Victor Pavlov of Ukraine gestures during a workshop session at the Kiev conference. More photographs

The Kiev Regional Conference

28 February–1 March 2009
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The last in the series of 41 regional conferences held in cities around the world convened in Kiev with 730 participants, including 283 from Ukraine, 211 from Russia, 68 from Moldova, 15 from Armenia, 65 from Belarus, 21 from Estonia, 19 from Lithuania, and 15 from Latvia. Among the participants were 57 children and 29 junior youth, who attended their own program during the weekend.

Dr. Ayman Rouhani and Dr. Penelope Walker, members of the International Teaching Centre, represented the Universal House of Justice. Also attending were nine members of the Continental Board of Counselors.

The conference was held at the House of Cinema, a venue remembered by Ukrainian Baha’is as the site of a meeting with Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum in the 1990s.

Dr. Walker presented the opening address, which focused on the importance of the present moment. “The Faith needs you,” she stated, and the audience responded with standing applause. Dr. Rouhani later discussed the current stage of the development of the Baha’i Faith and the core activities, explaining the various aspects of children’s classes, junior youth groups, devotional meetings, and study circles. 

“The stories of personal search and growth affected me strongly.”

Maria Koiv, 34 - Estonia

The Saturday night cultural program was marked by spirited performances of young and old alike, featuring songs, dances, and sketches on the themes of the Five Year Plan. The audience interacted with the performers, singing along and encouraging them with clapping and laughter. Festivities continued until nearly 11 p.m.

An interesting feature of the conferences has been the participation of friends of Baha’is. By Sunday in Kiev, 15 such participants had announced their intention to join the Baha’i community.

Sharing experiences

During the sessions, people from all the major participating countries had been designated to recount experiences in their home communities.

Muzaffara Sattarova, now living in Moscow but originally from Uzbekistan, told her own story of  becoming a Baha'i. Although she had been exposed to the Baha’i Faith on and off for several years, and had been reading Baha’i books, it was during the ninth cycle of intensive growth in the Moscow cluster, in 2007, that she decided to be part of the Baha’i community. She joined study circles and in just two months completed three books in the Ruhi curriculum; after her third study circle, she started children’s classes in cooperation with a friend. Later she completed more of the institute courses and began serving as a tutor herself.

Other presentations came from both long-standing and newly-enrolled Baha’is, who talked of learning how to manage the activities involved in cycles of growth and how the process of action and reflection helped them to improve their work and become more effective.

Recurring themes also included the idea of drawing for help on designated resource people, and the interrelated nature of the activities and the development of capacity.

“About a year ago I found out about the Faith from the Bahá’ís in Latvia. I started to read the books and felt that it was very close to my heart.”

Maria Kondratieva, 23 - Moscow

A representative from Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, described how practice had helped the friends learn to speak more effectively about their beliefs to others.

From Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine came an encouraging report about success achieved through systematic planning. One thing they have learned, they said, is that using the knowledge and skills gained from Ruhi Institute courses makes their work more effective. Accompanying new friends with their activities was another key, they said.

The second day

Sunday began with a presentation by counselors who described some of the communities where programs of growth will soon be starting. The comments combined both practical information and inspirational remarks.

Participants then divided into workshop groups to engage in practical planning. The results of the consultations were later reported to the whole audience with a number of groups stating that they had reconsidered original plans and had moved forward the date for beginning a program of growth.

Dr. Walker offered the final presentation, and ended by speaking of the privilege of attending such a conference. “For some of you, this conference will be a turning point,” she said. “You will feel immediately that there was a time before Kiev, and a time after Kiev. For others, to realize it may take time. But I have no doubt that life will never be the same for all of you.”

Comments from participants

Svetlana Utenkova, Lithuania: “Those personal stories really inspired me.”

Maria Koiv, 34, Estonia: “The stories of personal search and growth affected me strongly. ... I was not in close touch with my community for a long time. But now I have to change everything in my life to become more active and participate in core activities.”

Zafar Hamrayev, Moscow: “I did not know much about the cycles of growth, but examples of systematic teaching from other localities gave me new understanding.”

Eleonora Zima, Ukraine: “The conference is taking place in a very special time. At a time of world crisis, (there was) wonderful spirit and optimism, based on an understanding of the processes at work in the world.”

Maria Mankovskaya, 70, Zhitomer, Ukraine: “I liked the fact that we had a very active, intensive sharing of views. The information we got was rich and deep, and we’ve been given the understanding on how to act further.”

Kristina Afinogenova, 22, Moldova: “This conference for me was like a reflection meeting on an international level. We celebrated our victories together and consulted together. And what is most important, it all ended up with planning.”

Larisa Saprikina, 61, Latvia: “I appreciated hearing the experiences from different communities and I’ve made a plan for myself. …”

Maria Kondratieva, 23, Moscow: “About a year ago I found out about the Faith from the Bahá’ís in Latvia. I started to read the books and felt that it was very close to my heart.”

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  • The 730 participants gather in a plenary session. In the front row are continental counselors and the representatives of the Universal House of Justice.

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  • The letter from the Universal House of Justice to the Kiev conference is read aloud. Pictured are Venus Kuzina of Moscow, right, and Vladimir Serduk of Kiev.

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  • Participants came mainly from Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

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  • Counselors Zebonisa Solieva, left, and Naisan Azimi share a word.

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  • John Lindsay, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Estonia, presents an overview of progress in his country.

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  • The conference was conducted in English and Russian with simultaneous translation provided in languages of the Baltic States. Shown here are participants from Moldova and Armenia.

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  • The Kiev event was held on the 18th consecutive week of regional Baha’i conferences around the world.

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  • Zafar Hamraev of Moscow and Eugenia Poluektova of Kiev are shown during one of the breaks.

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  • People from the Kiev area consult during a workshop on Sunday.

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  • Evgeniya Kazimova and Anya Savenkova participate in one of the workshops.

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  • Participants from Belarus consult at the Sunday workshop. Julia Rosalyuk of Moscow is the facilitator.

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  • This planning workshop is for Baha’is of Chisinau, Moldova. Standing are Alyona Kuijuklu, left, and Fevzie Baki, a member of the Continental Board of Counselors.

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  • The conference was held at the House of Cinema, the site of a gathering in the 1990s where Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum addressed the Baha’is of Ukraine.

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  • Dr. Penelope Walker and Dr. Ayman Rouhani attended the conference as representatives of the Universal House of Justice.

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