Momentum for building vibrant communities continues to grow across Canada as several more global conferences took place in recent weeks. Conferences held in Toronto, Halifax, and West Shore and Sooke (BC) – the latest of 84 global conferences held across the country this spring and summer– invited friends and neighbours to reflect on spiritual qualities and attitudes that are needed to contribute to the betterment of society.
In June, Toronto hosted 5 conferences in different parts of the city. Three conferences were held in the Upper Don Mills, Roywood, and Ruddington neighbourhoods where participation in Baha’i activities among residents is high. A larger conference was also held for the generality of the Toronto population, in addition to a Persian language conference in East York.
The Persian language conference gathered nearly 400 people of mostly Iranian background over the June 4-5 weekend at St. Patrick Catholic Secondary School. The space provided an opportunity for Persian speaking Baha’is and their friends to connect to a vision of community building and to feel a sense of ownership over its development. The close fellowship between organizers, volunteers, facilitators, and participants was a testament to a spirit of unity and collaboration that permeated the conference throughout the weekend. One participant shared, “The conference was all about love and the bonds between hearts.”
The city-wide Toronto conference and the Ruddington neighbourhood conference welcomed a total of 503 people on the weekend of June 25-26. The conference programs, which included break-out sessions, allowed participants to get to know each other and make plans for community building activities in their local areas. The Upper Don Mills and Roywood neighbourhood conferences were similarly well attended and welcomed 225 attendees over two days. These two neighbourhood conferences featured the strong participation of local children, young people and families who played a central role in organizing the conference. A few children from a neighbourhood children’s class interviewed their teachers and principal on some of the conference themes, while other children were eager to personally invite their friends to attend the conference.
In Halifax, a conference for the Halifax Regional Municipality and three smaller neighbourhood conferences held in Dartmouth North, Bayers-Westwood and Tantallon, brought together 254 participants in June. As with other conferences held across the country, the conscious integration of the arts into the program enhanced participants’ collective understanding of conference themes and served to uplift and inspire attendees. Art workshops and artistic presentations featuring drumming, flower arranging, painting, watercolour, drawing, tie-dying and other crafts were available to participants throughout the conference. One participant shared that “the event transformed a university hall into a sacred place”.
In British Columbia, the communities of West Shore and Sooke brought 189 people together for a two-day hybrid conference the weekend of May 28-29 at Royal Bay Secondary School. A welcoming atmosphere during the conference generated a strong sense of unity and renewed enthusiasm for service to others among attendees. Small group artistic activities included quilting squares, skits, visual representations, music and poetry which were then displayed at plenary sessions and in a common area throughout the weekend.