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Montreal, August 21, 2020 – Close to one hundred participants from all over Quebec Province took part in a virtual Summer School for two and a half days! Serving the Cause and Humanity in These Troubled Times – was the theme of the School  which was held between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. for three mornings, with a half hour break.  There was two evening programs with dozens of artists, musicians, singers and other artistic presentations from all over the Province.

Those of us who had the pleasure of participating in the adult program last summer were delighted to hear that our dear friends, Joan and Albert Lincoln, will be with us again. The summer school is usually a French-only event, but as this year was a virtual event, the program was offered in both English and French.  The plenary sessions was conducted in French and simultaneous translation into English was provided. The small study groups were organized according to language preference.

Summer school is normally a special time for families to come together in a lively and warm community atmosphere.  Unfortunately, the virtual experience did not allow for a joint experience with children although many children and families participated enthusiastically at the artistic evenings.  The parents of young children were encouraged to participate and arrange for appropriate activities carried out by others in a safe way so that their children were able to have a program while they attended sessions. 

Albert Lincoln devoted the first session on the subject of “The Greater Plan and the Process of Disintegration.” Being a prominent lawyer, he explained in a comprehensive language the reasons why disintegration with its intense suffering combined with undreamed of crises and upheavals are essential to the process of regeneration of the world. The crises, he explained is an inherent process of growth always followed by victories such as in 1960s events of Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pig Invasion in America. Soon the victories followed by expansive program of reforms. That year, a declaration was made that the United States will change to a “Great Society” in which poverty and racial injustice has no place. A set of programs was developed to give poor people “a hand up, not a handout.” These included Medicare and Medicaid, which helped elderly and low-income people pay for health care.

Dr and Mrs. Lincoln then spoke of the process of “Integration” quoting a paragraph from a letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated April (Riḍván) 2006 :

“Penetrating, indeed, is Shoghi Effendi’s depiction of the process of disintegration accelerating in the world. Equally striking is the accuracy with which he analysed the forces associated with the process of integration. He spoke of a “gradual diffusion of the spirit of world solidarity which is spontaneously arising out of the welter of a disorganized society” as an indirect manifestation of Bahá’u’lláh’s conception of the principle of the oneness of humankind. This spirit of solidarity has continued to spread over the decades, and today its effect is apparent in a range of developments, from the rejection of deeply ingrained racial prejudices to the dawning consciousness of world citizenship, from heightened environmental awareness to collaborative efforts in the promotion of public health, from the concern for human rights to the  systematic pursuit of universal education, from the establishment of interfaith activities to the efflorescence of hundreds of thousands of local, national and international organizations engaged in some form of social action.”

The second session was focussed on “What is expected of us in this trying time?” the following paragraph from another letter from the Universal House of Justice dated 21 March 2020, clarifies the subject:

“… Beloved friends, you have of course long been occupied with the work of nurturing within groups of souls precisely the attributes that are required at this time: unity and fellow feeling, knowledge and understanding, a spirit of collective worship and common endeavour. Indeed, we have been struck by how efforts to reinforce these attributes have made communities especially resilient, even when faced with conditions that have necessarily limited their activities. Though having to adapt to new circumstances, the believers have used creative means to strengthen bonds of friendship, and to foster among themselves and those known to them spiritual consciousness and qualities of tranquility, confidence, and reliance on God. The elevated conversations that have occurred as a result, whether remotely or in person, have been a source of comfort and inspiration to many. Such efforts on your part provide a valuable service at this hour when many souls are perplexed and dismayed, unsure of what will be.”

The third session was devoted to the question of how we can rise to the challenges of the present time. Many references from the Bahá’í Writings were shared including the following paragraph :

“In a letter dated 8 December 1935 written on his behalf to an individual believer, Shoghi Effendi stated: “The universal crisis affecting mankind is … essentially spiritual in its causes.” More recently, the House of Justice has observed: “The Bahá’í community encourages and supports the manifold efforts being made by people of goodwill to better the condition of humankind and promote unity and harmony among the peoples and nations of the earth. However, the believers should never, for even one moment, lose sight of the fact that the crisis now engulfing every part of the planet is essentially spiritual.” If the crisis afflicting humanity is spiritual, can there be any question that its solution must also be spiritual? … What else but the Word of God can spiritually ennoble, educate, and inspire souls to address the needs of the time?”

It is therefore our duty to Elevate the Conversation - Promoting Positive Change without Taking Sides! Conflict and contention are categorically prohibited in the Bahá’í Faith. While we should not be idle in addressing social ills as the process of disintegration accelerates, our aim is not to choose sides in contentious social debates simply to proclaim what we believe to be right. Rather the object of our participation is to learn to elevate discourse and improve practice as we work with others in the search for effective solutions.

After each session, the participants had the opportunity to break into small groups and discuss the above topics in depth. Many practical ideas emerged from the friends in order to better serve humanity in these critical times of human history.

The Quebec Bahá’í Council warmly appreciated the presence of Lincolns at this Summer School and wished to invite them again for next year.

Lincolns devoted practically all their lives to serve the Bahá’í Faith in West and Central Africa and for some twenty years at the World Centre where Joany served at the International Teaching Centre and Albert as the Secretary-General of the Baha'i community, in the conduct of its external affairs, including relations with Israel, the host-country of its World Centre.

 

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