Conference series reaches halfway point with 40,000 participants

December 31, 2008
The biggest conference in the first half of the series of 41 gatherings was in Los Angeles on 13-14 December. Some 5,700 people participated.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A series of 41 conferences is bringing together unprecedented numbers of Baha’is in country after country, with more than 40,000 people having participated so far.

The 18-week series reached the halfway point last weekend with a gathering in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Previous weekends have seen as many as four simultaneous conferences, in cities from Almaty to Yaounde.

The conferences began on 1 November and conclude on 1 March.

The events – with their focus on providing an opportunity for reflection on achievements to date and the work ahead – have been described as a turning point for the participants.

“For many individuals, it has been a life-changing opportunity,” said one Baha’i who as an appointed counselor has attended several of the gatherings. “It has helped them gain a clearer vision about their life, their identity as a Baha’i, and their identity as a Baha’i community.”

Around the world, members of the Baha’i Faith are involved in four core activities at the neighborhood level – devotional meetings, study circles, children’s classes, and activities for young adolescents. One person has described the goal of the activities as “spiritual transformation” brought about by “praying together, studying together, educating children, and empowering junior youth.”

A participant from Kyrgyzstan, center, listens intently as a young woman from Kazakhstan speaks during a workshop at the conference in Almaty on the weekend of 6-7 December. Slideshow
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A participant from Kyrgyzstan, center, listens intently as a young woman from Kazakhstan speaks during a workshop at the conference in Almaty on the weekend of 6-7 December.

Praveen Mallik of India, who provided assistance at the conferences in New Delhi and Bangalore, said the events indeed have offered a better perspective of what is being accomplished at the local level.

“These conferences are really an eye-opener for all of us,” he said. “They provided us the opportunity to realize the strength of the process of community-building. People sensed the process of transformation of society.”

Many of the conference participants have talked about the Baha’i belief in the unity of the human race and how that teaching has been reflected in the gatherings.

“The conference illustrated the uniting power of the Baha’i Faith,” said Ehsan Hemmat of the Dominican Republic, who attended the conference in Quito, Ecuador. “People of different nationalities and cultures got together in an atmosphere of love, joy, unity of vision, and unity of thought, and they left the conference more united in action.”

One feature of the conferences is workshops for discussing plans to promote Baha’i core activities in specific communities.

“We already are witnessing the effect of the conference in an acceleration in the number of activities,” Mr. Hemmat said a mere five weeks after the gathering in Quito.

Crystal Shoaie of Bolivia said similar reports have come in after conferences in Antofagasta, Chile, and Sao Paulo. “We are hearing case after case of individuals and groups that are already carrying out the plans and commitments made at a conference,” she said.

Another feature of the conferences is the connection with the Universal House of Justice, the head of the Baha’i Faith which on 20 October invited all Baha’is to attend a gathering in their area.

In that respect, Mr. Hemmat called the Quito event “a channel of inspiration.”

“You could feel that you were honored by the Universal House of Justice to be invited to the conference,” he said. “You could feel the spirit of the Holy Land touching the hearts of participants. Some of the people were walking around with tears in their eyes.”

The same thing happened in India, Mr. Mallik said. “Every believer received a loving personal invitation from the House of Justice,” he said, and people did their very best to respond – with “maximum material and physical sacrifice.”

For reports of the conferences, go to: