A focus on justice at the 36th annual Association for Baha'i Studies conference

In Brief: 
  • Former Canadian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, MP, and aboriginal rights advocate Louise Mandell were featured speakers at this year’s Association for Bahá’í Studies conference.
  • Some 1,400 people attended the meeting, which focused on issues of justice and reconciliation — and the centenary of the visit of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to North America.

MONTREAL — The establishment of justice and genuine reconciliation demands greater attention to the challenging work of rebuilding human relationships on the basis of love and mutual regard across historical barriers of injustice and ignorance.

That was among the messages conveyed by distinguished contributors to the 36th conference of the Association for Bahá’í Studies of North America, which attracted more than 1,400 participants here, 9-12 August 2012.

Former Canadian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler, MP, gave a personal account of the principles that he has striven to apply throughout his career. His observations ranged from efforts to help dissidents before the collapse of the Soviet Union to initiatives aimed at advancing justice in the Middle East today.

Lawyer Louise Mandell, Q.C. — a renowned aboriginal rights advocate — spoke about the contribution all citizens can make to reconciliation, through their personal, family and community lives.

“Social change happens in the hearts and minds of people, causing them to act differently,” she said. “The force of reconciliation can only be carried out by the society.”

Referring to the presence in Canada exactly a century ago of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Ms. Mandell added, “The key to reconciliation — and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá led the way — is through unity in diversity.”

The program of the conference was designed to reflect many of the subjects addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá — the eldest son of Bahá’u’lláh and His appointed successor as head of the Bahá’í Faith — during His historic journey to the United States and Canada in 1912.

During His stay in Montreal from 30 August to 9 September 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talks ranged across a number of issues of public concern, including the rights of women, the elimination of prejudice and racism, universal education, justice, and peace.