Letter to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine
by Shoghi Effendi and Horace Holley1947/1948
About: On 9 July 47, Shoghi Effendi received a letter from the chairman of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine requesting a statement on the relationship which the Bahá'í Faith had to Palestine and the Bahá'í attitude towards any future changes in the status of the country. His reply, "The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh: A World Religion," was written 14 July 1947 and sent the next day.
1. Shoghi Effendi's cover letter to The Faith of Bahá'u'lláh: A World ReligionJuly 14, 1947
Mr. Justice Emil Sandstrom, Chairman
Your kind letter of July 9th reached me and I wish to thank you for affording me the opportunity of presenting to you and your esteemed colleagues a statement of the relationship which the Baha’i Faith has to Palestine and our attitude towards any future changes in the status of this sacred and much disputed land.
I am enclosing with this letter, for your information, a brief sketch of the history, aims and significance of the Baha’i Faith, as well as a small pamphlet setting forth its views towards the present state of the world and the lines on which we hope and believe it must and will develop.
The position of the Baha’is in this country is in a certain measure unique; whereas Jerusalem is the spiritual center of Christendom it is not the administrative center of either the Church of Rome or any other Christian denomination. Likewise although it is regarded by Moslems as the spot where one of its most sacred shrines is situated, the Holy Sites of the Mohamedam Faith, and the center of its pilgrimages, are to be found in Arabia, not in Palestine. The Jews alone offer somewhat of a parallel to the attachment which the Baha’is have for this country inasmuch as Jerusalem holds the remains of their Holy Temple and was the seat of both the religious and political institutions associated with their past history. But even their case differs in one respect from that of the Baha’is, for it is in the soil of Palestine that the three central figures of our religion are buried, and it is not only the center of Baha’i pilgrimages from all over the world but also the permanent seat of our Administrative Order, of which I have the honor to be the Head.
The Baha’i Faith is entirely non-political and we neither take sides in the present tragic dispute going on over the future of the Holy Land and its peoples nor have we any statement to make or advice to give as to what the nature of the political future of this country should be. Our aim is the establishment of universal peace in this world and our desire to see justice prevail in every domain of human society, including the domain of politics. As many of the adherents of our Faith are of Jewish and Moslem extraction we have no prejudice towards either of these groups and are most anxious to reconcile them for their mutual benefit and for the good of the country.
What does concern us, however, in any decisions made affecting the future of Palestine, is that the fact be recognized by whoever exercises sovereignty over Haifa and Acre, that within this area exists the spiritual and administrative center of a world Faith, and that the independence of that Faith, its right to manage its international affairs from their source, the right of Baha’is from any and every country of the globe to visit it as pilgrims (enjoying the same privilege in this respect as Jews, Moslems and Christians do in regard to visiting Jerusalem) be acknowledged and permanently safeguarded.
The Sepulchre of the Bab on Mt. Carmel, the Tomb of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in that same spot, the Pilgrim Hostel for oriental Baha’is in its vicinity, the large gardens and terraces which surround these places (all of which are open to visits by the public of all denominations), the Pilgrim Hostel for western Baha’is at the foot of Mt. Carmel, the residence of the Head of the Community, various houses and gardens in Acre and its vicinity associated with Baha’u’llah’s incarceration in that city. His Holy Tomb at Bahji, near Acre, with His Mansion which is now preserved as a historic site and a museum (both likewise accessible to the public of all denominations), as well as holdings in the plain of Acre - all these comprise the bulk of Baha’i properties in the Holy Land. It should also be noted that practically all of these properties have been exempted from both Government and Municipal taxes owing to their religious nature. Some of these extensive holdings are the property of the Palestine Branch of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, incorporated as a religious society according to the laws of the country. In future various other Baha’i National Assemblies will hold, through their Palestine Branches, parts of the International Endowments of the Faith in the Holy Land.
In view of the above information I would request you and the members of your Committee to take into consideration the safeguarding of Baha’i rights in any recommendation which you may make to the United Nations concerning the future of Palestine.
May I take this opportunity of assuring you of my deep appreciation of the spirit in which you and your colleagues have conducted your investigations into the troubled conditions of this Sacred Land. I trust and pray that the outcome of your deliberations will produce an equitable and speedy solution of the very thorny problems which have arisen in Palestine.
(Signed) Shoghi Rabbani
2. Horace Holley's statement on the Baha’i interests in PalestineApril 6, 1948
Dr. Ralph J. Bunche
Dear Mr. Bunche:
Acting through our Assembly, eight National Baha’i Assemblies in North America, Europe, Africa, the Middle and Far East, and Australasia are accredited to the Non-Governmental Section of United Nations as an international organization.
On behalf of the international Baha’i community, we desire to record with the Palestine Commission the following statement on the Baha’i interests in Palestine, and respectfully appeal to the Commission for the preservation of these religious rights.
The three sacred persons of our faith are interred in Palestine, and their shrines have for many years, interrupted only by the two world wars, been the goal of pilgrimage for Bahá'ís of East and West. The founder of our religion, Baha’u’llah, was exiled to Akka from Adrianople before 1870 and died in 1892. His eldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, appointed his successor and the interpreter of his written teachings, shared this exile and continued to live in Akka and Haifa under official duress until the overthrow of the Turkish regime in 1908, and in a condition of freedom until his death in 1921. The Bab, who heralded the coming of Baha’u’llah, martyred in Tabriz for his faith in 1850, was interred on Mount Carmel by direction of ‘Abdu’l-Baha in 1909.
In his will and testament, ‘Abdu’l-Baha provided for the Baha’i an international administrative order under the headship of his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, in the office of Guardian and chairmanship of the Baha’i House of Justice to be elected in the future.
Our religious head, Shoghi Effendi, maintains the Baha’i world center in Haifa which supervises and coordinator the local and national activities of the faith in other lands. The Guardian has likewise developed the Bahá'í Shrines and represented the Baha’i interests in Palestine in relation to the civil authority since 1922.
In the light of these facts, the Beha’is point out that their religious interests in the Holy Land are unique, in that Palestine embraces their world center of pilgrimage and their international administrative seat as well. The soul and mind of this new worldwide religion are both identified with the Holy Land, and the members of the faith, have during recent decades greatly increased the holdings of property adjacent to our shrines. These properties due to their religious nature have been exempted from both government and municipal taxation.
The future political disposition of the Holy tend is not our concern. The Baha’is take no side in any political issue. Ours is a deep and abiding spiritual devotion to the maintenance of our sacred places and the development of future religious institutions for the furtherance of the universal principles given the world today by Baha’u’llah.
National Spiritual Assembly
By: (signed) Horace Holley