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

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Big Ideas Video Archives, watch previous presentations here:
Video Archives
Friday, June 14, 2024, 7:30 EDT

Experience, Knowledge and Reality with Gerald Filson

In this presentation, Dr. Filson presents three main ideas. First, how we experience the world, by way of emotion and imagination, which is often very different than how we know the world in its relationship to causes and reason. This is a way to understand religion as complementary to science. As Frank Myhill, a mathematician, noted, “there is no non-poetical description of reality,” as the Revelation, full as it is of metaphors, is how we understand our experiences in life.

Second, he cites a British philosopher who said that we don’t yet have an adequate philosophical psychology that properly deals with human action. Contemporary philosophy understands human action by intentionality though we often enter into action by way of inclination that this or that action would be enjoyable. Then we find, as Aristotle noted, that we continually refine our actions that involve conversations, coordination with others, and friendships. Aristotle wrote “excellencies we get by first exercising them… For the things we have to learn before we can do, we learn by doing.” This summarizes how the Baha’is are learning many things anew like home visits, elevated conversations, coordinating actions with others that requires learning about life experiences.

Third, he jumps to an influential Muslim philosopher, Avicenna’s proof of God’s existence, which both Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha confirm. He emphasize concepts that are, as Avicenna noted, “impressed in the soul in a primary way.”
About Gerald:
Gerald Filson has served on the National Assembly ofthe Baha’is of Canada for eight years, and was previously Director of Public Affairs for 25 years. His Ph.D. work was in philosophy.

Friday, May 10, 7:30 EDT

“Education for the Future: Integrating Subjects and the Arts” with Heather Cardin

This presentation traces a thirty year experiment in education, shifting from educator-as-knowledge-giver to educator-as-facilitator, through the use of the arts, of student self-initiators. It is premised on Baha’u’llah’s statement, “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” The educator, as such, discovers methods which assist students to discover their own “gems” as greater than the specific curriculum, and as applicable to almost any subject. What knowledge will benefit mankind, and how can each individual elicit this?

About Heather:
Heather retired from a thirty-year teaching career in early 2018. While her Master’s studies (Carleton 2005) were in English literature, with an emphasis on poetry, her career included teaching English, French, History, Social Studies, Arts (drama, music, visual arts), feminism, and Practical and Applied Arts (embroidery, found object art, gardening, cooking and nutrition). She taught in Papua New Guinea, Belize, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, northern Ontario, and Western Quebec, mostly grades four through twelve. This talk uses many student exemplars, and offers a retrospective of Heather’s career as she developed insights about how education could change to engage through art, and avoid teacher-centred education. Her career was in parallel with raising three children with her husband Bernie; they now spend a lot of time with two delightful grandsons.

Heather retired from a thirty-year teaching career in early 2018. While her Master’s studies (Carleton 2005) were in English literature, with an emphasis on poetry, her career included teaching English, French, History, Social Studies, Arts (drama, music, visual arts), feminism, and Practical and Applied Arts (embroidery, found object art, gardening, cooking and nutrition). She taught in Papua New Guinea, Belize, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, northern Ontario, and Western Quebec, mostly grades four through twelve. This talk uses many student exemplars, and offers a retrospective of Heather’s career as she developed insights about how education could change to engage through art, and avoid teacher-centred education. Her career was in parallel with raising three children with her husband Bernie; they now spend a lot of time with two delightful grandsons.

Friday, April 26, 2024, 7:30 pm

"Spiritual Dimensions of Conflict Resolution” with Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims

Drawing on faith-inspired frameworks, and particularly the Bahá'í writings, this presentation seeks to explore peacebuilding and conflict resolution through a spiritual lens by reflecting on the idea that all the major problems of the world, including war, are merely outer symptoms of deeper problems going on in people’s hearts due to their disconnect from their spiritual nature. According to this view, we will never be able to solve these issues in any meaningful way as long as we don’t give due attention to our own spiritual nature. As we have seen, no amount of legislation, administration and policymaking can change the heart. It is therefore through spiritual transformation and insights that deep rooted shifts in our relationship to one another and to nature can take place, and solutions to the world’s ills found and applied.

