Baha'is in three African nations celebrate 50 years of accomplishments
GABORONE, Botswana — Half a century ago, because of apartheid restrictions, the Bahá'ís of Botswana had to meet under the cover of darkness. Today, however, the community is well accepted — including by the Government.
Celebrations of the Bahá'í community's 50th anniversary here in December featured an address by Margaret Nasha, the Minister of Local Government, who praised it for its systematic training courses and its efforts to “further the development of Botswana along moral and ethical lines.”
Dr. Nasha spoke of the importance of Bahá'í capacity-building study circles, which enhance, for example, abilities to teach values to children, to express one's views more eloquently, and to assist others to independently investigate spiritual truths.
She also praised the Bahá'í children's classes, which are open to the wider public, as are Bahá'í study circles and devotional meetings.
Dr. Nasha said that Bahá'í children's classes teach “the oneness of humanity, the equality of boys and girls in the eyes of God, and the need for honesty and kindliness in their dealings with other people.”
Two other Bahá'í communities in Africa also celebrated their golden jubilees in December 2004.
Commemorations in Rwanda also featured remarks by a government representative. Ndigabo Francois, a Rwandan government official from Nyagisa-gara, praised the Bahá'í community for its efforts to build unity and understanding between Rwandans of different ethnic backgrounds.
Those efforts include a statement in March 2000 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Rwanda to the National Commission for Unity and Reconciliation. The Assembly urged that consideration be given to making the principle of the oneness of humanity the basis for reconciliation in the country.
Uzziel Mihembezo, one of the early Bahá'ís of Rwanda, said that despite the genocide in 1994, during which Bahá'ís were among the 800,000 who perished, the Bahá'í community continues to grow. There are today 28 Local Spiritual Assemblies in Rwanda, with Bahá'í residing in 106 localities.
The 450 participants at the jubilee celebrations came from different regions of Rwanda, as well as from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe .
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.
In The Gambia, the 50th anniversary of the Faith's establishment there featured the opening of a new national center in the coastal town of Bakau, about 10 km from the capital of Banjul .
Among the more than 200 people attending the opening and dedication ceremony of the national center on 24 December 2004 were representatives of the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim communities.
Also present were the nation's solicitor-general, Raymond Sock, and his wife; the headman (Alkalo) of Bakau, Alhaji Luntung Jaiteh; a representative of the local mayor of Kanifing municipality; business people; and other dignitaries.
For more on all of these commemorations, visit http://news.bahai.org
– From Bahá'í World News Service reports