Category Archives History

The Apostle of Peace and the Great War

Abdu'l-Baha in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in 1913. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

Abdu’l-Baha in Paris near the Eiffel Tower in 1913. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

As the world commemorates the centenary of World War I, it is timely to recount the story of one who predicted with sublime accuracy the outbreak of that conflict and who also explained and developed a peace plan highly relevant to humanity today.

Abdu’l-Baha (1844-1921) spoke often about the plan which came from His father, Baha’u’llah (1817-1892), the prophetic figure Who founded the Baha’i Faith and laid out the path to peace in His letters to the kings and rulers of the world.

For example, during His journey throughout North America in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha emphasised the need for international peace, calling it “the most momentous question of the day.”

Newspapers gave Him such labels as the “Persian Peace Apostle” and “the Prophet of Peace”, and their journalists reported how He linked the concept of peace to the need for a world tribunal and collective security. Surprisingly for audiences at that time, He also connected peace to topics like the education and advancement of women. War will cease, He said, when women have full equality because “they will be the obstacle and hindrance to it.” Continue reading

Why is the Baha’i World Centre in Israel?

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)

Pictured to the right is the Seat of the Universal House of Justice and on the left is the International Teaching Centre building. Both are located on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. (Photo: Iain Simmons via Flickr)

For centuries, the Holy Land has been recognised as sacred for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Moses and Jesus established their religions there, and Muhammad visited on His night journey and ascension.

But how did this land on the shores of the Mediterranean come to be associated with the Baha’i Faith, a religion born in Persia, more than 1500 kilometers away? Continue reading

The Bab – What was He like?

green background abstract cloth wavy folds of textile textureAs Baha’is around the world gather on 9 July, they will focus on the Bab’s martyrdom in Tabriz in 1850, ponder its spiritual significance, and offer their supplications to the Divine.

On that holy day commemorating the horrendous event of His execution, it is also probable that many will wonder what it would have been like to encounter the One who was the Prophet-Forerunner of Baha’u’llah, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith. Continue reading

Ugo Giachery: A Spiritual Hero with Practical Feet.

Dr. Ugo Giachery 1896-1989. (Photo: Baha'i World Centre)

Dr. Ugo Giachery, May 13, 1896 – July 5, 1989. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

When we think of spiritual giants, we may fall into the trap of picturing them deep in prayer or meditation without a care for the practical world in which they live.

But if we have such a view of them, then it is likely to be far too narrow and therefore inaccurate.

In this regard, have a look at the life of Ugo Giachery, a man born into an aristocratic family in Palermo, Sicily in 1896. Dr. Giachery was deeply spiritual, yes, but also immensely practical.

His life could have been one of waltzing about in elite circles or retreating into the academic world making a career out of his doctorate in chemistry.

However, he chose another path. After becoming attracted to the world-embracing teachings of the Baha’i Faith, he set about implementing them the best he could. World peace was no abstract notion for him. He had been wounded in World War I and so he knew the horrors of global conflict. It was perhaps inevitable that he would find appealing a religion promoting a practical path to peace. Continue reading

Who Were the Hands of the Cause?

The Hands of the Cause with Counsellors of the International Teaching Centre, 1973: (front row, left to right) Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mrs. Florence Mayberry, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Mr. Abul-Qasim Faizi, (back row, left to right) Mr. Paul Haney, Mr. Aziz Yazdi, Mr. Hooper Dunbar. (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

Some of the Hands of the Cause with Counsellors of the International Teaching Centre, in 1973: (front row, left to right) Mr. Ali-Akbar Furutan, Mrs. Florence Mayberry, Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Mr. Abul-Qasim Faizi, (back row, left to right) Mr. Paul Haney, Mr. Aziz Yazdi, Mr. Hooper Dunbar. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

The Hands of the Cause of God were Baha’is appointed by Baha’u’llah, Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, as the “Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth.”.

What is a chief steward? A steward is similar to a manager, or director, and so the ‘chief stewards’ of the Faith managed and directed the global activities of the Baha’i Faith. Shoghi Effendi clearly defined their work as “the propagation and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Baha’u’llah.”.

Abdu’l-Baha also described the duties of the Hands of the Cause. He stated that they…

…are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words.

Baha’u’llah appointed four Hands, four were posthumously named by the Master, and 42 were given this station by Shoghi Effendi. Little is known about the Hands from the early days of the Faith and the Guardian stated that little will be known about them until the history of the Cause in Iran and the near East is written and available – a time which the Universal House of Justice has said has yet to come. Furthermore, as the study of letters and archives are conducted, we may even learn about other Hands from that time period. Continue reading

Heroic Stories as Communities Celebrate their 60th Anniversaries

A group of junior youth in Kiribati participate in junior youth activities together.

A group of junior youth in Kiribati participate in junior youth activities together. Kiribati is one of the many countries celebrating 60 years of the Baha’i Faith this year. (Photo: Baha’i World Centre)

Celebrations are taking place this year in countries far away from each other but with a special bond that unites them.

