The triumphant termination of the second phase of the decade-long global Spiritual Crusade on which the followers of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh have so auspiciously embarked impels me to share with the delegates assembled at the Annual Bahá'í Conventions convened in all the continents of the globe the feelings of joy, of pride and of thankfulness which so significant a victory has evoked in my heart.
A REMARKABLE VICTORY
The year that has just ended--a year which posterity cannot fail to regard as one of the most eventful and challenging in the annals of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í Dispensation--has been overshadowed, in the course of its opening months, by a sudden and highly menacing crisis in the fortunes of this Faith, a crisis which, though as yet not fully resolved, has already led to a remarkable victory over the combined forces of its traditional adversaries in the land of its birth, who, for more than a century, have plotted assiduously to disrupt its foundations, tarnish its glory and extinguish its light. A long-abused, down-trodden, sorely tried community, constituting the overwhelming majority of Bahá'u'lláh's followers, subjected recently to the strain and stress of a violent recrudescence of persecution, which was marked throughout by intense vilification, intimidation, spoliation, expulsion, arson, rape, and murder, has emerged triumphant from yet another gruelling experience--a testing period of exceptional severity--its unity unbroken, its confidence reinforced, its prestige considerably enhanced, its fame noised abroad to an unprecedented degree, its administrative agencies unshaken, its endowments unimpaired, and the grim, boastful and reiterated threats of its sworn enemies to outlaw it through formal legislative action, confiscate its property, demolish its edifices, imprison and deport its members, and extirpate it, root and branch, in the native land of its Founder unenforced.
PROGRESSIVE UNFOLDMENT OF THE TEN-YEAR CRUSADE
Simultaneous with this marvelous, awe-inspiring interposition of Providence, at this critical stage in the mysterious evolution and the resistless progress of God's infant Faith in the land of its birth, towards the two shining goals of complete emancipation from the shackles of religious orthodoxy and of state recognition, an equally significant development can be noted, during the last twelve-month, in the progressive unfoldment, beyond the confines of this storm-tossed land, and stretching to the farthest corners of the earth, of the Ten-Year Plan, now entering upon the third, and what promises to be the most brilliant, phase in its execution.
This world-encompassing enterprise, embarked upon, three years ago, on the occasion of the world-wide celebrations commemorating the centenary of the birth of the Mission of the Founder of our Faith, has, in all phases of its operation, throughout five continents, as well as the islands of the seas, gathered swift momentum, and is demonstrating, in both its territorial and institutional aspects, a vitality, and has registered successes, that have far exceeded the expectations of even the most sanguine among its promoters.
The number of localities into which the light of this unconquerable Faith, now radiating the splendor of its glory over the face of the planet, has penetrated, has swelled to well nigh thirty-seven hundred, marking an increase of almost five hundred in the course of a single year. The number of Sovereign States and Chief Dependencies included within its pale, which multiplied with such amazing swiftness during the opening year of this World-Crusade, has now risen to two hundred and forty-seven through the arrival of the Knights of Bahá'u'lláh Udai Narain Singh, Frank Wyss and Daniel Haumont, in Tibet, in Cocos Island and Loyalty Islands, respectively, as well as through the opening of Laos and Cambodia and of the Islands of Pemba, Fernando Po, Trinidad and Corisco--territories not included in the provisions of the Ten-Year Plan,--and as a result of information recently received indicating the presence of a few believers in the Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The number of local Spiritual Assemblies now functioning throughout the length and breadth of the Bahá'í World exceeds nine hundred. Every single country listed in the Plan within the confines of every continent of the globe, with the exception of those within the Soviet Orbit, are now opened to the Faith. All islands figuring in that Plan, over seventy in number, situated in the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans, in the Mediterranean and the North Sea, have, likewise been opened except Nicobar Islands, Chagos Archipelago, Hainan Island, Sakhalin Island, Spitzbergen and Anticosti Island. The number of the islands of the globe to which the Message of Bahá'u'lláh has been carried since its inception now totals ninety-eight. In the Pacific Ocean alone the number of opened territories is now over forty, while the number of localities where Bahá'ís reside exceeds one hundred and seventy. The number of languages into which Bahá'í literature has been and is being translated has now reached one hundred and ninety, no less than thirty-four of which are to be regarded as supplementary to those included in the provisions of the Plan.
