Big Ideas is a series of talks addressing some of humanity’s shared challenges and opportunities as we work to advance an emerging global civilization. This series brings together perspectives from the Baha'i writings with current research and experience as well as contemporary discourses on key issues of our time.

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Friday, October 15, 2021, 7:30 pm

Learning from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a Society Characterized by Ageism with Dr. Deborah van den Hoonaard

Bahá’ís the world over see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of the founder for the Bahá’í Faith (1844-1921) as the Exemplar of how we should live. After being in prison and exile for over 55 years, He undertook travels to the West and spoke in hundreds of venues and with thousands of people. However, we don’t often think about, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá after His release from prison, as an old man. This presentation explores how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example informs our own lives given the prevalence of ageism in Western society.
About Deborah:
Deborah K. van den Hoonaard is a sociol-ogist and professor emerita and was Canada Research Chair in Qualitative Research and Analysis from 2006-2015 at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. She is the Social-Science Editor of the Canadian Journal on Aging and author of Qualitative Research in Action: A Canadian Primer (2019), By Myself: The Older Man’s Experience of Widowhood (2010), and The Widowed Self: The Older Woman's Journey through Widowhood (2001). In partnership with her husband, she has conducted a study on the experiences of Iranian Baha’í immigrants in the Canada’s Atlantic Region. Together, they have authored The Equality of Women and Men: The Experience of the Baha’í Community of Canada (2006), and How to Think about Ethics While Doing Qualitative Research (2013).

View or download the event poster with Zoom meeting details here.

Friday, October 1, 2021, 7:30 pm

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION with Louise Profeit-Leblanc “T’se Dἄna” - Beaver Woman

Without knowing and accepting the truth, and the real history of Canada, we will never be able to attain true and sincere reconciliation between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples of this country.

Since the formation of the TRC in Canada in 2008, the population of Canada has heard the truth from 7,000 testimonies of Indigenous residential school survivors, their stories of the terrible treatment at these facilities.

After having being abducted by force, taken away from their parents and their homelands, 150,000 children were forcibly taken under police authorization to a place where they were forbidden to speak their language, sing their songs or practice their ancient cultural and spiritual beliefs.

The Prime Minister of the day, 1867- 1891, John A MacDonald was quoted as saying, “Take the Indian out of the child”. He was the architect of the Indian Act, which launched the government of Canada on an ever increasing and repressive series of Acts and policies directed towards the assimilation of the original inhabitants of this land. Fast forward to 2016 when the final report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission underwent a vast country-wide investigation to hear from Indigenous peoples who had experienced this atrocity.

This resulted in 94 recommendations in the following categories: 1) Child welfare 2) Education 3) Language and culture 4) Health and 5) Justice. Each of these “Calls to Action” is a perfect jumping off point for the larger community, including the Bahá'í community, to embrace. It is then and only then that we can realize and see the fruition of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s quotation below, and what better way to commemorate the centenary of His passing than for each one of us to establish a goal and commitment to respond to one or several of these calls to action during this year.

“The Ancient Beauty hath in His sacred Tablets explicitly written that the day of their abasement is over. His bounty will overshadow them and this race will day by day progress and be delivered from its agelong obscurity and degradation.” — ’Abdu’l-Bahá
About Louisee:
Louise Profeit-Leblanc, “T’se Dἄna”, Beaver Woman, is a member of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation from Mayo, Yukon. She is a mother, grandmother and a keeper of stories who comes from a long line of traditional storytellers. Many of her stories refer to how everything in nature exists in balance but more importantly depict morals and teachings to live harmoniously with each other while caring for the earth, the water and all living things. “It is all about relationship and our constant striving towards reconciliation with our Creator, all living things and with all peoples of the world - “all our relations.”

In addition to being a story teller, Louise is alsoa textile artist, poet and short story writer, demonstrating how the power of art and story can heal and educate. She led the Aboriginal Arts Secretariat of the Canada Council for the Arts from 2002-13. Louise lives in Wakefield, Quebec with her husband Bob.

View or download the event poster with Zoom meeting details here.

