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God Passes By

  • Author:
  • Shoghi Effendi

  • Source:
  • US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 second printing
  • Pages:
  • 412
Go to printed page GO
Pages 376-401

Chapter XXV: International Expansion of Teaching Activities

While the fabric of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh gradually arose, and while through the influence of unforeseen forces the independence of the Faith was more and more definitely acknowledged by its enemies and demonstrated by its friends, another development, no less pregnant with consequences, was at the same time being set in motion. The purpose of this was to extend the borders of the Faith, increasing the number of its declared supporters and of its administrative centers, and to give a new and ever growing impetus to the enriching, the expanding, the diversifying of its literature, and to the task of disseminating it farther and farther afield. Experience indeed proved that the very pattern of the Administrative Order, apart from other distinctive features, definitely encouraged efficiency and expedition in this work of teaching, and its builders found their zeal continually quickened and their missionary ardor heightened as the Faith moved forward to an ever fuller emancipation.
Nor were they unmindful of the exhortations, the appeals and the promises of the Founders of their Faith, Who, for three quarters of a century, had, each in His own way and within the limits circumscribing His activities, labored so heroically to noise abroad the fame of the Cause Whose destiny an almighty Providence had commissioned them to shape.
The Herald of their Faith had commanded the sovereigns of the earth themselves to arise and teach His Cause, writing in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá: “O concourse of kings! Deliver with truth and in all haste the verses sent down by Us to the peoples of Turkey and of India, and beyond them … to lands in both the East and the West.” “Issue forth from your cities, O peoples of the West,” He, in that same Book, had moreover written, “to aid God.” “We behold you from Our Most Glorious Horizon,” Bahá’u’lláh had thus addressed His followers in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, “and will assist whosoever will arise to aid My Cause with the hosts of the Concourse on high, and a cohort of the angels, who are nigh unto Me.” “…Teach ye the Cause of God, O people of Bahá!” He, furthermore, had written, “for God hath prescribed unto every one the duty of proclaiming His message, and 377 regardeth it as the most meritorious of all deeds.” “Should a man all alone,” He had clearly affirmed, “arise in the name of Bahá and put on the armor of His love, him will the Almighty cause to be victorious, though the forces of earth and heaven be arrayed against him.” “Should any one arise for the triumph of Our Cause,” He moreover had declared, “him will God render victorious though tens of thousands of enemies be leagued against him.” And again: “Center your energies in the propagation of the Faith of God. Whoso is worthy of so high a calling, let him arise and promote it. Whoso is unable, it is his duty to appoint him who will, in his stead, proclaim this Revelation…” “They that have forsaken their country,” is His own promise, “for the purpose of teaching Our Cause—these shall the Faithful Spirit strengthen through its power… Such a service is indeed the prince of all goodly deeds, and the ornament of every goodly act.” “In these days,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had written in His Will, “the most important of all things is the guidance of the nations and peoples of the world. Teaching the Cause is of the utmost importance, for it is the head corner-stone of the foundation itself.” “The disciples of Christ,” He had declared in that same Document, “forgot themselves and all earthly things, forsook all their cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and passion, and, with absolute detachment, scattered far and wide, and engaged in guiding aright the peoples of the world, till at last they made the world another world, illumined the earth, and to their last hour proved self-sacrificing in the path of that Beloved One of God. Finally, in various lands they suffered martyrdom. Let men of action follow in their footsteps.” “When the hour cometh,” He had solemnly stated in that same Will, “that this wronged and broken-winged bird will have taken its flight unto the celestial concourse … it is incumbent upon … the friends and loved ones, one and all, to bestir themselves and arise, with heart and soul, and in one accord … to teach His Cause and promote His Faith. It behoveth them not to rest for a moment… They must disperse themselves in every land … and travel throughout all regions. Bestirred, without rest, and steadfast to the end, they must raise in every land the cry of Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá (O Thou the Glory of Glories) … that throughout the East and the West a vast concourse may gather under the shadow of the Word of God, that the sweet savors of holiness may be wafted, that men’s faces may be illumined, that their hearts may be filled with the Divine Spirit and their souls become heavenly.”
Obedient to these repeated injunctions, mindful of these glowing promises, conscious of the sublimity of their calling, spurred on by the 378 example which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself had set, undismayed by His sudden removal from their midst, undaunted by the attacks launched by their adversaries from within and from without, His followers in both the East and in the West arose, in the full strength of their solidarity, to promote, more vigorously than ever before, the international expansion of their Faith, an expansion which was now to assume such proportions as to deserve to be recognized as one of the most significant developments in the history of the first Bahá’í century.
Launched in every continent of the globe, at first intermittent, haphazard, and unorganized, and later, as a result of the emergence of a slowly developing Administrative Order, systematically conducted, centrally directed and efficiently prosecuted, the teaching enterprises which were undertaken by the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in many lands, but conspicuously in America, and which were pursued by members of all ages and of both sexes, by neophytes and by veterans, by itinerant teachers and by settlers, constitute, by virtue of their range and the blessings which have flowed from them, a shining episode that yields place to none except those associated with the exploits which have immortalized the early years of the primitive age of the Bahá’í Dispensation.
The light of the Faith which during the nine years of the Bábí Dispensation had irradiated Persia, and been reflected on the adjoining territory of ‘Iráq; which in the course of Bahá’u’lláh’s thirty-nine-year ministry had shed its splendor upon India, Egypt, Turkey, the Caucasus, Turkistán, the Súdán, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Burma, and which had subsequently, through the impulse of a divinely-instituted Covenant, traveled to the United States of America, Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Austria, Russia, Italy, Holland, Hungary, Switzerland, Arabia, Tunisia, China, Japan, the Hawaiian Islands, South Africa, Brazil and Australia, was now to be carried to, and illuminate, ere the termination of the first Bahá’í century, no less than thirty-four independent nations, as well as several dependencies situated in the American, the Asiatic and African continents, in the Persian Gulf, and in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. In Norway, in Sweden, in Denmark, in Belgium, in Finland, in Ireland, in Poland, in Czechoslovakia, in Rumania, in Yugoslavia, in Bulgaria, in Albania, in Afghanistan, in Abyssinia, in New Zealand and in nineteen Latin American Republics ensigns of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh have been raised since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, and the structural basis of the Administrative Order of His Faith, in many of them, already established. In several dependencies, moreover, in both the East and the 379 West, including Alaska, Iceland, Jamaica, Porto Rico, the island of Solano in the Philippines, Java, Tasmania, the islands of Bahrayn and of Tahiti, Baluchistan, South Rhodesia and the Belgian Congo, the bearers of the new born Gospel have established their residence, and are bending every effort to lay an impregnable basis for its institutions.