FAST-AWAKENING CONTINENT OF AFRICA
In the Continent of Africa and in its neighboring islands, in both the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, the number of the avowed supporters of the Faith has passed the three thousand mark; over two thousand five hundred of whom belong to the Negro race. The number of territories opened to the Faith in that fast-awakening continent and its neighboring islands has risen to fifty-eight, while the number of localities where Bahá'ís reside is over four hundred. The number of tribes represented in the Bahá'í Community is now over one hundred and forty, the number of local Assemblies already established is over one hundred and twenty, and the number of languages into which Bahá'í literature has been and is being translated exceeds fifty.
FORTY-THREE NATIONAL HAZIRATU'L-QUDS
The number of incorporated Assemblies, both local and national, in various continents of the globe, has been raised to one hundred and sixty-eight, the latest additions being the Italo-Swiss National Spiritual Assembly and the Local Spiritual Assemblies of Brussels, Tokyo, Liverpool, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Quincy, Basel, &Zurich, Geneva, Heidelberg, Buenos Aires, Saigon, Suva, Malacca and Addis Ababa. The number of National Haziratu'l-Quds, the precursors of Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies, acquired in the capitals and leading cities of North, Central and South America, of the goal countries of Europe, of Africa, Asia and Australasia, and of several islands of the globe, has reached forty-three, involving the expenditure of over half a million dollars, amply compensating for the seizure and occupation of the National Administrative Headquarters of the Faith and the demolition of its dome by the military authorities in the Persian capital.
TEMPLE SITES AND ENDOWMENTS
Land for ten Temple sites has moreover been acquired at a cost of no less than one hundred thousand dollars, while negotiations are well advanced for the acquisition of the one remaining Temple site to be purchased in the Swedish capital. In no less than thirty of the fifty-one countries listed in the Ten-Year Plan, National Bahá'í endowments estimated as having a value of one hundred thousand dollars have been acquired, outstanding among them being the Maxwell Home honored by the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá while in Montreal, which has been transferred by the Hand of the Cause Amatu'l-Baha to the Canadian National Spiritual Assembly. Efforts are moreover being strenuously exerted for the establishment of similar endowments in the twenty-one remaining countries. Following the completion and adoption of the design for the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár in the cradle of the Faith, steps have been taken for the preparation of no less than three additional designs, one for the Temple scheduled to be erected in the heart of the European Continent, another for the one to be erected in the near future in the African Continent, and the third for the one contemplated for Australasia, paving the way thereby in each of the remaining continents of the globe for the erection of a House to be consecrated to the worship of the one true God, and to the glory and honor of His Messenger for this Day.
DEVELOPMENT OF Bahá'í WORLD CENTER
In the Holy Land, the center and pivot round which the divinely appointed, fast multiplying institutions of a world-encircling, resistlessly marching Faith revolve, the double process, so noticeable in recent years, involving a rapid decline in the fortunes of the breakers of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and proclaiming the rise of the institutions of its World Administrative Center, in the shadow of His Shrine, has been accelerated on the one hand, through the death, in miserable circumstances, of the treacherous and malignant Majdi'd-Din, the last survivor of the principal instigators of the rebellion against the Will of the Founder of our Faith, and, on the other, through the laying of the foundation, and the erection of some of the pillars, of the facade and of the northern side of the International Bahá'í Archives--the first of the major edifices destined to constitute the seat of the World Bahá'í Administrative Center to be established on Mt. Carmel. No less than thirty of the fifty-two pillars, each over seven meters high, of this imposing and strikingly beautiful edifice have already been raised, whilst half of the nine hundred tons of stone ordered in Italy for its construction have already been safely delivered at the Port of Haifa. A contract, moreover, for over fifteen thousand dollars has been placed with a tile factory in Utrecht for the manufacture of over seven thousand green tiles designed to cover the five hundred square meters of the roof of the building.
Coincident with these building operations an extensive plot, adjoining the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf has, after protracted and difficult negotiations, been purchased for the sum of one hundred thousand dollars, for the purpose of extending and safeguarding, on the one hand, the area of the international Bahá'í endowments on Mt. Carmel, and of providing, on the other, the much needed space for the extension and completion of the far-flung arc around which the edifices of the World Bahá'í Administrative Order are to be built. The recently acquired area surrounding the holiest Shrine in the Bahá'í World and its appointed Qiblih in the plain of `Akká has been further extended through the purchase from the Development Authority of the State of Israel of a dilapidated house, situated south of the Mansion and blessed by the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá and in which He was wont to receive His friends, amongst them the first party of western Bahá'í pilgrims to arrive in the Holy Land after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh. To these latest acquisitions must be added the purchase of another plot situated in the neighborhood of the Báb's Sepulcher and adjoining the area surrounding the future seat of the World Bahá'í Administrative Order, raising thereby the total area of the international Bahá'í endowments in the Holy Land to over four hundred thousand square meters. Furthermore, the necessary formalities have been completed in connection with the purchase of the site of the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkár on Mt. Carmel, while the transfer of the title deeds of recently acquired plots to the name of the Israel branches of the United States, the British, the Persian, the Canadian and Australian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies is being expeditiously carried out.
