Bahá'í Faith by continent
The Bahá'í Faith is a diverse and widespread religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in the 19th century in Iran. Bahá'í sources usually estimate the worldwide Bahá'í population to be above 5 million. Most encyclopedias and similar sources estimate between 5 and 6 million Bahá'ís in the world in the early 21st century.
The Bahá'í Faith's growing presence across the world can be shown in stages. First the religion originated in Qajar Persia out of the Bábí religion and spread through the middle east and lands directly adjacent from 1844 to c.1892. Then it internationalized to a particular degree when it moved out of Islamic dominant countries and cultures and came to many countries in the West, a period from c.1892 to c.1953. During this period, for example, sixty percent of the British Bahá'í community eventually relocating. And then a significantly internationalized stage of an almost worldwide presence or "global" presence since 1953. This was accomplished by what Bahá'ís call "pioneering". The major program of action being the Ten Year Crusade and the overall list of the first pioneers to countries in the Knights of Bahá'u'lláh - the last being in July 1989 when the religion entered Mongolia.
The religion is almost entirely contained in a single, organized, hierarchical community, but the Bahá'í population has spread out into almost every country and ethnicity in the world, being recognized as the second-most geographically widespread religion after Christianity. See Bahá'í statistics. The only countries with no Bahá'ís documented as of 2008 are Vatican City and North Korea. Although it is a destination for pilgrimages. Bahá'í staff in Israel do not teach their faith to Israelis following strict Bahá'í policy.
- 1 Chronology
- 2 Africa
- 3 Asia
- 4 Central America
- 5 Europe
- 6 North America
- 7 South America
- 8 Oceania
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
Below are dates of the establishment and recognition of National Spiritual Assemblies (NSA) from the Bahá'í point of view. Other than in predominantly Muslim counties, countries where there are no NSAs include where most any religious institution is illegal such as in North Korea. In 2008 there were 184 National Spiritual Assemblies and in 2006, there are 192 United Nations member states.
|Year||Number of NSAs|
Most of the below list comes from The Bahá'í Faith: 1844–1963.
1923: British Isles, Germany, India
1925: United States of America & Canada, Philippines
1934: Australia and New Zealand, Persia
1953: Italy and Switzerland
1956: Central & East Africa, North West Africa, South & West Africa
1957: Alaska; Arabia; New Zealand; North East Asia (Japan), Pakistan, South East Asia; Mexico and the Republics of Central America; The Greater Antilles; The Republics of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela; The Republics of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay & Bolivia; Scandinavia and Finland; the Benelux Countries; The Iberian Peninsula.
1959: Austria, Burma, South Pacific, Turkey,
1961: Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina.
1962: Belgium, Ceylon, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Switzerland
1964 Korea, Thailand, Vietnam
1967 Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Laos, Belize, Sikkim
1969 Papua New Guinea
1972 Singapore, Guyana
1974 Hong Kong, South East Arabia
1978 Burundi, Mauritania, the Bahamas, Oman, Qatar, the Mariana Islands, Cyprus
1981 Namibia, and Bophuthatswana; the Leeward Islands, the Windward Islands, and Bermuda; Tuvalu. re-formation in Uganda
1984: Cape Verde Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, French Guiana, Grenada, Martinique, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Yemen, Canary Islands
1991 Czechoslovakia, Romania & Soviet Union
1992: Greenland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Belarus & Moldova; Russia, Georgia & Armenia; Central Asia, Bulgaria, Baltic States, Albania, Poland, Hungary, Niger (re-elected) (as many new NSAs came into existence in this one year as all the NSAs that existed in 1953.)
1994: Cambodia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Slovenia & Croatia,
1995: Eritrea, Armenia, Georgia, Belarus, Sicily.
1996: Sao Tome & Principe, Moldova, Nigeria
1999: Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia
2004: Iraq reformed
2008: Vietnam reformed
The Bahá'í Faith in Africa marks moment when most of the leading figures of the religion were present on the continent. Among its earliest contacts with the religion came in Egypt. The Bahá'í Faith in Egypt begins perhaps with the first Bahá'ís arriving in 1863. Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the religion, was himself briefly in Egypt in 1868 when on his way to imprisonment in `Akká.
