Canada prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Bahá’u’lláh’s birth

Posted: 2017/09/19

From Vancouver, B.C. to Charlottetown, P.E.I.; an overview of some of the plans and activities of the friends leading up to the bicentenary on October 21-22, 2017.

The city of Tehran, Iran, where Bahá’u’lláh was born. Photo: Bahá’í International Community.

The worldwide implementation of the Badí‘ calendar on Naw Rúz 2015 has synchronized, from East to West, celebrations of the birth of Bahá’u’lláh and the birth of the Báb in advance of their bicentenaries in 2017 and 2019, respectively. The Universal House of Justice has instructed that both birthdays should be celebrated on each anniversary. Only a few short weeks now separate us from the first of these occasions.

Bahá’ís and their friends across Canada have been formulating plans, remarkably diverse in their range, to demonstrate their love for the Twin Manifestations of the Faith and Their teachings. Those participating include Local Spiritual Assemblies, lone believers, families, neighbourhood teams and groups of friends living in both large and small communities. What is also noteworthy is the manner in which some individuals and organizations from the wider community have arisen collaboratively to celebrate “Him Who is the Unifier of the world.”[1]

Reaching larger numbers

Several neighbourhood teams have been implementing strategies for reaching larger numbers in the months and weeks leading up to the bicentenary, seizing this potent time to progress and intensify activities underway. In one neighbourhood in Toronto, Ont. in which the community-building process began 10 years ago, a small team of individuals began consulting on how the community of approximately 500 could be invited to celebrate the Twin Holy Days.

A Holy Day celebration in the neighbourhood of Sparroways in Toronto, Ont.

The team prepared a preliminary list of 140 individuals to home visit, and made effort to book appointments with them. During these home visits, they introduced the elevating conversation themes from Ruhi Institute Book 2: Arising to Serve, speaking of the Bahá’í teachings as the source and inspiration of the programs underway in the community.

Additionally, some junior youth in the neighbourhood began studying the text Power of the Holy Spirit, which explores the concepts of the oneness of God and religion in the context of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. It is hoped that through this study the junior youth will be prepared to assist with the content of the Holy Day gathering. Three gatherings, each organized according to the interests and needs of those attending, are being planned: one with the families of children and junior youth, one with graduates of the junior youth program and their friends and one for the broader community.

Determined to make a mighty effort in the waning days before the bicentenary of the birth of Bahá’u’llah, a team of friends in a neighbourhood in Vancouver, B.C. decided to focus their efforts on a distinction population: their First Nations neighbours. The team wrote a list of all the First Nations families they knew or were connected to in the area. During the expansion phase, they decided to focus on youth from these families, many of whom had participated in children’s classes or junior youth groups in the past.

Youth serving in Vancouver, B.C.

As a result of their consistent efforts, seven of these youth attended a weekend-long institute campaign. By the end of the weekend, the youth were able to hold children’s classes in two complexes in the neighbourhood, immediately putting their learning into practice. Establishing the children’s classes has helped the team meet many new families and deepen bonds of friendship with them. They are now exploring how to involve them in plans for the upcoming bicentenary celebrations.

For the past three cycles, the Calgary, Alta. cluster set the goal of having 10,000 meaningful conversations about the Person of Bahá’u’lláh leading up to the bicentenary; a goal that has permeated the various spaces for consultation and reflection.  In order to prepare themselves for having these conversations, the friends have been studying Ruhi Institute Book 6: Teaching the Cause. The hope is that new friends engaged in the context of the bicentenary will be invited to participate in the educational process of the institute, and effort is being made to learn about this conversation.

Incorporating the arts

Individuals and groups are also employing their creativity in tribute to the Twin Manifestations, giving expression to the country’s diversity. The West Kelowna, B.C. community is planning a concert in a local theatre featuring 10-15 harp players and a cellist. The concert will take the form of a journey through the Seven Valleys, based on the work revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. Invitations will go out to those in the neighbourhood, the friends and families of the musicians, as well as the entire cluster of Bahá’ís and their friends.

Participants at a musical devotional in Baie D’Urfé, Que. including Bahá’ís, Muslims, a Christian and a Zoroastrian.

Friends in Baie D’Urfé, Que. have prepared a musical for the bicentenary, which will include the participation of adults from a regular musical devotional and the children’s class. The musical will be performed first for the parents of the children’s class and then again later at an evening event, to which all local friends – including participants in core activities, their families as well the Mayor and Town Council – will be invited.

The community of Charlottetown, P.E.I. is utilizing the arts to familiarize a greater number of people with the community-building activities taking place there. They plan to set up a gallery of photographs in a public space dedicated to conveying the unifying force of these activities, and have invited all to view this exhibit by publishing an article in a local newspaper.

In Wood Buffalo, Alta. a group of painters, only one of whom is a Bahá’í, are creating works to celebrate the bicentenary. They have met several times to read the Writings and pray together, finding inspiration from various concepts from the Creative Word to artistically represent this significant time in world history.

The Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í’s of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. will be holding a bicentenary celebration at a local historic site with a connection to the time when the Twin Manifestations walked the earth – the builder of one of the site buildings travelled to Persia and stayed in one of the Shah’s palaces in 1887. To heighten the atmosphere, staff of the centre will be dressed in period clothing similar to what people in the region would have worn in the first decades of the nineteenth century, when the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh were born.

Collaborating with the wider community

The friends in Thunder Bay, Ont. have been thinking about their existing networks and activities to explore co-hosting bicentenary celebrations with like-minded community organizations. One such example is with a local organization that provides counselling services and arranges events to promote learning about Indigenous cultures. Over the summer this organization was an integral part of the Ruhi Book 5 campaign and subsequent junior youth camp, deeply enriching these atmospheres by providing bridges to understanding more about Indigenous cultures for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth alike.

Youth participate in an institute campaign in Thunder Bay, Ont.

With the upcoming bicentenary celebrations in mind, a few Bahá’ís shared thoughts about the Person and Mission of Bahá’u’lláh with the collaborators at the organization. When the teachings and Writings of the Central Figures of the Faith were explored, these collaborators were moved and excited by how they are so very much in line with what they do. With an understanding that Bahá’u’lláh’s message of unity should be celebrated with all of Thunder Bay, they invited the Bahá’ís to use their space, their resources and their networks of friends to host a celebration that introduces the life and mission of Bahá’u’lláh while sharing in a traditional Feast, drumming, meditation and sharing circle.

[1]  Department of the Secretariat, The Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 18 May 2016.