A Student’s Impressions of the ABS Conference in Montreal

For his fellow learners in the Wilmette Institute’s course Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Wilmer Pulido of Nepean, Ontario, Canada, wrote an account of his trip to the Association for Baha’i Studies conference, held August 9-12 in Montreal. He has expanded the account for the eNewsletter.

Last week [August 9-12] I had the pleasure of attending the Association of Baha’i Studies conference in Montreal. As always, it was truly a rich and interesting conference with very distinguished speakers such as Douglas Martin. The 30th Hasan M. Balyuzi Memorial Lecture was presented by Shapour Rassekh. The main theme of his presentation, which was a very refined talk on ‘Abdu’l-Baha, was the central purpose and achievement of His visit to the West: establishing world peace and a new civilization.

The theme of the conference was “The Vision of ‘Abdu’l-Baha for North America,” a very comprehensive topic to grasp in a mere four days. At the end of each fantastic day of learning, there were informal social gatherings filled with the voices of joy and laughter from old and new friends. It was great to see friends again from many places around the world.

In addition to the plenaries, there were a total of sixteen sessions involving more than thirty-five presenters on Friday, August 10, and thirteen sessions with more than thirty presenters on Saturday, August 11. 

I attended several sessions related to international affairs, law, and governance, one of which was a fascinating exploration of the role of the UN within the emerging international order.

One talk in the science and religion Special Interest group that I attended was titled “Man’s Station in the Universe: A Scientist’s Spiritual Journey” by Mehrdad Ehsani. It was a truly provocative and special presentation. From Baha’u’llah’s writings and from the discoveries in physics, in the spiritual or material realms, we have to acknowledge our nothingness.

In closing the conference, Counselor Ann Boyles spoke on “Three Small Words: How the Master Forged Instruments of Systematic Action in North America.” The words she explored were effort, magnanimity, and capacity and how He used them to inspire action.

One point that stood out in my mind is how very incredibly blessed we are to have had the bounty of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to North America. He did not come just out of His love for the friends in these regions but as a way to open the doors for divine blessings and confirmations for our (by “our” I mean both the early servants of the Faith and us today) efforts in furthering the Cause. The very environment and atoms of North America were impacted and showered with his love, encouragement, and example.

The next ABS conference will be held at the Hyatt Irvine Hotel, in Irvine, California, August 8-11, 2013. I hope to meet most of the participants of this course at such a thought provoking and heart expanding event.