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl-i-Gulpáygání, often called Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, was the first prominent Bahá'í to live in Africa and made some of the first big changes to the community in Egypt. Abdu'l-Fadl first came to Cairo in 1894 where he settled for several years. He was the foremost Bahá'í scholar and helped spread the Bahá'í Faith in Egypt, Turkmenistan, and the United States. In Egypt, he was successful in converting some thirty of the students of Al-Azhar University, the foremost institution of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, head of the religion after Bahá'u'lláh, lived in Egypt for several years and several people came to meet him there: Stanwood Cobb, Wellesley Tudor Pole, Isabella Grinevskaya, and Louis George Gregory, later the first Hand of the Cause of African descent, visited `Abdu'l-Bahá at Ramleh in 1911. `Abdu'l-Bahá then embarked on several trips to the West taking an ocean liner for the first one on August 11, 1911. He left on the next trip left March 25, 1912. One of the earliest Bahá'ís of the west and a Disciple of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Lua M. Getsinger, died in 1916 and she was buried in Egypt near Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl.
`Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916-1917; these letters were compiled together in the book Tablets of the Divine Plan. The eighth and twelfth of the tablets mentioned Africa and were written on 19 April 1916 and 15 February 1917, respectively. Publication however was delayed in the United States until 1919 – published in Star of the West magazine on 12 December 1919. `Abdu'l-Bahá mentions Bahá'ís traveling "…especially from America to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, and travel through Japan and China. Likewise, from Germany teachers and believers may travel to the continents of America, Africa, Japan and China; in brief, they may travel through all the continents and islands of the globe" and " …the anthem of the oneness of the world of humanity may confer a new life upon all the children of men, and the tabernacle of universal peace be pitched on the apex of America; thus Europe and Africa may become vivified with the breaths of the Holy Spirit, this world may become another world, the body politic may attain to a new exhilaration…."
At the other extreme of the continent the Bahá'í Faith in South Africa struggled with issues under the segregated social pattern and laws of Apartheid in South Africa. The Bahá'í community decided that instead of dividing the South African Bahá'í community into two population groups, one black and one white, they instead limited membership in the Bahá'í administration to black adherents, and placed the entire Bahá'í community under the leadership of its black population. In 1997 the National Spiritual Assembly presented a Statement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa which said in part:
Abhorring all forms of prejudice and rejecting any system of segregation, the Bahá'í Faith was introduced on a one-to-one basis and the community quietly grew during the apartheid years, without publicity. Despite the nature of the politics of that time, we presented our teachings on unity and the oneness of humankind to prominent individuals in politics, commerce and academia and leaders of thought including State Presidents.... [b]oth individual Bahá'ís and our administrative institutions were continually watched by the security police.... Our activities did not include opposition to the previous Government for involvement in partisan politics and opposition to government are explicitly prohibited by the sacred Texts of our Faith.... During the time when the previous Government prohibited integration within our communities, rather than divide into separate administrative structures for each population group, we opted to limit membership of the Bahá'í Administration to the black adherents who were and remain in the majority of our membership and thereby placed the entire Bahá'í community under the stewardship of its black membership.... The pursuit of our objectives of unity and equality has not been without costs. The "white" Bahá'ís were often ostracized by their white neighbours for their association with "non-whites". The Black Bahá'ís were subjected to scorn by their black compatriots for their lack of political action and their complete integration with their white Bahá'í brethren.
Wide-scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa was observed to begin in the 1950s and extend in the 1960s. In 1953 the Bahá'ís initiated a Ten Year Crusade during which a number of Bahá'ís pioneered to various parts of Africa following the requests of `Abdu'l-Bahá. It was emphasized that western pioneers be self-effacing and focus their efforts not on the colonial leadership but on the native Africans - and that the pioneers must show by actions the sincerity of their sense of service to the Africans in bringing the religion and then the Africans who understand their new religion were to be given freedom to rise up and spread the religion according to their own sensibilities and the pioneers to disperse or step into the background. Among the figures of the religion in Africa the most senior African historically would be Enoch Olinga. In 1953 he became the first Bahá'í pioneer to British Cameroon, (moving from Uganda) and was given the title Knight of Bahá'u'lláh for that country. He was appointed as the youngest Hand of the Cause, the highest appointed position in the religion. A biography published in 1984 examined his impact in Cameroon and beyond.