EVENTS IN THE UNITED STATES
In the United States of America, the home of the champion-builders of a fast-evolving Order, an official invitation was extended to the Bahá'í Community by the San Francisco Council of Churches to send representatives to attend a Service of Prayer for Peace and Divine Guidance to the United Nations, an invitation to which the Community warmly responded. At this inter-religious gathering, held in the Cow Palace in San Francisco, the birthplace of the Charter of the United Nations, which united nearly sixteen thousand people in worship and silent prayers, and at which government leaders, among them the United States Secretary of State, were present, the voice of the Bahá'í representative was the first to be raised, reciting a prayer revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, after whom a prayer was read by each of the representatives of the Christian, the Muslim, the Jewish, the Hindu, and the Buddhist Faiths, all of whom were similarly invited to participate in that immense and historic gathering. A prayer revealed by `Abdu'l-Bahá for America was presented by the elected national representatives of the United States Bahá'í Community to President Eisenhower, who acknowledged its receipt in warm terms and above his own signature.
OTHER VICTORIES AND ACHIEVEMENTS
Nor should mention be omitted in this brief survey of Bahá'í victories and achievements in the course of the closing year of the second phase of the Ten-Year Plan of the establishment of a Bahá'í Publishing Trust in India; of the establishment of over thirty new centers and fifteen Assemblies in India, Pakistan and Burma; of the purchase of some of the holy sites blessed by the footsteps of Bahá'u'lláh in Adrianople, the Land of Mystery and the scene of the proclamation of His Message; of the holding of the first Bahá'í Summer School in Central Africa, in Kobuka, Uganda, attended by about one hundred African and white believers and representatives of no less than twenty-eight Bahá'í local Assemblies; of the convocation of the first historic All-France Teaching Conference, the first fruit of the combined labors of the believers of about thirty centers already established throughout the length and breadth of that country; of the setting apart of a plot to serve as a burial-ground for the members of the Bahá'í community in Tripoli, Libya and in the capital of Tanganyika; of the purchase of land for the establishment of a Bahá'í Summer School in Iraq; of the extension to the Bahá'í women in Egypt of the right to be elected to the Egyptian Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly as well as to participate as delegates in the National Bahá'í Convention; of the purchase, in an island near Muara Siberut, Mentawei Islands, of a plot supplementing the Bahá'í endowment established in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital; of the pushing of the northern outpost of the Faith in Alaska to Point Barrow beyond the Arctic Circle; of the initiation of auxiliary plans for the promotion of the Faith in the Seychelles Islands and in the Sudan; and of the arrival of a pioneer in Praslin Island forming a part of the Seychelles group.
APPEAL TO UNITED NATIONS
Nor can I in this survey allow to pass unnoticed the energetic and commendable efforts exerted by Bahá'í communities the world over for the support, protection and relief of the persecuted members of the Persian Bahá'í Community subjected to one of the severest ordeals experienced in recent years by the steadfast followers of the Faith in the land of its birth. Following this barbarous recrudescence of religious persecution and the transmission of over one thousand messages by Bahá'í communities, some in writing and others telegraphically, to His Majesty the Sháh, the Government, the Majlis and the Senate, and reinforcing the wide publicity given in the world's leading newspapers and the numerous protests voiced by scholars, statesmen, government envoys and people of eminence such as Pandit Nehru, Eleanor Roosevelt, Professor Gilbert Murray and Professor A. Toynbee, a written communication accompanied by a memorandum listing the atrocities perpetrated throughout the Persian provinces, was submitted in Geneva to the Secretary General of the United Nations, who appointed a commission of United Nations officers, headed by the High Commissioner for Refugees, instructing its members to contact the Persian Foreign Minister and urge him to obtain from his government in Tihrán a formal assurance that the rights of the Bahá'í minority in that land would be protected. Copies of this communication addressed to the United Nations were delivered to the representatives of the member nations of the Social and Economic Council, to the Director of the Human Rights Division, and to certain specialized agencies of non-governmental organizations with consultative status. Furthermore, the American President was appealed to by the national representatives of the American Bahá'í Communities as well as by all local Assemblies and groups in the United States. A courteous and reassuring letter was subsequently received by the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly from the State Department in Washington, acknowledging the receipt of the appeal, while the Director of the Division of Human Rights addressed in his turn a communication to the Secretary of the American National Spiritual Assembly, informing him that summaries of both the letter and petition forwarded to him would be furnished to the Commission of Human Rights, and copies sent to the Persian Government. Assurance was moreover given that summaries would also be sent to the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. As a further measure to obtain redress a forty-thousand dollar publicity campaign was initiated by the American Bahá'í Community designed to lend an impetus to the proclamation of the fundamental verities of the Faith, the aims and purposes of its followers, and of the disabilities suffered by the overwhelming majority of its adherents in the land of its birth.