Friday, September 3, 2021, 7:30 pm

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Canada

With Bobbi Lyons

Please join us for a special “Big Ideas” presentation to mark the 109th anniversary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s nine day visit to Canada. We look forward to increasing our knowledge of this historic visit and to gain inspiration from it.
About Bobbi:
Bobbi Lyons is known to many Ottawa area Bahá’ís for her well researched and informative presentations, including two in recent years at the Ottawa Bahá'í Centre, “Challenging Requirements of the Present Hour” (on methods used by Shoghi Effendi for identifying and marking progress in the achievement of goals) and “The Station of the Báb: its gradual disclosure and Reality”. Bobbi is a scholar of the Bahá'í Faith who makes her home in Belleville Ontario. She is a third generation Bahá'í and has served the Baha’i Faith in many capacities. Bobbi holds university degrees in history, adult education as well as accounting and currently works as a CPA. We are delighted that Bobbi is able to bring her scholarship to this important topic, which will, no doubt in the future find increasing resonance with Canadian society.

View or download the event poster with Zoom meeting details here.

Friday, June 18, 2021, 7:30 pm

The Wisdom of Crowds: Collective Decision-making in an Uncertain World

With Jennifer Phillips

Former New Yorker business columnist James Surowiecki’s deeply-researched and fascinating book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds’ explores how groups of people who meet certain conditions can be better at solving problems, coming up with new solutions, making more effective and successful decisions, and predicting the future, than even trained experts. Surowiecki offers us many case studies from diverse disciplines such as psychology, behavioural economics, military history and politics to illustrate the veracity of his theory. This is a theory that has stood up well over the 17 years since the book was first published.

This talk will outline Surowiecki’s key criteria and alert us to the important factors to avoid in large and small group decision-making, using examples from the Baha’i community to illustrate how Baha’i processes have moved participants even further along the path of wise group decision-making.
About Jennifer Phillips:
Jennifer was born in Cornwall, Ontario and lived in Kingston and Halifax before moving to Ottawa. She holds a degree in Economics, and masters’ degrees in Urban and Regional Planning from Queen’s University and Public Administration from Dalhousie University. Now retired, Jennifer worked for over 35 years, mainly for municipal government, in diverse policy areas such as heritage preservation, corporate and strategic planning, neighbourhood planning, downtown renewal, wildlife habitats, infrastructure management and infrastructure and sub-watershed planning. Since retiring, she has concentrated on a variety of voluntary efforts with-in the Baha’i Community, for music festivals and more recently, for Compassionate Ottawa. Her interests include travelling, outdoor activities, plays, film, jazz and classical concerts, voracious reading, supporting local artists, her dear grandson and being a ‘sweet but bossy and stubborn ’ mini dachshund owner!

Read about this talk here.

Friday, May 21, 2021, 7:30 pm

The Covid 19 Global Pandemic:Impact on Mental Health

With Dr. Louis Soucy, BSc, MD, FRCP(c), Dip. ABSM.

Coronavirus and Covid 19 are not just physical diseases. There are also implications for mental health and spiritual growth.
About Dr. Soucy:
Louis grew up in Coquitlam, BC and became a Bahá'i at 17 after exploring spirituality and religion for four years. He graduated From UBC in BioPsychology, and then Medicine. He trained in Family Medi-cine in Regina and worked as a Family MD in a remote Ontario community for two years. Following this, he studied Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa, then worked in General Psychiatry returning to complete a one-year fellowship in Neuropsychiatry. His sub-sequent career has been in Emergency Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatry, and medical administration. He completed training in Sleep Medicine and continues to work part time in semi-retirement. Louis says he is the “proud father of two wonderful daughters, who are servants of mankind, and have surpassed me already.”

Read about this talk here.