Period since the Universal House of JusticeEdit
Troubles characterize the experience of the Bahá'ís across the Saharan countries. In 1960 with a regime change in Egypt, the Bahá'ís lost all rights as an organized religious community by Law 263 at the decree of then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser which specified a minimum sentence of six months' imprisonment or a fine for any organized activities of the Bahá'ís. All Bahá'í community properties, including Bahá'í centers, libraries, and cemeteries, were confiscated by the government except the cemetery Al-Rawda Al-Abadeyya. In obedience to the government is a core principal of the religion. In 1963 the arrests of Bahá'ís in Morocco had gotten attention from Hassan II of Morocco, US Senator Kenneth B. Keating and Roger Nash Baldwin, then Chairman of the International League for the Rights of Man and would echo in analyses of politics of Morocco for years to come.
South of the Sahara it was a different story. Wide-scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa was observed to begin in the 1950s and extend in the 1960s. The foundation stone of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Uganda was laid in January 1958, and it was dedicated on January 13, 1961. The building is more than 130 feet (39 m) high, and over 100 meters in diameter at the base. The green dome is made of fixed mosaic tiles from Italy, and the lower roof tiles are from Belgium. The walls of the temple are of precast stone quarried in Uganda. The colored glass in the wall panels was brought from Germany. The timber used for making the doors and benches was from Uganda. The 50-acre (200,000 m2) property includes the House of Worship, extensive gardens, a guest house, and an administrative center. Hand of the Cause Rúhíyyih Khanum and then chairman of the central regional National Assembly Ali Nakhjavani embarked on 15 days of visiting Bahá'ís through Uganda and Kenya including seeing three regional conferences on the progress of the religion, staying in homes of fellow believers, and other events. She talked to audiences about the future of African Bahá'ís and their role in the religion. She visited Africa again on several trips from 1969 to 1973. In Ethiopia she was received by Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia. In the half hour interview she communicated how she had long admired him because of the way he had conducted himself in the face of the many trials and hardships of his life, and by the way he had overcome them. Selassie gave her a gold medal from his Coronation.
These two regions - north and central Africa - interacted closely in the 1970s. As part of a sweep across several Sub-Saharan countries, the Bahá'í Faith was banned in the 1970s in several countries: Burundi 1974; Mali 1976;Uganda 1977; Congo 1978; Niger 1978. Uganda had had the largest Bahá'í community in Africa at the time.
"This was principally the result of a campaign by a number of Arab countries. Since these countries were also by this time providers of development aid, this overt attack on the Baha'is was supported by covert moves such as linking the aid money to a particular country to the action that it took against the Baha'is. This was partially successful and a number of countries did ban the Baha'is for a time. However, the Baha'is were able to demonstrate to these governments that they were not agents of Zionism nor anti-Islamic and succeeded in having the ban reversed in all of these countries except Niger." (Niger lifted their restrictions in the 1990s.)
More recently the roughly 2000 Bahá'ís of Egypt have been embroiled in the Egyptian identification card controversy from 2006 through 2009. Since then there have been homes burned down and families driven out of towns. On the other hand, Sub-Saharan Bahá'ís were able to mobilize for regional conferences called for by the Universal House of Justice 20 October 2008 to celebrate recent achievements in grassroots community-building and to plan their next steps in organizing in their home areas. Nine such conferences were held.
The Bahá'í Faith originated in Asia, in Iran (Persia), and spread from there to the Ottoman Empire, Central Asia, India, and Burma during the lifetime of Bahá'u'lláh. Since the middle of the 20th century, growth has particularly occurred in other Asian countries, because the Bahá'í Faith's activities in many Muslim countries has been severely suppressed by authorities.
Estimates for the early 21st century population of Bahá'ís in Iran vary between 150,000 and 500,000. During the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent few years, a significant number of Bahá'ís left the country during intensive persecution.
- Eliz Sanasarian writes in Religious Minorities in Iran (Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 53) that "Estimating the number of Bahá'ís in Iran has always been difficult due to their persecution and strict adherence to secrecy. The reported number of Bahá'ís in Iran has ranged anywhere from the outrageously high figure of 500,000 to the low number of 150,000. The number 300,000 has been mentioned most frequently, especially for the mid- to late- 1970s, but it is not reliable. Roger Cooper gives an estimate of between 150,000 and 300,000."