Sixty years ago, individual Baha’i volunteers left their jobs and homes and emigrated to distant lands.

They were responding to a call by the head of the Baha’i Faith at the time, Shoghi Effendi, to take the faith into every corner of the globe.

This phenomenon led to the doubling of the number of countries with a Baha’i presence within a decade. It was an astounding event in world religious history.

It had all started the year previously but by 1954 there were still many countries without a Baha’i available to offer local people the world-embracing teachings of their faith.

And so ordinary folk bravely set off, often with little information about their destination and not knowing if they could land a job. Continue reading

Who Are the Knights of Baha’u’llah?

Who were the Knights of Baha'u'llahWhen you hear the title ‘Knight’, different connotations come to mind. Historically speaking, a medieval knight was known for their steadfast honor, their allegiance to God, and their loyalty to their lords and ladies. Their lives were dedicated to religious faith and military action – for example, in the Middle Ages they set out to conquer the Holy Land in the name of Christendom. Shoghi Effendi did not choose his words lightly, and hence the title “Knight of Baha’u’llah” authored by Shoghi Effendi, was a title that was bestowed on those selfless souls who opened 131 specific virgin territories to the Faith during what was known as the Ten Year Crusade.

Even as a child with little knowledge of the development of the Baha’i Faith, the title of “Knight of Baha’u’llah” was connotative to me of the qualities of medieval knights, of spiritual battles and sacrificial heroism. This knightly demeanor is masterfully called for by Shoghi Effendi in a cablegram to the Baha’is of the world sent in 1952 in preparation for the coming Ten Year Crusade which took place between 1953-1963, and which I explain in a little more detail further on. Continue reading

An Introduction to the Bayan

Pictured above is the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab revealed His message. His House is considered one of the holiest sites for Baha'is and it was destroyed by Revolutionary Guards in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Pictured above is the House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, where the Bab revealed His message. This house is considered to be one of the holiest sites for Baha’is and it was destroyed by Revolutionary Guards in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)


On May 22nd, Baha’is around the world will celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah. In honour of that joyous holy day, let’s take a look at the Bayan, a priceless gift the Bab bequeathed to mankind.

What is commonly referred to as ‘the Bayan’ are in fact two distinct and separate texts: the Persian Bayan and the Arabic Bayan. The word “bayan” means ‘exposition’ or ‘utterance’ in Arabic, and there are also instances in the Writings where it refers to the entirety of the Bab’s revelation. Continue reading

Nancy Campbell: artist and Artist

Nancy Cambell (1906 – 1980)

Nancy Cambell (1906 – 1980)

At the end of the last century Ani Difranco cleverly and accurately sang that…

…every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

This idea, that most objects and activities – including all sciences and arts – are neutral in value and can be utilized for good or evil, had also been expressed at the beginning of that century by Abdu’l-Baha. He stated:

All things are beneficial if joined with the love of God; and without His love all things are harmful…

He went on to show how this is particularly true of the arts, stating that:

…a melody sweet to the ear, bringeth the very spirit of life to a heart in love with God, yet staineth with lust a soul engrossed in sensual desires.

If a woman at the Three Arts Club in New York City had not introduced Nancy Campbell to the Baha’i Teachings in 1938, she may have become just another talented artist, using her skills and opportunities to entertain and distract. Instead Nancy Campbell attended ‘firesides’ (informal presentations of the Baha’i Teachings) at the home of New York Baha’is, Saffa and Carrie Kinney. Three years later upon return to her adopted homeland, Canada, Nancy Campbell sought out the Baha’is and formally registered as a member of that community. She was immediately engaged in direct service to the Baha’i community, and became a founding member of the Hamilton (Ontario) Local Spiritual Assembly. Continue reading

Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name

Manijeh Not Only a Change of Name 350x570In the corner of our lounge room sits an elderly woman knitting and smiling but rarely talking as the discussion on spiritual matters swirls around the room.

Then, in one of those silences that develop as people gather their thoughts, she stands up, walks over with the scarf she has knitted and gently places it around a woman’s neck and gives her a hug.

Everybody laughs with joy because love was shown by deeds not words.

What few of them knew, until they were told later, was that the knitter has played an historic role in the history of the Baha’i Faith. She was once a custodian of a holy place, the House of the Bab in Bushehr, Iran.

With the assistance of her daughter, Fereshteh Hooshmand, Manijeh Saatchi, 84, now of Brisbane, Australia, has produced a book that tells of her experiences in a way that shows how the human spirit, elevated by love and faith, can prevail against the forces of religious persecution.

In an introduction to Manijeh: Not Only a Change of Name, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, the late Dr. Peter Khan, wrote that the book “conveys a message of hope and optimism for all who value truth and who yearn for justice to prevail”. Continue reading