Attractive center holds fond memories

December 16, 2004

TAINAN, Taiwan — A Western-style villa with an oriental flavor and a beautiful garden attracts the attention of passers-by here but its significance is much more than that of a tourist attraction.

Originally the home of prominent early members of the Baha'i Faith in this former capital of Taiwan, the building now serves as the center for a thriving Baha'i community here.

A joyous event held 22-24 October 2004 marked the 50th anniversary of the arrival in Taiwan of Suleiman and Ridvaniyyih Suleimani, a Persian married couple who heeded the call for volunteers to move to the island to support the fledgling Baha'i community here.

The Suleimanis arrived on 22 October 1954 when there were only 10 Baha'is on the island. They remained in Taiwan for the rest of their lives, stalwart members of the Baha'i community.

Following in their footsteps over the decades Baha'is came from a range of countries to help local members of the Faith establish the Taiwanese Baha'i community.

When the Suleimanis passed away, they bequeathed their home to the Faith.

A spokesperson for the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Taiwan, Thomas Lee, said the Suleimanis gave their life, their time, and their property to the Baha'i community.

"They came to meet a goal, they stayed to live their life, and they died in their post-these are truly pioneers," Mr. Lee said.

Participants in a Baha'i children's class, Taiwan, 1988. Slideshow
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Participants in a Baha'i children's class, Taiwan, 1988.

On 21 October 2004, a group of Baha'is held a prayer gathering at the port of Keelung, where the Suleimanis first arrived.

The next day more than 100 Baha'is from Taiwan, as well as guests from the United States, attended a morning devotional meeting at the Baha'i center where prayers and selections from the Baha'i writings were read, chanted, and sung. Musicians played the flute, guitar, and piano.

The afternoon session included reading of congratulatory messages from the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'is of Canada, Hawaii, Hong Kong, and the United States. A representative of the city's mayoral office also attended to convey greetings to the participants.

A video presentation featured excerpts from the diary kept by Mr. Suleimani. His great niece, Touran Javid, and her husband Farhang, also addressed the gathering.

Then some Taiwanese Baha'is who remembered the pioneering couple shared stories and fond reminiscences. A special touch was the provision of banana bread baked to a recipe of Mrs. Suleimani, a treat greatly appreciated by Baha'is in Taiwan throughout the years.

After a feast including Persian as well as Chinese dishes, there was a family fun night characterized by music, singing, dancing, stories, and laughter.

The next morning Baha'is gathered for prayers at the hilltop gravesite of Mr. and Mrs. Suleimani, who passed away in 1987 and 1981 respectively.

Many Taiwanese Baha'is were involved in the planning, preparation, cleaning, cooking, and other contributions to the anniversary events, Mr. Lee said.

"Unity was one of the key factors in making this event a success," he said.

The Taiwanese Baha'i community organizes 20 regular children's classes, attracting some 200 children. They also organize study circles and devotional meetings open to the general public.

Some 200 primary school children attend their moral education classes, a social and economic project of the Taiwanese Baha'i community.