Message from National Spiritual Assembly of Canada July 2009


As a result of the 11th International Environment Forum Annual Conference in Ottawa, Canada, in October, 2007, the national administrative body of the Baha'is of Canada sent a message on responding to climate change dated 24 March 2008 to all the Baha'i communities in Canada. The message below is a second follow-up on the environmental theme.

Subject: Safeguarding the Environment

27 July 2009 / 15 Words 166

All Local Spiritual Assemblies
All Regional Baha'i Councils
All Registered Groups

Dear Baha’i Friends,

On 24 March 2008, the National Spiritual Assembly sent an invitation to all Regional Bahá’í Councils, local Spiritual Assemblies and registered groups to consider “ways in which the day to day life of the Baha’i community can better reflect the Baha’i teachings on humanity’s sacred responsibility to safeguard the environment.” Since that time, several institutions and individuals have written to the National Spiritual Assembly to share their experiences, some of which were reported in an article published on 29 January 2009 at the Canadian Bahá’í News Service.

Among the actions taken by individuals and communities to safeguard the environment were the Sunshine Coast’s adoption and cleaning of an area highway; Saltspring Islands commitment to put into practice more “ecologically healthy measures” in their homes and gatherings; a small grocery store owner in Ontario who chose to stop distributing plastic bags to customers providing incentives for them to bring their own recyclable bags; Aurora’s efforts to collaborate with other community organizations to plant trees and to offer environmental education to children and youth; the Baha'is of Grand Manan decision to promote car pooling and to utilize re-usable dishes and cutlery at all of its events; the Burnaby community’s plan to enter the names of people who cycled, walked, or rode mass transit to the Nineteen Day Feast into a draw to win one of ten $10 gift certificates at the Vancouver Baha'i bookstore; the Calgary community’s collaboration with “Faith and the Common Good” in support of its multifaith initiative Renewing the Sacred Balance - integrating faith, spirituality, and the ecology; the Kelowna community’s partnership with the Lutheran Church to co-organize a Stewardship of Creation and Planting of Seeds event; the High River community’s Eco Camps for children designed to teach respect for the environment; Ottawa’s inclusion of Nine Ways to Green Our Core Activities, Feasts and Firesides in its monthly electronic bulletin (see attached); and the Bahá’í youth of Montreal who with their friends organized Montreal Shift, a three day annual eco-workshop and web blog to share stories of hope and inspiration on the “shifts” they’d like to make and see in their city and society.

The diversity and resourcefulness of this sample of actions helps illustrate how Bahá’ís are learning to be mindful of Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction to “be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” The growing number of such reports is a source of great joy to the National Spiritual Assembly. We therefore invite you to review again your current practices and consider specific actions you can take to help safeguard the environment. In your deliberations, you may wish to review a recent statement by the Bahá’í International Community entitled “ Seizing the Opportunity: Redefining the challenge of climate change.”

In addition, those friends who are able and have not already registered may wish to consider attendance at this year’s Association for Baha’i Studies conference themed “Environments”, to be held in Washington, DC. The theme statement describes the focus of the conference:
“The teachings of the Bahá'í Faith shed light on the dialectical relationship between the human soul and its environment. As Shoghi Effendi explained, “We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved. Man is organic with the world. His inner life moulds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it. The one acts upon the other and every abiding change in the life of man is the result of these mutual reactions."i The nature, quality, and condition of the environments we inhabit therefore have profound implications for human well-being. In this context, how can science and religion, as complementary systems of knowledge and practice, be applied more effectively to the preservation, refinement, and improvement of the myriad environments – natural, cultural, and built – within which we live and grow?”

Information on and registration for the conference is available on the ABS-North America website .

Dear friends, the Assembly is confident that as we pursue the priorities of the Plan undistracted, doing so with the environment in mind will become a routine expression of our love for the Creator and His wondrous creation.  We look forward to hearing how you are achieving this aim.

With loving Baha’i greetings,

Karen McKye, Secretary

Enc.     “ Nine Ways to Green our Core Activities, Feasts and Firesides

i Shoghi Effendi, through his Secretary, from a letter dated 17 February 1933 to an individual believer, cited by the Baha'i International Community, 1998 Feb 18, Valuing Spirituality in Development

Nine Ways to Green Our Core Activities, Feasts and Firesides
(Prepared under the auspices of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ottawa)

The Universal House of Justice has stated that “endeavours to conserve the environment in ways which blend with the rhythm of life of our community must assume more importance in Bahá'í activities.”1 With an ever increasing understanding of man’s organic relationship with the earth2, seekers are searching for answers and for those adorned by action rather than talk.3 Here are just a few places where we can start to make a difference in our community life.

1. Work locally.  The International Teaching Centre has found that decentralized core activities and teaching efforts that focus on our neighbourhood have been more successful and sustainable. 4 This can also contribute to healthier, stronger communities that rely less on cars.
2. Encourage sustainable transport.  In promoting events, make sure you indicate the bus routes and bike paths that come to your venue. Encourage carpooling by connecting people from the same neighbourhoods.
3. Study it.  Prepare a children’s class lesson, fireside or talk on creation or environmental topics.  Share a story about how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was “content with little”.
4. Serve the community.  Acts of service to the community are an integral part of the junior youth program.  Possible endeavours are collecting trash in the local park, planting trees or a community garden, or speaking to environmental issues in your community.
5. Show you care by using reusables.  Do away with the plastic, paper and styrofoam!  Bring out the real dishes and cloth napkins, and build friendships while washing dishes. Did you know that our new Baha’i Centre actually has a policy against the use of disposables?
6. Serve local, organic and fair trade refreshments.  Locally grown food supports local farmers and reduces green house gas emissions. Fairly traded goods such as coffee, tea and soccer balls ensure no exploitive child labour is used, farmers receive just wages and use environmentally sustainable practices.
7. Pray about it.  Provide a devotional program at your next Feast or devotional gathering using environmental quotations and images of nature as the embodiments of the names of God
8. Decorate right. Create an uplifting atmosphere with flowers and candles, but, go for locally-grown flowers (maybe from your own garden!) instead of imported flowers that are grown with very toxic pesticides and flown in.  Beeswax candles are a more natural alternative to paraffin or scented candles, especially for people with environmental sensitivities.
9. Go outside!  A spiritual atmosphere is instantly created by reconnecting people with nature and fresh air.  This is also an opportunity to give temperature controls and lights a break.

1   The Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, p. 64

2   Shoghi Effendi, Letter to an individual believer through his secretary, 17 February 1933

3   Bahá’u’lláh, The Hidden Words, No. 5, Persian

4  Prepared under the auspices of the International Teaching Centre, Reflections on Growth, No. 15, February 2007

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Last updated 28 May 2011