Official urges study of 'noble principles'
ACCRA, Ghana — The principles of the Baha'i Faith "could shed light on what steps our society should take to improve our social and economic life," a senior government official told participants at the Baha'i jubilee celebrations in this West African nation.
The theme of the 27-29 August 2004 celebrations, which commemorated the establishment of the Faith here 50 years ago, was "Spiritual Solutions for Social and Economic Problems."
"I sincerely believe that the theme chosen for this celebration is to engender our whole society to reflect on the principle that human nature is fundamentally spiritual," said Kwaku Agyeman Manu, the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
"I urge the rest of us who are non-Baha'is to exhibit some of the good principles of religious humility, to examine the noble principles of the Baha'i teachings," Mr. Agyeman Manu said.
During the past 50 years, the Baha'is of Ghana have been active in social and economic development programs.
A recent example is the work of the Olinga Foundation for Human Development, founded in 1999.
The foundation has been involved in promoting literacy and moral education classes in primary and junior secondary schools in rural areas of Ghana.
In the Western region of the country, for example, more than 5,000 children, in 150 schools participated in such classes with the help of the foundation.
Another feature of the jubilee was the awarding of prizes in a student essay competition organized by the Baha'i community.
Students throughout Ghana were asked to discuss four principles shared by at least four of the world's main religions.
On behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Ghana, Thelma Khelgati, a former member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa, congratulated the winners and handed out the prizes.
A special feature of the celebrations was the launching of the book titled "Conquering the Hearts, A Brief History of the Baha'i Faith in Ghana from 1951-1995."
Introducing the book, Diana Heymann-Adu, the managing director of Meridian FM radio station, said that "the Baha'i Faith has much appeal and relevance to the modern world."
She said that the book, which tells about the lives of the early Baha'is in Ghana, will offer many insights to future generations.
The Baha'i teachings were first brought to Ghana (then under British rule and called "the Gold Coast") in 1951 when Ethel Robertson Stephens, an African-American Baha'i from Virginia came to Accra. Mrs. Stephens stayed one year in the Gold Coast.
In the early 1950s Baha'i pioneers established Baha'i communities in the Northern Territories, Ashanti Protectorate, and British Togoland. Those three regions, together with the Gold Coast, became the independent nation of Ghana in 1957.
Among the first Baha'is in those three regions were three young Baha'is from Cameroon, Benedict Eballa (Ashanti Protectorate), Edward Tabe (British Togoland), and Martin Manga (Northern Territories).
Other pioneers were Julius Edwards, a Jamaican tailor from Liberia (Northern Territories) and the first Baha'i from the Gold Coast, Albert Buapiah (British Togoland).
For their services in establishing Baha'i communities in these regions the five men later received the accolade Knight of Baha'u'llah from the then head of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi.
Another Cameroonian Baha'i, who assisted the Baha'i community in Ghana in the early days was David Tanyi.
In 1954, Mr. Tanyi had been named a Knight of Baha'u'llah for introducing the Baha'i Faith to Togo (then French Togoland).
In 1957 he moved to Tamale (Northern Territories), and with his wife,Esther, and their children remained in Ghana for more than three decades.
During the celebrations, some of the first believers, among them Blanche Fredua-Agyemang, Emmanuel Budu, Ernest Bentsil, and Prince Abaidoo gave accounts of the early years of the Faith in Ghana.
Over the course of three days, the jubilee festivities were held at three locations: at the Hotel Novotel in Accra, in Kumasi, and at the Baha'i institute in Gyankama.
During the three days, participants enjoyed a variety of artistic performances, including presentations by the local Baha'i youth choir, Flight 009, accompanied by Yoofi Nketsiah, and songs and dances by the Bawdie Baha'i youth group.
Others whose musical performances entertained the jubilee crowd were George Olinga of Uganda with Ekua Mensah from the United States, and Pinnock Casely-Hayford, a local Baha'i.
Also present at the celebrations were members of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa Beatrice Asare, who presented the message of the Continental Board to the participants, and Kobina Amissah Fynn.
After the celebrations, participants said prayers at the gravesites of two of the early believers, Joseph Musah and Beattie Casely-Hayford.
Following the events in Accra and Gyankama, the celebrations continued in the other nine regions of the country.
The Baha'i community, which has 63 Local Spiritual Assemblies, is currently organizing study circles, children's classes, and prayer gatherings, all of which are open to the wider public.
The Baha'i community of Ghana has welcomed many distinguished Baha'i guests throughout the years, among them Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani and other Hands of the Cause, including Abu'l-Qasim Faizi, Jalal Khazeh, Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, Enoch Olinga, and John Robarts.