Learn about the history of the Faith in Victoria and the community building initiatives carried out by local Bahá’ís.
Learn about the history of the Faith in Victoria and the community building initiatives carried out by local Bahá’ís.
The Victoria Bahá’í Community is one of 1200 local Bahá’í communities in Canada. All races, ages, and social classes come together to create a warm and authentic sense of community. What the members of this community share in common is their adherence to the Bahá’í Faith.
In Canada, the Bahá’í Community comprises more than 30,000 members and is representative of the country’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity. It includes francophones and anglophones, and more than 18% of its members come from First Nations and Inuit backgrounds; another 30% are immigrants.
In accordance to Bahá’í Writings, “all human beings have been created to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization”. The creation of a peaceful global society that fosters both individual and collective well-being is at the heart of the Bahá’í vision of the future.
Within the framework of a growing community concerned with moral and spiritual transformation, social and economic development, is one expression of the Bahá’í commitment to realising this vision.
Therefore, Bahá’í efforts generally take the form of grassroots community building initiatives carried out by small groups of individuals in the areas in which they reside implemented through a universally agreed framework.
The earliest hint of the Bahá’i Faith in the City of Victoria may have been the birth in 1868 of Harriet Gibbs. As Harriet Gibbs Marshall, she later became the first prominent African American to adopt the Bahá’i Faith. In 1908, our city received a visit from Thornton Chase, who is acknowledged as the first North American to accept the Faith. And in the 1920s, a frequent visitor here was Mark Tobey, artist, Bahá’i, and friend and mentor to Emily Carr.
By 1948 the Bahá’i community in Victoria elected our first local governing body, known as The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’is of Victoria. We incorporated under the Societies Act in 1964, and held in 1974 the first Bahá’i wedding in Canada to be officially recognized by the province. Due to our location in the capital city, Victoria’s Bahá’is have accepted a duty of representing the Baha’is of BC to the provincial government.
During the 20th Century, the focus of Victoria’s Bahá’i community was largely outward, supporting our Faith beyond the city boundaries. Many Bahá’is journeyed out from Victoria to carry the Faith to other parts of the world. Articles in the Times Colonist newspaper, for example, record the travels of Vivien Combe who was well known in Victoria as an actor and puppeteer. Miss Combe had started from Victoria in the 1940s, made a successful acting career in Toronto and Hollywood, discovered the Bahá’i Faith in the 1960s, and taught it in Asia and Europe before returning to Victoria in 1968. In 1975 she left here for Hawaii, and carried Bahá’i teachings throughout the Pacific islands, Australia and New Zealand.
Our outward focus was evident also on Vancouver Island. Here we supported the formation of other Bahá’i communities, including a long-term relationship with the First Nations community at Alert Bay. We played a large role in developing and supporting Maxwell International Bahá’i School at Shawnigan Lake, and hosted the Bahá’i Information Centre and Bookstore for greater Victoria.
In the 21st Century we are giving increased attention to outreach activities. In each Victoria neighbourhood we are developing a range of activities for adults and children. People of all faiths and backgrounds are invited to join Bahá’ís in these activities.
Children are the most precious resource a community has. Bahá’ís believe that moral and values-based training for children are essential in order to nurture these capacities. Thus, Bahá’í communities worldwide sponsor virtue education classes for children of all backgrounds. The classes seek to develop essential virtues such as generosity, honesty and kindness. They aim to build a strong moral framework that will assist children to achieve excellence in material, intellectual, health and moralistic aspects of life.
Much like a young tree, children will grow and develop in whatever way they are trained and according to the influences they experience. The classes encourage children to recognise their own nobility and the inherent nobility of their friends. The children acquire knowledge and moral capacities which they can integrate into their everyday lives. Lessons are catered for children at around the ages of 5 to 10 years and normally run for around 1.5 hours. The format consists of: quotations, stories, songs, arts & crafts and games & activities.
Young people’s spiritual capacity, the basis for their own happiness and sense of well-being, is also a powerful force for meaningful social change.
Towards that goal, Bahá’í communities sponsor moral education classes for children and youth of all backgrounds. The classes seek to develop virtues such as trustworthiness, honesty, and justice. They aim to assist children and youth to achieve excellence in all aspects of life -material, intellectual, and spiritual.
“Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value”, wrote Bahá’u’lláh. “Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”
Bahá’ís are working to bring forth these “treasures”—the nobility and beauty that are part of every person’s inborn nature, offering a healthy counterbalance to the flood of media messages that promote unthinking materialism.
The classes are offered in increasing numbers by Bahá’í communities around the world as a service to the greater community, to encourage children and youth to become strong, involved, tolerant “citizens of the world”.
If you would like to learn more about the Children’s Classes in Greater Victoria please contact the Children’s Class Coordinator.
Young people should actively contribute to decision-making processes, and understand that their efforts will exercise greater influence when informed by the experiences and successes of others. In this way, they seek to maximize the effect of their efforts to serve humanity by placing their creativity in a framework of coherent and structured plans.
This community building initiative is able to provide encouragement to its young members by giving them real responsibility for its affairs and imparting a profound sense of ownership of shared goals. Each person, whether young or old, listens to and learns from others: there is a tangible sense of moving forward together. The motivating impulse is one of love for humanity. Consequently, we also place great emphasis on the moral education our youth, with a focus on providing on-going opportunities for developing a sense of world citizenship and a lifelong commitment to serve humanity.
