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On January 18th, 2016 approximately one quarter of the Bahá'í Community of Ottawa gathered for the Feast of Sultán (Sovereignty) and this group photograph was taken. Click here to see photo!
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"Bahá'í Perspectives" is the Bahá'í response to the "Ask the Religion Experts" column series that formerly ran in the Sunday edition of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. Read here...

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The 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.

Community News Current
January 20, 2017

Canadian Baha'i representative participates in UN forum addressing anti-muslim discrimination - New York

Panelists and moderator for "Positive Narratives to Promote Pluralism and Inclusion"

Director of Government Relations for the Baha’i Community of Canada, Corinne Box, a resident of Ottawa, participated in a recent High-Level Forum on Combatting Anti-Muslim Discrimination and Hate that was hosted at the UN Headquarters in New York.  She was invited to participate by the Government of Canada.

The event, which brought together people of many faiths and backgrounds, representatives from several nations and international bodies, and individuals working in a variety of sectors, saw a unified response emphasizing the need to focus on our common humanity.

A video message from the new Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, framed the discussion of anti-Muslim discrimination in the contexts of both this period in history where tensions are rising around the globe, and of the many forms of discrimination that plague and hinder us. In his remarks, he noted that, “discrimination diminishes us all; it prevents people and societies from achieving their full potential.” He further urged those gathered to “draw strength from the values of inclusion, tolerance, and mutual understanding - that are at the heart of all major faiths, and the United Nations charter.”

Throughout the day, speakers and panelists made explicit what it means to be inclusive and tolerant and what one might try to do to encourage mutual understanding - in the context of societies plagued by anti-Muslim discrimination and hate. The Baha’i representative, Mrs. Box, a resident of Ottawa, was invited along with Zarqa Nawaz, Director of Little Mosque on the Prairie, to speak in an afternoon panel session.  The panel, titled, Positive Narratives to Promote Pluralism and Inclusion, was organized and moderated by Richard Arbeiter, Director General of the Office of Human Rights, Freedom and Inclusion in the Global Affairs Canada Department (the former Department of Foreign Affairs).

In her comments, Mrs. Box noted that it is “important to give more space to the positive influence of religion in society”. In that connection, she shared the modest, yet concrete example of the Baha’i Community of Canada’s collaboration with other organizations to bring about the Our Whole Society conference series, which aims to open the space for voices from a wide range of secular and religious positions to discuss the role of religion in Canadian society.

Echoing the message shared by the Secretary General in his opening remarks, Mrs. Box later affirmed, “we are all part of the same human family,” and in a brief exploration of the implications of this conviction, she noted our differences, our profound interdependence, and emphasized the organic relationship that exists between us, whereby “damage to one part will damage the whole”.

Participants in the high-level forum left well-informed of the reach, depth, and some of the sources of prejudice against Muslims, as well as some indications of modest steps that have helped to counter harmful narratives. A press release on the event from the Canadian government can be read here.

Community News Current

December 21, 2016Pauline Irving

Christmas Memories
By Pauline Irving

This contribution is a personal reflection on the meaning of Christmas by a local member of the Ottawa Baha’i Community - Editor

Christmas time is a time of reflection and memories, but it is a religious holiday that I no longer celebrate. Yet, it was a big part of my life for over 50 years. It is intertwined with all the memories of my childhood and three cherished family members who have “abandoned their physical garments and ascended to the spiritual world”, my father, my mother and my younger brother.

When someone asks “Are you ready for Christmas?” it seems too much to go into an explanation that we have a time of hospitality and gift giving. It is in late February. The Baha’i calendar consists of 19 months of 19 days, with four “Intercalary days”. These days come just before the month of Fasting when we abstain from food and drink between Sunrise and Sunset.   Also referred to as Ayyam-i-Ha, these days are devoted to spiritual preparation for the fast, hospitality, charity and gift giving.

But still, the Christmas music plays and the questions come about Christmas. The music is beautiful and it brings back many memories.  Each one of my cherished lost loved ones comes to mind with a particular song. For my father, it is “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. The memory goes back to when I was 15 years old. My older sister wanted to go to Mass on Christmas morning with her husband. They had a three-month-old baby, so they asked me to walk over and baby-sit for them.  My father did not want me to be alone on Christmas morning and came with me. As we walked along on that snowy morning, he sang in his best Jimmy Durante voice, “It’s Commencin’ to look a lot like Christmas”. It is one of my most precious memories.

