The Bahá’í community has had, for a century and more, a long-standing commitment to embracing the role of Indigenous people in society. In 1916, before the Bahá’í community in Canada included Indigenous members, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called on the Bahá’ís to “attach great importance to the indigenous population of America” because of the unique potential of those peoples to “enlighten the whole world.”
The Bahá’í community has grown to include Indigenous people among its membership since the 1940s and in its national leadership since the 1970s. We will continue, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, to pursue those steps that lead to greater unity, noting the way in which Bahá’í concepts overlap with the sacred values, teachings, and practices of Indigenous spiritualities. As varied as those Indigenous values and practices may be across the many Indigenous groups of our land, a number of common features appear to resonate with the Bahá’í teachings regarding the nobility of the human being, the wisdom of divine providence and creation, and the immense importance of valuing human lives in a manner in which every individual is considered the trust of the whole, and the unity of the collective can only be insured by giving due attention to justice.
These forces are bringing long-separated peoples together into new relationships, where dynamics of prejudice and domination are replaced by the powers of cooperation, reciprocity and genuine love and harmony among diverse peoples.
We understand the current turbulent period in human life on this planet, during which Indigenous peoples have been disproportionally harmed by the destructive forces of history, to be one in which there are also growing constructive forces. These forces are bringing long-separated peoples together into new relationships, where dynamics of prejudice and domination are replaced by the powers of cooperation, reciprocity and genuine love and harmony among diverse peoples. We must do our part to promote those constructive forces while never being so naïve as to ignore the destructive forces that have brought such sorrow and pain to so many.
In Canada, the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is helping us to re-conceptualize and transform the basic relationships that sustain society.
In Canada, the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples is helping us to re-conceptualize and transform the basic relationships that sustain society. Our present relationship with the natural world, based on an unlimited appetite for resources, has produced a deepening environmental crisis. We must recover a balanced and sustainable relationship with the environment, based on moderation and respect for the Earth. The deterioration of the family and home environment has been accompanied by the rise in exploitation of women and children, calling for the need to rethink proper relations within the family unit. The concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few, while others suffer in conditions of poverty and neglect, reflects ill-conceived relationships that persist within our own country. To truly apply the principle of the oneness of humanity to our common life, then, we need an organic change in the structure of our society.
Canada shares the challenge of reconciliation with the rest of the human family. In our international relations, just as in our domestic ones, we need to recognize that we are all parts of an organic whole.
Canada shares the challenge of reconciliation with the rest of the human family. In our international relations, just as in our domestic ones, we need to recognize that we are all parts of an organic whole. How do we forge bonds of unity that respect and draw strength from our diversity? How can we overcome the forces of paternalism and prejudice with the powers of love and justice? What changes do we need to make to the structures of governance and the use of material resources in order to redress past injustices and social inequalities? These are questions that we ask ourselves as citizens of a country that seeks reconciliation. And as we walk this path together in Canada, we will learn lessons and practical measures that will help to guide the healing of other divisions between the world’s peoples.
FILM: The Path Home
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada commissioned the following film to honour all those who have helped the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in meeting its noble purpose over the past six years.
The reflections in the film touch on spiritual insights that we offer with humility as a small contribution to furthering the processes of truth and reconciliation currently underway in Canada.
- Rethinking the relationship between spirituality and reconciliation: A symposium on Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations in Canada (March 2018, University of Victoria)
- Thought Piece: “Advancing the Conversation on Reconciliation in Canada” (2017)
- Submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2013)
- Submission to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1993)
Other areas of focus
The Bahá’í community’s efforts to contribute to social progress include participation in the discourses of society in a range of spaces and venues. Whether as individuals, or in official capacities, Bahá’ís work with others to transform society and further the cause of unity, promote human welfare, and promote greater solidarity. Below are found short perspectives and other resources that reflect the contributions of the Bahá’í community to issues of enduring importance to Canadian society.