>Bahá'ís Killed in South Africa

The following is a statement from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South Africa on the March 13 incident in which three Bahá'ís were killed during a prayer service.

THE NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE BAHÁ'ÍS OF SOUTH AFRICA

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE USE

MEMBERS OF THE BAHÁ'Í FAITH
MURDERED DURING PRAYER SERVICE

The Bahá'í Community of South Africa was shocked and dismayed to learn of the murder of three of its members at the hands of unknown gunmen in Mdantsane, near East London, around midday on Sunday 13 March.

The three Bahá'í men gunned down,Mr. Riaz Razavi of King Williams Town, director of finance for the University of Fort Hare; Dr. Shamam Bakhshangdegi of East London, a dentist at Cecilia Makwani hospital in Mdantsane; and Mr. Hooshmand Anvari of Beacon Bay, a computer salesman and part-time teacher had been invited by the Bahá'í Community of Mdantsane to consult on a development programme for the International Year of the Family in that region.

What makes this incident even more shocking is that this attack was carried out at the Bahá'í Centre, a place of worship and instruction, at a time when the members of the Bahá'í Faith were having their meeting.

The 4 gunmen burst into the room just as the prayer service was concluding, demanded that the black and the white Bahá'ís separate into different sides of the hall, asked the white members to empty their pockets and give them the car keys and then shot the three men in cold blood. This occurred in front of the Bahá'ís of Mdantsane, including a large group of children who were to have their Sunday school there after prayers.

Two of the three men shot died immediately, while the third, Dr. Bakhshangdegi, was rushed to the hospital when it was found that he was still alive. Tragically he died in hospital a short while later.

These racially motivated murders are ironic in the light of the fact that the Bahá'ís have always been a multi racial religious community and have for the past 40 years of their presence in South Africa, espoused the principle of racial unity and celebrated this unity amongst the diverse racial and ethnic groups represented in the Bahá'í community in this country.

The Bahá'í Faith, the youngest of the world's major independent religions is the second most widespread religion in the world after Christianity and has adherents in all countries, islands and territories in the world, representing over 2000 racial and ethnic groups. The cornerstone of the Bahá'í belief is that there is one God, that all the independent religions come from the same God with the purpose of educating man to carry forward an ever advancing civilization and that the peace and prosperity of mankind depends on its unity.

Note to editors: For further details please contact the Bahá'í National Office at 011-487 2077/2099 b/h or 011 672 3754 a/h.