For the Bahá’í Community of Canada’s Office of Public Affairs, 2022 was a year of transition. Across the country, digital spaces for dialogue gradually became hybrid and many collaborative projects and events tentatively resumed, in-person, for the first time in years. As the forums for conversations of national import shifted in response to changing public health directives, the sustained dynamism of the many like-minded individuals and groups with whom the Office had the opportunity to collaborate throughout the year continued to be source of energy and inspiration.
Over the course of the year the Office of Public Affairs worked in partnership with several organizations and groups to convene spaces for dialogue on issues in the national public discourse.
The Office supported the first event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Interfaith Caucus, a group launched in June 2021 through the Canadian Interfaith Conversation , an organization of which the Bahá’í Community of Canada is a member. The virtual event titled, “The Moral Dimension of Climate Change,” invited a diverse range of speakers to reflect on the values that should inform climate policy and consider how to bridge political divides in the search for solutions. Over 130 participants engaged in the dialogue with expert speakers and parliamentarians.
The Office also continued to support the Canadian Interfaith Conversation’s seventh iteration of Our Whole Society, a national conference dedicated to examining the role of religion in Canada’s public discourse, in May. The hybrid launch event for the conference, a small reception on Parliament Hill, was held in collaboration with the All-Party Parliamentary Interfaith Caucus. The event hosted a handful of Parliamentarians, some representatives of various faith communities, and featured a live virtual presentation by Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Following ongoing engagement with issues related to gender equality, the Office continued to host virtual events. On International Women’s Day, the Bahá’í Community held a Zoom webinar which brought together three distinguished panelists to reflect on the future of gender equality in relation to different sectors of society. Following participation in the 66th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) as part of the delegation for the Bahá’í International Community, the Office hosted a virtual discussion about themes and insights arising from the commission on Earth Day. The panel explored the correlation between gender equality and humanity’s relationship with the natural environment and emphasized the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on the lives of women and girls.
DEFENDING THE RIGHTS OF BAHÁ’ÍS IN IRAN
The Office remained closely engaged over the course of the year with the human rights situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran. In response to concerns raised by our office and other human rights activists, the Government of Canada and Canadian Parliamentarians from all parties have continued to express their support for the rights of Bahá’ís in Iran.
In August, the Office participated in a global campaign to draw attention to a fresh wave of arrests, raids, and imprisonments of Bahá’ís across Iran. Curated media coverage and public statements were posted on our website; they included official expressions of concern by the Government of Canada.
The Office also hosted a public screening of the documentary, “‘Others’ in their own Land: The Institutionalized Persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran,” followed by a panel discussion with a group of distinguished Iranian-Canadians. The film was directed by Farid Haerinejad, an Iranian Canadian journalist and filmmaker now living in Germany.
A resolution, introduced by Canada, calling on the Iranian government to end its discrimination of minorities in Iran, including of the Bahá’í community, was passed in December by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s Committee on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues, also known as the Third Committee.
To continue to follow the work of the Office of Public Affairs, visit, opa.bahai.ca and subscribe to its periodic newsletter: https://t.co/TNGbd6pmQm