Friday, May 7, 2021, 7:30 pm

A Serendipitous Journey Through Canadian Bahá’í History with Will C. van den Hoonaard

Dr. Will van den Hoonard is the author, among many books, of Origins of the Baha'i Community of Canada 1898-1944. Says Will:

Doing research on Canadian Bahá’í history yielded many serendipitous treasures of research. My journey revealed surprising findings about the social characteristics of Bahá’í Community. It is no surprise that chaos attended that phase of Bahá’í history. A study of the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to Canada in1912 demonstrated the spiritually deep connection of the Montreal family of May Maxwell which paved the way for establishing the Bahá’í community on a secure footing. The early historical phase includes in-depth involvement of individual Bahá’ís with the Group of Seven painters, suffragettes, politicians, and Louis Riel. Joseph Frost (a cousin of the poet Robert Frost) also seems to have been familiar with Canada’s earliest Bahá’ís.
About Will:
Will is Professor Emeritus, Sociology, at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. He is author of 14 books on Iceland, the Dutch of New Brunswick, Bahá’í history, sociological research methods, a 700-year history of women in cartography, and ethics in research. He and Deborah van den Hoonaard authored a study on the equality of women and men in the Canadian Bahá’í Community.

Born in The Hague (The Netherlands) Will has lived in France, Iceland, and the United States where he served as the Alternate Representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations. He now resides in New Brunswick.

Will’s latest publication is a children's book (2017): Did You Ever Wonder: The Story of the Bab as a Child (Amazon.ca/.com)

Read about this talk here.

Friday, March 26, 2021, 7:30 pm

Truth and Propaganda in a Polarized Society with Geoff Cameron

Our thoughts about the world are influenced by the media we consume. We read books, newspapers and magazines, listen to radio and podcasts, and watch television and mov-ies. These aspects of our culture shape our understanding of society, and they lead us to adopt perspectives on the issues of the day. But how do we distinguish between truth and propaganda, between fact and opinion? What insights from religion can help us to become more wise and judi-cious thinkers? Furthermore, what implications does this have for how we engage with the discourses of society – in conversation with others and on social media platforms? How can we become more effective participants in the public conversation?

In this talk, Geoff will reflect on some of the ways in which culture shapes thought, and how the rise of new technologies has accelerated polarization in society. Then he will examine how a number of concepts and principles from religion – drawing primarily from the Bahá’í Faith – can help us to develop habits of thought that allow us to distinguish truth from propaganda, and to make constructive contributions to the discourses of society.
About Geoff:
Geoff Cameron is Director of the Office of Pub-lic Affairs for the Bahá’í Community of Canada. He has a PhD in political science and has published books on immigration, refugee policy, and the role of religion in the public sphere.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, March 12, 2021, 7:30 pm

Justice for Genocide: Reflectionson Human Rights and the World Court By Dr. Payam Akhavan

In the shadow of the Holocaust, the UN adopted the 1948 Genocide Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet, despite the vows of "never again" we have wit-nessed time and again crimes against humanity and genocide committed by powerful leaders with impunity. What accounts for the gap between the lofty ideals of international law and the weak means for its enforcement? What is the role of international courts and tribunals in bringing perpe-trators to justice? Does speaking truth to power make a difference in global politics? Is mass-murder an inevitable expression of human nature or is it because of politicalstrategies that can be predicted and prevented? What does the current stage of our historical evolution say about the future and the choices that we must make to embrace the oneness of humankind? These questions will be explored by a former UN prosecutor with 30 years of experience in con-flicts around the world.
About Dr. Payam Akhavan:
Dr. Payam Akhavan is Senior Fellow at Massey College, Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration. He was previously a UN war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, served as a UN human rights officer in Bosnia, Cambodia, Guatemala, East Timor and Rwanda, and appeared as counsel before the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. He delivered the 2017 CBC Massey Lectures, presented in book form as the best-selling "In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey", a memoir on how the religious persecution of the Iranian Baha'i community inspired his human rights career: https://houseofanansi.com/products/in-search-of-a-better-world

Read about this talk here.

Friday, March 5, 2021, 7:30 pm

Making Good Things Happen: Environmental Action at the Grass Roots With Bill Kelly

Bill’s presentation will inspire others to be active contributors towards justice and the progress of humanity. It will draw on his unique perspective and substantial experience in working, sometimes successfully, towards making good things happen. Bill is working with the Ottawa Cluster Environment Group for this presentation. He will show how the group is working to encourage sustainable practices and participation in bringing about the change necessary to begin healing our planet. How do we go about the greatest project of learning we have ever undertaken?
About Bill:
Bill Kelly grew up in a military family and was himself a U.S. Marine during the Vietnam Era. First in his family to attend college, he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a focus in psychology. Bill’s early experiences and insights into different socioeconomic and educational environments led him to dedicate himself to working towards a more egalitarian society. When he was introduced to the Baha’i Faith as a young father in Texas, the principles of unity and justice immediately clarified, substantiated, and vastly expanded a vision of the world towards which he had been working.