Youth groups, facilitated by trained “animators”, help youth to develop their latent capabilities and contribute to meaningful service in our community. The groups engage in learning, socialising, arts, culture, sports and service activities. Attention is given to enhancing their powers of expression, recognising the moral issues underlying everyday decisions and the moral implications of their speech and actions, developing friendships, withstanding negative peer pressure, and building unity and enhancing global citizenship.
The programmes affect the lives of families around the world and are generally conducted in small groups of youth from around 11-14 years of age at the local level. These initiatives seek to enhance the junior youth’s spiritual and intellectual capacities in order to prepare them to participate effectively in the affairs of their communities, and provide them a multi-disciplined and multi-faceted perspective on life that will help them to make informed decisions and live enriching lives.
If you would like to learn more about the Junior Youth Empowerment Program in Greater Victoria please contact the Junior Youth Coordinator.
At the heart of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh is the concept of transformation, both of the individual and of society.
The transformation of the individual is not an isolated process, since individuals are an integral part of groups and communities in which transformation has a synergistic effect.
In Bahá’í thought, the process of an individual’s development and fulfillment is tied to the centering of one’s energies on the betterment of humankind and serving the needs of the larger society.
Prayer and meditation, fighting one’s spiritual battles, living according to spiritual teachings—all are essential to put into regular, habitual practice in order to develop to our full potential. Such efforts are truly transformational when they are dedicated to service within our communities.
Study circles are a powerful tool to actively engage in developing knowledge, skills, and spiritual insights which are vital to the integrated process of personal and social transformation. Within neighbourhoods and communities, they form a local, collaborative, self-directed learning process offered by Bahá’í communities around the world.
All are welcome in the classes, regardless of age, education or beliefs, since the emphasis is not so much on “book-learning”but on developing insights of the heart and soul through reflection and discussion.
By learning about our spiritual reality, we can better understand how to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us. Participants in the courses may learn, for example, to engage in community service activities, to effectively teach values to children, to skillfully express one’s views within a group, and to learn concepts and tools related to society’s needs for unity, justice, and equity.
If you would like to join a study circle please contact Study Circle Coordinator.
Inspiration, rejuvenation, motivation, purpose, meaning – all are essential ingredients to one’s sense that his or her life is on track, is worth living. Yet, day to day, one is hard-pressed to find or feel them and is challenged to maintain a positive, holistic and hopeful outlook.
In the Bahá’í Faith, there is no clergy or priesthood. Everyone is a participant. We hold spiritual or devotional gatherings in our homes and neighborhoods. They take many forms. Some are spontaneous, others are carefully planned. Some are energetic and exuberant, others are quiet and reflective. The element that unites them all is a spirit of reverence and respect. Bahá’ís in cities and villages around the world hold devotional gatherings and are experiencing renewed strength and vigour in their lives and communities as a result.
Music, food, and discussion are often present, though the primary purpose is to have a spiritual focus to transform, unify, and revitalise. For many, these gatherings become a refreshing refuge from the grinding aspects of everyday life. Participants are able to share and consult on spiritual principles to gain some perspective on how these principles can be applied to their day-to-day affairs.
The musical selections and material are diverse, coming from a variety of cultures and styles. There is no established ritual and no solicitation of funds. Readings are taken from any source of spiritualism and, for example, from the Holy Scriptures of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Bahá’í Writings to create an environment of unity and harmony. Participants are encouraged to bring their own books or favorite passages to share – so we can all learn from each other.
In virtually every locality in the Victoria area, Bahá’ís host devotional gatherings to share these spiritual gifts with neighbours and friends and to create an environment of unity and harmony.
The meetings have a variety of elements to accommodate everyone, regardless of their religious background. Music, food, and discussion are often present, as well as the reading of Bahá’í prayers and sacred Writings and those of other traditions.
All are welcome to attend any or all of these gatherings, where “unity in diversity” is celebrated.
Devotional gatherings in Victoria (click on names to contact hosts):
|Devotionals||Theme and Information||When|
|Simons||Art and Spirituality||Alternate Thursdays @ 7:30 pm|
|Rohani||Various||Every Sunday @ 9:30 am|
|Javanmardi & Ghali||Various||Last Sunday of each month @ 7:00 pm|
|Zamani & Ross||Potluck||First Sunday of each month @ 5:30 pm|
|Antinuk||Various||Every Wednesday @ 7:30 pm|
|Jeffery & Naraghi||Various||Last Saturday of each month @ 10:00 am|
In 1989, the Universal House of Justice said that:
“Assisting in endeavours to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must assume more importance in Baha’i activities.”
Far from distracting from the processes of growth underway in Canada, attention to environmental practices that respect the earth and the oneness of its inhabitants must support and sustain them. Thus, small initiatives should be undertaken to gradually increase consciousness of our “ecological footprint” and develop
Thus, small initiatives should be undertaken to gradually increase consciousness of our “ecological footprint” and develop capacity for responsible action that responds to the challenges of global climate change.
The National Spiritual Assembly therefore now raises a call for action, asking all Councils, Local Spiritual Assemblies and Groups to consider ways to demonstrate ever-increasing sensitivity to environmental issues in the design and implementation of community activities.
We are looking for new volunteers, so please email Mr. Vafa Javanmardi if you are interested in joining this fun group.