Fifty Years Ago, Landmark Gatherings Lifted Baha’i World

February 10, 2009

Author: Staff Writer

Source: Bahá’í World News Service

A historic Baha’i conference in Frankfurt last weekend brought to mind an earlier gathering in the same city a half century before – one that was also a milestone in Baha’i history.

Last weekend’s event in Frankfurt was one of the current series of 41 conferences around the globe marking the half-way point of a five-year effort involving establishment of community-building activities in tens of thousands of neighborhoods and villages. So far some 75,000 people have participated in the gatherings.

By comparison, the five Intercontinental Conferences of 1958 came half-way through a 10-year program to establish the Baha’i Faith in every country and major territory in the world. Total attendance 50 years ago was about 5,400 people.

The announcement of the 1958 gatherings – in addition to Frankfurt they were to be held in Kampala, Uganda; Sydney, Australia; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Chicago in the United States – was one of the final acts of Shoghi Effendi, head of the Baha’i Faith from 1921 until his passing in November 1957.

Although he died unexpectedly two months before the conferences began, Shoghi Effendi himself planned many of the details, including naming his personal representative to each of the gatherings and announcing the special gifts he would send, among which were provisions for a photograph of Baha’u’llah to be viewed by all of those in attendance.

Like the current conferences, the earlier gatherings had as two of their objectives the celebrating of achievements in Baha’i work as well as deliberating on how to continue to meet goals.

In addition, three of the 1958 host cities were sites of soon-to-be-built Baha’i temples, and Shoghi Effendi – the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith – had announced that he would send precious and historic items for the foundation-laying ceremonies.

The difference of a half century

The plan of growth that covered the period of 1953-1963 concentrated on diffusion, and it carried the Baha’i Faith throughout the world. More than 100 countries and territories were opened in the first year and by the end of the decade the Faith had been brought to most nations. The number of national governing bodies grew from 12 to 56, and communities were established in more than 11,000 individual localities.