About Cheshmak:
Cheshmak has been involved in peacebuilding and conflict resolution in one way or another for almost 40 years. In addition to working as a university professor in the field, she has travelled and worked in Afghanistan, advanced Canadian government policies and programs on these issues, and had the privilege of representing Canada at international fora related to international peace-related issues. Since fall 2023, with the help of a wonderful circle of friends, Cheshmak has been facilitating ‘Soulful Conversation Devotional Gatherings’ to promote peace and understanding, and to foster hope and healing in her community. She is married and has four sweet children who inspire her every day to try to make the world more loving, peaceful and equitable for everyone.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, March 8, 2024, 7:30 pm

Rising to the Challenge of Reconciliation With Doug White

In recent years, Canada has arrived at an ever deepening and dynamic moment in its relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The Canadian public and imagination has been engaged in multiple national processes such as the Royal Commission, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. One of the key TRC recommendations was that Canada should adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation- which Canada has done. Now the imperative and work of implementation is in front of us as a nation and all of these distinct yet interrelated pathways will require the focused attention, effort, action, determination, and even love, of all of us to bring about the world we dream about for future generations.

Doug will help us reflect on how, to truly reconcile, we will need to forge new spaces and patterns of community at the grassroots, striving to reflect the dynamics of peaceful co-existence and just relations.
About Doug White:
Doug is a member and former Chief and Councillor of the Snuneymuxw First Nation in Nanaimo, B.C. He is also a practicing lawyer and has been a negotiator for First Nations across the country. After completing his B.A. in First Nations Studies at Malaspina University-College, Doug graduated from the Faculty of Law at the University of Victoria in 2006 and was called to the Bar of British Columbia in January 2008. He was the Director of the Centre for Pre- Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation at Vancouver Island University and Chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council. He currently serves as Special Counsel to the Premier on Indigenous Reconciliation.

Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, 7:30 EST

"The utmost loving-kindness": A Bahá'í view of the treatment of animals
With Michael Sabet

The question of the proper relationship between humans and animals can easily fall into “the all too common tendencies . . . to delineate sharp dichotomies . . . and engage in intractable debate that obstructs the search for viable solutions” (Universal House of Justice, 29 November 2017 letter on climate change). The Bahá’í Writings transcend the dichotomy between domination-themed narratives that assign purely instrumental value to the natural world, and materialistic narratives that deny any unique status for the human. This presentation will explore certain relational principles in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that can guide our contributions to discourses dealing with animals and the natural world.
Michael Sabet
About Michael Sabet: Michael is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research involves putting a Bahá'í framework for governance into dialogue with political philosophy. He is a lawyer by training, having practiced constitutional litigation in Ottawa after clerking at the Supreme Court. Michael resides in Calgary and is the Editor of The Journal of Bahá'í Studies.

Friday, December 8, 2023, 7:30 EST

Speak with a kindly tongue: On-line engagement, social media and youth With Dr. Victoria Talwar

The digital sphere is one that we all increasingly engage in. For children and youth, who are digital natives, it is a significant part of their lives and social engagement. Beyond learning how to interact with peers face-to-face, youth need to learn how to interact on-line. Furthermore, there are perils attached with on-line engagement including cyberbullying and others who may seek to harm. What are the principles that we can use to guide our youth (and ourselves) when engaging in the digital sphere?
Victoria Talwar
About Victoria Talwar: Victoria Talwar, PhD, is a James McGill Professor and Interim Dean of the Faculty of Education at McGill University. Her research focuses on children and youth's social-emotional and moral development. She is author of the book The Truth about Lying: Teaching Honesty to Children at Every Age and Stage published by American Psychological Association. Dr. Talwar has given numerous workshops to parents, teachers, social workers, and legal professionals. Among other distinctions and awards, she is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Division 7), a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, and a Fellow the Royal Society of Canada.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 7:30 EDT

Towards Climate Justice: The Historical Initiative of Small Island Nations to Hold Major Polluters Accountable for Global Warming Before International Courts and Tribunals With Payam Akhavan

Small island states are facing threats to their existence and some may even disappear because of sea level rise if the major polluters don't change course. This presentation will explore legal efforts to fight this injustice. More information: COSIS historic hearing at ITLOS: SIDS' quest for climate jus- tice - YouTube
Payman Akhavan
About Payam Akhavan Professor Akhavan SJD OOnt FRSC is Senior Fellow and Human Rights Chair at Massey College, University of Toronto, Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He has appeared as counsel in notable cases before international courts and tribunals, including most recently, on behalf of the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law in a historic case on the responsibility of major polluters for greenhouse gas emissions and the catastrophic consequences of Global Warming.

