For the last three years, the Baha’i community of Québec has been involved in a project aimed at fostering friendships in the multicultural neighbourhood of Saint-Pie X, where the population is largely composed of immigrants from numerous parts of the world, including Africa, Asia, South America and Europe. Various activities have been planned for this purpose, but the most successful of them has been regular visits, through which trusting relationships have been nurtured. These visits became easier to carry out when one member of the community moved to the neighbourhood. In her opinion, befriending people from other cultures is simply a matter of taking the time to learn about their customs and appreciating them.
The numerous services offered to several immigrants to facilitate their integration, such as helping them find work and register for French classes, providing them with winter clothes, babysitting, and accompanying them to medical appointments, were another element that brought neighbours closer together.
In addition, several activities have been taking place to satisfy the spiritual needs of the neighbourhood. A group of about ten young people, including Christians and Muslims (from Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda), meets regularly to discuss spiritual matters. They consult together and undertake projects to serve the community, such as periodically cleaning the neighbourhood park.
However, the Saint-Pie X project would not be complete without the “Spiritual Rendezvous”, where discussions take place on spiritual themes. The presentations at these gatherings are made by a member of the Baha’i community or by one of the guests. At one of these meetings, a Congolese friend presented her plan to provide assistance to victims of rape in her home country.
The project has been a real challenge for the Baha’i community, since, as one of its members says: “Our perseverance is put to the test. This is a long term effort and it is the first time that we carry out such a project in Québec. Already approximately 25 people are taking part in it, and this has helped bringing members of the community closer together and closer to the people of the Saint-Pie X neighbourhood.
“It is a beginning and the process is now in place. Now we have to coordinate ourselves better,” concluded this individual, who, after settling in this multicultural neighbourhood, was able to greatly enrich and diversify her network of friends.
The spirit of these initiatives which this group of friends in Saint-Pie X is striving to implement reflects the vision of Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, who visited Quebec a century ago. He said:
“The East and the West must unite to give to each other what is lacking. This union will bring about a true civilization, where the spiritual is expressed and carried out in the material.”