Hainsworth, PhilipThe Telegraph, 2001-12-21
PHILIP HAINSWORTH, who has died aged 82, was a leading member of the Bahá'í faith in Britain; a prolific writer and lecturer, he was also an enthusiastic worker for the United Nations Association and the World Congress of Faiths.
Philip Hainsworth was born in Bradford on July 27 1919. At 13 he had to leave school to become the family's main breadwinner after his father, an auctioneer, was seriously injured helping to rescue people caught in a factory fire. Philip's ambition was to become a journalist, but work in the local mill was better paid.
He began each day attending to the family allotment and chickens (he sold the hens' eggs), while evenings were spent studying for a City and Guilds exam.
Hainsworth first heard about the Bahá'í teachings in 1938, and for the rest of his life he promoted its ideals of world citizenship, internationalism, and the eradication of prejudice. The Bahá'í faith - which originated in Persia in the mid-19th century - has no clergy and is administered by elected bodies with a headquarters at Haifa in Israel.
Central to Bahá'í spiritual teachings is the belief that there is only one God and that the major religions of the world have been established progressively by "Manifestations", or "Messengers" of God, who have delivered teachings appropriate to humanity's stages of development.
The faith promotes equality between women and men; compulsory education for all children; the establishment of a world language; elimination of the extremes of wealth and poverty; and world peace through world governance. Today it numbers more than five million members worldwide (although they are few in Britain).
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Hainsworth was the first British Bahá'í to register in the Armed Forces. Following his father's example, however, he was a committed pacifist, and he was summoned to appear before a tribunal in Leeds. His statement that he had renounced absolute pacifism in favour of the Bahá'í teachings which advocate justice and the nation's right to defend itself impressed the tribunal, which granted him exemption from combatant service.
Hainsworth served in the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher-bearer. During the North Africa campaign he was accorded the unusual - for a pacifist - accolade of being granted a commission; he left the RAMC in the rank of captain.
Prior to his release from military service in 1946, he spent five weeks at Haifa, in what was then Palestine. There, he studied his chosen faith first-hand with the then leader of the Bahá'í faith, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, the great-grandson of its Prophet-Founder.
Returning to England, Hainsworth moved to Nottingham to help to establish the first Bahá'í group there. His mother, Lizzie, who had also become a Bahá'í, moved there with him. As the faith's British community grew, so did Hainsworth's prominence as an enthusiastic and capable administrator.
He was appointed to a number of national committees and in 1947 elected to its national governing body. There were further moves to Oxford and Blackburn where again he helped to establish Bahá'í communities.
In 1951, responding to a call to take the Bahá'í teachings to the African continent, Hainsworth joined a small international group which travelled through North Africa to Kampala, in Uganda. Within two years, some 300 Ugandans had become Bahá'ís, representing 29 tribes; today the Bahá'í faith has around 105,000 members in Uganda.
Hainsworth served on the first local Bahá'í governing council of Kampala in 1952 and the Bahá'í Regional Assembly for Central and East Africa in 1956. That year, he married Lois Houchin, a PA at Rank Films and an aspiring opera singer who turned down a job at Glyndebourne to join him in Uganda.
Their eldest son, Richard, and daughter Zarin were born there. They returned to England in 1966, for the children's education. Another son, Michael, was born and Hainsworth was re-elected to the national Bahá'í governing body, a post he held for three decades.
In the 1980s Hainsworth published a number of works, including The Bahá'í Faith (with Mary Perkins) [online here], which became an established textbook in schools. He was the author of Bahá'í Focus on Human Rights and Bahá'í Focus on Peace, and editor of Unfolding Destiny, a 500-page collection of Shoghi Effendi's letters to the British Bahá'í community.
From the 1970s through to last spring, Hainsworth was a familiar and well-loved figure at national Bahá'í events. Though often forthright and brusque in public discussion, he was, on a personal basis, a generous and kind-hearted man whose experience and knowledge inspired many. He was always reliable, never failing to deliver on promises and honouring engagements.
Only a few months ago, Hainsworth returned to Uganda with his family to mark the 50th anniversary of his work there.
He is survived by his wife and their three children.