For over two decades, the Bahá’ís of St. Albert, Alberta have reached out to their city to collaborate in promoting the principle of “Unity in Diversity”. This year, the 21st annual celebration took place on November 8, in the beautiful Arden Theatre in St. Albert Place.
“From the beginning, the people of St. Albert have warmly supported our celebration,” said Arno Brocken, secretary of the local Bahá’í community.
“Each year since 1992, the Mayor of St. Albert has signed a document and proclaimed the second week of November as Unity in Diversity Week. This year at the celebration, Mayor Nolan Crouse talked about the importance of treating everyone with respect and friendliness.”
Inspiration for the Unity in Diversity celebration comes from Bahá’í writings which liken the diversity in the human family to music where many different notes blend together in the making of a perfect chord. One quote states: “In reality all are members of one human family – children of one Heavenly Father. Humanity may be likened unto the vari-colored flowers of one garden. There is unity in diversity. Each sets off and enhances the other’s beauty.”
Illustrating this concept were a number of high quality artistic presentations. The Karim Gillani Sufi Music Ensemble, which includes 11 musicians from many different countries, performed using eastern and western instruments. Their music encourages people to use love to create dialogue and embrace diversity.
A Sri Lankan Dance group offered a welcome dance with flowers and candles and beautiful song by a 10-year-old girl of Sri Lankan heritage. The Edmonton Chinese Dance Academy performed a traditional and a modern Chinese dance with grace and exuberance. The Edmonton Festival Ballet performed two poignant dances with themes of “Leaving” and “Displaced Persons” which were choreographed to help people think about refugees and new immigrants.
A Saxophone quartet played jazz selections and ended with the theme of the “Pink Panther.” The program also included Caribbean melodies on steel pan drums which originated in Trinidad, an award-winning pianist who played a meditative piece and an upbeat musical selection, and a local Bahá’í who brought laugher to the audience with his stand-up comedy routines and impersonations of famous people.
This year for the second time, the program was emceed by well-known local television personality, meteorologist Josh Klassen.
A team of eight Bahá’ís planned this year’s program. Many people remained after the concert to enjoy refreshments and socializing.
The Unity in Diversity celebration has been held at the Arden Theatre since 1999. The theatre was designed by well-known Aboriginal architect Douglas Cardinal whose vision was that it would become a gathering place where people would be drawn in through curved walls and come together to meet in unity and harmony.
Diversity in the performing arts has historically been the main focus and performers have included a legally blind singer/pianist, a choir composed of challenged children, and several child prodigies including Jack Forestier (who will be performing in Carnegie Hall in 2015). There have also been dramas and guest speakers.
Over the years, the Unity in Diversity celebration has attracted many friends and neighbours from St. Albert and its surrounding communities, as well as the Member of Parliament and some members of the Legislative Assembly. There is always comprehensive coverage in local newspapers.
“People learn something about the principle of Unity in Diversity and hopefully they will try to incorporate this principle into their lives by including and welcoming people from all walks of life, “ said Brocken.