Resilience in times of crisis

Posted: 2020/03/31

A video from the friends in Brampton, Ont. showing how they carried out an institute campaign online.

In its Naw-Rúz message, the Universal House of Justice wrote: “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.”

Across Canada, groups of friends have demonstrated these attributes as they endeavour to advance the community-building process and connect with friends and neighbours, all while following public health guidelines related to physical distancing.

Due to the fact that many young people find themselves with extra time on their hands due to school closures, as well as the availability of online communication platforms, some friends have even intensified the regularity of their connections with one another to remain hopeful and maintain a sense of solidarity.

Melanie Vafaie, who serves in the neighbourhood of Springdale in Brampton, Ont. describes the team’s consultative process once it became clear that they would not be able to continue as usual due to measures to contain the outbreak.

“A team of friends met together to consult on the way forward. Over the years our community has created a regular pattern of holding centralized institute campaigns over any school break or long weekend, and this clearly needed to be adjusted considering the new circumstances.

The following are some of the principles, questions and decisions that arose from our initial consultation: We know that the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh brings hope to humanity, so how do we continue to act and refine our ways so that its healing message can continue to flow? There is, for example, ample opportunity for prayer and each participant can pray with his or her family. We have witnessed the capacity and desire that the population has for its own wellbeing, how is this capacity channeled? Who do we draw on and how? Consulting with families to gain insight into creative ways that they can continue to be connected will help us to move forward as a community.

We have even found ways to raise up new children’s class teachers and potential classes in the midst of this crisis. The children’s class teachers in our neighbourhood made a list of all those youth in the institute who have younger siblings. They are preparing daily lessons or activities so that all these youth can hold daily classes in their homes with their siblings. Parents of children are also doing the same. At the end of all this we will have a number of friends who will have gained experience serving as children’s class teachers.”

Nikta Hazeri, who serves as an animator of a junior youth group in the Upper Don Mills neighbourhood in Toronto, Ont., describes their routine:

“Because of the pandemic, our junior youth group shifted our normal weekly in-person meeting to daily virtual meetings. In the beginning, we consulted with one another about the bright side of having a lot of free time and striving to use it in the best way possible. So, we decided to make our group meeting a daily routine and to add new group activities.

Now, it has been almost two weeks since we began to meet every day. We started a new junior youth book and are currently halfway through it. We read a lesson every day, discuss a question related to it and memorize a quotation connected to the theme of each lesson. We also pray for the world, our communities and families before we end each meeting. We learn something new every day and share it with absent junior youth the following day.

This daily routine has brought so much joy to our hearts and has helped each of us to stay connected to one another, give each other hope and consult about our concerns and troubles. Day by day, we are becoming better friends.”


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A youth night with participants from the Guildford neighbourhood in Surrey, B.C. included songs, games and study, as well as a collective art activity on a virtual whiteboard.

Leila Hedley Fani, who serves in the Guildford neighbourhood, in Surrey B.C., relates how online discussions have, in some cases, increased participation:

“Junior youth groups have continued online, allowing family members to listen to and join in on conversations. In one case a grandmother even popped in to encourage her grandson to focus on the discussion! Devotional gatherings, Holy Day celebrations, Feasts, study groups and reflection spaces for animators have all continued online, many of them including music.

A daily devotional gathering has allowed for more members of the expanding nucleus to join, including youth who are engaged in the institute process. The team has started a spreadsheet to keep track of errands that they can run and phone calls they can make to help grandparents and other vulnerable members of the community stay at home.

One service project that the junior youth undertook was to slip encouraging handmade notes under the doors of their respective neighbours. This invited several positive responses, including one note that read “Thank you so much! What an incredibly thoughtful, touching and neighbourly (not to mention artistic) thing to do. May you and yours be and stay well.”