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November 2, 2017

Ottawa Baha'is Celebrate 200th Anniversary of the Birth of Baha'u'llah

200th Anniversary of the Birth of Baha'u'llahOn a glorious Sunday afternoon, 22 October 2017, around 800 Baha'is along with their friends and family, gathered at the Sala San Marco Convention Centre in Ottawa, Ontario to celebrate the Bicentennial anniversary of the Birth of Baha'u'llah, Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith. Attendees represented a diversity of cultures and age groups, including many children and youth.

The participants were warmly welcomed by the MCs and acknowledgement was given to the fact that the celebration was taking place on traditional Algonquin territory. The programme began with prayers chanted, sung and spoken in English, French, Persian, Arabic, Spanish and Cantonese, representing some of the many diverse peoples that make up the Ottawa Baha'i community.

The group was then enchanted by songs presented by the 30 member Baha'i children's choir who, in sweet clear voices sang about Baha'u'llah, as the Prince of Peace and the Promised One of All Ages. A joyful rendition of  "We are the World" followed, bearing the message that, "there comes a time...when the world must come together as one".  Another local musician then performed a rendition of the Dan Seals song "Help us all proclaim the Greatest Name" and another crowd favourite from Fred Ward "In this day, Baha'u'llah..."

These inspiring musical selections were followed by an informative talk by a community member who took us through a brief story of Baha'u'llah's life. The audience was reminded of His early privileged upbringing which he abandoned in His youth, along with his personal safety and security, in order to care for the poor and downtrodden. Baha'u'llah spent the majority of his life in exile and prison, remaining firm in His belief that the time of the coming of age of humanity had arrived, the sign of which would be the unification of all its peoples. At the end of the 19th century, amidst the crumbling of time honoured institutions and structures, Baha'u'llah's Teachings were focused on the spiritualization of the human heart, the elimination of all forms of prejudice and the advancement of human civilization into a glorious age of peace.

Following the talk, the assembled crowd marvelled at an excerpt from a video produced by the Universal House of Justice, the International governing body of the world-wide Baha'i community, which was prepared in honour of this joyous anniversary year.
The video, Light to the World, highlighted Baha'u'llah's Teachings which focus on bringing all people of the earth together, by transforming individuals, neighbourhoods, villages and countries; on transcending all forms of prejudice and gender inequality, on upraising the downtrodden and enlisting all to work towards demonstrating the oneness of humanity. We were reminded that the Word of God has the power to change the human soul. But it is not just our personal soul that must be changed. We must turn our faces outwards towards the needs of the wider community, engage in acts of selfless service and encourage our neighbours to do the same. It is clear and evident that the old way of doing things is no longer working. It is becoming increasingly difficult to hide how many people in the world are suffering. Solutions to the world's problems must build unity and consensus. Indeed, the change called for by Baha'u'llah is of amazing magnitude and must be based upon Justice, which He has called, the greatest instrument for the advancement of humanity.

Through a series of interviews in communities around the world, the video highlighted the nature of the change required. This change requires a re-thinking of all relationships such that they embody the oneness of mankind. All actions must be weighed against this vision in order to create a spiritualized world civilization embodying a culture of service and collaboration and leading us to the next step in human evolution - the unification of the human race. Every soul is a vital contributor in this endeavour!

200th Anniversary of the Birth of Baha'u'llahFollowing these soul stirring words a congratulatory message from the Prime Minister of Canada was shared which called on all Canadians to embody the qualities of openness and respect enshrined in the Baha'i Teachings. The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations also sent greetings to the Baha'i community and thanked the Baha'is for their support of the First Nations Peoples and their right to walk toward a new era of Peace and Reconciliation. The message from The Director of Inclusion and Religious Freedom, Foreign Affairs, praised the Baha'i community for promoting unity through inclusion and equality, and standing, along with others, in the face of all forms of prejudice and xenophobia.

The programme wrapped up with a beautiful musical selection performed by the Ottawa-area Baha'i choir comprised of youth and adults. The MCs concluded the program by inviting the audience to learn more about Baha'u'llah and His Teachings, along with the community building activities that those Teachings have inspired.

Following the programme, guests gathering for light refreshments commented on the delightful celebration and on the diversity and the unity of the assembled people. Many attendees spoke of how moving it was to be present in such a gathering of friends. They also reported feeling a vibrancy in the group with many individuals and families planning to hold additional commemorative and devotional gatherings throughout the coming months to further celebrate this Bicentennial year.

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