Lively festivities in Lesotho
MASERU, Lesotho — Lively performances of dance, music and storytelling were highlights of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Baha'i Faith in Lesotho, held from 10-12 October 2003.
The Butha Buthe Baha'i choir and the Men's Choir from Lesotho sang several times throughout the program, as did the Swaziland Baha'i choir.
A visiting arts group from South Africa, Beyond Words, performed many dances. They also depicted the lives of the first Lesotho Baha'is in a play written for the occasion.
At times during the event, all the participants were dancing and singing together in harmony.
Following a reception at the national Baha'i center, more than 170 Baha'is gathered at the Lesotho Sun Hotel for two days of celebrations. Guests came from South Africa and Swaziland.
Lesotho Television covered part of the proceedings.
Present at the event was a member of the Continental Board of Counselors, Enos Makhele of South Africa, who spoke about the historical significance of the anniversary.
After an address by the chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly, Nontsiki Mashologo, participants learned from a slide presentation about some significant Baha'i activities during the past 50 years, such as visits by traveling teachers, youth conferences, and children's classes.
One of those major events was the visit from 19 July to 4 August, 1972, of Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, a Hand of the Cause of God and the widow of the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi.
The first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Lesotho was formed in 1971. There are now 26 Local Spiritual Assemblies, and Baha'is live in more than 470 localities.
The Lesotho Baha'is hold regular children's classes, study circles, and devotional meetings. There is also a youth enrichment program, which encourages young people to identify their problems and empowers them to find solutions.
At the jubilee, Mapeko Mofolo, the secretary of the National Assembly, told stories about the early days of the Baha'i Faith in Lesotho.
The first Baha'is to arrive in Basutoland (as Lesotho was once called) were Frederick and Elizabeth Laws, a couple from the United States.
They arrived on 13 October 1953, just three days before the end of the Holy Year at the beginning of a ten-year plan to take the Baha'i teachings around the world.
For their services, they each received the accolade, Knight of Baha'u'llah, from Shoghi Effendi.
The Laws soon won the hearts of the local people. Mrs. Laws became known simply as "Malerato" (Mother of Love) and Mr. Laws as "Lerato" (Love).
They soon met Chadwick and Mary Mohapi, a couple in their sixties.
"The Mohapis asked us to live in their village, and gave us a round, thatched hut with a clay floor. The rondavel was about 16 feet in diameter. We laid a tarpaper floor and moved in," Mrs. Laws later recalled.
On 6 September, 1954, after learning about the faith from Mr. and Mrs. Laws every evening for five weeks, Mr. and Mrs. Mohapi became Baha'is, the first local believers of their country.
Subsequently, despite difficulties with language, many local people were enthusiastic to learn about the Baha'i Faith.
"Our mighty Lord takes our inadequate words, our puny efforts, and causes them to bring great results," Mrs. Laws wrote.
"Those who hear go out to tell many others -- the chain is endless to eternity."
Mr. and Mrs. Laws stayed in Basutoland for 30 months. Mr. Laws could not get a work permit so they left for South Africa in early 1956. By that time there were 85 Baha'is in Lesotho and five Local Spiritual Assemblies.
They later moved to Gambia and then to Liberia to assist the Baha'i communities in each of those countries.