Bahá'ís of Ottawa come from a variety of backgrounds, brought together
by a common belief in the oneness of humanity and the unity of
religion. We work alongside others to become a force of positive
change, applying insights from the Bahá'í teachings to bring about a
more just, peaceful and unified community.
in Ottawa celebrating significant anniversary
Like their counterparts around
the world, Baha'is in Ottawa are celebrating a very significant
anniversary in the history of their Faith this year - the 200th
anniversary of the Birth of Baha'u'llah, the prophet founder of their
Although the anniversary marks an event in history, it is also a symbol
for the belief of Baha'is that the pain which the world's peoples are
experiencing, has a light at the end of the tunnel. It is a message of
hope, upliftment and empowerment. The event is not only an anniversary
it is an affirmation that a process started in the land of Persia in
1817 has begun to impact and transform communities and neighbourhoods
around the world - in places like Cambodia, Congo, Colombia, India,
Vanuatu, Germany, and Ottawa itself.
Excitement has gripped the
Ottawa Baha'i community and their friends as they organize diverse
activities to mark and commemorate the Bicentenary Birth of
Baha'u'llah. Although the actual Birth of Baha'u'llah is celebrated on
October 22 this year, as many as 100 different activities will be
taking place across the city over the coming month, with some events
having taken place already. The activities span a diverse
range in form and nature, including concerts, creation of a special CD
with music, celebrations for children and junior youth, story telling
events, and programs which study the life of Baha'u'llah. Long time
Ottawa native Tony Michel said "Our family is planning a house concert
as our way of celebrating this joyous occasion with our friends and
The Ottawa Baha'i website plans to capture some of these Bicentenary
activities through pictures and writeups in the weeks and months to
come. Stay tuned!
Baha’i Choir enters its 25th year
For twenty five years now, the
Ottawa Regional Baha’i choir has enriched community life through its
spiritually inspired choral music. With a regular influx of new members
over this time, the choir has endured as a fixture in Baha’i community
life and interfaith events in the region. It traces its roots to the
mass choir that was created to perform at the Baha’i World Congress in
New York City in 1992. Three Ottawa Baha’is were in that choir, and
they brought back with them a body of specially commissioned choral
arrangements for Baha’i sacred music. They were joined by several
others, eager to sing this “new music” that they had seen performed at
the Congress. Over the next few years, other choir members attended
choral workshops in Green Acre Baha’i School and elsewhere, further
expanding the Ottawa choir’s repertoire.
Members of the Ottawa Regional Baha’i Choir have always come from both
sides of the Ottawa river, they have been Baha’is and their friends,
with different levels of singing experience. There are no auditions for
the choir and those new to singing are encouraged to learn as they go.
The membership generally has fluctuated between 10 and 16, but has been
as large as 24 and is currently 20 members strong. Over the lifetime of
the choir, as about 200 members have participated, choir direction has
changed hands, often rotating between members. Since 2016 Christopher
Barham has been choir director.
The group regularly performs at
Baha’i events and holy day celebrations
in Ottawa and Gatineau, and have also participated in many public
events, at interfaith gatherings, arts nights, children’s classes,
senior’s residences, hospitals, weddings, memorial services and many
other unique events. One memorable performance was at the 1997
Interfaith Service at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, led by spiritual
leaders from around the world, as part of ceremonies associated with
the signing of the International Landmines Ban Treaty.
From its origins in the classical choral music composed for the 1992
Baha’i World Congress, the choir has expanded stylistically. The core
of the choir’s repertoire is sacred music, primarily musical renderings
of Baha’i prayers and writings, but also including Jewish and Christian
songs. The choir has also performed selections from a growing
Baha’i Gospel music.
Linguistically, most of the songs have been in
English and French, but the choir has also performed pieces in Arabic,
Farsi, Hindi, Ukrainian, Latin and several African languages. The choir
is currently exploring pop songs, an old English folksong and musical
stage pieces that touch on universal themes.
The choir’s next performance will be at a large public event to
commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Birth
of Baha’u’llah. All are
invited to attend this event and new members to the choir are always
Continuing Persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran Ottawa
Bahá'ís reflect on the resilience of family members in face of ongoing
At age 66, Behrouz Tavakkoli is
entering his 10th year in prison in Iran. His crime: helping to
administer the affairs of the Bahá'í Community of Iran. Suffering from
severe kidney and joint problems, he and the other six leaders of the
Bahá'í Community face another year in prison. They are among
93 Bahá'ís who are currently in prison solely because they are Bahá'ís.
In Iran, the rest of the Bahá'í community faces constant difficulties.
Since the 1979 revolution they have been systematically persecuted in
every facet of their lives. They are denied government jobs, private
sector employers are pressured to fire them, their shops are
closed, their cemeteries are destroyed and their properties are seized.
Bahá'í youth are denied access to university or college, and Bahá'ís
are constantly bombarded by anti-Bahá'í propaganda in the media.
Behrouz’s son, Naim Tavakkoli,
lives here in Ottawa. He describes how his father was a social worker
who worked in rehabilitation centres with clients who had physically
and mentally disabilities. It was a job he loved, but following the
1979 revolution he was let go and then worked as a carpenter to support
his wife and two sons. His main goal then became service to the Bahá'í
community. He was later chosen to be one of seven leaders responsible
for the administration of the affairs of the Bahá'í community in Iran.
He was arrested briefly in 2005 and after four months in solitary
confinement, he developed serious kidney and joint problems.
Upon his release from prison, he continued to serve the community. Naim
explained that “when it comes to serving the Faith,” his father “fears
nothing, absolutely nothing.” He was arrested again in 2008, and the
last time that Naim saw his father he was in prison and could hardly
walk, dragging his leg behind him. His son characterized his father as
“an ordinary person, called upon to do extraordinary things.”
Ottawa Bahá'í Parvaneh Vafaie
was a nine year old girl in Iran when her
father Rahman-Vafaie-Saadi was arrested in the middle of the night. He
was in prison for two years that first time. She remember one time when
she visited her father in prison, he made a victory sign and she saw
the guards kick him and hit him hard on the back and on his
leg. After being released, he continued to work actively for
the community, providing marriage counselling, holding Bahá'í study
groups, hosting youth gatherings in his home and talking about the
Faith to anyone who showed any interest. He was arrested two more
times, held for brief periods and then, in 2012, he was imprisoned for
Parveneh explained that today her mother and father are not sure when
they might be arrested again. People are always watching them,
monitoring who is coming or going in their house. However, she
explained that people like her father, because they are working for Bahá’u’lláh,
are happy no matter how much suffering they undergo. And for their
families it is the same; in the face of persecution they feel happy and
proud to be Bahá'ís.