Through lectures and conferences, through the press and radio, through the organization of study classes and fire-side gatherings, through participation in the activities of societies, institutes and clubs animated by ideals akin to the principles of the Faith, through the dissemination of Bahá’í literature, through various exhibits, through the establishment of teacher training classes, through contact with statesmen, scholars, publicists, philanthropists and other leaders of public thought—most of which have been carried out through the resourcefulness of the members of the American Bahá’í community, who have assumed direct responsibility for the spiritual conquest of the vast majority of these countries and dependencies—above all through the inflexible resolution and unswerving fidelity of pioneers who, whether as visiting teachers or as residents, have participated in these crusades, have these signal victories been achieved during the closing decades of the first Bahá’í century.
Nor should reference be omitted to the international teaching activities of the western followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, and particularly the members of the stalwart American Bahá’í community, who, seizing every opportunity that presented itself to them, have either through example, precept or the circulation of literature carried the Faith to virgin fields, scattering the seeds which must eventually germinate and yield a harvest as notable as those already garnered in the aforementioned countries. Through such efforts as these the breezes of God’s vitalizing Revelation have been blown upon the uttermost corners of the earth, bearing the germ of a new spiritual life to such distant climes and inhospitable regions as Lapland; the Island of Spitzbergen, the northernmost settlement in the world; Hammerfest, in Norway, and Magellanes, in the extremity of Chile—the most northerly and southerly cities of the globe respectively; Pago Pago and Fiji, in the Pacific Ocean; Chichen Itza, in the province of Yucatan; the Bahama Islands, Trinidad and Barbados in the West Indies; the Island of Bali and British North Borneo in the East Indies; Patagonia; British Guiana; Seychelles Islands; New Guinea and Ceylon.
Nor can we fail to notice the special endeavors that have been exerted by individuals as well as Assemblies for the purpose of establishing 380 contact with minority groups and races in various parts of the world, such as the Jews and Negroes in the United States of America, the Eskimos in Alaska, the Patagonian Indians in Argentina, the Mexican Indians in Mexico, the Inca Indians in Peru, the Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the Oneida Indians in Wisconsin, the Mayans in Yucatan, the Lapps in Northern Scandinavia, and the Maoris in Rotorua, New Zealand.
Of special and valuable assistance has been the institution of an international Bahá’í Bureau in Geneva, a center designed primarily to facilitate the expansion of the teaching activities of the Faith in the European continent, which, as an auxiliary to the world administrative center in the Holy Land, has maintained contact with Bahá’í communities in the East and in the West. Serving as a bureau of information on the Faith, as well as a distributing center for its literature, it has, through its free reading room and lending library, through the hospitality extended to itinerant teachers and visiting believers, and through its contact with various societies, contributed, in no small measure, to the consolidation of the teaching enterprises undertaken by individuals as well as Bahá’í National Assemblies.
Through these teaching activities, some initiated by individual believers, others conducted through plans launched by organized Assemblies, the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh which, in His lifetime, had included within its ranks Persians, Arabs, Turks, Russians, Kurds, Indians, Burmese and Negroes, and was later, in the days of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, reinforced by the inclusion of American, British, German, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Armenian converts, could now boast of having enrolled amongst its avowed supporters representatives of such widely dispersed ethnic groups and nationalities as Hungarians, Netherlanders, Irishmen, Scandinavians, Sudanese, Czechs, Bulgarians, Finns, Ethiopians, Albanians, Poles, Eskimos, American Indians, Yugoslavians, Latin Americans and Maoris.
So notable an enlargement of the limits of the Faith, so striking an increase in the diversity of the elements included within its pale, was accompanied by an enormous extension in the volume and the circulation of its literature, an extension that sharply contrasted with those initial measures undertaken for the publication of the few editions of Bahá’u’lláh’s writing issued during the concluding years of His ministry. The range of Bahá’í literature, confined during half a century, in the days of the Báb and of Bahá’u’lláh, to the two languages in which their teachings were originally revealed, and subsequently extended, in the lifetime of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to include editions 381 published in the English, the French, the German, the Turkish, the Russian and Burmese languages, was steadily enlarged after His passing, through a vast multiplication in the number of books, treatises, pamphlets and leaflets, printed and circulated in no less than twenty-nine additional languages. In Spanish and in Portuguese; in the three Scandinavian languages, in Finnish and in Icelandic; in Dutch, Italian, Czech, Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Albanian; in Hebrew and in Esperanto, in Armenian, in Kurdish and in Amharic; in Chinese and in Japanese; as well as in five Indian languages, namely Urdu, Gujrati, Bengali, Hindi, and Sindhi, books, mostly through the initiative of individual Bahá’ís, and partly through the intermediary of Bahá’í assemblies, were published, widely distributed, and placed in private as well as public libraries in both the East and the West. The literature of the Faith, moreover, is being translated at present into Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Tamil, Mahratti, Pushtoo, Telegu, Kinarese, Singhalese, Malyalan, Oriya, Punjabi and Rajasthani.
No less remarkable has been the range of the literature produced and placed at the disposal of the general public in every continent of the globe, and carried by resolute and indefatigable pioneers to the furthermost ends of the earth, an enterprise in which the members of the American Bahá’í community have again distinguished themselves. The publication of an English edition comprising selected passages from the more important and hitherto untranslated writings of Bahá’u’lláh, as well as of an English version of His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” and of a compilation, in the same language, of Prayers and Meditations revealed by His pen; the translation and publication of His “Hidden Words” in eight, of His “Kitáb-i-Íqán” in seven, and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “Some Answered Questions” in six, languages; the compilation of the third volume of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets translated into English; the publication of books and treatises related to the principles of Bahá’í belief and to the origin and development of the Administrative Order of the Faith; of an English translation of the Narrative of the early days of the Bahá’í Revelation, written by the chronicler and poet, Nabíl-i-Zarandí, subsequently published in Arabic and translated into German and Esperanto; of commentaries and of expositions of the Bahá’í teachings, of administrative institutions and of kindred subjects, such as world federation, race unity and comparative religion by western authors and by former ministers of the Church—all these attest the diversified character of Bahá’í publications, so closely paralleled by their extensive dissemination over the surface of 382 the globe. Moreover, the printing of documents related to the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, of books and pamphlets dealing with Biblical prophecies, of revised editions of some of the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and of several Bahá’í authors, of guides and study outlines for a wide variety of Bahá’í books and subjects, of lessons in Bahá’í Administration, of indexes to Bahá’í books and periodicals, of anniversary cards and of calendars, of poems, songs, plays and pageants, of study outlines and a prayer-book for the training of Bahá’í children, and of news letters, bulletins and periodicals issued in English, Persian, German, Esperanto, Arabic, French, Urdu, Burmese and Portuguese has contributed to swell the output and increase the diversity of Bahá’í publications.
