MARTINIQUE: A group affiliated with the Bahá’í Faith is on the verge of forming a local assembly.
Every Friday, Magdalen Rose and Ray Miller host “salons” at their Martinique home where Bahá’ís and people from other religions meet to discuss the faith. On November 17, they hosted a presentation from JoAnn Borovicka, an American author of Light of the Kingdom: Biblical Topics in the Bahá’í Writings. The author noted that the Bahá’í Faith is the second most geographically widespread religion in the world.
Rose estimates that 1 in 1,100 people are Bahá’í.
“There are Bahá’ís all over,” Rose said. “Although there may not be too many, we are everywhere.”
When Rose and her husband came to Isle Madame from Northern California in 2008, they were the only two on the island.
“We started to just do Bahá’í culture, which is Bahá’ís have a feast every 19 days, kind’ve a spiritual feast,” she recalled. “In the same the way Jews go to Synagogue or Muslims go to Mosque every week, we have a feast every 19 days.”
Born and raised a Catholic, Rose came to the religion when she was 40 after meeting Miller, then doing some research on her own.
“I had been raised to absolutely love religious tradition and Jesus, but at some point in time, I had rejected the dogma and everything that kind’ve goes with the faith,” Rose recalled. “Bahá’ís believe all the faiths are saying the same thing and are one, but not the man-made dogma and rituals that accompany that.”
In the almost 10 years since, Rose said she and her husband continue to practice their faith, reach out to other religions and regularly host gatherings.
“All faiths would be welcome,” Rose said. “Given that this is mostly a French Catholic community, you might be hearing the ‘Our Father,’ the ‘Hail Mary,’ and given there are some Mi’kmaq friends next door… maybe they would do some drumming, and given there are some Bahá’ís in Antigonish, were they to come, maybe they might chant a beautiful prayer.”
Rose explained there are also Bahá’ís in Port Hawkesbury, Inverness County, St. Peter’s, L’Ardoise, Louisdale, Eskasoni, and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
As there is no clergy, Rose noted that those interested must do their own personal investigation
“There’s no priest or permanent position so the community is administered by annually-elected groups of individuals,” long-time Bahá’í Will Naylor explained.
Rose said there is no campaigning for positions, no one is nominated, and the group votes in secret on who should serve in the administration.
“It’s just so different from that kind of politicking and it’s so different from that culture of competitiveness, it’s prayerful and reflective,” Rose stated.
Naylor said he loves the fact that no positions are permanent and those elected can only serve a one-year term.
“It’s a kind of protection because I guess the feeling is if you’re in office for a long time, you become too attached,” Naylor stated.
Rose is hopeful the Richmond County group will soon welcome its ninth member then become the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Richmond County.
Once considered an assembly, the group will host regular feasts and offer children’s classes, youth groups, devotional gatherings, as well as adult study circles on subjects like community building and leadership.
“We’re big on learning,” Naylor said.
Rose and Naylor talked extensively about the programs they offer for young people like the Junior Youth Spiritual Education Program. As well, youth between the ages of 15 to 30 are helping to run junior youth programs which are non-denominational. Classes discuss identity, values, critical thinking, articulation, and allow young people serve their communities.
“We find that the young people listen better to the people closer to their own age so the whole thing works better that way,” Naylor said.
Rose said there are also devotional gatherings and children’s classes which explore other religions, faiths and beliefs, although they are only for children of the Bahá’í Faith.
“We teach respect for all religions,” Rose said, noting the curriculum is constantly changing.
As a spiritual assembly, the local group can officiate Bahá’í marriages and funerals, attend to the sick in hospital, and operate on a greater scale in the community. Also, the Strait area organization would be part of the Canadian National Spiritual Assembly and can send a member to their annual convention.
Despite their plans, Rose acknowledged that many people remain unaware of their faith.
“The reason folks may not have heard about the Bahá’í Faith is because proselytizing, putting pressure on people in the name of religion, is forbidden,” she stated. “Today, the very word ‘religion’ is fraught with so many associations, both positive and negative, that it is difficult to know how to speak of our beautiful faith.”