In late February, the Victoria, British Columbia, Baha’i community, along with other local faith groups, participated in a storytelling performance and workshop organized by the Inter-Cultural Association of Victoria (ICA).
The Baha’i community was one of three faith groups, including the Christian and Sikh communities, to be invited to participate for the first time. ICA had previously organized a project for the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish communities, called “Interlaced: Living our Faith through Stories,” at which various members of those faith groups had shared personal stories about how their religion impacts their daily and community lives.
The latter three communities were also invited to the workshop to share their storytelling skills with the three newly-participating communities, who would then learn these skills themselves in a workshop coached by two trained facilitators.
On February 16th — the day chosen by the Victoria Baha’is — Windsor Pavilion was filled with participants. The performers from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish faith communities presented their stories first.
“Home in Africa” was told by Karima and her 10-year-old daughter, Queeza, sitting on the floor playing a childhood game from Kenya, where Karima had been taught many virtues at the Jamatkhana. Andy Jani told the story of how he had first learned about the Lord Ganesh as a child, and the lifelong lessons he had drawn from it. Arpita spoke of the smells and sounds of childhood rituals that would consistently bring her back to a spiritual place.
Many of the stories that touched people’s hearts and that had served to create the participants’ experience of faith were those that they recalled from childhood. Other stories related to their adult lives and the practice of their faith.
After the storytelling, workshops were conducted in small groups of four or five, with participants telling their own stories of how their faith has impacted their personal lives in some heartfelt way. One Baha’i from each group was then chosen to share his or her story with the larger group. Standing in turn at the front of the room, they told about learning to share at a Baha’i school in India, about “bumping into Baha’is” at every turn in their lives, about playing on a Baha’i soccer team on a First Nations reserve in Canada, and about growing up “just a girl” until she encountered the concept of the equality of men and women, one of the important teachings of the Baha’i Faith.
Afterwards, the facilitators highlighted the elements that had made the stories so wonderful — the emotions, the details, the movements, and the authenticity. It was proof that not only does everyone have a story, but that we all have the power of self-expression, and that we all gain by sharing those stories, as tellers and as listeners.