June 27, 2019


More than 500 Bahá'ís and their friends came together in Ottawa on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to celebrate the 1st Day of Ridván on 21 April 2019. The Ridván Festival, which occurs over a 12-day period starting in late April and ending in early May, marks the anniversary of the time Bahá'u'lláh spent in a garden on the banks of the River Tigris in Baghdad prior to His exile to Constantinople (present day Istanbul). During this 12-day period, many of His admirers in the city of Baghdad came to bid Him farewell. It was also during this period that Bahá'u'lláh announced to some of the friends who came to visit that He was a Messenger of God, bringing a new message for humanity – a message of peace, hope and prosperity for human civilization.

Bahá'u'lláh called Ridván the "King of Festivals" and today Bahá'ís celebrate this festival as the most joyous of all Bahá'í Holy Days. In cities, towns, villages and neighbourhoods around the world, from Kinshasa to Manila, Santiago to Sydney and from Los Angeles to Paris, Bahá'ís celebrate these special days with gatherings open to all, including family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. The Ridván period is also when Bahá'í communities around the world elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies – nine-member councils that are responsible for guiding and coordinating the affairs of the Bahá'í communities in their jurisdiction.

During the Ridván period, which occurred from April 21 to May 2 this year, the 1st, 9th and 12th days were marked with celebrations. Many Bahá'ís in Ottawa marked these days by taking the day off work and children stayed home from school. In addition to the citywide celebration held on April 21st, many additional celebrations were held on April 29 and May 2 at over 25 different locations across the city.

The 1st Day of Ridván celebration featured attendees from Kanata, Cumberland, Orléans, Barrhaven, downtown Ottawa, Manotick, Stitsville, Beacon Hill, Ottawa South, the Glebe and many other parts of the city. Attendees gathered at the St. Elias Banquet Hall in Ottawa for the program, which started at 3:30pm. The program started with prayers in French and English and featured pieces from the Bahá'í writings, beautifully chanted and set to music by Bahá'í youth from the community. A highlight of the evening was Persian vocal and instrumental music that accompanied the rendition of a poem from Bahá'u'lláh. The program also included a short talk on the journey of the worldwide Bahá'í community from a tiny group of Bahá'ís in the 1800s to a worldwide community representing the full diversity of the human race. The hearts of the participants were soaring as the program closed with African drumming.

Reflecting on the event, Kit Nelson, a long-time member of the Ottawa Bahá'í community, reflected that "it was wonderful to see so many people from diverse backgrounds coming together to celebrate this significant occasion in our Faith."

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