Bill became involved in information technology in the early 1980’s when personal computers were showing the promise of empowering individuals without regard to their status in society. He worked to bring computer access and literacy to low income, disabled and racially disadvantaged communities. Later, Bill gravitated towards entrepreneurial activities and established multiple green businesses including a solar energy company and an ecommerce business that encourages repair and reuse of electronic devices. Resources generated by these businesses empower Bill and his family to work actively towards addressing social issues with an emphasis on the environmental challenges of the day.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, February 26, 2021, 7:30 pm

“THE SPIRIT (still) LIVES: A Resurgence of the Human Spirit” with Louise Profeit-Leblanc “T’se Dἄna” - Beaver Woman

Louise will share thoughts on what it is like to be an Indigenous Bahá’i, the people made mention of by 'Abdu’l- Bahá in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. As a traditional storyteller, Louise will tell stories on this subject and weave the experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Canadian history into her presentation. She is looking forward to demonstrating how we are all part of the “Big Idea” which 'Abdul’-Bahá presented to us.
About Louisee:
Louise Profeit-Leblanc Louise is a member of the Nacho Nnak Dun First Nation of Mayo, Yukon, a mother, grandmother and Story Keeper.

She comes from a long line of traditional storytellers and her repertoire consists of her own personal stories and ancient stories related her homeland. Louise has travelled extensively sharing these stories at festivals, universities and international venues. She is also a textile artist, poet and short story writer, demonstrating how the power of art and story can heal, educate, and provide others the opportunity to express their culture and strengths through the arts.

Among other work, Louise contributed to the Yukon Land Claims negotiations, established a suicide prevention program for the indigenous population, was the Native Heritage Advisor for the Yukon Government Heritage Branch, before moving to Ottawa to lead the Aboriginal Arts Secretariat of the Canada Council for the Arts from 2002-13. Louise lives with her husband Bob in Wakefield, Quebec.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, February 12, 2021, 7:30 pm

Keeping Your Marriage and Family Together in an Unhealthy World with Susanne Alexander

Relationship and Marriage Educator

Powerful forces are attacking the integrity and health of individuals, marriages, and families, often causing them to fight for survival. A couple and family can learn how to unite and powerfully protect themselves when negative forces in the world intrude or when problems arise.

Couples can strive to create happy marriages that promote well-being for themselves and provide the foundation for the family. Turning to God and spiritual teachings for inspiration and guidance as challenges in life arise strengthens the couple and family connection, happiness, and health.

Marriage and family life are stronger when character virtues such as respect, kindness, truthfulness, and compassion infuse everyone’s words and actions. Couple and family well-being can include such aspects as exercise, friendship, social activities, communication, appreciation, and laughter. When family members strive to be of service to each other and outward to others, they contribute to creating healthier communities.

About Susanne:
Susanne M. Alexander is a Relationship and Marriage Educator, book author, and coach with her company Marriage Transformation® (www.marriagetransformation.com; www.bahaimarriage.net). Her book, Creating Well-Being for Couples and Families, inspired this presentation. Susanne is passionate about helping her individual and couple clients make good relationship and marriage choices through couple and character assessments and building knowledge and skills. Susanne also serves as the Relationship, Marriage, and Family Department Chair for the Wilmette Institute Baha’i-based online courses here. She is originally from Canada now lives and works with her husband Phil Donihe in Tennessee.

Friday, January 22, 2021, 7:30 pm

East is East, and West is West*: Education’s Where They Meet! with Jay Howden

*Not to forget the global South and North and their roads to reconciliation!

