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March 8, 2012

The Ottawa Bahá'í Centre
By Catherine Lewis

I knew virtually nothing about the Bahá'í faith when I walked into the Ottawa Bahá'í Centre on McArthur Avenue last week. This week, I know a little more.

Heather Harvey, the centre manager, says that there are about 1,000 Bahá'ís in Ottawa. Those of the Bahá'í faith, founded in Iran in 1844, believe that all other world religions are different manifestations of the same God and that Bahá'í is God’s revelation for this day and age.

Bahá'í is a religion without clergy. Instead, they use a system of elected representatives. One of its founding principles, says Harvey, is equality, particularly between men and women.

Heather Harvey’s aunt, Winnifred Harvey, became the first Bahá'í to live in Ottawa in 1940. Harvey says that her aunt was instrumental in her conversion to Bahá'í. Raised in a Christian family, at age eight Harvey told her aunt about archeological evidence she had heard of for Noah’s flood. Her aunt told her that other religions had flood stories, too.

“She told me, ‘There is only one religion,’ and that stuck with me for the rest of my life.”

Tonia Pera, born in Spain, became a Bahá'í at age 21. Disillusioned with her deeply Catholicized nation and the various systems of belief she tried out,  she realized that she wanted to be part of the Bahá'í community.

“There were things in my heart that were already Bahá'í,but I didn’t know there were other people who believe the same way,” she says.

Margaret Ram was born into a Bahá'í family in Iran and says she chose Bahá'í because, among other reasons, it meant she “wouldn’t have to ignore all the other religions.”

Originally published on Catherine Lewis's Blog
 "Things I Learn About Vanier", November 30, 2011

Tonia Pera

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