Baha'i jubilee celebrated in 'world's oldest republic'

14 November 2004

SAN MARINO — Prominent government officials paid tribute to the Baha'i community at a gala dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Baha'i Faith to this country.

The anniversary was "a very special and important occasion," the Secretary of State for Industry, Claudio Felici, told 100 prominent citizens of San Marino and their Baha'i hosts at the event held on 25 September 2004.

Conveying greetings from the government, Dr. Felici spoke about the Baha'i attitude towards peace and how it moved beyond just rhetoric and good intentions to dialogue, cooperation, and human relations.

The activities of the Faith in seeking peace and religious unity are well known in San Marino, a country surrounded by Italy and a member of the United Nations since 1992. It lays claim to the description of "the world's oldest republic."

Last year, the captains regent, two leaders who hold the positions of head of state and government, accepted delivery of a message from the Universal House of Justice which called for decisive action to eradicate religious intolerance and fanaticism in the world.

The government of San Marino has also intervened internationally in defense of the Baha'i community of Iran, which has suffered persecution at the hands of the authorities in that country.

Tabandeh and Sohrab Payman.SLIDESHOW
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Tabandeh and Sohrab Payman.

A message read to the jubilee dinner from the captains regent, Paolo Bollini and Marino Riccardi, said the Baha'is had helped to draw attention to the values of belonging, tolerance, and solidarity that permeate San Marino.

"The presence of the Baha'i community in San Marino is consequently of great significance and will help bring a future of certainty and peace," they said in their message.

A prominent member of the Italian Baha'i community, Julio Savi, then delivered an address to the gathering in which he outlined the history of the Baha'i Faith in the country.

Dr. Savi described how in 1953 Tabandeh ("Toby") Payman of Iran was attending a Baha'i conference in Stockholm when she decided to introduce the Faith to San Marino as part of a ten-year plan to take the teachings around the world.

Without returning to her home in Tehran, she moved directly to San Marino, where her husband, Sohrab, and their daughter Ghitty joined her some months later.

Dr. Savi said that after their arrival in San Marino they established friendships, and soon the Baha'i ideas and thoughts became better known in the country.

"San Marino is a special place," Dr. Savi said.

"The republic was founded many years ago by a saint, someone who was also spiritually motivated," he said.

"In this country, Toby gave her contribution, a contribution of ideas, which, I believe, coincide with those of the San Marino people, the defenders of freedom."

The head of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, bestowed on Mr. and Mrs. Payman the accolade of Knight of Baha'u'llah for their service in introducing the Baha'i Faith to San Marino. The couple still reside there and were honored participants at the jubilee festivities.

At a celebration on 26 September 2004 attended by Baha'is from San Marino, Italy, Monaco, and the United States, a message from the Universal House of Justice to the Baha'is of San Marino was read to the participants.

Congratulations also came the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'is of France, Italy, and the United States and from many other Baha'i communities around the world.

Later that day, the secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of San Marino, Ghitty Payman, welcomed Baha'is and guests to a concert in the Titano theatre where a prominent singer from Ghana, Ranzie Mensah, performed.

Ms. Mensah, who has performed with Miriam Makeba and appeared on numerous television shows as well as entertained at international governmental events, was accompanied on the piano by Alfredo Matera and by singers Stefy Piovesan, Aurelio Pitino, and Lidia Genta Rigamonti.

After she sang songs with lyrics including the words of Baha'u'llah, the audience gave her a standing ovation.

A buffet dinner brought the joyous jubilee celebrations to a close.

For an earlier article about the Baha'i community of San Marino, see http://news.bahai.org/story/200.