Professor Akhavan delivered the 2017 CBC Massey Lectures, presented in book form as the bestselling "In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey", a memoir on how the religious persecution of the Iranian Bahá'í community inspired his human rights career.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. EST

"The Spectrum of Addiction: An exploration of the nature of addiction” With Dr. Louis Soucy

Louis Soucy
About Dr. Louis Soucy

Dr. Soucy is a psychiatrist (BSc MD FRCP)who grew up in Coquitlam, BC. He became a Bahá'i at age 17 after exploring spirituality and religion for four years. After medical training at UBC and the University of Saskatchewan he worked in the North (James Bay) as a family physician for four years . He completed his psychiatric training at the University of Ottawa and has been an associate professor ever since, subsequently completing fellowships in neuro- psychiatry and sleep medicine. He says his greatest achievement is the part he's played in his family, especially raising his daughters, though, he says, most of the credit goes to (his wife) Fariba.”

Friday, September 15, 2023, 7:30 EDT

Spirituality, Religion & Secularity: Why We Need All Three" with Harold Rosen

Since our worldviews vary widely, often leading tostagnation or conflict, Harold suggests we take a broader look at our worldviews. Perhaps we think of ourselves as 'Spiritual', 'Religious', 'Secular', or a combination of these. What do these orientations mean and how are they related? How can we develop more constructive outlooks on our societal and planetary challenges? Harold will help us explore Bahá'í and Global perspectives, searching for more integrative and progressive worldviews.
About Harold: Harold Rosen is a lifelong student and teacher of world religions with masters degrees in religion, education and philosophy. A Unitarian minister for 25 years and a Bahá'í since the year 2000, he serves as a Community Interfaith Educator on Vancouver Island where he and his wife Wendy are active in the Bahá'í community. He has designed and taught over 200 community courses on world religions, the history of civilizations and ideas, science and spirituality, comparative ethics, and moral-spiritual development. Harold is the author of Founders of Faith: The Parallel Lives of God'ss Messengers (Bahá'í Publishing, Wilmette) and Eye to the Ages: A Bahá'í-inspired Philosophy of Histry” (Global Faith Book Series, Boston) to be published by December, 2023

Read about this talk here.

Friday, May 12, 2023, 7:30 EDT

Luminous Tones: The Power of Sacred Sound and Chant; With Nancy Watters

How can we draw closer to our Creator and drink deeply from the well of Divine Grace at every devotional gathering? How can we enter realms of spirit which cannot be described in words or expressed in symbols?” How can we overcome our shyness about lifting our voices and singing the blissful anthems of the spirit?”

In this presentation Nancy Kaasei” Watters will discuss how communal devotional singing can transform individuals, communities, and whole societies. Shell reveal how she overcame her fear of singing in front of people, and how you can too. She will give a mini concert using Alchemy™ crystal singing bowls, overtone singing and drumming. Shell demonstrate how Sound [is] the most powerful magic for enabling us to live extraordinary lives filled with peace, passion, health and a sense of unity with the universe.” [Oncologist Mitchell L. Gaynor]
About Nancy: Nancy Kaasei” Watters was born with a love of singing. But there were periods when she couldnt sing at all because life was so painful. It was singing that brought her back to life, and caused her to ask, Why is singing together so healing?” She studied the science behind music, as well as many ancient spiritual traditions including Buddhist, Bahá'í, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, First Nations and Sufi. In 2011 she founded The Bahá'í Chant Project (Multifaith), www.bahaichantorg to help people overcome religious prejudices and benefit from the amazing benefits of singing together.

Friday, March 10, 2023, 7:30 EDT

"Moving past MAD: A Bahá'í Perspective on Multiparty Adversarial Democracy" with Michael Sabet

Multiparty Adversarial Democracy (MAD), the prevalent form of democracy in the modern world, is proving to be an inadequate model for political institutions grappling with humanitys ever-complexifying challenges. This presentation focuses on two of MADs premises the non-perfectibility of the human being, and the untrustworthiness of institutions that inhibit the development of a culture of deliberation and rich democratic engagement. The presentation then explores two alternatives to MAD. First, Gandhian swaraj suggests how a vision of the human being as spiritually perfectible can ground a very different conception of politics. Second, the practice of the Bahá'í community demonstrates how, in practical terms, such a vision can ground an institutional system that is culturally and procedurally richly democratic.
About Michael Sabet: Michael is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Toronto. His research involves putting a Bahá'í framework for governance into dialogue with political philosophy. He is a lawyer by training, having practiced constitutional litigation in Ottawa after clerking at the Supreme Court.

Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, 7:30 EST

Artificial Intelligence and Ethics” With Julian Lebensold

Given that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere we look these days, this talk will explore the following:

Part 1: What is Artificial Intelligence? How does it work? What may be the future of AI?

Part 2: What are some ethical challenges inherent in AI? We will explore bias in algorithms; privacy concerns; use of AI for harmful purposes; safety and security; and its impact on society.

Part 3: How can we address those challenges? How do we apply ethics to AI?

About Julian Lebensold: Julian recently retired after more than 20 years as a professor of computer science at Vanier College in Montreal, where he focused on teaching students how to develop user-centered ethical software. Earlier, in 1988, prior to teaching, he led a team that developed Pitch Expert, an award-winning commercial expert system, used by Canadian pulp and paper mills. During this same period, Julian was active on international and Canadian user-interface standards committees and helped design keyboards for both the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and the CSA (Canadian Standards Association). Before becoming a computer scientist, Julian worked as a graphic designer, later becoming Assistant Photo Editor at the Montreal Star.

Julian has lived and been involved in a number of different commu-nities. As a youth, he was active in the Montreal Jewish community, serving as president of a temple youth group, where he first heard about the Bahá'í Faith. This year, Julian marked his 50th year as a Bahá'í. In 1972, he and his spouse pioneered to Zaire (now the Dem-ocratic Republic of Congo) where they organized 9-day institutes for the Bahá'í community and taught in a remote high school. He served on Local Spiritual Assemblies in Canada, and has given courses, semi-nars and talks on various topics such as the Covenant, marriage, the Bahá'í Fund, and the use of computer technology.

Friday, Dec, 9, 2022, 7:30 EST

Food, Farmer, and Community: Agriculture and the Reconstruction of the World” With Neil Macmillan

In His Tablet of the World revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh describes five fundamental principles;conducive to the advancement of mankind and the reconstruction of the world: the promotion of the Lesser Peace by the members of the House of Justice; the reduction of languages to one com-mon language to be taught in all the schools of the world; tenacious adhesion to that which will promote fellowship, kindliness and unity; material contributions for the training and education of children and, lastly, a special regard for agriculture. However, amazingly, Bahá'u'lláh then goes on to say that although [agriculture] has been mentioned in the fifth place, unquestionably it exceeds the others.

This presentation explores this special regard for agriculture; in terms of the past, the present and the future. The title comes from a new book compiled by Winnona Merritt, a member of the Association for Bahá'í Studies agriculture working group. Prepare to enjoy a few quizzes as part of this interactive presentation.

About Neil MacMillan: Since 1966, Neil has been enthusiastically involved with agriculture in the UK, Canada and the Cen-tral African Republic as a farm labourer, lab technician, farm journalist, agribusinessman and poultry farm manager. He is also an English language teacher and a certified French-to-English translator. Since 1967, he has been particularly in-debted to the constant loving support of his beloved wife Jane. Since 1970, the couple have been active, devoted and appreciative members of the global Bahá'í community. They currently make their home in Cornwall, Ontario, the city to which they pioneered from Ottawa in 1999.

Friday, November 4, 2022, 7:30 EDT

"What we can learn from Islam" with Dr. Todd Lawson

About Dr. Todd Lawson: Todd is a renowned professor/scholar of Islam. He is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto and has published a number of books and papers on Islam.

Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, 7:30 EDT

What type of education will help us build a global civilization? With Dr. Thomas Ponniah

Over the past six years we have watched far-right, anti-globalist, political parties and leaders become mainstream conservative leaders. There are numerous political and economic policies and approaches for confronting the current form of anti-globalism but in this presentation Dr. Ponniah will discuss how education can move individuals and society towards a more inclusive planetary vision. He will compare the classical conception of education with the current one and propose a third possibility that is more in line with Bahá'í principles.
About Dr. Ponniah: Dr. Thomas Ponniah was a full-time Lecturer on Social Studies at Harvard University (2003-2011) and is currently a Summer Lecturer at Harvard (2006 onwards) and a Professor of Philosophy and Politics in the School of Liberal Arts at George Brown College in Toronto (2011-onwards). He has received thirteen Certificates of Teaching Distinction and Excellence.

