and blacks before God. All colors are one, and that is the color of servitude to God. Scent and color are not important. The heart is important. If the heart is pure, white or black or any color makes no difference.”

“As I stand here tonight and look upon this assembly,” he told the audience, “I am reminded curiously of a beautiful bouquet of violets gathered together in varying colors, dark and light.”

“In the vegetable kingdom the colors of multicolored flowers are not the cause of discord. Rather, colors are the cause of the adornment of the garden because a single color has no appeal; but when you observe many-colored flowers, there is charm and display. The world of humanity, too, is like a garden, and humankind are like the many-coloured flowers.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá had begun to craft a new language of race — a new range of racial images and metaphors — which consciously contradicted these racist and ingrained associations. They found their focus in Louis Gregory himself, who was the first American Bahá’í of African descent. “I liken you,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told him, “to the pupil of the eye. You are black and the pupil is black, yet it becomes the focus of light.”

“When Louis Gregory travelled to Stuttgart,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, “although being of black color, yet he shone as a bright light in the meeting of the friends.” “He will return to America very soon,” he advised an American friend, “and you, the white people, should then honor and welcome this shining colored man in such a way that all the people will be astonished.”

In another talk, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained that:

“In the clustered jewels of the races may the blacks be as sapphires and rubies and the whites as diamonds and pearls. The composite beauty of humanity will be witnessed in their unity and blending.”

Photos: The first Montreal youth group; Eddie Elliot is standing on the left side

Inset: May Maxwell

References: Abdu'l-Bahá'í – Mahmud’s Diary

W.C. van den Hoonaard, The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

Montreal Council’s minutes, 1928

Bertly, Leo W. 1977 : Canada and Its People of African Descent. Montreal

Montreal, April 8, 2020 - Following the city by-law, the Montreal Bahá'í Community has advised all of its members to take note of - and follow - the measures put in place by health authorities and the government to stop the spread of the disease. COVID-Virus 19. As a result, all community gatherings were suspended at the Bahá'í Center as well as in the neighborhoods. 

The famous Backpack-Traveler of the book "The Earth is but country", André BRUGIROUX,  made the following remark: "This Covid-19 should not be as bad as one thinks since we find in it one of the "fetish" numbers of the Bahá'í Faith; 19*. We shall see what will result from it. I've been bawling around for fifty years trying to make people understand that the Earth is but one country. This little virus has irrefutably demonstrated its possibility! "

In a letter to the Community, the Spiritual Assembly, an administrative institution that manages the affairs of the Bahá'í Community in Montreal explains: - How strange it is for us as Bahá'ís, who strive with all our heart to bring people together, to do now all we can to keep them apart! As we join the global effort to practice "social distancing" in order to play our role in limiting infections to as few people as possible, we find ourselves charting unknown waters. How to continue our activities without having a meeting?

We are very pleased to announce that the Community has taken up this challenge with enthusiasm and vigor, turning to technology to overcome our spatial distance. No sooner this challenge manifested itself, a number of neighborhoods have used web conferencing software to organize the 19 Days Feasts, using it for devotional gatherings, and pre-youth activities which continues almost uninterruptedly, online.

Indeed, the 19 Day Feast** celebration of Jalál (Glory) took place in several neighborhoods online with the participation of a large number of friends! Prayers and Sacred texts were recited and consultation on various subjects took place as usual! The missing part was unfortunately the social part! Disregarding this shortcoming, some friends had prepared cakes and tea but lack of teletransportation equipment made it impossible to taste them!

The Spiritual Assembly continues in its letter that while we are all at home, for some of us living alone, is particularly difficult. Whether for groceries, looking for something in a pharmacy or just for company, we need to take care of those who are in this situation, and try to get in touch with them to make a difference in their lives.

It should be noted that the religious communities present in Quebec have asked the population to practice their religion at home and use electronic means of communication to celebrate religious activities!

“We are trying to motivate everyone who, in the name of faith, might find it difficult to stop going to their usual place of worship, to do so as an act of solidarity with all of Quebec and of Canada," said Monsignor Christian Lépine, archbishop of Montreal and member of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, to QUB Radio Tuesday morning.

"Religion gives strength to the soul, but the present event also is a call to stand in solidarity with others, so it is not a call to bypass science but acknowledge its value," he said.