The song that brings my mother to mind is “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” Although she loved the song, she pretty well always reversed the order to Jolly, Holly. This happy light song personifies my mother. She loved to laugh and getting the words tumbled was so like her and it did not matter to her at all. I picture her laughing and happy when I hear this song.

In the case of my brother, memories of him come flooding back when I hear “Feliz Navidad”. He loved this song and he loved Christmas. He worked as an ambulance officer and sometimes had to work on Christmas. I remember this was always very difficult for him. He cherished spending Christmas with his wife and two daughters.

When I made the decision to embrace my new Faith in January 2001, it was after a great deal of prayer and thought. One of the reservations I had was that I felt I might be increasing the degree of separation from the three family members, whose memories are wrapped in the Christmas Traditions. I found comfort in learning that in the Baha’i faith, there is a belief that we can pray for those who have passed on and they can pray for us. So, even though I no longer observe Christmas, I am still connected to my loved ones.

So, no I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I am happy to be included in the celebrations of others and the spirit that envelops Christmas is an essential part of my Faith. “To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with my virtues.” is a quote from the Persian Hidden Words written by Baha’u’llah , the Prophet of the Baha’i faith. This quote summarizes the love and generosity that surrounds the celebration of Christmas.

Pauline Irving

Community News Current
 October 26, 2016

Joyce Frances Devlin: Artist in a “new era of energy and inspiration”
Ottawa artist recognized in Vernon exhibit; reflects on art and spirit in history and her life

Joyce Frances DevlinIn her 85th year the Ottawa area artist Joyce Frances Devlin remains a dynamic figure, radiating energy and spiritual power. Every summer she opens her home gallery in Burritt’s Rapids to the public with an exhibition of her recent works. This June, Joyce also had an exhibition of her work at the Vernon Public Art Gallery in British Columbia entitled “Along the Way.” The Gallery’s permanent collection already contains a number of her works, and with this exhibition she was invited to add to this collection. Her public presentation in June highlighted the Vernon Public Art Gallery’s plans to build a new gallery.
In this talk, Joyce identified the spiritual source of her artistic inspiration. She briefly explained that since humanity’s earliest creative expressions on cave walls, outpourings of art have always followed the appearance of great prophets or “Manifestations of God”, who have brought teachings to guide mankind appropriate to different times. Great periods of art have always followed from the energy released by these great prophets such as Krishna, Abraham, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed. This process has continued today with the teachings of the Bab and Baha’u’llah,
Devlin painting entitled “Nan Gordon” (1963) from the Vernon Public Art Gallery.who Devlin identified as “the promised One of all the world’s  great religions.” With this “new era of energy and inspiration released by these two great Manifestations of God,” Devlin stated, “we can’t imagine where that is going to take us.”

Joyce affirms that her work has always been influenced by her love of God. At the age of twelve she was reading selections of scripture from  the great religions and she came to her own realization that Christ had returned. One day, some years later, after announcing this conviction in the lunchroom of the Vancouver  School of Art, she was approached by “an old woman attending one of the classes” who quietly invited Joyce to a Vancouver meeting where she heard a talk by Allan Raynor, a member of the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly. At this talk, she instantly recognized Baha’u’llah and she became a Baha’i in 1952. Her art has developed alongside her identity as a Baha’i since her early student days.

In Ottawa, Joyce’s paintings can be found in the halls of Canada’s Parliament Buildings, where she has done the portraits of a number of senators. Her works are also part of the Ottawa Public Art Gallery’s Firestone collection. She is also represented in other Canadian collections including two University of Alberta public galleries and in the public gallery in Vernon, BC.

Image credits:
Photo of Joyce Devlin from the Ottawa Valley Hum website (see link below)
Devlin painting entitled “Nan Gordon” (1963) from the Vernon Public Art Gallery.

Further reading

“Joyce Frances Devlin: So Much Beauty,” The Hum, 1 June 2015
“Joyce Frances Devlin: Painter and a Painted House”, Habicurious.com, 22 April 2015
a 2014 profile on Joyce Frances Devlin on this website

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