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The Priceless Pearl, Ruhiyyih Khanum, p322-3

During Mrs. __'s visit, the Guardian discussed with her the teaching work in __ where there is such a response to the Message, and where the people in outlying districts seem to be eager to enroll. He feels that those responsible for accepting new believers should consider that the most important and fundamental qualification for acceptance is the recognition of the station of Bahá'u'lláh in this day on the part of the applicant. We cannot expect people who are illiterate (which is no reflection on their mental abilities or capacities) to have studied the Teachings, especially when so little literature is available in their own language in the first place, and grasp all their ramifications, the way an African, say in London, is expected to. The spirit of the person is the important thing, the recognition of Bahá'u'lláh and His position in the world in this day. The friends therefore must not be too strict, or they will find that the great wave of loving enthusiasm with which the African people have turned to the Faith, many of them already accepting it, cools off; and being very sensitive, they will feel in some subtle way that they are rebuffed, and the work will suffer.

"The purpose of the new National Assemblies in Africa, and the purpose of any administrative body, is to carry the Message to the people and enlist the sincere under the banner of this Faith.

"Your Assembly must never lose sight of this for a moment, and must go on courageously expanding the membership of the communities under your jurisdiction, and gradually educating the friends in both the Teachings and the Administration. Nothing could be more tragic than if the establishment of these great administrative bodies should stifle or bog down the teaching work. The early believers in both the East and the West, we must always remember, knew practically nothing compared to what the average Bahá'í knows about his Faith nowadays; yet they were the ones who shed their blood, the ones who arose and said: 'I believe', requiring no proof, and often never having read a single word of the Teachings. Therefore, those responsible for accepting new enrollments must just be sure of one thing - that the heart of the applicant has been touched with the spirit of the Faith. Everything else can be built on this foundation gradually.

He hopes that during the coming year it will be increasingly possible for the African Bahá'í teachers to circulate amongst the newly-enrolled Bahá'ís and deepen their knowledge and understanding of the Teachings.

. . ..

As regards the questions of tribal practice, the Guardian wishes you to be extremely forbearing and patient in weaning the Bahá'ís away from their old customs. this can only be done by taking each case individually as it comes up, using the greatest wisdom and kindness, and not trying rigorously to impose all Bahá'í laws in every detail at this time.

"Of course it is obvious that if a Bahá'í man already has one wife he cannot take another, no matter what the tribal law may be. Your Assembly should distinguish between this fundamental point and other phases of the tribal community life in which the new Bahá'í may still be deeply involved, and from which he cannot extract himself until the Bahá'í element in his community is strong enough to be a power in its own right.

"He agrees with the feeling of your Assembly that to start imposing the heavy sanction of depriving the friends of their voting rights is most unwise at the present time. The best policy is one of loving education."

1957-08-08 to an African Regional Assembly re purpose & functing of new African Assemblies

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