Some 1,200 participants gathered at the Cameroon National Bahá’í Center for the Yaounde regional conference, 29-30 November. In addition to the hundreds who had come from across Cameroon, there were 90 from Chad, 45 from Congo, 18 from Equatorial Guinea, 20 from Gabon, and 10 from Sao Tome and Principe. A high percentage of those attending were youth, ages 12 to 22.
“Tears came to my eyes,” recalled Moses Tanyi, a participant, “when I observed that Baha’is arrived in humble circumstances, knowing no one, but were being received as brothers.” So loving was the welcome that five friends of Bahá’ís, who had traveled several hundred kilometers from Abong-Mbang in eastern Cameroon, on Saturday morning at the conference decided to join the Bahá’í community.
As in the preceding regional conferences, Saturday was set aside for reviewing progress to date of Baha’i community activities, and Sunday for consulting on plans to develop the capacities of those eager to serve their communities. Challenges of heat and cramped conditions under canopies erected in the garden at the National Center were overcome with a spirit of joy and vitality. A video link was set up to accommodate an overflow of some 150 people.
“Tears came to my eyes, when I observed that Baha’is arrived in humble circumstances, knowing no one, but were being received as brothers.”
Mr. Stephen Hall and Dr. Ayman Rouhani, members of the International Teaching Center representing the Universal House of Justice, addressed the gathering on Saturday. The participants reflected on a special message of the Universal House of Justice to the conference, especially on the challenge for the believers in the region to “undertake exploits of unmatched spiritual heroism.”
Representatives of different countries presented detailed assessments of the work at the local level, noting not only the quantifiable aspects but also the qualitative achievements of the Five Year Plan. The reports spoke of the ways that a mode of learning has freed up initiative, reduced fears of making mistakes, and empowered the youth to participate fully in all aspects of service, including teaching children’s classes and tutoring study circles.
Dr. Rouhani explained that the work of the Bahá’ís is not something taking place in a vacuum. “Being a Bahá’í,” he said, “means walking a path of service, and as we walk this path, we accompany others.”
“Our lives have a dual purpose,” he went on, “to develop our spiritual life and to carry forward an ever-advancing civilization.” He added that there is a direct relationship between receptivity to the Bahá’í teachings and the breakdown of society; and that the development of our capacities should not fall behind the increasing needs of society. Our faith is conscious knowledge put into action, he said.
“Particularly I have been able to understand the role a pioneer can play within a three-month cycle in a cluster, beginning with the expansion right up to the movements of new believers through the sequence of courses.”
Miss Jupiter Benwi Kully - Tiko, Cameroon
Mr. Hall spoke about elements of a healthy pattern of growth, and this was followed by additional presentations by participants on their work in their communities. Also, Bahá’ís from various countries shared their experiences in broadening the involvement of people in the work of the Five Year Plan to include those just learning of the Faith.
“I have learnt so much from the experiences shared by the friends from Cameroon and other countries present,” said Miss Jupiter Benwi Kully of Tiko, Cameroon. “Particularly I have been able to understand the role a pioneer can play within a three-month cycle in a cluster, beginning with the expansion right up to the movements of new believers through the sequence of courses.”
The devotional program on Sunday focused on the theme of service and sacrifice. Mr. Clement Feizouré, a Continental Counselor in Africa, outlined the immediate needs of the region in the context of our global plans.
Mr Feizouré spoke of the magnitude of the commitment and “unmatched spiritual heroism” required to establish a further 28 intensive programs of growth within the region during the next five months, in contrast to the past seven and a half years when there have been 19 such programs of growth. He also reminded the friends of the challenge for Bahá’ís inherent in the following statement by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Íqán, “What ‘oppression’ is more grievous than that a soul seeking the truth, and wishing to attain unto the knowledge of God, should know not where to go for it and from whom to seek it?”
While limited space made the facilitation of the planning workshops difficult, it did not deter the friends from focusing on the tasks at hand. Regular outbursts of joyful applause provided a sure sign that the believers at the Yaoundé conference were committing themselves wholeheartedly to the service of the Cause.
Marthe Nadoe, age 47, Beugue-Tiko, Cameroon: “I am thankful to the Universal House of Justice for organizing this conference. It has awakened me…. I have to go home and talk to the other Baha’is who stayed home.”
Rufin Kinzuka, age 49, Congo Brazzaville: “The regional conference is a unique and historic occasion. We are half way through the Plan so it was really important. We studied the guidance and shared experiences from different countries.”
Alfredo Delgado, age 16, Equatorial Guinea: “I have learned a lot here – the answers to many of my questions, although not all of them…. I am grateful to the Universal House of Justice for allowing those of us from Equatorial Guinea to participate in this conference.”
Naomie Ndongo Belinga, age 47, Mbalumayo, Cameroon: “In Mbalamayo, we were really glad to receive the invitation of the Universal House of Justice for this conference. The guidance we received will help us a lot to understand the Five Year Plan and the mobilization of human resources and planning of our activities.”
Participants arrive in Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon and second largest city in the country after Douala.
Honoree Atem, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Cameroon, chairs the first session of the conference.
Baha’is from Chad participate in a workshop session.
Two friends from Cameroon reflect the spirit of the gathering.
These participants are from Eastern Province, in Cameroon.
Members of the Buea choir perform at the conference.
Baha’is from Gabon wave in greeting. About 20 people traveled from Gabon for the conference.
Singing has been a part of all the conferences.
These performers are from Sao Tome.
Baha’is from Mamfe, Cameroon, visit the Baha’i National Center in Yaounde.