Of particular value and significance has been the production, over a period of many years, of successive volumes of biennial international record of Bahá’í activity, profusely illustrated, fully documented, and comprising among other things a statement on the aims and purposes of the Faith and its Administrative Order, selections from its scriptures, a survey of its activities, a list of its centers in five continents, a bibliography of its literature, tributes paid to its ideals and achievements by prominent men and women in East and West, and articles dealing with its relation to present-day problems.
Nor would any survey of the Bahá’í literature produced during the concluding decades of the first Bahá’í century be complete without special reference being made to the publication of, and the far-reaching influence exerted by, that splendid, authoritative and comprehensive introduction to Bahá’í history and teachings, penned by that pure-hearted and immortal promoter of the Faith, J. E. Esslemont, which has already been printed in no less than thirty-seven languages, and is being translated into thirteen additional languages, whose English version has already run into tens of thousands, which has been reprinted no less than nine times in the United States of America, whose Esperanto, Japanese and English versions have been transcribed into Braille, and to which royalty has paid its tribute, characterizing it as “a glorious book of love and goodness, strength and beauty,” commending it to all, and affirming that “no man could fail to be better because of this Book.”
Deserving special mention, moreover, is the establishment by the British National Spiritual Assembly of a Publishing Trust, registered as “The Bahá’í Publishing Co.” and acting as a publisher and wholesale distributor of Bahá’í literature throughout the British Isles; the compilation by various Bahá’í Assemblies throughout the East of no less 383 than forty volumes in manuscript of the authenticated and unpublished writings of the Báb, of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; the translation into English of the Appendix to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, entitled “Questions and Answers,” as well as the publication in Arabic and Persian by the Egyptian and Indian Bahá’í National Spiritual Assemblies respectively of the Outline of Bahá’í Laws on Matters of Personal Status, and of a brief outline by the latter Assembly of the laws relating to the burial of the dead; and the translation of a pamphlet into Maori undertaken by a Maori Bahá’í in New Zealand. Reference should also be made to the collection and publication by the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Ṭihrán of a considerable number of the addresses delivered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the course of His Western tours; to the preparation of a detailed history of the Faith in Persian; to the printing of Bahá’í certificates of marriage and divorce, in both Persian and Arabic, by a number of National Spiritual Assemblies in the East; to the issuance of birth and death certificates by the Persian Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly; to the preparation of forms of bequest available to believers wishing to make a legacy to the Faith; to the compilation of a considerable number of the unpublished Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by the American Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly; to the translation into Esperanto, undertaken by the daughter of the famous Zamenhof, herself a convert to the Faith, of several Bahá’í books, including some of the more important writings of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; to the translation of a Bahá’í booklet into Serbian by Prof. Bogdan Popovitch, one of the most eminent scholars attached to the University of Belgrade, and to the offer spontaneously made by Princess Ileana of Rumania (now Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria) to render into her own native language a Bahá’í pamphlet written in English, and subsequently distributed in her native country.
The progress made in connection with the transcription of the Bahá’í writings into Braille, should also be noted—a transcription which already includes such works as the English versions of the “Kitáb-i-Íqán,” of the “Hidden Words,” of the “Seven Valleys,” of the “Ishráqát,” of the “Súriy-i-Haykal,” of the “Words of Wisdom,” of the “Prayers and Meditations of Bahá’u’lláh,” of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s “Some Answered Questions,” of the “Promulgation of Universal Peace,” of the “Wisdom of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,” of “The Goal of a New World Order,” as well as of the English (two editions), the Esperanto and the Japanese versions of “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era” and of pamphlets written in English, in French and in Esperanto.
Nor have those who have been primarily responsible for the enrichment 384 of the literature of the Faith and its translation into so many languages, been slow to disseminate it, by every means in their power, in their daily intercourse with individuals as well as in their official contacts with organizations whom they have been seeking to acquaint with the aims and principles of their Faith. The energy, the vigilance, the steadfastness displayed by these heralds of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh and their elected representatives, under whose auspices the circulation of Bahá’í literature has, of late years, assumed tremendous dimensions, merit the highest praise. From the reports prepared and circulated by the chief agencies entrusted with the task of the publication and distribution of this literature in the United States and Canada the remarkable facts emerge that, within the space of the eleven months ending February 28, 1943, over 19,000 books, 100,000 pamphlets, 3,000 study outlines, 4,000 sets of selected writings, and 1800 anniversary and Temple cards and folders had been either sold or distributed; that, in the course of two years, 376,000 pamphlets, outlining the character and purpose of the House of Worship, erected in the United States of America, had been printed; that over 300,000 pieces of literature had been distributed at the two World Fairs held in San Francisco and New York; that, in a period of twelve months, 1089 books had been donated to various libraries, and that, through the National Contacts Committee, during one year, more than 2,300 letters, with over 4,500 pamphlets, had reached authors, radio speakers, and representatives of the Jewish and Negro minorities, as well as various organizations interested in international affairs.
In the presentation of this vast literature to men of eminence and rank the elected representatives, as well as the traveling teachers, of the American Bahá’í community, aided by Assemblies in other lands, have, likewise, exhibited an energy and determination as laudable as the efforts exerted for its production. To the King of England, to Queen Marie of Rumania, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the Emperor of Japan, to the late President von Hindenburg, to the King of Denmark, to the Queen of Sweden, to King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, to the Emperor of Abyssinia, to the King of Egypt, to the late King Feisal of ‘Iráq, to King Zog of Albania, to the late President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, to the Presidents of Mexico, of Honduras, of Panama, of El-Salvador, of Guatemala, and of Porto Rico, to General Chiang Kaishek, to the Ex-Khedive of Egypt, to the Crown Prince of Sweden, to the Duke of Windsor, to the Duchess of Kent, to the Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria, to Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, to Princess Kadria of Egypt, to Princess Estelle Bernadotte of Wisborg, to Mahatma Gandhi, 385 to several ruling princes of India and to the Prime Ministers of all the states of the Australian Commonwealth—to these, as well as to other personages of lesser rank, Bahá’í literature, touching various aspects of the Faith, has been presented, to some personally, to others through suitable intermediaries, either by individual believers or by the elected representatives of Bahá’í communities.
