THE BAHA'I world faith, based on a theory of "progressive revelation" and concepts affirming the oneness of God and the unity of all religions, has been notably successful in gaining converts among rural and small-town southern blacks. According to the Baha'is, southern blacks are more "spiritualistic" and less "materialistic" than middle-class whites, and are more likely to respond to the claim that God has sent a new prophet. In a recent one-month, 13-county "teaching conference" based in Dillon, South Carolina, 9,000 converts, most of them black, joined the Baha'i faith, with hundreds more signing declaration cards in similar efforts throughout the south. Mrs. Alberta Williford, a Baha'i "pioneer," is credited with initiating the conversion program in 1969. By January 1970 she had brought the Baha'i message to 28 of her neighbors; largely through the efforts of these new converts 100 additional members had been recruited within six months. The Baha'i membership campaign is directed especially toward young blacks, many of whom are indigent and poorly educated. Young whites, too, are attracted to the Baha'i religion, which emphasizes peace and eradication of racial prejudice. Founded in Persia in 1844, the religion traces its origin to the Shi'ite branch of Islam.
Page last revised 081599