This presentation offers one school teacher’s view of the astounding enterprise that EDUCATION genuinely *is*. After decades in Canadian schools, Jay worked with Chinese university students to improve their English and their understanding of “Western Culture”, broadly understood. The strengths and weaknesses of educational systems, East and West, will start us pondering the nature and practice of education. What do we think we’re doing: in our own life’s learning, in our communities and schools, and as a global population seeking what it means to be a planetary family? This is Education, writ LARGE. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá deliver an awesome vision and practical guidelines. How do we go about the greatest project of learning we have ever undertaken?

About Jay:
James Howden is a writer, coach and world citizen-in-training. Twenty years of breathlessly teaching reading and writing and coaching basketball as if global prosperity depended upon it were followed by work in Ottawa as a speechwriter and five years teaching and learning in Dalian, China. Still active (pandemic aside) as a coach, he lives in the Overbrook neighbourhood of Ottawa with his wife Diana and the youngest of his four sons. Readers track his fitful writing at JamesHowden.com, but his friends call him Jay. He has been feeling his way along the Bahá'í path since his teens.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, December 18, 2020, 7:30 pm

The Creative Process—a Tool for Individual and Collective Transformation with Anne Perry

Where do creativity and inspiration come from? What happens when we actualize our talents, harness our imaginations, and share with others the fruits of our creativity? How will cultivating our interest in and love for the arts contribute to changes in society and our own engagement with public discourse? What can we learn about resilience, transformation, and adaptation as we look at arts created during the pandemic? How can we restore a sense of reverence in the world through the arts?

These questions and others will be addressed in this talk, with attention to the Bahá'í perspective on the importance of the role of the arts, both in the present and the future.

"It is certain that with the spread of the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh a new era will dawn in art and literature. Whereas before the form was perfect but the spirit was lacking, now there will be a glorious spirit embodied in a form immeasurably improved by the quickened genius of the world.”
(Shoghi Effendi, 3 April 1932, to an individual)

About Anne:
Anne Gordon Perry is a writer who dabbles in the arts of drama, film, glass fusion, book production, and dance. She teaches writing, humanities, art and film appreciation at the Art Institute of Dallas and holds a PhD in Aesthetic Studies. The author of numerous articles, essays, short stories, poems, and scripts, she also co-created Luminous Journey: 'Abdu'l-Bahá in America, 1912 with her husband. They are working on a film about 'Abdu'l-Bahá in France.

Anne lives near Dallas, Texas with her husband, Tim, four cats, and various raccoons who gather nightly on their patio for nocturnal picnics. Anne is a member of two ABS reading groups on the arts, the Ottawa Writers Group, and the Desert Rose Write Life collective. Through the Wilmette Institute, she teaches two courses on the arts and is developing a course on film.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, December 4, 2020, 7:30 pm

“How can 8 Billion People Govern Themselves Better?” with Maury Miloff

Humanity has experimented with many different systems of governance  essentially, how a society manages itself. Even the simplest groups have a collective vision of what is right and good, and norms, rules and processes which purport to protect and guide. However, to date, all major governance systems have been found wanting. Even advanced democracies are affected by low voting participation, declining trust in politicians and institutions, polarization, inequality and racism. The Baha'i teachings on governance constitute a unique paradigm. This presentation will explore how the Baha'i model, systematically being put into practice around the world, holds great promise for improved governance from the grassroots up to the global level.

About Maury:
Maury grew up in Montreal and Winnipeg. His formal education includes a BA Honours in Sociology, and a Master’s in International Affairs (Integration Studies). He subsequently worked for more than thirty years in the arena of international development, managing projects and programs for UNDP, NGOs and with Canada’s De-partment of Foreign Affairs and CIDA. During the last half of his career, he focused exclusively on building capacity for governance in developing countries, his last position being a Senior Advisor for Governance at CIDA. He lived for more than 16 years in six countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Maury and his wife have three adult children. He retired from paid work in 2013 and has since been mainly involved, among a variety of pursuits, with the Baha’i Faith and other organizations in improving community life.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, November 20, 2020, 7:30 pm

Why History Matters: Reflections on the 20th Century as a Turning Point with Jóhanna Jochumsdottir

The twentieth century has been characterized by historians as the ‘age of extremes’, a time of unprecedented turbulence that left ‘a catalogue of horrors unknown to even the darkest of ages past’. But simultaneous with warfare, famine and the breakdown of political, economic and social institutions across the globe, new opportunities arose. Other spaces and ways of being opened up to whole peoples and populations previously enslaved, colonized and deprived of their autonomy. This presentation will look at the destruction and ruin of the twentieth century and propose that the revolutionary changes that took place also made the idea of the unification of humanity a realistic possibility. From this vantage point we can see the twentieth century not only as a period of destruction, but also as a ‘century of light.’