Nor have these individual teachers and Assemblies been neglectful of their duty to place this literature at the disposal of the public in state, university and public libraries, thereby extending the opportunity to the great mass of the reading public of familiarizing itself with the history and precepts of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh. A mere enumeration of a number of the more important of these libraries would suffice to reveal the scope of these activities extending over five continents: the British Museum in London, the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of Congress in Washington, the Peace Palace Library at the Hague, the Nobel Peace Foundation and Nansen Foundation Libraries at Oslo, the Royal Library in Copenhagen, the League of Nations Library in Geneva, the Hoover Peace Library, the Amsterdam University Library, the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, the Allahabad University Library, the Aligarh University Library, the University of Madras Library, the Shantineketan International University Library in Bolepur, the Uthmáníyyih University Library in Hyderabad, the Imperial Library in Calcutta, the Jamia Milli Library in Delhi, the Mysore University Library, the Bernard Library in Rangoon, the Jerabia Wadia Library in Poona, the Lahore Public Library, the Lucknow and Delhi University Libraries, the Johannesburg Public Library, the Rio de Janeiro Circulating libraries, the Manila National Library, the Hong Kong University Library, the Reykjavik public libraries, the Carnegie Library in the Seychelles Islands, the Cuban National Library, the San Juan Public Library, the Ciudad Trujillo University Library, the University and Carnegie Public libraries in Porto Rico, the Library of Parliament in Canberra, the Wellington Parliamentary Library. In all these, as well as in all the chief libraries of Australia and New Zealand, nine libraries in Mexico, several libraries in Mukden, Manchukuo, and more than a thousand public libraries, a hundred service libraries and two hundred university and college libraries, including Indian colleges, in the United States and Canada, authoritative books on the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh have been placed.
State prisons and, since the outbreak of the war, army libraries have been included in the comprehensive scheme which the American Bahá’í community has, through a special committee, devised for the 386 diffusion of the literature of the Faith. The interests of the blind, too, have not been neglected by that alert and enterprising community, as is shown by the placing of Bahá’í books, transcribed by its members in Braille, in thirty libraries and institutes, in eighteen states of the United States of America, in Honolulu (Hawaii), in Regina (Saskatchewan), and in the Tokyo and Geneva Libraries for the Blind, as well as in a large number of circulating libraries connected with public libraries in various large cities of the North American continent.
Nor can I dismiss this subject without singling out for special reference her who, not only through her preponderating share in initiating measures for the translation and dissemination of Bahá’í literature, but above all through her prodigious and indeed unique exertions in the international teaching field, has covered herself with a glory that has not only eclipsed the achievements of the teachers of the Faith among her contemporaries the globe around, but has outshone the feats accomplished by any of its propagators in the course of an entire century. To Martha Root, that archetype of Bahá’í itinerant teachers and the foremost Hand raised by Bahá’u’lláh since ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing, must be awarded, if her manifold services and the supreme act of her life are to be correctly appraised, the title of Leading Ambassadress of His Faith and Pride of Bahá’í teachers, whether men or women, in both the East and the West.
The first to arise, in the very year the Tablets of the Divine Plan were unveiled in the United States of America, in response to the epoch-making summons voiced in them by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; embarking, with unswerving resolve and a spirit of sublime detachment, on her world journeys, covering an almost uninterrupted period of twenty years and carrying her four times round the globe, in the course of which she traveled four times to China and Japan and three times to India, visited every important city in South America, transmitted the message of the New Day to kings, queens, princes and princesses, presidents of republics, ministers and statesmen, publicists, professors, clergymen and poets, as well as a vast number of people in various walks of life, and contacted, both officially and informally, religious congresses, peace societies, Esperanto associations, socialist congresses, Theosophical societies, women’s clubs and other kindred organizations, this indomitable soul has, by virtue of the character of her exertions and the quality of the victories she has won, established a record that constitutes the nearest approach to the example set by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 387 Himself to His disciples in the course of His journeys throughout the West.
Her eight successive audiences with Queen Marie of Rumania, the first of which took place in January, 1926 in Controceni Palace in Bucharest, the second in 1927 in Pelisor Palace in Sinaia, followed by a visit in January of the ensuing year to her Majesty and her daughter Princess Ileana, at the royal palace in Belgrade, where they were staying as guests of the King and Queen of Yugoslavia, and later, in October, 1929, at the Queen’s summer palace “Tehna Yuva,” at Balcic, on the Black Sea, and again, in August, 1932 and February, 1933, at the home of Princess Ileana (now Arch-Duchess Anton of Austria) at Mödling, near Vienna, followed a year later, in February, by another audience at Controceni Palace, and lastly, in February, 1936, in that same palace—these audiences stand out, by reason of the profound influence exerted by the visitor on her royal hostess, as witnessed by the successive encomiums from the Queen’s own pen, as the most outstanding feature of those memorable journeys. The three invitations which that indefatigable champion of the Faith received to call on Prince Paul and Princess Olga of Yugoslavia at the Royal Palace in Belgrade; the lectures which she delivered in over four hundred universities and colleges in both the East and the West; her twice repeated visits to all German universities with the exception of two, as well as to nearly a hundred universities, colleges and schools in China; the innumerable articles which she published in newspapers and magazines in practically every country she visited; the numerous broadcasts which she delivered and the unnumbered books she placed in private and state libraries; her personal meetings with the statesmen of more than fifty countries, during her three-months stay in Geneva, in 1932, at the time of the Disarmament Conference; the painstaking efforts she exerted, while on her arduous journeys, in supervising the translation and production of a large number of versions of Dr. Esslemont’s “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era”; the correspondence exchanged with, and the presentation of Bahá’í books to, men of eminence and learning; her pilgrimage to Persia, and the touching homage paid by her to the memory of the heroes of the Faith when visiting the Bahá’í historic sites in that country; her visit to Adrianople, where, in her overflowing love for Bahá’u’lláh, she searched out the houses where He had dwelt and the people whom He had met during His exile to that city, and where she was entertained by its governor and mayor; the ready and unfailing assistance extended by her to the administrators of the Faith in all countries where its institutions had been erected or were being 388 established—these may be regarded as the highlights of a service which, in many of its aspects, is without parallel in the entire history of the first Bahá’í century.
No less impressive is the list of the names of those whom she interviewed in the course of the execution of her mission, including, in addition to those already mentioned, such royal personages and distinguished figures as King Haakon of Norway; King Feisal of ‘Iráq; King Zog of Albania and members of his family; Princess Marina of Greece (now the Duchess of Kent); Princess Elizabeth of Greece; President Thomas G. Masaryk and President Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia; the President of Austria; Dr. Sun Yat Sen; Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University; Prof. Bogdan Popovitch of Belgrade University; the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Tawfíq Rushdí Bey; the Chinese Foreign Minister and Minister of Education; the Lithuanian Foreign Minister; Prince Muḥammad-‘Alí of Egypt; Stephen Raditch; the Maharajas of Patiala, of Benares, and of Travancore; the Governor and the Grand Muftí of Jerusalem; Dr. Erling Eidem, Archbishop of Sweden; Sarojini Naidu; Sir Rabindranath Tagore; Madame Huda Sha’raví, the Egyptian feminist leader; Dr. K. Ichiki, minister of the Japanese Imperial Household; Prof. Tetrujiro Inouye, Prof. Emeritus of the Imperial University of Tokyo; Baron Yoshiro Sakatani, member of the House of Peers of Japan and Mehmed Fuad, Doyen of the Faculty of Letters and President of the Institute of Turkish history.
