The Public Discourse, a podcast produced by the Office of Public Affairs of the Bahá’í Community of Canada, has launched a third season that examines themes and ideas inspired by the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The centenary of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is commemorated this year.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the son of Bahá’u’lláh, the prophet-founder of the Bahá’í Faith, and he wrote extensively on the social issues of his time. Late in his life he visited Montréal for 10 days in 1912 and addressed large audiences of diverse religious and ethnic backgrounds, both French and English, on subjects such as peace, gender equality, the elimination of prejudice, and economic justice.
“He presented a vision of the oneness of humanity that shone like a lamp on the challenges of his era, and which continues to point to a brighter future for Canadian society,” says Laura Friedmann, host of the podcast.
The first episode in the new series focuses on the theme of dialogue and consultation, and how to address polarization and division in our society. The guests include Sabreena Delhon, executive director of the Samara Centre for Democracy, Michael Sabet, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, and Dr. Jennifer Wolowic, a program manager at the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue.
When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Montréal in 1912, he stressed to his audiences that they “should become the means of establishing international peace and spreading the oneness of the world of humanity.” He urged them to “become the cause of unity and agreement among the nations.”
“May a lamp be lighted here which will illumine the whole universe with the oneness of the world of humanity, with love between the hearts of the children of men, and the unity of all mankind. I hope that you may become assisted in this supreme accomplishment, that you may raise the flag of international peace and reconciliation upon this continent, that this government and people may be the means of spreading these lofty ideals.”
The podcast episode examined how civic engagement can be strengthened in Canada today through better practices of consultation.
“We forget that democracy is a about a system that leads us to compromise,” said Dr. Wolowic. “It’s really difficult to get the majority to … agree on anything. And so you… have to find ways where you can meet others where they are.”
Mr. Sabet observed that “Maybe what we need is to learn what the right balance is between humility about our own views, but also a kind of conviction and faith that we can reach agreement through honest consultation.”
“One metaphor that the Bahá'í community is learning about,” he added, “is how do you think about all of humanity in the same way we think of a human body? The human body draws its strength from its diversity. Every cell has a different function. They all have their own identity. They're all supported by the body and they all support the overall project of keeping the body alive and healthy. And in that context diversity is a blessing because there are so many strengths from all of the differences that we have. We each have a different perspective, different cultural resources we can draw on to build a better society.”
The podcast explored both conceptual and practical changes that are needed in Canadian society. The guests concluded by reflecting on what gives them hope that Canada can become a more unified and just society.
“I think what gives me hope is the awakening I think that the pandemic has prompted in Canada about who we are as a country and what more we can be next,” said Ms. Delhon. The pandemic has led us “to become aspirational and have our imaginations unlocked, and to understand that we don't have to be entrenched in any one single way of being.”
To listen to the podcast or read a transcript, visit opa.bahai.ca/podcast. Listeners can also subscribe to The Public Discourse in Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and other podcasting apps.