The Kolkata gathering, held 22-23 November, is the first one in the current series of 41 conferences to have fireworks … literally. For some of those attending, it was the first time they had seen such a sight.
The evening session on the first day was one of celebration – colorful song and dance presentations, some of which related directly to the work in the clusters, capped by what was described as “an awesome display of fireworks.”
“…possibly the largest, most zealous gathering of Baha’i friends ever held in this part of the world.”
Most of the 1,500 participants came from the eastern states of India, but some 30 people managed – with great difficulty – to get passports and visas and travel from neighboring Bangladesh. It was a victory for them, although many more of their fellow believers had to be left behind. About 200 Baha’is in Bangladesh had attempted to come to Kolkata, and many struggled to quickly get passports. But the current situation at the border between Bangladesh and India – which in the past has been the site of tension and problems – meant that at the moment it seemed to be more difficult for Bangladeshis to get visas. The Baha’is went in groups to the consulate seeking the all-important document, with many of them waiting up to three days even to reach the door. In the end, most were turned away without the visa.
The conference site in Kolkata was thoroughly festive as people arrived in droves, by bus, by train, by plane. The believers gathered around the welcoming tents in the venue, joyfully mingling with one another, renewing friendships and establishing new ones, while recounting both the delightful experiences and unfortunate hassles in preparing for and traveling to the conference.
The exuberance of the gathering grew as the weekend progressed, prompting one participant to proclaim it “possibly the largest, most zealous gathering of Baha’i friends ever held in this part of the world.”
Attending as representatives of the Universal House of Justice were Mrs. Zenaida Ramirez and Dr. Penelope Walker, both members of the International Teaching Center. The Saturday session included presentations by counselors and others describing the time we live in and the significance of the Five Year Plan. These presentations also prepared the participants for the Sunday workshops where they would have a chance to make specific plans for upcoming activities in the clusters. Consultations centered on understanding the elements that make up the pattern of growth, with people recounting stories reflecting advances in their work.
“This weekend in Kolkata, we came as guests of the House of Justice, finding new friends and reaffirming old ties along the way, and we all stood up for Baha'u'llah. To those of you who are still unsure about participating in the Regional Conference in your area, this is a moment you may not want to miss.”
The Sunday workshops indeed revealed how committed people were to continuing their neighborhood activities and, even more significant, how willing they were to help with needs in other clusters. The delegations from seven regions in India consulted about how they could establish 22 intensive programs of growth by Ridvan and another five in succeeding months. Those from Bangladesh consulted on plans for three intensive programs of growth by April and two more by June. Nearly 200 hundred people offered to serve as home-front pioneers, and hundreds more volunteered to assist in other capacities.
After the conference, one participant summed up his experience: “This morning, the morning after, I can still feel the energy of these two historic days: raw, palpable, undeniable in its love for the Faith and its desire for meeting the goals of the current Plan. This weekend in Kolkata, we came as guests of the House of Justice, finding new friends and reaffirming old ties along the way, and we all stood up for Baha'u'llah. To those of you who are still unsure about participating in the Regional Conference in your area, this is a moment you may not want to miss.”
(Compiled from reports of counselors and other participants)Return to top
The weather was perfect for outdoor workshops.
The conference opened with devotions.
The Kolkata gathering offered opportunities to visit and consult with friends old and new.
Workshop sessions are a key part of all the conferences.
The Kolkata conference was one of three held in India. Combined attendance at the three was more than 4,800 people.
Robin Ganguli, an accomplished Baha'i singer, performs for the friends.
Mr. Sailender talks with residents of Bihar.
Break-out sessions offered participants a chance to, first, study messages from the House of Justice and, later, to consult on activities in their clusters.
Plenary sessions included devotions each day.
Seven regions of India were represented at the conference, and about 30 Baha’is from Bangladesh also attended.
Dr. Zena Sahidi (right) from Bangladesh talks with Mrs. Sarbani Ganguli and Miss Sanchita Ganguli of West Bengal.
Baha’is from Assam perform a traditional dance.
Mrs. Zenaida Ramirez and Dr. Penny Walker (in center) represented the Universal House of Justice at the gathering.
As the conference ends, the exuberant mood is obvious.