Neither age nor ill-health, neither the paucity of literature which hampered her early efforts, nor the meager resources which imposed an added burden on her labors, neither the extremities of the climates to which she was exposed, nor the political disturbances which she encountered in the course of her journeys, could damp the zeal or deflect the purpose of this spiritually dynamic and saintly woman. Single-handed and, on more than one occasion, in extremely perilous circumstances, she continued to call, in clarion tones, men of diverse creeds, color and classes to the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, until, while in spite of a deadly and painful disease, the onslaught of which she endured with heroic fortitude, she hastened homeward to help in the recently launched Seven Year Plan, she was stricken down on her way, in far off Honolulu. There in that symbolic spot between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, in both of which she had labored so mightily, she died, on September 28, 1939, and brought to its close a life which may well be regarded as the fairest fruit as yet yielded by the Formative Age of the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh. 389
To the injunction of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá bequeathed in His Will to follow in the footsteps of the disciples of Jesus Christ, “not to rest for a moment,” to “travel throughout all regions” and to raise, “without rest and steadfast to the end,” “in every land, the cry of ‘Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá,’” this immortal heroine yielded an obedience of which the present as well as future generations may well be proud, and which they may emulate.
“Unrestrained as the wind,” putting her “whole trust” in God, as “the best provision” for her journey, she fulfilled almost to the letter the wish so poignantly expressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Tablets, whose summons she had instantly arisen to carry out: “O that I could travel, even though on foot and in the utmost poverty, to these regions, and, raising the call of ‘Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá in cities, villages, mountains, deserts and oceans, promote the Divine teachings! This, alas, I cannot do. How intensely I deplore it! Please God, ye may achieve it.”
“I am deeply distressed to hear of the death of good Miss Martha Root,” is the royal tribute paid to her memory by Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, on being informed of her death, “as I had no idea of it. We always enjoyed her visits in the past. She was so kind and gentle, and a real worker for peace. I am sure she will be sadly missed in her work.”
“Thou art, in truth, a herald of the Kingdom and a harbinger of the Covenant,” is the testimony from the unerring pen of the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant Himself, “Thou art truly self-sacrificing. Thou showest kindness unto all nations. Thou art sowing a seed that shall, in due time, give rise to thousands of harvests. Thou art planting a tree that shall eternally put forth leaves and blossoms and yield fruits, and whose shadow shall day by day grow in magnitude.”
Of all the services rendered the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh by this star servant of His Faith, the most superb and by far the most momentous has been the almost instantaneous response evoked in Queen Marie of Rumania to the Message which that ardent and audacious pioneer had carried to her during one of the darkest moments of her life, an hour of bitter need, perplexity and sorrow. “It came,” she herself in a letter had testified, “as all great messages come, at an hour of dire grief and inner conflict and distress, so the seed sank deeply.”
Eldest daughter of the Duke of Edinburgh, who was the second son of that Queen to whom Bahá’u’lláh had, in a significant Tablet, addressed words of commendation; granddaughter of Czar Alexander II to whom an Epistle had been revealed by that same Pen; related by both birth and marriage to Europe’s most prominent families; born in the Anglican Faith; closely associated through her marriage with the 390 Greek Orthodox Church, the state religion of her adopted country; herself an accomplished authoress; possessed of a charming and radiant personality; highly talented, clear-visioned, daring and ardent by nature; keenly devoted to all enterprises of a humanitarian character, she, alone among her sister-queens, alone among all those of royal birth or station, was moved to spontaneously acclaim the greatness of the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, to proclaim His Fatherhood, as well as the Prophethood of Muḥammad, to commend the Bahá’í teachings to all men and women, and to extol their potency, sublimity and beauty.
Through the fearless acknowledgment of her belief to her own kith and kin, and particularly to her youngest daughter; through three successive encomiums that constitute her greatest and abiding legacy to posterity; through three additional appreciations penned by her as her contribution to Bahá’í publications; through several letters written to friends and associates, as well as those addressed to her guide and spiritual mother; through various tokens expressive of faith and gratitude for the glad-tidings that had been brought to her through the orders for Bahá’í books placed by her and her youngest daughter; and lastly through her frustrated pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the express purpose of paying homage at the graves of the Founders of the Faith—through such acts as these this illustrious queen may well deserve to rank as the first of those royal supporters of the Cause of God who are to arise in the future, and each of whom, in the words of Bahá’u’lláh Himself, is to be acclaimed as “the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world.”
“Some of those of my caste,” she, in a personal letter, has significantly testified, “wonder at and disapprove my courage to step forward pronouncing words not habitual for crowned heads to pronounce, but I advance by an inner urge I cannot resist. With bowed head I recognize that I too am but an instrument in greater Hands, and I rejoice in the knowledge.”
A note which Martha Root, upon her arrival in Bucharest, sent to her Majesty and a copy of “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era,” which accompanied the note, and which so absorbed the Queen’s attention that she continued reading it into the small hours of the morning, led, two days later, to the Queen’s granting Martha Root an audience, on January 30, 1926, in Controceni Palace in Bucharest, in the course of which her Majesty avowed her belief that “these teachings are the solution for the world’s problems”; and from these followed her publication, that same year on her own initiative, of those three epoch-making 391 testimonies which appeared in nearly two hundred newspapers of the United States and Canada, and which were subsequently translated and published in Europe, China, Japan, Australia, the Near East and the Islands of the seas.
In the first of these testimonies she affirmed that the writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are “a great cry toward peace, reaching beyond all limits of frontiers, above all dissensions about rites and dogmas… It is a wondrous message that Bahá’u’lláh and His Son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have given us! They have not set it up aggressively, knowing that the germ of eternal truth which lies at its core cannot but take root and spread… It is Christ’s message taken up anew, in the same words almost, but adapted to the thousand years and more difference that lies between the year one and today.” She added a remarkable admonition, reminiscent of the telling words of Dr. Benjamin Jowett, who had hailed the Faith, in his conversation with his pupil, Prof. Lewis Campbell, as “the greatest light that has come into the world since the time of Jesus Christ,” and cautioned him to “watch it” and never let it out of his sight. “If ever,” wrote the Queen, “the name of Bahá’u’lláh or ‘Abdu’l-Bahá comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine… Seek them and be the happier.”
In another of these testimonies, wherein she makes a significant comment on the station of the Arabian Prophet, she declared: “God is all. Everything. He is the power behind all beings… His is the voice within us that shows us good and evil. But mostly we ignore or misunderstand this voice. Therefore, did He choose His Elect to come down amongst us upon earth to make clear His Word, His real meaning. Therefore the Prophets; therefore Christ, Muḥammad, Bahá’u’lláh, for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him, to sharpen the realization of the existence of the true God. Those voices sent to us had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand.”
