Stereotypes about religion are found in a multitude of media in Canada and Quebec, including television, movies and video games. Although these stereotypes generally have a negative connotation, many religious minorities are not represented at all.
The Canadian and Quebec media landscape is very limited and many religions face a lack or total absence of representation in the media. There are virtually no reports of Buddhists and Hindus, although these communities each have about the same number of followers as the Jewish community in Canada. For a decade, scant media coverage of the Sikh community focused almost exclusively on issues of accommodation, the wearing of the kirpan, or violence (Air India flight bombing, June 23, 1985, investigation ).
Pressenza Montreal met with members of the Baha’i faith to talk about new religions and their project in various neighborhoods of Montreal.
The Baha’i Faith in Montreal
The Bahá’í Faith is a relatively new religion that teaches the essential value of all religions and the unity of all peoples. Established by Baha’u’llah in the 19th century, it initially flourished in Iran and parts of the Middle East, where it faced continued persecution. The religion is estimated to have 5-8 million adherents, known as Baha’is, spread across most countries of the world.
Bahá’ís are committed to the prosperity of all, recognizing that the well-being of individuals rests on the well-being of society as a whole. They are aware of how the forces of materialism are at work around them and are aware of the many injustices that persist in the world today. According to the Baha’is, a true religion has the power to transform the hearts of human beings and to transform the world. Baha’i members work in various cities across Canada.
We met Iiya Zrudlo and Maëlle Turbine at a Global conference in Montreal on June 19th. Since January more than a thousand Global conferences have been organized around the world. Ilydra and Maëlle are active members of the Bahá’í community. For a few years, they have been organizing neighborhood projects in the city and in the suburbs. Ilya works with a group of young people from the Côte des Neiges district, they meet every week and plan community actions such as cleaning the streets and helping each other in the community. They organize talks and prayer sessions. According to Iydra, grassroots gatherings and the global conference help communities find purpose.
“We share a common direction and create a sense of community,” IIya said.
Maëlle lives in the suburbs of Montreal and has started projects with families and children. According to Maëlle, the religious context in Montreal and Quebec is largely explained by the ambivalence of the population towards religion, particularly among the French-speaking majority. On the one hand, the French speaker has deserted Catholicism to free himself from the grip of religion; but on the other hand, most people have no idea of the existence of other religious and spiritual groups.
It is regrettable that the majority of Quebecers are not informed of the work of the members of the Bahá’í community. But the new generation is more curious and seeks the sacred in new forms of spirituality and new religious groups like the Baha’is.
For more information on the Bahá’í Faith, visit the website: https://news.bahai.org/story/1593/