*In accordance with Arabic numerology, the figure 19 translates to “Unity”

**19 Days Feast is celebrated on the first day of each Bahá’í month. The Bahá’í calendar is a solar year of 19 months of 19 days with 4 or 5 days called “Intercalary Days” to complete a year of 365 days.

Photos : A 19 Days Feast in Montreal and a Global Webinar by André BRUGIROUX

Montreal, June 8, 2020 – During the celebration of the 19 Days Feast of Núr (Light), in one Montreal neighbourhood, the consultation was focussed on bringing to our fellow citizens the Principles of the Bahá’í Faith on Racial Unity. These series of articles will deal with the history of close relationship this Community had with Black Roses of Montreal!

The first contact between the Bahá’ís and a Black Church occurred was during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Montreal in September 1912, when he was asked to speak to the congregation of Montreal Negro Church (as it was called in that time). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regretfully had to decline the invitation due to his very busy schedule. We learn, however, that a childhood friend of Mary Maxwell, the daughter of famed Montreal architect whose house is the Bahá’í Shrine now, was Eddie Elliot, the only Canadian member of his race to become a Bahá’í during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lifetime.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá set the example by which May Maxwell felt inspired to conduct work, both philanthropic and Bahá’í among the African Canadian Community in Montreal. It was through diligence and intense interest in racial harmony of Mrs May Maxwell and the spiritual thirst of some individuals, that the first few African Canadians accepted this Faith. What drew these early believers to the new Faith was Mrs May Maxwell’s hospitality.

The topic of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s lectures in churches, synagogues, mosques and universities in North America was Racial Unity. The following is a talk given in a church :

Today I am most happy, for I see here a gathering of the servants of God. I see the white and colored people together. In the estimation of God there is no distinction of color; all are one in the color and beauty of servitude to him. Color is not important; the heart is all-important. It matters not what the exterior may be if the heart be pure and white within. God does not behold differences of hue and complexion; He looks at the hearts. He whose morals and virtues are praiseworthy is preferred in the presence of God; he who is devoted to the Kingdom is most beloved. In the realm of genesis and creation the question of color is of least importance.

The mineral kingdom abounds with many-colored substances and compositions but we find no strife among them on that account. In the kingdom of the plant and vegetable, distinct and variegated hues exist but the fruit and flowers are not in conflict for that reason. Nay, rather, the very fact that there is difference and variety lends a charm to the garden. If all were of the same color the effect would be monotonous and depressing. When you enter a rose-garden the wealth of color and variety of floral forms spread before you a picture of wonder and beauty. The world of humanity is like a garden and the various races are the flowers which constitute its adornment and decoration. In the animal kingdom also we find variety of color. See how the doves differ in beauty yet they live together in perfect peace, and love each other. They do not make difference of color a cause of discord and strife. They view each other as the same species and kind. They know they are one in kind. Often a white dove soars aloft with a black one. Throughout the animal kingdom we do not find the creatures separated because of color. They recognize unity of species and oneness of kind. If we do not find color distinction drawn in a kingdom of lower intelligence and reason, how can it be justified among human beings, especially when we know that all have come from the same source and belong to the same household? In origin and intention of creation mankind is one. Distinctions of race and color have arisen afterward.

Therefore today I am exceedingly glad that both white and colored people have gathered here and I hope the time will come when they shall live together in the utmost peace, unity and friendship. I wish to say one thing of importance to both in order that the white race may be just and kind to the colored and that the colored race may in turn be grateful and appreciative toward the white. The great proclamation of liberty and emancipation from slavery was made upon this continent. A long bloody war was fought by white men for the sake of colored people. These white men forfeited their possessions and sacrificed their lives by thousands