ENROLLMENTS IN VIRGIN TERRITORIES
Nor can I refrain from emphasizing in this rapid survey the highly significant fact that in over sixty territories, constituting more than a half of the total number of virgin territories opened to the Faith, since the inauguration of the World Spiritual Crusade, the number of those who have espoused the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and enlisted under His banner has surpassed the number originally anticipated and regarded as a minimum for the opening of these territories; that in a considerable proportion of them the Bahá'í membership has far exceeded the number required for the formation of local Assemblies; that in Gambia as many as three hundred, and in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands as many as five hundred, have been and are being enrolled beneath His standard; and that in Uganda alone, which holds the palm of victory, the number of registered believers has exceeded one thousand.
NEXT PHASE OF WORLD CRUSADE
Such heart-warming, soul-stirring examples of Bahá'í initiative and enterprise; such splendid testimonies to Bahá'í solidarity, perseverance, courage, fortitude, and self-sacrifice, displayed in rapid succession, and over so immense an area of the globe's surface, and in the face of mounting opposition on the part of those who envy the ever widening glory of the Faith or fear the influence of its all-pervasive power, have shed on the opening chapter of this Crusade a luster which the passing of time can never tarnish. The third phase of this momentous enterprise--the opening of which is, at this hour, being signalized by the emergence of no less than three additional Regional Bahá'í Assemblies in the African Continent--must cast on the annals of this prodigious Crusade an illumination of such brilliancy as will eclipse the splendor of this luster.
The glorious and stupendous work already accomplished, singly and collectively, in the course of three brief years, in five continents of the globe and the islands of the seas, both at home and abroad, in the teaching as well as the administrative spheres of Bahá'í activity must, as the army of Bahá'u'lláh's crusaders marches forward into new and vaster fields to capture still greater heights, never be jeopardized or allowed to lag or suffer a setback. The prizes so arduously won should not only be jealously preserved but should be constantly enriched. Far from suffering the long and distinguished record of feats which have been achieved to be tarnished, assiduous efforts must be exerted to ennoble it with every passing day.
The newly opened territories of the globe must, under no circumstances, be allowed to relapse into the state of spiritual deprivation from which they have so recently and laboriously been rescued. Nay, the highly edifying evidences proclaiming the expansion and the consolidation of the superb historic work achieved in so many of these territories must be rapidly multiplied. The local assemblies that have been so diligently and patiently established must under no circumstances be allowed to dissolve, or their foundations be in any way endangered. The mighty and steady process involving the increase in the number of the avowed supporters of the Faith, and the multiplication of isolated centers, groups and local assemblies must, throughout this newly opened phase of the Plan, be markedly accelerated. The incorporation of local assemblies must proceed with a rapidity that will throw into shade the progress achieved in this respect during the first two phases of the Plan. The remaining unopened territories of the globe outside the Soviet orbit, now confined to no more than four lonely islands, must with the least possible delay, be won over to the ever spreading dominion of Bahá'u'lláh, consummating thereby the most far-reaching and thrilling of all the enterprises launched through the concerted efforts of His valiant followers. The one remaining Temple site destined to be bought in the Swedish capital must be speedily acquired. The six remaining Haziratu'l-Quds, some in Latin America, others in the European continent, must likewise be rapidly established. The Bahá'í endowments in the countries still deprived of the benefits of this divinely appointed institution must be forthwith purchased. The task of completing the translation of Bahá'í literature into the languages listed in the provisions of the Plan must be carried out with renewed determination and vigor. The Bahá'í Publishing Trusts that are as yet unestablished must be founded at the earliest possible opportunity. The sacred obligation of purchasing the remaining chief historic sites in the birthplace of the Faith, and particularly the scenes of the Báb's incarceration and martyrdom, must be discharged as expeditiously as possible. The search now being conducted for the purpose of identifying the resting-places of the Father of Bahá'u'lláh, of the Mother and the Cousin of the Báb must be pursued with the