In appreciation of these testimonies a communication was addressed to her, in the name of the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in East and West, and in the course of the deeply touching letter which she sent in reply she wrote: “Indeed a great light came to me with the Message of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá… My youngest daughter finds also great strength and comfort in the teachings of the beloved Masters. We pass on the Message from mouth to mouth, and all those we give it to see a light suddenly lighting before them, and much that was 392 obscure and perplexing becomes simple, luminous and full of hope as never before. That my open letter was a balm to those suffering for the Cause, is indeed a great happiness to me, and I take it as a sign that God accepted my humble tribute. The occasion given me to be able to express myself publicly was also His work, for indeed it was a chain of circumstances of which each link led me unwittingly one step further, till suddenly all was clear before my eyes and I understood why it had been. Thus does He lead us finally to our ultimate destiny …Little by little the veil is lifting, grief tore it in two. And grief was also a step leading me ever nearer truth; therefore do I not cry out against grief!”
In a significant and moving letter to an intimate American friend of hers, residing in Paris, she wrote: “Lately a great hope has come to me from one ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I have found in His and His Father, Bahá’u’lláh’s Message of faith, all my yearning for real religion satisfied …What I mean: these Books have strengthened me beyond belief, and I am now ready to die any day full of hope. But I pray God not to take me away yet, for I still have a lot of work to do.”
And again in one of her later appreciations of the Faith: “The Bahá’í teaching brings peace and understanding. It is like a wide embrace gathering all those who have long searched for words of hope… Saddened by the continual strife amongst believers of many confessions and wearied of their intolerance towards each other, I discovered in the Bahá’í teaching the real spirit of Christ so often denied and misunderstood.” And again, this wonderful confession: “The Bahá’í teaching brings peace to the soul and hope to the heart. To those in search of assurance the words of the Father are as a fountain in the desert after long wandering.”
“The beautiful truth of Bahá’u’lláh,” she wrote to Martha Root, “is with me always, a help and an inspiration. What I wrote was because my heart overflowed with gratitude for the reflection you brought me. I am happy if you think I helped. I thought it might bring truth nearer because my words are read by so many.”
In the course of a visit to the Near East she expressed her intention of visiting the Bahá’í Shrines, and, accompanied by her youngest daughter, actually passed through Haifa, and was within sight of her goal, when she was denied the right to make the pilgrimage she had planned—to the keen disappointment of the aged Greatest Holy Leaf who had eagerly expected her arrival. A few months later, in June, 1931, she wrote in the course of a letter to Martha Root: “Both Ileana and I were cruelly disappointed at having been prevented going to the 393 holy Shrines … but at that time we were going through a cruel crisis, and every movement I made was being turned against me and being politically exploited in an unkind way. It caused me a good deal of suffering and curtailed my liberty most unkindly… But the beauty of truth remains, and I cling to it through all the vicissitudes of a life become rather sad… I am glad to hear that your traveling has been so fruitful, and I wish you continual success knowing what a beautiful Message you are carrying from land to land.”
After this sad disappointment she wrote to a friend of her childhood who dwelt near ‘Akká, in a house formerly occupied by Bahá’u’lláh: “It was indeed nice to hear from you, and to think that you are of all things living near Haifa and are, as I am, a follower of the Bahá’í teachings. It interests me that you are living in that special house… I was so intensely interested and studied each photo intently. It must be a lovely place … and the house you live in, so incredibly attractive and made precious by its associations with the Man we all venerate…”
Her last public tribute to the Faith she had dearly loved was made two years before her death. “More than ever today,” she wrote, “when the world is facing such a crisis of bewilderment and unrest, must we stand firm in Faith seeking that which binds together instead of tearing asunder. To those searching for light, the Bahá’í teachings offer a star which will lead them to deeper understanding, to assurance, peace and goodwill with all men.”
Martha Root’s own illuminating record is given in one of her articles as follows: “For ten years Her Majesty and her daughter, H.R.H. Princess Ileana (now Arch-Duchess Anton) have read with interest each new book about the Bahá’í Movement, as soon as it came from the press… Received in audience by Her Majesty in Pelisor Palace, Sinaia, in 1927, after the passing of His Majesty King Ferdinand, her husband, she graciously gave me an interview, speaking of the Bahá’í teachings about immortality. She had on her table and on the divan a number of Bahá’í books, for she had just been reading in each of them the Teachings about life after death. She asked the writer to give her greeting to … the friends in Írán and to the many American Bahá’ís, who she said had been so remarkably kind to her during her trip through the United States the year before… Meeting the Queen again on January 19, 1928, in the Royal Palace in Belgrade, where she and H.R.H. Princess Ileana were guests of the Queen of Yugoslavia—and they had brought some of their Bahá’í books with 394 them—the words that I shall remember longest of all that her dear Majesty said were these: ‘The ultimate dream which we shall realize is that the Bahá’í channel of thought has such strength, it will serve little by little to become a light to all those searching for the real expression of Truth’… Then in the audience in Controceni Palace, on February 16, 1934, when her Majesty was told that the Rumanian translation of ‘Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era’ had just been published in Bucharest, she said she was so happy that her people were to have the blessing of reading this precious teaching… And now today, February 4, 1936, I have just had another audience with Her Majesty in Controceni Palace, in Bucharest… Again Queen Marie of Rumania received me cordially in her softly lighted library, for the hour was six o’clock… What a memorable visit it was!… She also told me that when she was in London she had met a Bahá’í, Lady Blomfield, who had shown her the original Message that Bahá’u’lláh had sent to her grand-mother, Queen Victoria, in London. She asked the writer about the progress of the Bahá’í Movement, especially in the Balkan countries… She spoke too of several Bahá’í books, the depths of “Íqán,” and especially of “Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh,” which she said was a wonderful book! To quote her own words: ‘Even doubters would find a powerful strength in it, if they would read it alone, and would give their souls time to expand.’ …I asked her if I could perhaps speak of the brooch which historically is precious to Bahá’ís, and she replied, ‘Yes, you may.’ Once, and it was in 1928, Her dear Majesty had given the writer a gift, a lovely and rare brooch which had been a gift to the Queen from her royal relatives in Russia some years ago. It was two little wings of wrought gold and silver, set with tiny diamond chips, and joined together with one large pearl. ‘Always you are giving gifts to others, and I am going to give you a gift from me,’ said the Queen smiling, and she herself clasped it onto my dress. The wings and the pearl made it seem ‘Light-bearing’ Bahá’í! It was sent the same week to Chicago as a gift to the Bahá’í Temple … and at the National Bahá’í Convention which was in session that spring, a demur was made—should a gift from the Queen be sold? Should it not be kept as a souvenir of the first Queen who arose to promote the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh? However, it was sold immediately and the money given to the Temple, for all Bahá’ís were giving to the utmost to forward this mighty structure, the first of its kind in the United States of America. Mr. Willard Hatch, a Bahá’í of Los Angeles, Calif., who bought the exquisite brooch, took it to Haifa, Palestine, in 1931, and placed it in the 395 Archives on Mt. Carmel, where down the ages it will rest with the Bahá’í treasures…”