Dr. Ponniah has been a Bahá'í for 24 years. Since the birth of his daughter 97 weeks ago he has written a popular weekly Fatherhood post on Facebook outlining his experience of life as a parent.

Friday, September 9, 2022, 7:30pm EST

An Inspirational Musical Book Tour: 19 Insights learned from a 19 year old with cancer
with Author Adam Robarts & Muscian Luke Slott

Friday, May 27, 2022, 7:30 EDT

Climate Change, Net Zero and the Great Transition:Finding Hope and Taking Action with Diana Cartwright

The Bahá'í 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 [can] a growing, rapidly developing, and not yet united global population, in a just manner, live in harmony with the planet and its limited resources?" (Bahá'í World Centre 29 Nov. 2022). Diana re-sponds: "There are all sorts of interwoven aspects to this problem, and therefore there are many solutions, from the economic to the social to the spiritual. Religion/spirituality, can provide the desire to create change, both at the level of our own behaviour and of the desire to reconstruct our society. It can shed light on the es-sential interconnectedness of all things. Scientific understanding of climate change is demonstrating the Bahá'í conviction that 'the earth is one country' and we all are its citizens." In fact, the Bahá'í teachings and the grassroots development of the global Bahá'í community have much to offer in this crisis, whether on the level of principle or of practice. Diana will share ideas and invite discussion: How can we maintain hope, avoid finger-pointing and make a use-ful contribution to environmental betterment? What role can spiritual wisdom and communities play in the climate crisis?
About Diana: Diana has been working with the cleantech sector for over 25 years, and is excited by all the solutions and technologies ‘out there. She currently works at Global Affairs Canada, helping the growing number of Canadian companies that are providing climate change solutions around the world. A highlight of her career was representing the international Bahá'í Community at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, in 2002. Diana also spent five years designing and teaching courses in English and environmental business in a Chinese university, following an earlier career in dance and theatre. She is constantly trying to learn more on how to live a green lifestyle and loves making connections between the Bahá'í teachings and sustainability.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, May 13, 2022, 7:30pm EST

Making the Film 'Abdul-Bahá in France with Anne & Tim Perry

'Abdul-Bahá, the son of the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith,Bahá'u'lláh, was freed from decades of exile and imprisonment in 1909. Between 1911 and 1913 he visited Switzerland, England, Scotland, France, United States, Canada, Germany and Hungary, spending the longest period of his time in Europe in Paris. Everywhere he went, he brought a message of universal peace, the unity of East and West, racial harmony, and gender equality.

Filmmakers Anne and Tim Perry have spent the last few years working on ‘Abdul-Bahá in France, using engaging documentary storytelling to bring to light a little-known chapter of French history. For our presentation, theyll share the process of making the film and show a few clips.
Anne Gordon Perry  teaches writing, humanities, film appreciation, and art appreciation at the Art Institute of Dallas and is the primary researcher and scriptwriter of ‘Abdul-Bahá in Paris.

Tim Perry is a video producer/director who has worked over 30 years as a media professional in Los Angeles and Dallas and serves as director and editor of ‘Abdul-Bahá in France.

Perry Productions is a small media production company comprised of husband-and-wife Anne & Tim Perry and various collaborators. Committed to high quality artistry in print and media production, the Perry team supports global awareness, gender and racial equality, the unity of all religions, and the power of art. They have produced several films together, including Luminous Journey: ‘Abdul-Bahá in America, 1912.

Friday, April 15, 2022, 7:30pm EST

The Journey of the Soul with Jack McLean

The Bahá'í Faith defines the reality of the human being as its immortal soul. As based on the Bahá'í sacred writings, this talk will explore the spiritual and metaphysical reality of the soul, how the development of the soul takes place while we make our earthly pilgrimage, its relationship to the body, and the promises that are given to believers about the nature of the soul after death in the worlds beyond.
About Jack:
Jack McLean was born in Toronto, Canada on June 7, 1945. His mother Joyce became a Bahá'í in 1952. It had a life-transforming effect on Jack and his two siblings, Mary Lou and Steve. Because of the Bahá'í Faith, Jack became interested in comparative religion and theology. After studying French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris (1965-1968), he took Religious Studies at the universities of Toronto and Ottawa. He holds a Master's degree in the History of Religions. Jack has won two awards from the Association for Bahá'í Studies North America: creative writing for poetry (1995) and distinguished scholarship for his in-depth study of the writings of Shoghi Effendi (2013), A Celestial Burning. He was also editor-contributor for a Kalimat Press volume of theological essays (1997). Jack has written six books, four of which have been published; two are in waiting. He has also written several volumes of poetry, academic articles and essays. His website is available at www.jack-mclean.com. Jack earned his living as a middle and high school teacher. He has two adult daughters and four grandchildren.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, April 1, 2022, 7:30pm EST