- The Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa (2004) states that "In Iran, by 1978, the Bahá'í community numbered around 300,000."
- The Columbia Encyclopedia (5th edition, 1993) reports that "Prior to the Iranian Revolution there were about 1 million Iranian Bahá'ís."
- The Encyclopedia of Islam (new edition, 1960) reports that "In Persia, where different estimates of their number vary from more than a million down to about 500,000. [in 1958]"
At times the authorities in Iran have claimed that there are no Bahá'ís in their country, and that the persecutions were made up by the CIA. The first claim apparently represents a legal rather than anthropological determination, as Bahá'ís are regarded as Muslims under Iranian law. For the latter, see Persecution of Bahá'ís.
The largest Bahá'í community in the world is said to be in India, with an official Bahá'í population over 2 million and roots that go back to the first days of the religion in 1844. A researcher, William Garlington, characterized the 1960s until present as a time of "Mass Teaching". He suggests that the mentality of the believers in India changed during the later years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, when they were instructed to accept converts who were illiterate and uneducated. The change brought teaching efforts into the rural areas of India, where the teachings of the unity of humanity attracted many of the lower caste.
The Bahá'í Faith in Russia begins with connections during the Russian rule in Azerbaijan in the Russian Empire in the form of the figure of a woman who would play a central role in the religion of the Báb, viewed by Bahá´ís as the direct predecessor of the Bahá'í Faith - she would be later named Tahirih. While the religion spread across the Russian Empire and attracted the attention of scholars and artists, the Bahá'í community in Ashgabat built the first Bahá'í House of Worship, elected one of the first Bahá'í local administrative institutions and was a center of scholarship. During the period of the Soviet Union Russia adopted the Soviet policy of oppression of religion, so the Bahá'ís, strictly adhering to their principle of obedience to legal government, abandoned its administration and properties but in addition Bahá'ís across the Soviet Union were sent to prisons and camps or abroad. Before the Dissolution of the Soviet Union Bahá'ís in several cities were able to gather and organize as Perestroyka approached from Moscow through many Soviet republics. The National Assembly of the Russian Federations was ultimately formed in 1995.
Bahá'ís are noted in most of the rest of the countries of Asia.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916–1917; these letters were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan. The sixth of the tablets was the first to mention Latin American regions and was written on 8 April 1916, but was delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919. The first actions on the part of Bahá'í community towards Latin America were that of a few individuals who made trips to Mexico and South America near or before this unveiling in 1919. The sixth tablet was published in Star of the West magazine on 12 December 1919.
His Holiness Christ says: Travel ye to the East and to the West of the world and summon the people to the Kingdom of God.…(travel to) the Islands of the West Indies, such as Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Islands of the Lesser Antilles (which includes Barbados), Bahama Islands, even the small Watling Island, have great importance…
In 1927 Leonora Armstrong was the first Bahá'í to visit many of these countries where she gave lectures about the religion as part of her plan to compliment and complete Hand of the Cause Martha Root's unfulfilled intention of visiting all the Latin American countries for the purpose of presenting the religion to an audience.
Seven Year Plan and succeeding decadesEdit
Shoghi Effendi, head of the religion after the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, wrote a cable on 1 May 1936 to the Bahá'í Annual Convention of the United States and Canada, and asked for the systematic implementation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's vision to begin. In his cable he wrote:
Appeal to assembled delegates ponder historic appeal voiced by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Tablets of the Divine Plan. Urge earnest deliberation with incoming National Assembly to insure its complete fulfillment. First century of Bahá'í Era drawing to a close. Humanity entering outer fringes most perilous stage its existence. Opportunities of present hour unimaginably precious. Would to God every State within American Republic and every Republic in American continent might ere termination of this glorious century embrace the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and establish structural basis of His World Order.
As far back as 1951 the Bahá'ís had organized a regional National Assembly for the combination of Mexico, Central America and the Antilles islands. Many counties formed their own National Assembly in 1961. Others continued to be organized in regional areas growing progressively smaller. From 1966 the region was reorganized among the Bahá'ís of Leeward, Windward and Virgin Islands with its seat in Charlotte Amalie.