in order that colored men might be freed from bondage. The colored population of the United States of America are possibly not fully informed of the wide-reaching effect of this freedom and emancipation upon their colored brethren in Asia and Africa where even more terrible conditions of slavery existed. Influenced and impelled by the example of the United States, the European powers proclaimed universal liberty to the colored race and slavery ceased to exist. This effort and accomplishment by the white nations should never be lost sight of. Both races should rejoice in gratitude, for the institution of liberty and equality here became the cause of liberating your fellow-beings elsewhere. The colored people of this country are especially fortunate, for, praise be to God! conditions here are so much higher than in the East and comparatively few differences exist in the possibility of equal attainments with the white race. May both develop toward the highest degree of equality and altruism. May you be drawn together in friendship and may extraordinary development make brotherhood a reality and truth. I pray in your behalf that there shall be no name other than that of humanity among you. For instance we say "a flock of doves," without mention or distinction as to white or black; we apply the name "horse," "deer," "gazelle" to other creatures, referring to species and not to their variance in color. It is my hope that through love and fellowship we may advance to such a degree of mutual recognition and estimate, that the oneness of the human world may be realized in each and all present in this meeting.

Therefore strive earnestly and put forth your greatest endeavor toward the accomplishment of this fellowship and the cementing of this bond of brotherhood between you. Such an attainment is not possible without will and effort on the part of each; from one, expressions of gratitude and appreciation; from the other kindliness and recognition of equality. Each one should endeavor to develop and assist the other toward mutual advancement. This is possible only by conjoining of effort and inclination. Love and unity will be fostered between you, thereby bringing about the oneness of mankind. For the accomplishment of unity between the colored and whites will be an assurance of the world's peace. Then racial prejudice, national prejudice, limited patriotism and religious bias will pass away and remain no longer. I am pleased to see you at this gathering, white and dark, and I praise God that I have had this opportunity of seeing you loving each other, for this is the means of the glory of humanity. This is the means of the good-pleasure of God and of eternal bliss in His kingdom. Therefore I pray in your behalf that you may attain to the fullest degree of love and that the day may come when all differences between you may disappear.

Photo : St-James United Church where Abdu'l-Bahá'í spoke in September 1912

References : Abdu'l-Bahá'í – Bahá’í World Faith

W.C. van den Hoonaard,
The Origins of the Bahá’í Community of Canada

Montreal, May 29, 2020 - Montreal Bahá’í communities in various boroughs of the city commemorated the anniversary of the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í  Faith. “Baha’u’llah” is a title meaning “the Glory of God” in Arabic. Bahá’ís consider Bahá’u’lláh to be the latest in a line of Divine Messengers that includes Krishna, Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, Who have brought divine teachings for the spiritual education of humankind.

Bahá’u’lláh passed away in the early hours of 29 May 1892 in His home outside of Acre, a fortified city that once served as a notorious prison of the Ottoman Empire. Unlike the suffering and turmoil He experienced for most of His adult life, His last moments were peaceful.

Born into a noble family in Tehran, Iran, Bahá’u’lláh rejected a life of relative ease and luxury in the royal court for a life dedicated to helping the poor. Known as “The Father of the Poor,” Bahá’u’lláh was deeply loved and respected for his virtuous character and wisdom. However, for accepting the teachings of the Herald of the Bahai Faith, known as “The Báb,” Bahá’u’lláh was among those persecuted by civil and clerical Persian authorities, who feared social change brought about by the progressive teachings of the Báb. This persecution intensified as Bahá’u’lláh began to share His own teachings: that there is only one God, that all of the world’s religions are from God, that unity and peace are now possible for the peoples of the world through the recognition of the oneness of humanity, and many others.

Fearful of losing their influence over a population that was increasingly attracted to Bahá’u’lláh and His revelation, the authorities exiled Him, first to Baghdad by the authority of the Persian government, and then as a prisoner of the Turkish Empire, to Constantinople (Istanbul), Adrianople (Edirne), and finally to the city of Akka (Acre) – then part of the Ottoman Empire and now in Israel. Baha’u’llah and His companions first arrived in Acre in 1868, 15 years after the beginning of their exile from their Persian homeland. Although in 1879 the authorities permitted Him to live outside the walls of the city, Baha’u’llah would remain a prisoner until His passing in 1892, having spent almost 40 years in exile.

Today, Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings are His legacy to the five million Bahá’í s around the world. His burial site, adjacent to the home where He lived during His final years, is a shrine considered by Bahá’í s to be the most sacred spot on earth. The Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, in the vicinity of the city of Akka, is surrounded by magnificent gardens that are open to the public.

Bahá’í s will commemorate the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh with devotional programs and reflections on His life and teachings. Bahá’í s observe this commemoration as one of nine holy days during the year.

 

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