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Harvest in the spiritual garden

Bahai's converge on Yellowknife for conference

by Ian Elliot
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 03/97) - Whether you are dealing with plants or religion, it is difficult to get things to grow in the north.

But the territories' Bahai's say that the North's vast geography and small population is fertile ground for the growth of their faith.

"The whole purpose of the Baha'i faith is to promote unity," local Baha'i Cheryl Fennell said.

"When you have a smaller group, it is easier to promote that. As the community grows, it becomes harder to promote that unity."

Keeping the religion vibrant can be done with Bahai's who travel here from the south or even from Greenland. There are religious videos or more than 100 books of the writings of Baha'u'llah, the religion's founder.

Northern Bahai's number only about 400, with the largest congregation in Yellowknife boasting about 50. Worldwide, the faith counts about six million adherents, with some 2,500 Canadian followers.

This weekend, Yellowknife hosted the Canadian Baha'i national spiritual conference, the body which governs the faith in Canada. It was the first time the event, which drew leaders of the religion from across the country, has ever been held in the North.

Based on the teachings of Baha'u'llah, a Persian prophet of the 19th century and with a history in the North dating back to 1950, the Baha'is stress world citizenship over racial, tribal or national identification, in addition to unity, diversity and community works. Their community works have been recognized with non-governmental organization status from the Canadian government.

For Fennell, the weekend's conference has the potential to increase the visibility of the religion. "I hope it will raise the profile of the Baha'u'laah in the North."

As much as the Bahai's value individual growth, they also stressed their community component this weekend, particularly a government structure based on community consensus which they say is very applicable in the North and to the new territory of Nunavut.

©Copyright 1997, Northern News Services
Original Story

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