Bahai News - BWNS: Undaunted community builds unity
Undaunted community builds unity
A traditional dance from Gatenga was one of the items that prompted
joyous participants in the jubilee festivities of the Rwandan Baha'i community to join the performers on the stage
KIGALI, Rwanda, 2 February 2005 (BWNS) -- The jubilee festivities here were a major victory in the history of the Rwandan Baha'i community, a
speaker told the participants at the celebrations.
Uzziel Mihembezo, one of the early Baha'is of Rwanda, said that the event was proof that despite the genocide in 1994, the Baha'i community continues to
Many Baha'is were among the 800,000 to perish during the violence, and many fled the country.
However, the community is thriving, with 28 Local Spiritual Assemblies and Baha'is living in 106 localities.
In a congratulatory message to the Rwandan Baha'is on the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations, the Universal House of Justice wrote: "We
cannot help but marvel at the progress the Cause of God has made in that land and express our humble gratitude to Baha'u'llah for bestowing His healing
Message upon the sorely tried peoples of that country."
One of the speakers at the festivities was a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa, Ahmad Parsa.
"It is a great pleasure that many principles of the Baha'i Faith have been adopted by Rwandans in their struggle to recover from what happened in 1994,"
Mr. Parsa said.
Through moral and spiritual principles people can learn to avoid dissension and disunity and to create friendship and love, he said.
Guest speaker at the Rwandan Baha'i jubilee, Ndigabo Francois, a
government official, praised the Baha'i community for its efforts to build unity and understanding between Rwandans of different ethnic
The official guest speaker at the festivities, Ndigabo Franois, a government official of Nyagisagara, praised the Baha'i community for its efforts to
build unity and understanding between Rwandans of different ethnic background.
Those efforts include a statement in March 2000 by National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Rwanda to the National Commission for Unity and
Reconciliation in which the Assembly urged that consideration be given to making the principle of oneness of humanity the basis for reconciliation in
"Baha'is believe that humankind has always constituted one species, but that prejudice, ignorance, power seeking, and egotism have prevented many people
from recognizing and accepting this oneness," the National Spiritual Assembly wrote.
The jubilee celebrations began on 11 December 2004 in Kigali and continued the following day in the village of Nyagisagara, 100 kilometers from the
The 450 participants at the jubilee celebrations came from different regions of Rwanda, as well as from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and
Journalists from eight newspapers and magazines and from the Rwanda National Radio and Radio Flash FM covered the event. The three main newspapers in
the country -- one in French, one in English and one in Kinyarwanda -- published articles about the jubilee.
Master of ceremonies at the Rwandan Baha'i jubilee, Jean Baptiste
Habimana,(right) with Hayede Parsa, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Rwanda.
Baha'i choirs and dance troupes from Cyangugu, Gatenga, Goma, and Kigali performed traditional and modern dances prompting the joyous participants to
join them on the stage.
During the event, master of ceremonies Jean Baptiste Habimana, a member of the Auxiliary Board, described the current activities of the Rwandan Baha'i
community, emphasizing the regular children's classes, prayer gatherings, and study circles, all of which are open to the public.
In the Kigali region, for example, there are now eight children's classes, 13 prayer gatherings, and 20 study circles.
Among those recounting stories to the gathering about the early days of the Baha'i community were Kitoko Mangili, now the secretary of the National
Spiritual Assembly, Uzia Mihembezo, and Isaac Ngwijebose.
Frequently mentioned in such reminiscences were the first Rwandan Baha'i, the late Alphonse Semanyenzi, and a medical doctor, Dr. Ataollah Taaid, who
came with his wife, Zahereh, to assist in the development of the Baha'i community.
After becoming a Baha'i, Mr. Semanyenzi worked at Dr. Taaid's clinic in Kigali. In 1972 he was elected to the first National Spiritual Assembly of the
Baha'is of Rwanda. He also served as an interpreter during the 1972-73 visit by Madame Ruhiyyih Rabbani, a Hand of the Cause of God.
Some of the first Baha'is of Rwanda at the jubilee festivities with a
member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa, Ahmad Parsa (seventh from left.).
Mr. Semanyenzi's brother, Higiro Anastase, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Rwanda, told the participants about the time
when the Taaid family first arrived in Rwanda in 1966.
Mr. Anastase said that while Dr. Taaid worked at the clinic, his wife, Zahareh, traveled the country to tell villagers about the Baha'i teachings. (Dr.
and Mrs. Taaid, who now live in Belgium, were unable to attend the jubilee.)
The message of the Baha'i Faith was introduced to Rwanda (formerly part of Ruanda-Urundi) in 1953 by Mary Collison and Reginald (Rex) Collison, a
retired couple from the United States, and Dunduzu Chisiza, a young Baha'i, from Malawi (then Nyasaland).
For this service Mr. and Mrs. Collison and Mr. Chisiza received the accolade Knight of Baha'u'llah from the then head of the Faith Shoghi Effendi.
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