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1954 4 Mar The arrival of Knights of Bahá'u'lláh Elena (Marsella) and Roy Fernie in Kiribati. [BWNS301, BW13:452]
  • They had left their home in Panama and their service on the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama to pioneer. They arrived on the island of Abaiang (aka Charlotte Island, of the Gilbert Islands), on March 4, 1954 and for this service they were named Knights of Baha'u'llah. About the first of June 1954, former Catholic seminarian and mission teacher Peter Kanere Koru became the first convert on the island.
  • Their teaching work brought opposition from the Roman Catholic priest who told his congregation not to attend the Bahá'í meetings. He began to criticize them in the Roman Catholic newsletter and actually contributed to the knowledge of the Faith because the newsletter had a wide distribution.
  • The priest persisted in his opposition by informing his bishop who asked the government to send the Fernies away and to send Peter Kanere, a native Bahá'í, back to his native island of Tabiteuea. At the time, to be a registered religious organization required a membership of at least 100 believers so the government approved sending the Fernies away however, in a single night some 300 people registered. A certificate of registration was issued on the 24th of September, 1955, but not before they managed to exile Roy Fernie. Elena continued the teaching work on her own and was responsible for firmly establishing the Faith on Abaiang.
  • Meanwhile, Peter Kanere, back on his home island, managed to teach a Protestant minister who was under discipline of his church at the time. Together they spread the Faith on Tabiteuea. [Island Churches: Challenge and Change by Makisi Finau page 101]
  • For more details on the life of Roy Fernie see Bahaikepedia.
  • See also The Origins of the Bahá’í Faith in the Pacific Islands: The Case of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands by Graham Hassall.
  • And Bahá'í Faith in the Asia Pacific: Issues and Prospects also by Graham Hassall.
  • Elena Maria Marsella published The Quest for Eden in 1966.
  • Tabiteuea; Kiribati; Gilbert Islands Knights of Bahaullah; First Bahais by country or area; Islands; BWNS
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