Celebrations in a principality

May 24, 2004

MONTE CARLO, Monaco — Guests from 25 countries joined the Baha'is of Monaco to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Baha'i Faith in the principality.

More than 320 participants came from a range of countries that included Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Italy, and Uruguay.

The jubilee celebrations on 24-25 April 2004 were held at the Theatre des Varietes in Monte Carlo, and opened with the reading of a welcoming message from the National Council of the Principality.

In September 1953 Nellie French, 85, became the first Baha'i to arrive in Monaco, but she passed away a few months later. For her act of service in bringing the Faith to the country, she received the accolade Knight of Baha'u'llah from Shoghi Effendi.

Some of the other Baha'is who first brought the message of the Baha'i Faith to Monaco 50 years ago were present at the jubilee, together with members of their families.

One was Shamsi Navidi who had arrived from Iran with her daughters Vida and Guilda, in February 1954. Mrs. Navidi's husband, the late Aziz Navidi, a distinguished Baha'i lawyer, joined his family a few months later. Shoghi Effendi named both Mr. and Mrs. Navidi Knights of Baha'u'llah.

In March 1954 Florence Ullrich (later Ullrich-Kelley), a young college graduate, and Olivia Kelsey, an accomplished Baha'i author and poet, arrived from the United States. Ms. Ullrich and Ms. Kelsey were also named Knights of Baha'u'llah.

"We didn't know their language nor did we know their culture," Ms.Ullrich-Kelley told the conference while recounting her memories of her first days in the principality.

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At the gravesite in Monte Carlo, Monaco, of Angeline Giachery, the wife of the Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery. (Right to left) Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, Mrs. Violette Nakhjavani, Mrs. Florence Kelley, Mr. Larry Kelley. Photo courtesy of Hawai'i Baha'i News.

Ms. Ullrich-Kelley said the Baha'is initially found it difficult to establish contact with the locals. However, they made the effort to learn the language and soon met people who were interested in the Faith.

The first person to become a Baha'i in Monaco was Margaret Lantz, of Luxembourg. Soon after her a Frenchman, Mr. Charbonnet, who owned an antique shop in Monaco, also accepted the Faith. Charlottte Campana was the first person of Monegasque nationality to become a Baha'i.

The first Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Monaco was established in 1955.

Since then, as the representative of the Swiss National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'i of Switzerland, John-Paul Vader, told the jubilee, the Monaco community has sent out Baha'is who assisted and taught the Faith in other countries, and also worked for the Faith in international institutions and in defense of the persecuted Baha'is in Iran.

Baha'i writings translated into Monegasque were officially presented to Crown Prince Albert in 2001, and one highlight of the jubilee was the reading of a prayer in that language.

Stephane Valeri, President of the Monaco National Council, sent representatives to the jubilee: a member of the National Council, Christophe Spiliotis-Saquet, and Christian Berti. Also present was Henri Doria, the representative of the mayor of Monaco.

The guests of honor at the jubilee were former member of the Universal House of Justice, Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, who addressed the participants on spiritual matters, and his wife Violette, who described the visit in the 1980s to Monaco of Madame Rabbani, a Hand of the Cause of God and the widow of Shoghi Effendi.

Others Hands of the Cause who visited Monaco during the past 50 years included Abul Qasim Faizi, John Ferraby, Djalal Khaseh, Adelbert Muhlschlegel, and Tarazullah Samandari.

Present at the jubilee were representatives of the National Spiritual Assemblies of France, Italy, and Switzerland. Congratulatory messages arrived from other Baha'i communities, including Germany, Hawaii, Luxembourg, Morocco, and New Zealand.

A member of the Continental Board of Counsellors, Nosrat Tirandaz, delivered the message of the Board of Counsellors for Europe to the Monaco Baha'i community.

Participants enjoyed viewing slides prepared by Rochan Mavaddat which depicted the history of the Monaco Baha'i community.

Linda Youssefian-Marshall of Italy paid a tribute to the most prominent Baha'i to have resided in Monaco, the late Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery, who spent his latter years there with his wife Angeline. A short film of the Giacherys made by Gregoire Foucher was also shown.

The celebrations, which were chaired by Paul Hakim, also featured many artistic presentations. Ranzie Mensah from Italy sang excerpts from the Baha'i writings put to music and a Tunisian-born singer Hatef Sedkaoui, also known as Atef, performed European and North African songs. One of the Baha'i youth, Melodie Kahl played the cello. Guitarist Serge Merlaud and pianist Francine Astani also performed.

The joyous celebrations ended with a dinner party for 300 at the seashore restaurant of one of the local Baha'is, Eric Chauvet.

The Monaco postal authorities issued a special postal mark to commemorate the 50th anniversary.

Following the event a local weekly magazine, The Monaco Hebdo, published an article about the jubilee.