utmost diligence and circumspection. The construction of the Mother Temple of Europe, so vital and yet so long overdue, must be speedily commenced, whilst a parallel effort must be exerted in Africa for the erection, without delay, of a similar institution which the phenomenal progress of the Faith in that continent has made imperative. The Construction of the Home for the Aged, marking the inauguration of the first of the Dependencies of the Holiest House of Worship in the Bahá'í world, must, now that the site in the proximity of the Temple has been acquired, be started and expeditiously carried forward. The process of incorporating the newly formed National Spiritual Assemblies, whether regional or independent, must be initiated soon after their formation, and should be continually stimulated with every increase in the number of these assemblies in all the continents of the globe. Above all, an effort unprecedented in its range and intensity, must be exerted for the speedy multiplication of local spiritual assemblies in all the territories where National Spiritual Assemblies, whether independent or regional, provisional or permanent, are to be established, for the purpose of broadening and strengthening the foundations on which these potent national institutions--the pillars of the future Universal House of Justice--must rest. Immediate attention should be focused on the multiplication of such institutions in areas where these National Spiritual Assemblies are to be established in the near future, such as South and Central America, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Scandinavia and Finland, the Benelux countries, the Iberian Peninsula and France, as well as those territories in which national assemblies are to be established at a later stage in the course of the unfoldment of the present phase of the Plan, and the date of the formation of which will, to a large extent, depend on the rapidity with which these local assemblies are formed.
A MAJOR TURNING POINT
The Crusade, on which the army of the Lord of Hosts has so joyously and confidently embarked, now stands at a major turning point in the history of its marvelous unfoldment. Three years of magnificent exploits, achieved for the propagation of the light of an immortal and infinitely precious Faith and for the strengthening of the fabric of its Administrative Order, now lie behind it. A spirit of abnegation and self-sacrifice, so rare that only the spirit of the Dawn-breakers of a former age can be said to have surpassed it, has consistently animated, singly as well as collectively, its participants in every clime, of all classes, of either sex, and of every age. A treasure, immense in its range has been willingly and lovingly expended to insure its systematic and successful prosecution. Already a few heroic souls have either quaffed the cup of martyrdom, or laid down their lives, or been subjected to divers ordeals while combating for its Cause. Its repercussions have spread so far as to alarm a not inconsiderable element among the traditional and redoubtable adversaries of its courageous and consecrated prosecutors. Indeed as it has forged ahead, it has raised up new enemies intent on obstructing its forward march and on defeating its purpose. Premonitory signs can already be discerned in far-off regions heralding the approach of the day when troops will flock to its standard, fulfilling the predictions uttered long ago by the Supreme Captain of its forces.
Before the eyes of the warriors enlisting under its banner stretch fields of exploration and consolidation of such vastness as might well dazzle the eyes and strike awe into the heart of any soul less robust than those who have arisen to identify themselves with its Cause. The heights its champions must scale are indeed formidable. The pitfalls that bestrew their path are still numerous. The road leading to ultimate and total victory is tortuous, stony and narrow. Theirs, however, is the emphatic assurance, revealed by the Pen of the Most High--the Prime Mover of the forces unleashed by this world-girdling Crusade--that "Whosoever ariseth to aid our Cause God will render him victorious over ten times ten thousand souls, and, should he wax in his love for Me, him will We cause to triumph over all that is in heaven and all that is on earth."
Putting on the armor of His love, firmly buckling on the shield of His mighty Covenant, mounted on the steed of steadfastness, holding aloft the lance of the Word of the Lord of Hosts, and with unquestioning reliance on His promises as the best provision for their journey, let them set their faces towards those fields that still remain unexplored and direct their steps to those goals that are as yet unattained, assured that He Who has led them to achieve such triumphs, and to store up such prizes in His Kingdom, will continue to assist them in enriching their spiritual birthright to a degree that no finite mind can imagine or human heart perceive.