The Bahá'í House of Worship in Panama City, Panama, completed 1972. It serves as the mother temple of Latin America. It is perched on a high cliff, "Cerro Sonsonate" ("Singing Hill"), overlooking the city, and is constructed of local stone laid in a pattern reminiscent of Native American fabric designs.
`Abdu'l-Bahá's first European trip spanned from August to December 1911, at which time he returned to Egypt. During his first European trip he visited Lake Geneva on the border of France and Switzerland, Great Britain and Paris, France. The purpose of these trips was to support the Bahá'í communities in the West and to further spread his father's teachings, after sending representatives and a letter to the First Universal Races Congress in July.
His first touch on European soil was in Marseille, France. From then he went to Great Britain.
During his travels, he visited England in the autumn of 1911. On September 10 he made his first public appearance before an audience at the City Temple, London, with the English translation spoken by Wellesley Tudor Pole.
Starting in 1946 Shoghi Effendi, head of the religion after the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá, drew up plans for the American (US and Canada) Bahá'í community to send pioneers to Europe; the Bahá'ís set up a European Teaching Committee chaired by Edna True. At a follow-up conference in Stockholm in August 1953, Hand of the Cause Dorothy Beecher Baker asked for a Bahá'í to settle in Europe. By 1953 many had. Soon many national assemblies reformed. Bahá'ís had managed to re-enter various countries of the Eastern Bloc to a limited degree.
Meanwhile, in Turkey by the late 1950s Bahá'í communities existed across many of the cities and towns Bahá'u'lláh passed through on his passage through the country. In 1959 the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly of Turkey was formed with the help of `Alí-Akbar Furútan, a Hand of the Cause — an individual considered to have achieved a distinguished rank in service to the religion. However repeating the pattern of arrests in the 20s and 30s, in 1959 there was a mass arrest of the local assembly of Ankara.
In 1962 in Religion in the Soviet Union, Walter Kolarz notes:
"Islam…is attacked by the communists because it is 'reactionary', encourages nationalist narrowmindness and obstructs the education and emancipation of women. Baha'iism(sic) has incurred communist displeasure for exactly the opposite reasons. It is dangerous to Communism because of its broadmindness, its tolerance, its international outlook, the attention it pays to women's education and its insistence on equality of the sexes. All this contradicts the communist thesis about the backwardness of all religions."
First Bahá'í World CongressEdit
In 1963 the British community hosted the first Bahá'í World Congress. It was held in the Royal Albert Hall and chaired by Hand of the Cause Enoch Olinga, where approximately 6,000 Bahá'ís from around the world gathered. It was called to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the declaration of Bahá'u'lláh, and announce and present the election of the first members of the Universal House of Justice with the participation of over 50 National Spiritual Assemblies' members from around the world.
Rebirth and restriction in the EastEdit
While the religion grew in Western Europe, the Universal House of Justice, the head of the religion since 1963, then recognized small Bahá'í presence across the USSR of about 200 Bahá'ís. As Perestroyka approached, the Bahá'ís began to organize and get in contact with each other.
Before the Dissolution of the Soviet Union Bahá'ís in several cities were able to gather and organize. In this brief time `Alí-Akbar Furútan was able to return in 1990 as the guest of honor at the election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the Soviet Union. From 1990 to 1997 Bahá'ís had operated in some freedom, growing to 20 groups of Bahá'ís registered with the federal government, but the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations passed in 1997 is generally seen as unfriendly to minority religions though it hasn't frozen further registrations. Conditions are generally similar or worse in other post-Soviet countries.
In 1894 Thornton Chase became the first North American Bahá'í who remained in the faith. By the end of 1894 four other Americans had also become Bahá’ís. In 1909, the first National Convention was held with 39 delegates from 36 cities.
`Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, wrote a series of letters, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916–1917; these letters were compiled together in the book Tablets of the Divine Plan. The sixth of the tablets was the first to mention Latin American regions and was written on 8 April 1916 and published in Star of the West magazine on 12 December 1919. After mentioning the need for the message of the religion to visit the Latin American countries `Abdu'l-Bahá continues:
... becoming severed from rest and composure of the world, [they] may arise and travel throughout Alaska, the republic of Mexico, and south of Mexico in the Central American republics, such as Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize...