Building Community Services - Health and Education from the grassroots in Rwanda” with Chris Anderson

Chris Anderson first went to Africa in his early twenties as a Bahá'í pioneer, and he and his family have been serving in development initiatives in various countries for more than 25 years. They created the Anderson Association in Rwanda, an incorporated not for profit humanitarian organization working on projects in health, education and moral leadership. The Joan Anderson Memorial Dispensary in Gatenga offers medical services to more than 5,000 patients a year. The organization has also opened a public library free of charge to all in temporary space beside the dispensary while the permanent library building is under construction. Plans are also underway to build a school that will serve up to ??? children and youth.

We are living in an extraordinary era in human affairs as our lives are being transformed rapidly,” says Chris. We can all contribute to a united global village. I look forward to sharing some humble examples of how this has worked in Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide.”
About Chris:
Christopher Anderson was born and raised in theYukon Territory. His family was always involved in development of communities bases on empowerment of local people based on the belief they have can take charge of their future, developing their capacities through learning by doing. He is a grandfather, retired UN Manager, NGO founder and world citizen. A seasoned traveler, he has visited over 70 countries and lived in a dozen. His professional career as a Chartered Accountant has included a decade with the United Nations Development Program and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, international development and humanitarian organizations, multinational corporations and public practice providing Accounting and Audit services.

Friday, February 11, 2022, 7:30pm EST

The History of the Bahá'í Faith in the Canadian North: Under One Tent” with Leslie Cole

Bahá'ís have been in the Canadian North since the 1950s and their history runs parallel to the introduction of government services and the rise of Indigenous self-determination in the late 1950s and 1960s. Although some Bahá'í travellers visited the North in the early 1900s, Bahá'í pioneers began to move to Northern communities in the Yukon and Northwest Territories in response to a global teaching plan set out by the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, starting in 1953. Leslie Cole has been researching the lives of those early pioneers and the early Indigenous believers who became important national teachers of the Faith. In a forthcoming book, she hopes to show how cultural and geographical factors influenced who accepted the Bahá'í Faith and when and to tell the stories of those early pioneers and long-time believers in Northern Canada.
About Leslie:
Leslie Cole is an author and editor based in Ottawa. She became a Bahá'í in Yukon in 1981 and lived in Carcross and Whitehorse for eight years in the 1980s and early 1990s. She first went to Canadas North for a summer job in Fort Resolution, North-west Territories and did her Masters in Geography with a thesis on culture change on Baffin Island from the 1950s and 1980s. Her work as a journalist and communications consultant has taken her to Herschel Island, Iqaluit, and Yellowknife. She has lived and worked in Yukon, Denmark, and Norway and travelled to Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, arctic Finland and Sweden. Her first book, Under Construction: The History of Cooperative Housing was published by Borealis Press in 2008.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, January 28, 2022, 7:30pm EST

"Treasures from the Archives" with Heather Harvey

The Ottawa Bahá'í Community has been one of the most active in Canada since its inception in the early 1940s and is currently considered one of the leading Bahá'í communities in North America. We are fortunate that the community has carefully preserved its rich history and learning from the beginning. In this presentation, Heather Harvey will show us some of the items archived during the first 25 years and share some of the interesting stories that surround them. Items will include the official photo of the first Spiritual Assembly in 1948, the articles of incorporation (letters patent) from 1957; pages from the scrapbook of newspaper articles and advertisements from the 1950s, photos from the ‘co-operative houses on Fentiman and Waverly Streets, event programs and more. communities in North America. We are fortunate that the community has carefully preserved its rich history and learning from the beginning. In this presentation, Heather Harvey will show us some of the items archived during the first 25 years and share some of the interesting stories that surround them. Items will include the official photo of the first Spiritual Assembly in 1948, the articles of incorporation (letters patent) from 1957; pages from the scrapbook of newspaper articles and advertisements from the 1950s, photos from the ‘co-operative houses on Fentiman and Waverly Streets, event programs and more.
About Heather:
Heather loves history and biography and is currently researching and writing the history of the Ottawa Bahá'í community as well as a separate biography of Winnifred Harvey, the first Bahá'í in Ottawa. She became excited about making a presentation on the Ottawa Bahá'í Archives when she took an Archives Course through the Wilmette Institute and was privileged to review some of the contents with the Archives Committee. Heather was an elementary school teacher for over 30 years in Ontario and Quebec, and, after retirement, served as the Centre Manager at the busy Ottawa Bahá'í Centre for almost 11 years. She holds a B.A. in Psychology, Teaching Diploma, a Masters in Education, and specialist certification in reading instruction, all from McGill University. She has been a member of the Bahá'í Community since 1973.