Finally, we will briefly reflect on how the Baha’i community, during this century, has evolved from a small, scattered, and unknown group to a worldwide community a community which is applying the vision of the oneness of humanity as it works to bring change to all levels of local and national communities, and at the highest levels of global governance.

About Jóhanna:
Jóhanna was born and brought up in Iceland and has lived in many different parts of the world. She is an historian and has taught global & comparative history, modern European histo-ry, and women’s & gender history at universities in South-Africa, the United States and the U.K. After moving to Canada with her family in 2014, she worked as a policy analyst for the Canadian Government, and served the Bahá’í Community of Ottawa in a fulltime capacity. She is currently writing a book about Helen S. Goodall, one of the early Bahá'ís in the United States.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, November 6, 2020, 7:30 pm

The Baha’i Perspective on the Role of Women in Peacebuilding, Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims

Despite growing international recognition of women’s effectiveness at promoting peace and increasing awareness of the disproportionate impact conflict has on women and girls, female representation in peace and security processes has lagged. Yet when women are at the negotiating table, peace is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.

‘Abdu’l-Baha discussed the important role women play in the preven-tion and resolution of violent conflict almost 100 years before the UNSC adopted Resolution 1325, and the Universal House of Justice reiterated this fundamental belief:

“The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality be-tween the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowl-edged prerequisites of peace. The denial of [women’s] equality per-petrates an injustice against one half of the world’s population…Only as women are welcomed into full partnership in all fields of human endeavour will the moral and psychological climate be created in which international peace can emerge.”

This presentation explores the Baha’i writings on the role of women in peacebuilding by reflecting on the Women, Peace and Security agenda, as well as evidence from conflict-affected contexts.

About Cheshmak:
Cheshmak is a senior policy advisor working on issues pertaining to international peace and security. She leads on a number of files and is the gender focal point responsible for integrating a gender and intersectional lens and the women, peace and security agenda into her work. Prior to joining government, Cheshmak was a uni-versity professor and researcher, teaching peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto, McMaster and Saint Paul University. In 2003, she trained Afghan women activists, community workers and public servants on international human rights and peace instruments and how to integrate these into the new Afghan constitution to support Afghan women’s participation in the rebuilding of their society, returning undertake a collaborate research project in 2008.

Cheshmak continues to bring a peacebuilding, conflict transformative, human rights and gender-informed lens to her current work. She is married and has four sweet children who inspire her to continue to try to make the world more peaceful and equitable for everyone.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, October 16, 2020, 7:30 pm

Income Inequality and its Effects on Society, Paul Touesnard

In recent times the world has become more aware of the increasing concentra-tion of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer individuals. The current pandemic, it seems, has only made matters worse. One of the fundamental principles of the Baha’i Faith is the elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty. In this presentation, Paul will explore what some of the Writings of the Faith say about how this can be accomplished.

About Paul:
Paul is a retired civil servant with 30+ years of experience developing and evaluating federal government programs. As a member of the Baha’i Community he has had an on-going interest in teachings related to economic issues.

Friday, October 2, 2020, 7:30 pm

Creating a Refuge from Racism

Carol Mansour explores this issue on a regular basis with Bahá’ís from throughout North America and around the world. She is es-pecially drawn to discourses connecting the Writings and guidance of the Bahá’í Faith with current social movements aimed at elimi-nating anti-Blackness. She has been spurred into action after re-flecting on the admonition in “The Advent of Divine Justice” to consider it a primary obligation to “nurture, encourage and safe-guard” minorities, and by coming to a fuller understanding of Ba-ha’u’llah’s metaphor comparing people of African descent to the “pupil of the eye”, necessary for spiritual sight.

