Jubilee becomes major talking point
PORT BLAIR, India — Celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Baha'i Faith here became the talk of the islands as local dignitaries attended special events, and the media provided extensive coverage.
At a dinner for high-ranking officials, the Lt. Governor, Shri N. N. Jha, praised the work being carried out by the Baha'is in the islands, which are a Union Territory of India.
The first lady, Smti Chaya Jha, then officially announced that the Baha'is had specially produced for the occasion a souvenir publication, which included a history of the Faith here.
In a speech wishing the Baha'is good luck in their endeavors, she said that she had first met Baha'is 40 years ago, and had a number of good friends who were members of the Faith.
At a unity concert attended by some 700 people, the Chief of Staff of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, Rear Admiral Rakesh Kala, wished the Baha'is all the best in their work and activities.
Rear Admiral Kala spoke of his fond memories of the peacefulness he experienced during his visit to the Baha'i House of Worship in New Delhi.
At both the official dinner and the concert, Jamshed Fozdar was one of the guests of honor. Mr. Fozdar is a son of Dr. K. M. Fozdar (1898-1958), who first brought the Baha'i Faith to these islands in 1953 as part of a Ten Year Plan to take Baha'u'llah's teachings around the world.
Dr. Fozdar, who received the title of Knight of Baha'u'llah for his services, had to leave the islands after four months but by then four local people had become Baha'is, and they remained to continue the development of the community.
At the jubilee events, which were held 10-12 November 2003, Jamshed Fozdar said that the Baha'i Faith possessed a solution to the problems being faced by mankind today, and he exhorted the audience to investigate its teachings.
He also recounted stories about his father, who diligently and effectively served the Faith not only in the islands, but also in India and Singapore.
The events attracted coverage in the widely circulating newspaper, "The Daily Telegrams," an official English daily. There were also reports in three other English language daily newspapers, two Hindi newspapers, and a Tamil weekly newspaper.
The All India radio repeatedly led its bulletins with news of the jubilee. It broadcast quotations from Baha'u'llah as its "Thought for Today" and carried live interviews with three Baha'is.
The local television also covered the unity concert, which featured a program of songs and dances presented by Baha'i youth and other high school students, all on themes of peace, harmony and unity. At that event, citations of appreciation were given to people who had rendered selfless service to the people of the islands.
The former project manager of the construction of the Baha'i House of Worship in New Delhi, Sheriar Nooreyazdan, gave an address and presented a slide show about the Temple to an appreciative audience of more than 110 people, including 32 engineers.
An integral part of the festivities was an Institute conference at a freshly refurbished Baha'i House. The more than 100 Baha'i who attended were addressed by, among others, Payam Shoghi, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors, Mr. B. Afshin from Panchgani in India, Mehrzad Akhtarkhavari, secretary of the Spiritual Assembly of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Mr. R. N. Shah, a prominent Baha'i from India.
Among the topics of the sessions, were the Five Year Plan, currently being carried out by Baha'is throughout the world, and its three core activities -- capacity building study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes.
Each of these activities is open to the wider community, and all are being energetically pursued by the Baha'is here. There were also reminiscences of the early days of the Faith in the islands.
Seven people who declared their Faith in Baha'u'llah were called to the stage for a warm welcome and expressions of encouragement. Twenty-one Baha'is offered to move to other parts of the islands to develop Baha'i communities there.
In a message to the Spiritual Assembly, the Universal House of Justice promised prayers that the jubilee event would be a source of inspiration to the Baha'is as they endeavored to promote the Cause of Baha'u'llah.
There are currently 11 Local Spiritual Assemblies on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which has a population of some 280,000. The population is spread among 40 of the 540 islands in the group.