For 70th year, Buenos Aires elects assembly

24 April 2009

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — This week, for the 70th year, the Baha'is of Buenos Aires gathered to elect their local Spiritual Assembly – one of the two oldest of what are now 600 such Baha'i governing councils throughout South America.

A special program featuring historical photographs was presented at the annual meeting of the Buenos Aires' Baha'is on 20 April, said Behrooz Khomassi, who has researched local Baha'i history and helped prepare the program.

"The first assembly of Buenos Aires was elected on the 10th of May in 1940," he said.

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The Spiritual Assembly of Buenos Aires was first elected in May 1940. This group, and that of Bahia, Brazil, were the first such assemblies in South America. (Photo courtesy of the Baha'is of Buenos Aires)

Published documents from the period list Buenos Aires and Bahia, Brazil, as being the first two Baha'i assemblies in South America.

Both cities were visited in 1919 by the famed Baha'i travel teacher Martha Root, known for her journeys around the world to present the Baha'i message to royalty, government officials, civic leaders, newspaper editors, and the public at large.

In 1940, another prominent Baha'i, May Maxwell, also came to Buenos Aires, but she died within three days of her arrival on 27 February. Mr. Khomassi said her passing served as a catalyst for Baha'i activity in the city – two months later its first Spiritual Assembly was formed.

Worldwide, elections for local Baha'i assemblies are held annually at the beginning of the Festival of Ridvan, which goes from 21 April to 2 May and marks the anniversary of Baha'u'llah's declaration in 1863 that He was a new messenger of God. There are thousands of localities around the globe that hold such elections.

Also during Ridvan, virtually every national Baha'i community holds a convention where delegates elect their National Spiritual Assembly. Some 180 such elections will be held this year.

Assemblies at both the national and local level have nine members, and all Baha'is aged 21 or over who live in the jurisdiction are eligible for election.