Carol challenges the Bahá’í community to examine its assumptions about itself. Does it reflect the diversity of the wider society? Do racial minorities feel warmly welcomed? Are they valued for more than photo ops? What do we need to stop doing, start doing or continue doing to transform into refuges from racial prejudice?

About Carol:
Carol Mansour grew up in a racially segregated neighborhood, attending an all Black church, and troubled that nothing in the scenario seemed congruent with what she was learning about God’s love for all His creatures. When she heard of the Bahá’í teachings as an adult, she was intrigued that working for the elimination of racial prejudice was deemed a spiritual obli-gation. As a journalist, professional and personal skepticism made it difficult for her to take much of what she was hearing at face value. She has officially been “becoming” a Bahá’í for nearly 30 years now.

Carol is one of the founding admins of an international group de-voted to exploring social justice issues through a Bahá’í lens, Race Unity in America – an Oral History, and is active in the Nashville area in interfaith circles, especially those dealing with the issue of eliminating racial prejudice.

Read about this talk here.

Visit this site to see videos of Carol’s experiences: Here!

Friday, 11 September 2020, 7:30 pm

'Abdu’l-Bahá: The Master of Social Action and Public Discourse

Among His many areas of service to humanity, 'Abdu’l-Bahá initiated remarkable social and economic projects that even today would be at the forefront of agriculture and community development initiatives. Similarly, His public discourse, which occurred 100 years ago, remains transformational in its content on innumerable topics still at the forefront of contemporary discourse. In all things, He is our Exemplar. This presentation features a number of his accomplishments in these areas, focusing particularly on ‘Adasiyyah, the model agricultural village established by the Master in the early 20th century.

About Paul Hanley
Paul Hanley lives in Saskatoon. He has published five books and 1600 articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture, and other topics. His most recent book is Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist. Paul has received several awards including the 2015 University of Saskatchewan President’s Award for Non-fiction and the 2015 ABS North America Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, 21 August 2020, 7:30 pm

Towards a New World Order: Governance Issues with Andy Tamas

“The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order….” - Baha’u’llah

Two objectives of the Baha’i revelation are the recognition of the one-ness of humanity and the establishment of a New World Order. These have major implications for governance, from individual, interpersonal and community to global levels.

Baha’u’llah proclaimed His mission to the kings and rulers of His time, calling on them to establish the Most Great Peace. Their rejection of His call has set humanity on a rocky road towards the Lesser Peace.

In this presentation, Andy Tamas explores how patterns of governance (order) have changed in the last century, the various stages in the inter-national movement towards world peace, and the major challenges and lessons learned from the establishment of the United Nations and the European Union. What will drive world leaders to recognize the “imperative necessity” described by Baha’u’llah? How will the Baha’is fulfill their task of breathing life into the political unification of mankind? Please join us for a series of talks addressing some of humanity’s shared challenges and opportunities as we work to advance an emerging global civilization. This series brings together perspectives from the Baha'i writings, current research, experience, and contemporary discourses on key issues of our time.

About Andy Tamas
Andy is a governance and organizational change specialist with a focus on national and sub-national institutional analysis, policy implementa-tion and reform in fragile and conflict-affected states. He has worked on public sector reform and governance initiatives for decades in Afghani-stan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere, most recently on projects for Swedish SIDA and USAID to help with their planning for support to Afghanistan. He recently received a Doctorate in Governance from University College Dublin, with a focus on governance in fragile states – his previous studies were in Continuing Education and Social Work.

Some years ago when on pilgrimage Andy prayed to be able to pioneer – not geographically in the normal sense, but rather professionally – to find a way to move into fields of practice where there were not many Baha’is. Since then his work has taken him to some of the world’s most troubled states, where he has done what he can to apply the principles of the Faith to help strengthen governance in these countries.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, 7 August 2020, 7:30 pm

Decolonization and Anti-Racism: A View of Creating Change by Danielle Ewenin

This presentation will provide an overview of Decolonization and Anti-Racism, but with a view that there may at first glance be two sides. A closer look shows learning and development provides that growth of individual, community and nation is required for a just society. One does not wake up one morning in a just society, but via human development and growth change occurs, and it must occur at the level of the individual, family, community, and nation. Please join us for a series of talks addressing some of humanity’s shared challenges and opportunities as we work to advance an emerging global civilization. This series brings together perspectives from the Baha'i writings, current research, experience, and contemporary discourses on key issues of our time.

About Danielle Ewenin
Danielle is from Kawacatoose First Nation, Saskatchewan, the mother of 5 children and grandmother of 19. Danielle is a graduate of the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College, now First Nations University, and holds a degree in Indigenous Studies. Her expertise is in community development and she has worked extensively in the USA and Canada, as well as being a published author of articles and book chapters. Danielle has been a strong advocate for Indigenous Peoples both in the USA and Canada, with a focus on women and youth. She was a community coordinator for Amnesty International’s report, “Maze of Injustice; Sexual Victimization of American Indian Women in the USA.” and has spoken at national and international conferences on social and economic development. She holds to the belief that we live in a society where equality and justice and peace are attainable for all.

Friday, July 17, 2020 7:30 pm

Where Spiritual Teachings, Collective Learning and Community Building Align

Several key concepts and guiding principles are emerging in development discourse and practice that are shaping its methods and approaches, universally. And not surprisingly, many of these elements are entirely consistent with the experience and teachings of the Baha’i Community. This presentation will reflect on some lessons learned from an independent research activity with eleven grantees of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, exploring from their perspective what contributes to positive and sustained change at the individual and community level. The presentation will then contrast this experience with some insights generated from participating in the capacity and community building programs of the Ruhi Institute.

About Duncan Hanks
Duncan has worked with non-governmental, Baha’i, and Baha’i-inspired organizations in the fields of international and community development for over twenty-five years, including seven years as a consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. His areas of expertise include organizational development, change management, capacity building and sustainable development.

Friday, July 3, 2020 7:30pm

The Spirit of Agriculture

Paul Hanley will discuss how spiritual principles and practices can be applied to food systems to ensure that they are equitable, just, healthy and sustainable.

About Paul Hanley
Paul has published five books and 1600 articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture, and other topics. His most recent book is Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist. Paul has received several awards including the 2015 University of Saskatchewan President’s Award for Non-fiction and the 2015 ABS North America Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

Friday, June 19, 2020 7:30pm

How to Make the World Work For 11 Billion People

Eleven billion people will share this planet by century’s end. Adding 3 billion to an already overburdened world will admit force everyone to change everything. Only an ethical revolution will allow us to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization. This evening’s talk, based on Paul’s book ELEVEN, proposes a transformational model that will help individuals, institutions and communities make an 11 billion world work for everyone – and the planet. Read about this talk here.

About Paul Hanley
Paul has published five books and 1600 articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture, and other topics. His most recent book is Man of the Trees: Richard St. Barbe Baker, the First Global Conservationist. Paul has received several awards including the 2015 University of Saskatchewan President’s Award for Non-fiction and the 2015 ABS North America Award for Distinguished Scholarship.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, February 21st, 2020 7:30pm

The Bahá'í Faith and Human Rights

The idea of universal human rights may seem timeless, but international agreement on rights did not exist before 1948. Over a century ago, however, Bahá’u’lláh articulated a global vision of the equal dignity and rights for all. This presentation will explore the Bahá’í teachings on human rights and Bahá’í community engagement on this issue dating back to the drafting process of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tony Michel

Friday, January 24th, 2020 7:30pm

Environmental crisis; Climate Emergency: Looking for Answers in the Baha'i Revelation

The Baha'i teachings point to revolutionary change in how the world is organized. Climate change experts and activists insist radical changes are needed in our economic and political structures and our way of life – as Naomi Klein suggests, the climate emergency “changes everything”. How does Baha'u'llah's prescription for a future global civilization correspond to the challenges of today and can it set in place the fundamental changes needed?

Read about this talk here.
Diana Cartwright

The views and opinions expressed in this series of presentations are those of the speakers and not necessarily those of the Ottawa Bahá'í community and/or its institutions.

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