Bahá’í institutions and agencies gather to plan new phase of development
More than 150 representatives of local, regional and national Bahá’í institutions and agencies recently gathered at the Toronto Bahá’í Centre to consult on plans to pursue a new phase in the development of the national Bahá’í community.
Participants journeyed from as far afield as Nunavut and the Yukon to Vancouver Island and Prince Edward Island to be able to join the three-day consultative gathering, held from February 4-6, 2022. They were joined by visitors from the Bahá’í World Centre in the Holy Land, Antonella Demonte, a member of the International Teaching Centre – a senior advisory body that guides the growth and development of the international Bahá’í community – and Elisa Caney, member of the Board of Directors of the Bahá’í International Development Organization.
The meeting was hosted by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada and followed current public health protocols.
The purpose of the gathering was to consider the implications of a recent letter of the Universal House of Justice, which describes a vision for the development of the Bahá’í community that will put into action “Bahá’u’lláh’s universal summons to work for the betterment of the world.” A central dimension of this vision is the role played by educational initiatives that are increasingly extended into neighbourhoods and communities across Canada.
Participants shared their experiences with strengthening these educational processes and seeking a deeper engagement with society. In many localities, this involved complementing established spiritual education programs for children with extended festivals that could widen participation.
Groups dedicated to the empowerment of adolescents have taken on new social action programs that respond to demands that have intensified with the pandemic. These have included the need for homework support and assistance with applying for higher education.
One participant shared experience with creating spaces to talk about the appropriate use of technologies and devices. Another observed that the junior youth empowerment program offered by the Bahá’í community in many places across the country has been a powerful antidote to the breakdown of friendships during periods of extended lockdown. In still another location, youth working with Bahá’í programs have started mental health education for their peers.
In her remarks to the conference, Ms. Demonte challenged the gathered participants to consider how they could empower the populations with whom they are working to see new possibilities in front of them to work for the spiritual and social development of their communities. She urged the Bahá’í community to examine its educational programs in order to accelerate their growth and generate a broader social impact. “What does social change look like in a neighbourhood, and what does it take to promote it?” She asked participants to consider this question in relation to their local context.
The gathering marked the first time such a national initiative had been possible under the public health requirements of the pandemic, and the joyous atmosphere reflected the spirit of a vibrant community that has been labouring to extend the reach of the Bahá’í teachings into the life of neighourhoods and towns across the country.
In her remarks, Ms. Caney observed that the capacities built by the Canadian Bahá’í community are demonstrated in a new degree of collective will and collective action. These capacities will be increasingly devoted to a growing range of initiatives aimed at uplifting our society.
As participants return to their home communities, they prepare to extend the spirit and insights of this gathering to a growing number of friends and collaborators.
Originally published on the Canadian Baha'is News Service