National communities celebrate together
DAKAR, Senegal — Baha'i communities of former French West Africa have celebrated the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Baha'i Faith to the region.
Participants in the festivities, held here between 26 and 28 December 2003, came from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Togo, and Ivory Coast.
There were also Baha'i guests from other parts of Africa, Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.
Presentations using slide shows and photographs prepared by Chahine Rassekh from Mali and Thelma Khelgati from Guinea, informed the participants about the Baha'i history of the region, including the first Baha'is there -- Labib and Habib Isfahani.
Labib Isfahani arrived from Egypt in December 1953, followed by his brother, Habib Isfahani, in April 1954. For their introduction of the Faith to the region they both received the accolade Knight of Baha'u'llah from the then head of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi.
The presentations also depicted in photographs the visits to the region of some outstanding Baha'is, among them five Hands of the Cause of God: Abu'l-Qasim Faizi, Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, Enoch Olinga, Ruhiyyih Rabbani, and Ali-Muhammad Varqa.
Some early Baha'is in the region gave accounts of the major events involving the Faith during the past 50 years, and Parvine Djoneidi of Niger, spoke on the establishment of the Faith there and its potential for the future.
One of the highlights of the event was the screening of the video, "Building Momentum."
The film, distributed by the Baha'i World Centre, portrays Baha'i communities throughout the world engaged in community-building activities that are open to the general public: study circles, children's classes, and devotional meetings.
After the screening of the video, participants held discussion groups and exchanged their experiences on the subjects portrayed.
Two distinguished guests at the celebration were Ibrahim Galadina, and Moussa Kamaye, members of the Continental Board of Counsellors for Africa.
In his address, Mr. Kamaye encouraged the Baha'is to carefully study and follow the messages of the Universal House of Justice. He also spoke about the significant role of Baha'i youth in building the Baha'i communities of the future.
The festivities were marked by joyous artistic performances by a variety of groups. A theatrical troupe from Mali performed dramatic stories about the early believers in Persia.
The Baha'i choirs of Dakar, Kaolack, and Burkina Faso entertained guests with their dances and songs, and a Baha'i dance group from Dakar, Les Etincelles, performed two well-received shows.
The National Radio broadcast two interviews in connection with the jubilee.
Baha'is live in 382 localities in Senegal, and there are 54 Local Spiritual Assemblies. Social and economic development projects include teacher training, and providing literacy classes for women.
Among other Baha'i development activities in the region are the establishment of schools in Guinea, Mali, and Niger.