Read about this talk here.

Sunday, January 16, 2022, 3:00pm EST

Where can we find the hope to build the future we need?" with Daniel Truran

Daniel invites us to explore four words in his title:

1. HOPE. How can we deal with uncertainty, lack of truth and trust, and the global challenges we face, that seem to have left us only a glimmer of hope. So how can we find hope with so much hopelessness around us?

2. POSSIBLE FUTURES. What are the possible future scenarios that are emerging?

3. BUILDING THE FUTURE. How can we not just sit and observe but become active contributors to building the future?

4. WHAT FUTURE DO WE NEED? What future do we really need? What is the most beneficial future for us, for our institutions and for society?
About Daniel:
Daniel is a strategist, impact innovator, speaker and enabler. He has dedicated the last 20 years to exploring and harnessing the connection between the values, the purpose and actions of people and companies, and inspiring and creating communities and movements that are building the future—a better, more prosperous, sustainable and just future.

Daniel is director general at ebbf—Ethical Business Building the Future—https://ebbf.org a Bahá'í-inspired global learning community accompanying mindful business leaders. He is B Corp ambassador at B Lab Europe https://bcorporation.eu , a movement of people using business as a force for good, and Partner at NOW Partners, (https:// now.partners) building regenerative economic, leadership and planetary futures. He teaches at various business schools, and offers inspirational talks and sessions to spark the transition that the people of the world want and need.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, December 3, 2021, 7:30 pm

Justice, Unity, and the Path to World Order: Reflections on the United Nations, the Bahá'í International Community, and Human Rights with Michael Sabet

In recognition of International Human Rights Day, this presentation will first explore the origins, development, and historical significance of the United Nations, with a focus on the participation of the Bahá'í International Community, drawing on Julia Berger's recent work, Rethinking Religion and Politics in a Plural World: the Bahá'í International Community and the United Nations. This will ground an exploration of the international human rights framework from a Bahá'í perspective, focusing on the strengths and limitations of the framework's substantive and procedural aspects, and how Bahá'u'lláh's vision for the progress of human civilization might help guide future developments.
About Michael:
Michael Sabet has a background in law, having clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada before working as a litigator in constitutional and administrative law in Ottawa, with a focus on human rights and indigenous rights. He is now pursuing a PhD in Political Science at the University of Toronto, building on his Master's research into non-adversarial forms of democracy. He currently serves as the Editor of the Journal of Bahá'í Studies.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, November 12, 2021, 7:30 pm

Moving Towards One World: Stories from Near and Far with Cynthia Farrell

Cynthias presentation will focus on how humanity is moving more and more towards one world and how this goal is being pursued both inside the Bahá'í Community and in the world at large. She will draw on experiences within current international movements, and share stories that have occurred closer to home and in the most remote places in the world.
About Cynthia:
Cynthia Farrell has worked in international education and capacity building in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Caribbean. She was Director of Technical Services for CHF, a Canadian non-profit organization working in the field of international development. She previously served as Chair of the Business Faculty at the College of Micronesia in the western Pacific, and as Coordinator of the colleges Professional Training Institute for management development. Cynthia has a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Ottawa, with a concentration in management and the use of strategic alliances for technology development, market development and product development purposes. She completed postgraduate work in institutional capacity building at the Teaching University of Iceland. She became a Bahá'í in Iceland in 1975 and has pursued an interest in the application of Bahá'í principles to both the development of the individual and larger global social and economic issues.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, October 29, 2021, 7:30 pm

"Why me?" with Justice St. Rain

When something bad happens to us, it is only natural to wonder why. Did I do something wrong? Is God punishing me? What did I do to deserve this?

