Bahai News - Philip Hainsworth Baha'i who took the faith's teachings to Uganda
Philip Hainsworth Baha'i who took the faith's teachings to Uganda
PHILIP HAINSWORTH, who has died aged 82, was a leading member of
the Baha'i 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 Baha'i teachings in 1938, and for
the rest of his life he promoted its ideals of world citizenship,
internationalism, and the eradication of prejudice. The Baha'i 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
Central to Baha'i 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
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 Baha'i 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 Baha'i teachings
which advocate justice and the nation's right to defend itself
impressed the tribunal, which granted him exemption from combatant
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 Baha'i faith,
Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, the great-grandson of its Prophet-Founder.
Returning to England, Hainsworth moved to Nottingham to help to
establish the first Baha'i group there. His mother, Lizzie, who had
also become a Baha'i, 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 Baha'i communities.
In 1951, responding to a call to take the Baha'i 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 Baha'is, representing 29
tribes; today the Baha'i faith has around 105,000 members in Uganda.
Hainsworth served on the first local Baha'i governing council of
Kampala in 1952 and the Baha'i 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 Baha'i governing body, a
post he held for three decades.
In the 1980s Hainsworth published a number of works, including The
Baha'i Faith (with Mary Perkins), which became an established
textbook in schools. He was the author of Baha'i Focus on Human
Rights and Baha'i Focus on Peace, and editor of Unfolding Destiny, a
500-page collection of Shoghi Effendi's letters to the British Baha'i
From the 1970s through to last spring, Hainsworth was a familiar
and well-loved figure at national Baha'i 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.
©Copyright 2001, The Daily Telegraph
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