May 2, 2019


We all yearn to live in a happy place surrounded by caring neighbors, children playing together in safety and joy, trusting the people we cross on our paths and feeling that we are part of a vibrant neighborhood. The Bahá’í community has been working on creating such beautiful neighborhoods for some years now, which is a challenge as it involves the participation of so many.

In an apartment building on Donald Street that is home to over a thousand people, a rhythm of activities is bringing light and cheer to the neighborhood. When Dan and Lua, the only Bahá’ís in the building, moved there with their baby Faizi some two years ago, they too yearned for a great neighborhood for their child to grow up in.

As soon as they moved in, they started visiting neighbors and inviting youth and families to their house for social evenings and prayer gatherings. It was clear that the people in the building were very open, diverse, and friendly. Initial conversations and home visits led to many entering the institute process, creating a network of interested families. Children’s classes and junior youth groups also started. Hervé, a 20-year old neighbor who regularly comes to Dan and Lua’s house reflected: “There is a strong force that pulls people to this area in terms of togetherness and companionship.”

With the help of a few young adults from the neighborhood who expressed interest in getting involved and a few other young Bahá’ís who came regularly to serve alongside them, the initial activities started multiplying. In 2017, a junior youth group began with six young people, expanding slowly over time. It provided an opportunity for several families to hear about the program and for several potential resources to get a taste for service. Then in 2018, one of the younger siblings insisted on having her own junior youth group and rallied a large group of her friends together to start that same week. The two groups now continue in parallel, with four animators and some 10-12 participants each representing the diversity of countries in the neighborhood: Burundi, Sudan, Senegal, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Italy, Kenya, Mauritius, Spain, Comoros, and Nigeria.

The junior youth gather every week and study together to develop their intellectual skills and spiritual capacities, play and do artistic activities and carry out service projects in the community. Quincy, a 23-year old who serves in the neighborhood, says: “I think they gain a greater sense of awareness about the community, but also the activities help them to be more open, meet their neighbors, welcome new people, make friendships, and express themselves in a way that is respectful of others.”

With such a big and constantly changing population, it is hard to notice the change in the building, but it is heartwarming to hear the junior youth change their stories from “the neighbor shouted at me” and “I was chased down the corridor” to “we offered them cookies” and “there are so many people interested in what our group does.” There is a glimmering of renewed respect and friendship appearing in the neighborhood.

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