Some 160 Delegates, representing regions in all ten provinces and three territories of Canada, attended the annual Baha’i National Convention in Montreal April 26-29. More than four hundred Baha’i guests also attended this year’s convention. Participants reviewed the past year’s accomplishments and discussed future plans with the community’s national governing council, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada.
100% of the delegates participated in the annual election of the nine-member National Spiritual Assembly. The prayerful and reflective atmosphere of Baha’i democratic elections, devoid of the campaigning and raucous debate so much associated with contemporary elections, created a spirit of dignity which Baha’is see as an essential element of elections, an aspect of the reciprocity and respect that should infuse the relationship between individuals, social institutions and the community as a whole. Elections for Baha’i local and national governing councils are held each year during the most important of the Baha’i holy days, the Festival of Ridván.
The election resulted in a diverse and representative body of nine-members who will serve on the Canadian Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly over the coming year. Those elected to serve on the governing body were Karen McKye of Toronto, Deloria Bighorn of Vancouver Island, Enayat Rawhani and Judy Filson of Toronto, Gord Naylor of Stratford, Mehran Anvari of Hamilton, Élizabeth Wright of Quebec City, Lisa Flynn of Toronto, and Susanne Tamás of Almonte.
The discussions at the convention gave priority to features of a five year plan currently pursued throughout the Baha’i world community. The plan focuses principally on the education of children and youth and the process of learning that should preoccupy everyone regarding service to others, worship of God, and individual and community transformation. During the discussions, participants referred frequently to the most recent message received from the international governing council of the Baha’i community, the Universal House of Justice.
Delegates agreed that a greater emphasis on the education of the young is more necessary today than ever before if humanity is to respond to the current “state of the world [that] reflects a distortion of the human spirit, not its essential nature.” Delegates commented on the promising experience of the Baha’i community with its education programs, an experience that runs counter to so many false assumptions that “permeate the structures and traditions of much of present-day living.” These experiences, admittedly at an early stage, point to an “extraordinary reservoir of spiritual potential available” to all, but perhaps especially to young people, once they begin to recognize and appreciate their true nature as human beings, who are capable of so much more than present world conditions seem to dictate, if one succumbs to the materialism and self-centered distraction that characterize contemporary life.
The location of the convention in Montreal, home of the establishment of the first Baha’i community in Canada at the beginning of the last century, also recalled the 1912 visit to Canada, and Montreal in particular, of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah. The joy which reference to this centenary brought to the convention was tempered by the concerns and prayers of participants for the Baha’is living in Iran, the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith, where they are currently enduring intense and systematic persecution – their leaders in jail, their economic and educational prospects compromised by state policy violating their rights, and the good name of their religion attacked in media hate campaigns sponsored by government media.
Despite the challenges in Iran, the Baha’is attending the Canadian convention and conventions around the world were thrilled to hear the news announced by the Universal House of Justice that as the last of the continental Baha’i Houses of Worship (sometimes referred to as “Temples”) is being constructed in Santiago, Chile, plans are underway to erect the first two national Baha’i Temples, one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the other in Papua, New Guinea. These two national Houses of Worship will be the first of many that will eventually be erected throughout the world in national Baha’i communities.