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Unfurling the Divine Flag in Tokyo:
An Early Bahá'í History

by Barbara R. Sims

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Chapter 10

10. The First National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, 1957

It was one of the goals of the Guardian's Ten Year Crusade. It was to be a Regional Assembly (although it was usually referred to as a National Assembly) embracing Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau and, of course, its seat was to be in Tokyo. Originally the Russian island of Sakhalin and the Chinese island of Hainan were in the area but as there was no entry to either of those places they were eliminated from the area of jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly. Hainan was assigned elsewhere and although Sakhalin was not in the North East Asia jurisdiction it remained an area for the National Spiritual Assembly of. North East Asia, and after 1974, the National Spiritual Assembly of Japan, to open. This was accomplished in 1992.

The largest number of Bahá'ís in North East Asia were in Japan but the formation of this Assembly was the culmination of dedicated teaching efforts first by pioneers followed by native believers in all the countries.

At the time of the election of this first National Spiritual Assembly in eastern Asia there were 138 adult believers in Japan including 29 in Tokyo. Bahá'ís were in 24 locations in Japan of which 12 were isolated areas.

Over 80 Bahá'ís attended the first convention from various countries and 18 of the 19 elected delegates were able to attend. Miss Charlotte Linfoot, representing the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, opened the convention and introduced the two Hands of the Cause present. Mr. Jalal Khazeh was the Guardian's representative to the convention and Miss Agnes Alexander had been appointed a Hand of the Cause of God the month before. She was also the delegate from Kyoto.

Members of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia were: Mr. William Maxwell, chairman; Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, vice-chairman; Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, secretary; Mrs. Barbara Sims, recording secretary; Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi, treasurer; Miss Agnes Alexander; Mr. Ataullah Moghbel; Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto; and Mr. Philip Marangella. (In those days, persons from the appointive arm of Bahá'í administration, such as Miss Alexander, were allowed to serve on Assemblies.)

In July 1957 the Guardian wrote of this new National Spiritual Assembly (in part), "The formation of the Regional Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia is to be acclaimed as an event of far-reaching historic significance, whose repercussions cannot be confined to the Pacific area, but are bound to affect the immediate fortunes of the entire Bahá'í world. The emergence of this epochal institution, however transitional its character, represents the culmination of a fifty year old process that has had its inception in the days of the Centre of the Covenant,

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during the last decades of the Heroic Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation. The rise and expansion of the Administrative Order of the Faith in the northern regions of the vast Pacific Ocean fills a great gap, and constitutes a notable parallel to the rise of similar institutions in the Antipodes, establishing thereby a spiritual equilibrium destined to affect, to a marked degree, the destinies of the Faith throughout the islands of the Pacific Ocean, in the years immediately ahead. It should be hailed, moreover, as a momentous development paving the way for the eventual introduction of the Faith into the far-flung Chinese mainland and, beyond it, to the extensive territories of Soviet Russia."


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The first National Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia was held in Tokyo, April 1957. The election of that National Assembly, the first in eastern Asia, was one of the goals of the Guardian's Ten Year Crusade. There had been 12 National Assemblies around the world until that year, when 13 more were elected.
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The message from the Guardian to the first National Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, held in Tokyo in 1957. The message was hand-carried to the convention by Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalal Khazeh, who was the Guardian's representative.
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The first National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia, with two guests. Seated: Miss Charlotte Linfoot, representing the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States; Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalal Khazeh, representing the Guardian. Following are members of the new NSA: Hand of the Cause Miss Alexander; and Mrs. Barbara Sims, recording secretary. Standing: Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi, treasurer; Mr. William Maxwell, chairman; Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto; Mr. Hiroyasu Takano, vice-chairman; Mr. Philip Marangella; Mr. Yadollah Rafaat, secretary; and Mr. Ataullah Moghbel. With the exception of Mr. Maxwell, who was a pioneer in Korea; all members were from Japan.

The Guardian was pleased with the membership of the new National Assembly as he said it had represented on it "the three great races of mankind, a living demonstration of the fundamental teaching of our Holy Faith..."


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January 1957. A social party for Bahá'ís and their friends at the home of Mrs. Sims in Meguro, Tokyo. Hand of the Cause Miss Alexander can be seen in the second row to the right. (The photo has been cropped at the center left.)
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