Australian Baha'is at Parliament of Religions

Australian Bahais at Parliament of Religions

Brisbane Baha'i Shadi Toloui-Wallace performs at the Parliament of the World's Religions

Australian Baha’is were active participants as speakers, performers and organisers at the Parliament of the World’s Religions held from 3-9 December 2009.

More than 5000 people from 80 countries and 220 religious and spiritual traditions attended the Parliament, which is held every five years.

The public information officer of the Australian Baha’i Community, Natalie Mobini, introduced her address on the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran by referring to principles of the Parliament which advocate respecting the human rights of all.

Dr Mobini cited examples of religious leaders who have held respectful dialogue and collaborated with others in spite of theological differences.

"Should not everyone seek to find within the particular framework of his or her beliefs how to set aside exclusionist claims in order to collaborate with followers of religions whose beliefs are different?" she asked. (For full report see the Baha’i World News Service)

Women's leadership

The wide participation of women was a hallmark of the Parliament, where 60 per cent of the participants and 40 per cent of the presenters were women.

The National Secretary of the Australian Baha’i Community, Arini Beaumaris, spoke as a member of a panel addressing “spirituality and women’s leadership”.

“We believe we will not achieve the peace and tranquility of the world until we have equality of men and women,” said Ms Beaumaris.

Addressing another theme of the Parliament, the earth’s physical environment, Tasmanian Baha’i Dr John Davidson screened photographs to show the unique environmental architecture of the recently built Baha’i Centre of Learning in Hobart.


Australian Baha’is were active in the youth segment of the program.

Amy Keane and Kat Eghdamian ran an interactive youth workshop looking at the nature of the world’s environmental problems and using climate change as a model to explore the need for a global solution.

The youth community organiser for the Parliament, Gemma McDonald, also a member of the Australian Baha’i community, co-chaired a youth session on interfaith youth organisations that carry out service projects in Africa, the United States and Australia.

Performance and prayer

Australian Baha’is participated in the opening ceremony of the Parliament. Sydney-based performer Gary Stirling sang a Baha’i prayer with backing from a massed choir. Dr Marjorie Tidman from Western Australia read excerpts from the Baha’i writings as a “Baha’i blessing” for the event.

Brisbane singers Shadi Toloui-Wallace and her mother, Shidan, performed at a sacred music concert during the Parliament.

Shadi also sang at other concerts held during the event.

International Baha’is

In addition to the Australians, there were Baha’i speakers from four other continents.

In a joint session, Professor Brian Lepard (USA) and Dr A. K. Merchant (India) emphasised the critical importance of a spiritual motivation for social and economic development and proposed measures to ensure a human right to development.

From Britain, Moojan and Wendi Momen presented a session on the structures the Baha’i Faith sees as necessary to build peace, social cohesion and justice.

Native American Baha’i Kevin Locke performed the spectacular Lakota Hoop dance. He also entertained an audience with a mixture of flute music, jokes, and prayers in sign language.

A Baha’i speaker from Botswana, Lucretia Warren, who had addressed two previous Parliaments, was a member of a panel discussion on “Interfaith and the future of Africa”.

Indigenous tribute

Many of the sessions at the Parliament began with the speakers paying their respects to the Aboriginal traditional owners of the land where the Parliament was being held.

At the closing ceremony indigenous elders from around the world were introduced by Aboriginal elder Professor Joy Wandin Murphy.

At that ceremony, the Dalai Lama told the audience that all religious traditions carry the same message and have the same goal: “to bring inner peace”.

The Dalai Lama urged the Parliament and religious people in general to take a more active role to help solve world and personal crises.

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