This presentation will help you understand the difference between punishment and guidance. Understanding this difference can help you overcome difficulties with more confidence, help you trust Gods plan for you, and show how the choices you make now can make future tests less severe.

The book, Why Me? A Spiritual Guide to Growing through Tests, has been used by therapists, in book clubs and even in prisons to help people feel better about themselves and deepen their faith in a loving God. It has been a best-seller at the Ottawa Bahá'í Bookstore.
About Justice:
Justice Saint Rain is the author of ten books and dozens of Bahá'í booklets and pamphlets, including Falling into Grace and My Bahá'í Faith. His most recent book is The Secret of Forgiveness. He has been a Bahá'í since 1974, and founded the Bahá'í publishing company, Special Ideas, in 1981. He has spoken at countless public meetings, Bahá'í Schools and conferences around the US and abroad.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, October 15, 2021, 7:30 pm

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

Bahá'ís the world over see ‘Abdul-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 dont often think about, ‘Abdul-Bahá after His release from prison, as an old man. This presentation explores how ‘Abdul-Bahás 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 Mans 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 Bahaí immigrants in the Canadas Atlantic Region. Together, they have authored The Equality of Women and Men: The Experience of the Bahaí Community of Canada (2006), and How to Think about Ethics While Doing Qualitative Research (2013).

Friday, October 1, 2021, 7:30 pm

TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION with Louise Profeit-Leblanc Tse 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 ‘Abdul-Bahás 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.” — Abdul-Bahá
About Louisee:
Louise Profeit-Leblanc, Tse 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.

Read about this talk here.

Friday, September 3, 2021, 7:30 pm

‘Abdul-Bahá in Canada

With Bobbi Lyons

Please join us for a special Big Ideas” presentation to mark the 109th anniversary of ‘Abdul-Bahás 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 Bahá'í 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.

Read about this talk 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 Surowieckis 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 Surowieckis key criteria and alert us to the important factors to avoid in large and small group decision-making, using examples from the Bahá'í community to illustrate how Bahá'í 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 Queens 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 Bahá'í 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 Medicine 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 subsequent 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 Bahá'í 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 ‘Abdul-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 Canadas 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.

Wills 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 movies. 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 judicious 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 Bahá'í 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

Bills 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. Bills 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 Bahá'í 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 1980s 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 Tse Dἄna” - Beaver Woman

Louise will share thoughts on what it is like to be an Indigenous Bahái, the people made mention of by 'Abdul- 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 everyones 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 Bahá'í-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*: Educations Where They Meet! with Jay Howden

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

This presentation offers one school teachers 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 were doing: in our own lifes 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 ‘Abdul-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 Bahá'í teachings on governance constitute a unique paradigm. This presentation will explore how the Bahá'í 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 Masters 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 Canadas 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 Bahá'í 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 Bahá'í 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 history, and womens & 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 Bahá'í Perspective on the Role of Women in Peacebuilding, Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims

Despite growing international recognition of womens 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.

'Abdul-Baha discussed the important role women play in the prevention 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 between the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowl-edged prerequisites of peace. The denial of [womens] equality perpetrates an injustice against one half of the worlds 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 Bahá'í 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 university 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 womens 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 Bahá'í 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 Bahá'í 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 especially drawn to discourses connecting the Writings and guidance of the Bahá'í Faith with current social movements aimed at eliminating anti-Blackness. She has been spurred into action after reflecting 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 Bahá'u'lláh'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 Gods 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 Carols experiences: Here!

Friday, 11 September 2020, 7:30 pm

'Abdul-Bahá: The Master of Social Action and Public Discourse

Among His many areas of service to humanity, 'Abdul-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 Presidents 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 worlds equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order….” - Bahaullah

Two objectives of the Bahá'í 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.

Bahaullah 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 Bahaullah? How will the Bahá'ís fulfill their task of breathing life into the political unification of mankind? Please join us for a series of talks addressing some of humanitys shared challenges and opportunities as we work to advance an emerging global civilization. This series brings together perspectives from the Bahá'í 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 Bahá'ís. Since then his work has taken him to some of the worlds 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 humanitys shared challenges and opportunities as we work to advance an emerging global civilization. This series brings together perspectives from the Bahá'í 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 Internationals 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 Bahá'í 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, Bahá'í, and Bahá'í-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 Presidents 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 centurys 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 evenings talk, based on Pauls 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 Presidents 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 Bahá'í Revelation

The Bahá'í 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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