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Notes:
This document is part of Bahá'í Communities by country: Research Notes. Posted separate from the other country notes because it is long enough to be a stand-alone essay.

Bahá'í country notes:
Africa

by Graham Hassall

1999
Note: See also references to Algeria, Angola, Congo, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Northwest Africa, et al. in Bahá'í Communities by country: Research Notes.

In World Order of Bahá'u'lláh Shoghi Effendi wrote:

"... the first stirrings of a conscious and determined revolt against the aims and methods of political and economic imperialism (WOB,31) the "long-slumbering continent (Bahá'í News Feb 53, 2). In the period to 1953 five National Assemblies were involved in the African work. In the years prior to 1953 five National Assemblies were involved in teaching the Faith in Africa. Persia, Egypt, India, Britain and the United States.

In November 1951 Shoghi Effendi directed the British National Assembly to convene an intercontinental conference in Kampala in 1953, and directed that representatives of the British, American, Persian, Egyptian, and Indian National Spiritual Assemblies attend. In February 1952 he appointed Musa Banani a Hand of the Cause in Africa and requested that he assist in acquiring a local Hazírá in Kampala to "synchronise with the formation of first Assembly in heart of Africa" (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 21).

On January 5 1952 Shoghi Effendi cabled the Bahá'í world that the actions of the "heroic band" of pioneers to Africa was "reminiscent alike of episodes related in the Book of Acts and the rapid, dramatic propagation of the Faith through the instrumentality of the dawn-breakers in the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation. The marvellous accomplishments signalizing the rise and establishment of the Administrative Order of the Faith in Latin America have been eclipsed. The exploits immortalizing the recently launched crusade in the European continent have been surpassed. The goal of the seven-month plan, initiated by the Kampala Assembly, aiming at doubling the twelve enrolled believers, has been outstripped. The number of Africans converted in the course of the last fifteen months, residing in Kampala and outlying districts, with Protestant, Catholic and pagan backgrounds, lettered and unlettered, of both sexes, representative of no less than sixteen tribes, has passed the two hundred mark. The effulgent rays of God's triumphant Cause, radiating from the focal center, are fast awakening the continent and penetrating at an accelerating rate isolated regions unfrequented by white men and enveloping with their radiance souls hitherto indifferent to the persistent humanitarian activities of the Christian missions and the civilising influence of the civil authorities...." (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 133).

In June 1952 American pioneers arrived in East and West Africa (30 June 1950, Messages to the Bahá'í World, 30).

In launching the World Crusade on the African continent, Shoghi Effendi called for the opening of 33 territories, the purchase of three Temple sites, the establishment and incorporation of three National Spiritual Assemblies, the purchase of three National Hazíratu'l-Quds, the establishment of a publishing trust, and for formation of an Israel branch by one National Spiritual Assembly (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 8 October 1952, pp40-45). In addressing the All-America Intercontinental Conference in Chicago in May 1953, the Guardian noted that on the continent of Africa there were 13 translations, 31 races and 24 tribes represented in the Bahá'í community. (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 148)

At Ridván 1954 the Guardian reported: "The Africa Campaign, outshining the brilliant success of the enterprise launched in Latin America, throwing into shade the splendour of the victories won in recent years on the European continent, eclipsing all previous collective pioneer undertakings embarked upon in the Asiatic and Australian continents, has almost doubled, in the course of a single year, the number of territories opened since the introduction of the Faith in that continent over eighty years ago. The total number of converts to the Faith belonging to the African race has passed the six hundred mark. The total number of African Bahá'í centres has now been raised to over one hundred and ninety. The total number of the tribes indigenous to the soil of that continent represented in the Faith is now over sixty."

Uganda alone now had 500 Bahá'ís in 80 localities, including 13 LSAs, and representatives of 30 tribes, and had dispatched 9 pioneers to other African locations. Shoghi Effendi reported in his Ridván message:

"A single territory out of the thirty-five territories already opened to the Faith in the African continent, situated in its very heart and which, a little over two years ago did not possess a single Bahá'í, now boasts of over five hundred colored converts, who are settled in over eighty localities, are drawn from thirty tribes, are provided with thirteen local Assemblies, and anticipate the immediate formation of about ten additional Assemblies. This same territory has, moreover, distinguished itself throughout the entire Bahá'í world through the dispatch of nine members of its mother Assembly for the purpose of pioneering in neighboring centers, as well as in territories situated on the eastern and western coasts of the African continent. A number of the newly-won recruits in some of these territories have, moreover, been instrumental in winning the allegiance of some of the members of their race, and have, in their turn, succeeded in opening no less than three neighboring territories in that continent." (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 62).

By October 1954 the number of African Bahá'ís had reached 700, including 380 in the past year. The number of Bahá'í centres had increased to 195, number of tribes to 85, translations 34, and Local Spiritual Assemblies, 50 (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 71). By March 1955 there were 300 centres in Africa (Cablegram, March 20, 1955, Messages to the Bahá'í World, 75). By April 1955 there were 1,300 African Bahá'ís, over 100 Local Assemblies, 50 translations (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 77-8, 85).

On 23rd August 1955 the Guardian announced his intention, following renewed outbreak of persecution of the Persian Bahá'ís, to build the "Mother Temple of Africa in the City of Kampala, situated in its heart and constituting a supreme consolation to the masses of oppressed valiant brethren in the Cradle of the Faith" (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 90).

In his Ridván 1956 message the Guardian reported that 2,500 of Africa's 3,000 Bahá'ís belonged to the Negro race, and that there were 58 territories opened, over 400 localities, and over 120 Local Spiritual Assemblies (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 93).

At Ridván 1956 three new Regional Spiritual Assemblies were established.

Central and East Africa

Included Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya, Belgian Congo, Ruanda-Urundi, French Equatorial Africa, Zanzibar, Comoro Is, Seychelles and Chagos Archipelago)

South and West Africa

Included South Africa, Mauritius, Reunion Island, St Helena, Bechuanaland, Basutoland, Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, Nyasaland, Madagascar, Mozambique, South-West Africa, Angola, Zululand and Swaziland

North-West Africa

Included Tunisia (secretarial seat in Tunis), Algeria, Morocco (International Zone), Spanish Morocco, French Morocco, Spanish Sahara, Rio de Oro, Spanish Guinea, Ashanti Protectorate, French Cameroons, British Cameroons, Northern Territories Protectorate, French Togoland, British Togoland, Gambia, Portuguese Guinea, French West Africa, the Gold Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, SIerra Leone, Madeira,[1] the Canary Island, Cape Verde Islands, and St. Thomas Island.

At the same time, the NSA of Egypt and Sudan became a Regional Assembly for North East Africa. It included French Somaliland; Egypt, Sudan, Abyssinia, Libya, Eritrea, British Somaliland; Italian Somaliland; and Socotra Is.

A year after the formation of these Assemblies the Guardian reported that "the momentum gained in the process of propagation of the Faith and consolidation of its newly-born administrative institutions has exceeded the rate of progress achieved in every other continent of the globe... the number of adherents of the Faith...is now well over thirty-five hundred, over three thousand of whom are Negroes. The number of localities where the followers of Bahá'u'lláh reside is over five hundred and fifty. The number of tribes represented in these flourishing communities has reached one hundred and ninety-seven. The number of languages into which Bahá'í literature has been and is being translated is over seventy, whilst the number of local spiritual assemblies, constituting the bedrock of a solidly established Order, is approaching one hundred and fifty." (Messages to the Bahá'í World, 110).

See Bahá'í World 1950-54, "Development of the Faith in Africa", 52-53.

God Passes By, 313.

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