Baha'is elect national assemblies

16 May 2007

GIZO, Solomon Islands — Surrounded by a tent community of refugees from the recent earthquake and tsunami, the Baha'is of the Solomon Islands forged ahead with their annual convention where they elected the nine members of the national governing council of their faith.

When the earthquake hit the South Pacific on April 2 and the resulting tsunami crashed into the Solomon Islands, a number of people from the area were at a meeting at the Baha'i center in Gizo, a small provincial capital.

The Baha'i center there happens to be on a mountain -- the highest point on that particular island -- so no one at the meeting was hurt, but a number of participants returned home to find their villages destroyed. The young granddaughter of a Baha'i couple was among the 28 people who died.

Since then, families have camped on the property of the Baha'i center -- which had already been designated the venue for the annual national Baha'i convention April 27-29. Delegates to the convention said that far from dampening the spirit of the meeting, the presence of the refugees created a warm and loving atmosphere for the gathering.

"The friends have manifested nobility, patience, and radiant acquiescence in enduring their hardship," the delegates wrote in a message from the convention. The refugees -- who are receiving aid from their national Baha'i organization, from the government and from international relief agencies -- are now in the process of rebuilding their homes or looking to relocate.

The newly elected governing council, called the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the Solomon Islands, was one of 178 similar institutions formed in nations and territories around the world in recent weeks. Baha'i annual conventions are traditionally held in late April during the period known as Ridvan, commemorating Baha'u'llah's declaration of His mission in 1863.

At national conventions in other countries:

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-- In Auckland, New Zealand, Baha'is marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their National Spiritual Assembly. At a special event held at the Auckland Museum, 600 people - including a number of international visitors and guests - heard congratulatory remarks by the governor general, Anand Satyanand, and a keynote address by a Baha'i speaker, Murray Smith.

-- In Paraguay, special note was made that some of the elected delegates were very young; similarly, a message from the convention in Venezuela said their new National Assembly "shines for the diversity of the age and ethnicity of its members."

-- Delegates at a number of the conventions sent messages conveying support for Baha'is in Iran and Egypt, where government persecution is resulting in the denial of education and other rights of citizenship to followers of the Baha'i Faith.

At virtually all the conventions around the globe, participants read and consulted about the annual message from the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha'i Faith. Referred to as the Ridvan 2007 message, it stressed the importance of teaching the Baha'i Faith and of systematic grassroots programs that involve increasing numbers of people in study circles, devotional programs, and activities for children and young teenagers.

Individuals in each country who this year were elected to their Baha'i National Assembly will serve next year as delegates to the International Convention, held every five years in Haifa, Israel, where the world headquarters of the Baha'i Faith is located. The purpose of that gathering is to elect the nine members of the Universal House of Justice and to consult on the affairs of the Baha'i Faith.