In July, 1938, Queen Marie of Rumania passed away. A message of condolence was communicated, in the name of all Bahá’í communities in East and West, to her daughter, the Queen of Yugoslavia, to which she replied expressing “sincere thanks to all of Bahá’u’lláh’s followers.” The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Persia addressed, on behalf of the followers of the Faith in Bahá’u’lláh’s native land, a letter expressive of grief and sympathy to her son, the King of Rumania and the Rumanian Royal Family, the text of which was in both Persian and English. An expression of profound and loving sympathy was sent by Martha Root to Princess Ileana, and was gratefully acknowledged by her. Memorial gatherings were held in the Queen’s memory, at which a meed of honor was paid to her bold and epochal confession of faith in the Fatherhood of Bahá’u’lláh, to her recognition of the station of the Prophet of Islám and to the several encomiums from her pen. On the first anniversary of her death the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada demonstrated its grateful admiration and affection for the deceased Queen by associating itself, through an imposing floral offering, with the impressive memorial service, held in her honor, and arranged by the Rumanian Minister, in Bethlehem Chapel, at the Cathedral of Washington, D.C., at which the American delegation, headed by the Secretary of State and including government officials and representatives of the Army and Navy, the British, French and Italian Ambassadors, and representatives of other European embassies and legations joined in a common tribute to one who, apart from the imperishable renown achieved by her in the Kingdom of Bahá’u’lláh, had earned, in this earthly life, the esteem and love of many a soul living beyond the confines of her own country.
Queen Marie’s acknowledgment of the Divine Message stands as the first fruits of the vision which Bahá’u’lláh had seen long before in His captivity, and had announced in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas. “How great,” He wrote, “the blessedness that awaits the King who will arise to aid My Cause in My Kingdom, who will detach himself from all else but Me!… All must glorify his name, must reverence his station, and aid him to unlock the cities with the keys of My Name, the Omnipotent Protector of all that inhabit the visible and invisible kingdoms. Such a king is the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountain-head of blessings unto the whole world. 396 Offer up, O people of Bahá, your substance, nay your very lives for his assistance.”
The American Bahá’í community, crowned with imperishable glory by these signal international services of Martha Root, was destined, as the first Bahá’í century drew to a close, to distinguish itself, through the concerted efforts of its members, both at home and abroad, by further achievements of such scope and quality that no survey of the teaching activities of the Faith in the course of that century can afford to ignore them. It would be no exaggeration to say that these colossal achievements, with the amazing results which flowed from them, could only have been effected through the harnessing of all the agencies of a newly established Administrative Order, operating in conformity with a carefully conceived Plan, and that they constitute a befitting conclusion to the record of a hundred years of sublime endeavor in the service of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.
That the community of His followers in the United States and Canada should have carried off the palm of victory in the concluding years of such a glorious century is not a matter for surprise. Its accomplishments during the last two decades of the Heroic, and throughout the first fifteen years of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation, had already augured well for its future, and had paved the way for its final victory ere the expiration of the first century of the Bahá’í Era.
The Báb had in His Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, almost a hundred years previously, sounded His specific summons to the “peoples of the West” to “issue forth” from their “cities” and aid His Cause. Bahá’u’lláh, in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas, had collectively addressed the Presidents of the Republics of the entire Americas, bidding them arise and “bind with the hands of justice the broken,” and “crush the oppressor” with the “rod of the commandments” of their Lord, and had, moreover, anticipated in His writings the appearance “in the West” of the “signs of His Dominion.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had, on His part, declared that the “illumination” shed by His Father’s Revelation upon the West would acquire an “extraordinary brilliancy,” and that the “light of the Kingdom” would “shed a still greater illumination upon the West” than upon the East. He had extolled the American continent in particular as “the land wherein the splendors of His Light shall be revealed, where the mysteries of His Faith shall be unveiled,” and affirmed that “it will lead all nations spiritually.” More specifically still, He had singled out the Great Republic of the West, the leading nation of that continent, declaring that its people were “indeed worthy of being the first to 397 build the Tabernacle of the Most Great Peace and proclaim the oneness of mankind,” that it was “equipped and empowered to accomplish that which will adorn the pages of history, to become the envy of the world, and be blest in both the East and the West.”
The first act of His ministry had been to unfurl the standard of Bahá’u’lláh in the very heart of that Republic. This was followed by His own prolonged visit to its shores, by His dedication of the first House of Worship to be built by the community of His disciples in that land, and finally by the revelation, in the evening of His life, of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, investing His disciples with a mandate to plant the banner of His Father’s Faith, as He had planted it in their own land, in all the continents, the countries and islands of the globe. He had, furthermore, acclaimed one of their most celebrated presidents as one who, through the ideals he had expounded and the institutions he had inaugurated, had caused the “dawn” of the Peace anticipated by Bahá’u’lláh to break; had voiced the hope that from their country “heavenly illumination” may “stream to all the peoples of the world”; had designated them in those Tablets as “Apostles of Bahá’u’lláh”; had assured them that, “should success crown” their “enterprise,” “the throne of the Kingdom of God will, in the plenitude of its majesty and glory, be firmly established”; and had made the stirring announcement that “the moment this Divine Message is propagated” by them “through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion,” and that “the whole earth” would “resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness.”
That Community had already, in the lifetime of Him Who had created it, tenderly nursed and repeatedly blessed it, and had at last conferred upon it so distinctive a mission, arisen to launch the enterprise of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár through the purchase of its land and the laying of its foundations. It had despatched its teachers to the East and to the West to propagate the Cause it had espoused, had established the basis of its community life, and had, since His passing, erected the superstructure and commenced the external ornamentation of its Temple. It had, moreover, assumed a preponderating share in the task of erecting the framework of the Administrative Order of the Faith, of championing its cause, of demonstrating its independent character, of enriching and disseminating its literature, of lending moral and material assistance to its persecuted followers, of repelling the assaults of its adversaries and of winning the allegiance of royalty 398 to its Founder. Such a splendid record was to culminate, as the century approached its end, in the initiation of a Plan—the first stage in the execution of the Mission entrusted to it by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—which, within the space of seven brief years, was to bring to a successful completion the exterior ornamentation of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, to almost double the number of Spiritual Assemblies functioning in the North American continent, to bring the total number of localities in which Bahá’ís reside to no less than thirteen hundred and twenty-two in that same continent, to establish the structural basis of the Administrative Order in every state of the United States and every province of Canada, and by laying a firm anchorage in each of the twenty Republics of Central and South America, to swell to sixty the number of the sovereign states included within its orbit.
