Launching a ship of faith
KINIVING, Papua New Guinea — A new Baha'i center with a distinctive nautical design has taken pride of place here in a remote region of the country.
More than 300 Baha'is and some Christian guests gathered from 11 to 14 July 2003 for the opening of the center in this village, all of whose residents are members of the Baha'i Faith.
For some visitors, the journey to Kiniving entailed a 30-minute flight from the regional center of Lae followed by a three-hour hike into the mountains from Pindiu Station.
The center's architect, local Baha'i Roro Kugewa, gained his inspiration for the building from a picture of an ark on the cover of a Baha'i publication. (In the Baha'i Writings, the term "Ark" is often used to signify the Baha'i Faith and the law of God.)
Mr. Kugewa incorporated aspects of a ship in his design. The center's ground-floor meeting room for some 70 people resembles a ship's hold, with slightly curved half-walls and windows at eye level.
The upper level has an enclosed room for the meetings of the Local Spiritual Assembly, and within that room is another room reserved for Baha'u'llah's book of laws, the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and other Baha'i books.
Outside the upper room is a deck, which commands a view over the whole village.
Prayers and music by "singsing" (performance) groups from different villages featured at the welcoming ceremony.
Marsha Milani, a representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Papua New Guinea, presented big laminated photographs of the Shrine of the Bab and the Terraces on Mount Carmel as gifts for the centers in Kiniving and nearby Doi and Bulu. She also gave them laminated quotations from the text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas.
In return the Local Spiritual Assemblies and individual Baha'is presented gifts of treasured woven bags, known as bilums, to the national Baha'i institutions and to the secretariat of the Universal House of Justice.
Ms. Milani said the presentation ceremony and the placement of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in the special room followed a study session on the book's significance.
"With great reverence the guests were accompanied back to the entry to the village with representatives of the (Baha'i) institutions carrying the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the prayer books in traditional bilums.
"Once again there was a formal welcome of prayers and singsing groups and a drama based on one of the Hidden Words (sacred Writings of Baha'u'llah).
"The guests were then escorted to the Center where devotions were read before the formal presentation of a copy of the Kitab-i-Aqdas to a representative of each of the nine Local Spiritual Assemblies in the area, namely: Belibaec, Bulu, Doi, Kiniving, Kolohong, Kuluntufu, Simbe, Sogobong and Songon."
(There are about 500 Baha'is in the area. Papua New Guinea has 254 Local Spiritual Assemblies.)
The assemblies also received copies of excerpts translated into Tok Pisin (the language also known as Pidgin English), as well as 100 copies each of a newly published prayer book in their local language of Mongi, Ms. Milani said.
Those local spiritual assemblies without centers entrusted their copies to the Kiniving Assembly to keep in the special room until they have a suitable place to keep it in their own village, she said.
"I gathered that the friends (local Baha'is) are so much in awe of the Most Holy book that they find it hard to actually hold it in their hand and read it," Ms. Milani said.