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James Hoggett, Special to the Review

James Hoggett, Special to the Review

WELCOME: Mrs. Aghdas Javid regularly welcomes guests to her Greensville home to celebrate Baha’i holidays.

Peace Train marks century of Baha’i in Canada

By Melanie Cummings, SPECIAL TO THE REVIEW

…all religious, racial, patriotic and political prejudice must be abandoned, for these are the destroyers of the real foundation of humanity….

Luminary Adbu’l-Baha spoke these words 100 years ago, while visiting Canada from his exiled homeland in Iran.

To celebrate and reiterate his message of peace, the Baha’i community will give voice to his historical speech on Sunday, in the hopes it will be heard loud and clear by a new generation bent on “the oneness of humanity.”

Sunday, from 2-4 p.m., the Peace Train stops at LIUNA Station on James Street North for an afternoon of music and song all focused on unity.

The Peace Train is the brainchild of television producers Clark Donnelly and Mary Darling and marks the whistle stop Abdu’l-Baha made in Hamilton in 1912 during an 11-day train trip in Canada that garnered widespread media attention. Even such notable thinkers of the day, including Alexander Graham Bell and U.S. president William Taft, sought an audience with the Baha’i spiritual leader.

“We want to fill the place to the rafters,” said Donnelly of the 700-seat venue. The public is invited to attend the free-of-charge presentation.

Youth feature prominently in the afternoon celebration with performances by the Hamilton Children’s Choir, spoken word artists Nabil and Karim, musicians Asher Lenz and Emily Dragoman, contemporary/pop singer Adam Crossley and opera singer Margaret Bardos, among other performers.

They will also be showcased at a coffee house that follows, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre just down the road at 51 Stuart Street.
“We want youth to be the protagonists in their own future, to stand for something,” said Darling. “This is our way of contributing to the community-wide effort to make Hamilton the best place to raise a child,” said the mother of eight children.

Among those hopping aboard Sunday’s Peace Train is Greensville’s Aghdas Javid, a Baha’i who with her husband was forced to flee her native Iran for fear of persecution due to her faith. She came to Canada 47 years ago and immediately found an accepting community. After all these years, the 88-year-old continues to host fireside chats at her home weekly. (There are no clergy in Baha’i communities.)

The Baha’i faith was founded in 1863 by Baha’u’llah who was imprisoned for 40 years due to his religious teachings, considered antithetical to the dominant Muslim faith of the time. Baha’u’llah’s eldest son, Abdu’l-Baha, joined his father in prison at the tender age of eight staying with him until his release.

After Abdu’l-Bahá’s inspiring visit to Canada, Bahá’í communities flourished slowly. Today, there are over 260 organized Bahá’í communities with 30,000 members across the country. And like Greensville’s Javid, and Peace Train organizers Donnelly and Darling, they are all intent on fulfilling the hope that Abdu’l-Baha saw in Canadians a century ago…

…I have visited America and find everywhere the evidences of just and equitable government. Therefore, I pray God that these western peoples may become the means of establishing international peace and spreading the oneness of the world of humanity…

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