Many and diverse forces combined now to urge the American Bahá’í community to strong action: the glowing exhortations and promises of Bahá’u’lláh and His behest to erect in His name Houses of Worship; the directions issued by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in fourteen Tablets addressed to the believers residing in the Western, the Central, the North Eastern and Southern States of the North American Republic and in the Dominion of Canada; His prophetic utterances regarding the future of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár in America; the influence of the new Administrative Order in fostering and rendering effective an eager spirit of cooperation; the example of Martha Root who, though equipped with no more than a handful of inadequately translated leaflets, had traveled to South America and visited every important city in that continent; the tenacity and self-sacrifice of the fearless and brilliant Keith Ransom-Kehler, the first American martyr, who, journeying to Persia had pleaded in numerous interviews with ministers, ecclesiastics and government officials the cause of her down-trodden brethren in that land, had addressed no less than seven petitions to the Sháh, and, heedless of the warnings of age and ill-health, had at last succumbed in Iṣfahán. Other factors which spurred the members of that community to fresh sacrifices and adventure were their eagerness to reinforce the work intermittently undertaken through the settlement and travels of a number of pioneers, who had established the first center of the Faith in Brazil, circumnavigated the South American continent and visited the West Indies and distributed literature in various countries of Central and South America; the consciousness of their pressing responsibilities in the face of a rapidly deteriorating international situation; the realization that the first Bahá’í century was fast speeding to a close and their anxiety to bring to a befitting conclusion 399 an enterprise that had been launched thirty years previously. Undeterred by the immensity of the field, the power wielded by firmly entrenched ecclesiastical organizations, the political instability of some of the countries in which they were to settle, the climatic conditions they were to encounter, and the difference in language and custom of the people amongst whom they were to reside, and keenly aware of the crying needs of the Faith in the North American continent, the members of the American Bahá’í community arose, as one man, to inaugurate a threefold campaign, carefully planned and systematically conducted, designed to establish a Spiritual Assembly in every virgin state and province in North America, to form a nucleus of resident believers in each of the Republics of Central and South America, and to consummate the exterior ornamentation of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár.
A hundred activities, administrative and educational, were devised and pursued for the prosecution of this noble Plan. Through the liberal contribution of funds; through the establishment of an Inter-America Committee and the formation of auxiliary Regional Teaching Committees; through the founding of an International School to provide training for Bahá’í teachers; through the settlement of pioneers in virgin areas and the visits of itinerant teachers; through the dissemination of literature in Spanish and Portuguese; through the initiation of teacher training courses and extension work by groups and local Assemblies; through newspaper and radio publicity; through the exhibition of Temple slides and models; through inter-community conferences and lectures delivered in universities and colleges; through the intensification of teaching courses and Latin American studies at summer schools—through these and other activities the prosecutors of this Seven-Year Plan have succeeded in sealing the triumph of what must be regarded as the greatest collective enterprise ever launched by the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in the entire history of the first Bahá’í century.
Indeed, ere the expiry of that century not only had the work on the Temple been completed sixteen months before the appointed time, but instead of one tiny nucleus in every Latin Republic, Spiritual Assemblies had already been established in Mexico City and Puebla (Mexico), in Buenos Aires (Argentina), in Guatemala City (Guatemala), in Santiago (Chile), in Montevideo (Uruguay), in Quito (Ecuador), in Bogotà (Colombia), in Lima (Peru), in Asuncion (Paraguay), in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), in San Salvador (El-Salvador), in San José and Puntarenas (Costa Rica), in Havana (Cuba) and in Port-au-Prince (Haiti). Extension work, in which newly 400 fledged Latin American believers were participating, had, moreover, been initiated, and was being vigorously carried out, in the Republics of Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Panama and Costa Rica; believers had established their residence not only in the capital cities of all the Latin American Republics, but also in such centers as Veracruz, Cananea and Tacubaya (Mexico), in Balboa and Christobal (Panama), in Recife (Brazil), in Guayaquil and Ambato (Ecuador), and in Temuco and Magellanes (Chile); the Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá’ís of Mexico City and of San José had been incorporated; in the former city a Bahá’í center, comprising a library, a reading room and a lecture room, had been founded; Bahá’í Youth Symposiums had been observed in Havana, Buenos Aires and Santiago, whilst a distributing center of Bahá’í literature for Latin America had been established in Buenos Aires.
Nor was this gigantic enterprise destined to be deprived, in its initial stage, of a blessing that was to cement the spiritual union of the Americas—a blessing flowing from the sacrifice of one who, at the very dawn of the Day of the Covenant, had been responsible for the establishment of the first Bahá’í centers in both Europe and the Dominion of Canada, and who, though seventy years of age and suffering from ill-health, undertook a six thousand mile voyage to the capital of Argentina, where, while still on the threshold of her pioneer service, she suddenly passed away, imparting through such a death to the work initiated in that Republic an impetus which has already enabled it, through the establishment of a distributing center of Bahá’í literature for Latin America and through other activities, to assume the foremost position among its sister Republics.
To May Maxwell, laid to rest in the soil of Argentina; to Hyde Dunn, whose dust reposes in the Antipodes, in the city of Sydney; to Keith Ransom-Kehler, entombed in distant Iṣfahán; to Susan Moody and Lillian Kappes and their valiant associates who lie buried in Ṭihrán; to Lua Getsinger, reposing forever in the capital of Egypt, and last but not least to Martha Root, interred in an island in the bosom of the Pacific, belong the matchless honor of having conferred, through their services and sacrifice, a lustre upon the American Bahá’í community for which its representatives, while celebrating at their historic, their first All-American Convention, their hard-won victories, may well feel eternally grateful.
Gathered within the walls of its national Shrine—the most sacred Temple ever to be reared to the glory of Bahá’u’lláh; commemorating at once the centenary of the birth of the Bábí Dispensation, of the 401 inauguration of the Bahá’í era, of the inception of the Bahá’í Cycle and of the birth of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as well as the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Faith in the Western Hemisphere; associated in its celebration with the representatives of American Republics, foregathered in the close vicinity of a city that may well pride itself on being the first Bahá’í center established in the Western world, this community may indeed feel, on this solemn occasion, that it has, in its turn, through the triumphal conclusion of the first stage of the Plan traced for it by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, shed a lasting glory upon its sister communities in East and West, and written, in golden letters, the concluding pages in the annals of the first Bahá’í century.