Following this a few Bahá'ís began to move south. Shoghi Effendi, who was named `Abdu'l-Bahá's successor, wrote a cable on 1 May 1936 to the Bahá'í Annual Convention of the United States and Canada, and asked for the systematic implementation of `Abdu'l-Bahá's vision to begin. In his cable he wrote:
"Appeal to assembled delegates ponder historic appeal voiced by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Tablets of the Divine Plan. Urge earnest deliberation with incoming National Assembly to insure its complete fulfillment. First century of Bahá'í Era drawing to a close. Humanity entering outer fringes most perilous stage its existence. Opportunities of present hour unimaginably precious. Would to God every State within American Republic and every Republic in American continent might ere termination of this glorious century embrace the light of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and establish structural basis of His World Order."
In 1937 the First Seven Year Plan (1937–44), which was an international plan designed by Shoghi Effendi, gave the American Bahá'ís the goal of establishing the Bahá'í Faith in every country in Latin America. With the spread of American Bahá'ís communities and assemblies began to form in 1938 across Latin America including Mexico and the communities rose to establishing national assemblies in the 1960s.
In 1944 every state in the United States had at least one local Bahá’í administrative body.
The Bahá'í Faith was introduced into South America in 1919 when Martha Root made an extended trip to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. She introduced the Bahá'í Faith to Esperantists and Theosophical groups and visited local newspapers to ask them to publish articles about the Bahá'í Faith. The first Bahá'í permanently resident in South America was Leonora Armstrong, who arrived in Brazil in 1921. The first Seven Year Plan (1937–44), an international plan organized by then head of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, gave the American Bahá'ís the goal of establishing the Bahá'í Faith in every country in Latin America (that is, settling at least one Bahá'í or converting at least one native). In 1950, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of South America was first elected, and then in 1957 this Assembly was split into two – basically northern/eastern South America with the Republics of Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, in Lima, Peru and one of the western/southern South America with the Republics of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia in Buenos Aires, Argentina. By 1963, most countries in South America had their own National Spiritual Assembly.
Among the more significant developments across South and Central America for the religion has been the building of the last continental Bahá'í House of Worship in Chile, a program of developing Bahá'í radio stations in several countries, relationships with indigenous populations, development programs like FUNDAEC, and the Ruhi institute process began in Colombia.
From Australia across Polynesia throughout Oceania Bahá'ís have established communities in the countries and territories of the region.
The Bahá'í Faith in Australia has a long history beginning with a mention by `Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, in 1916 following which United Kingdom/American emigrants John and Clara Dunn came to Australia in 1920.
They found people willing to convert to the Bahá'í Faith in several cities while further immigrant Bahá'ís also arrived. The first Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in Melbourne followed by the first election of the National Spiritual Assembly in 1934.
Since the 1980s the Bahá'ís of Australia have become involved and spoken out on a number of civic issues – like conferences on indigenous issues and national policies of equal rights and pay for work. Meanwhile, the first mention of the Bahá'í Faith in New Zealand was in 1853 continuous contact began around 1904 when one individual after another came in contact with Bahá'ís and some of them published articles in print media in New Zealand as early as 1908. The first Bahá'í in the Antipodes was Dorothea Spinney who had just arrived from New York in Auckland in 1912. After `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote the Tablets of the Divine Plan which mentions New Zealand the community grew quickly so that the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly of the country was attempted in 1923 or 1924 and then succeeded in 1926. The Bahá'ís of New Zealand elected their first independent National Spiritual Assembly in 1957.
The Bahá'í Faith in (Western) Samoa and American Samoa begins with the then head of the religion, `Abdu'l-Bahá, mentioning the islands in 1916. This inspired Bahá'ís on their way to Australia in 1920 to stop in Samoa. Thirty four years later another Bahá'í from Australia pioneered to Samoa in 1954. With the first converts the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1961, and the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly was first elected in 1970. Following the conversion of the then Head of State of Samoa, King Malietoa Tanumafili II, the first Bahá'í House of Worship of the Pacific Islands was finished in 1984 and the Bahá'í community reached a population of over 3000 in about the year 2000.
Bahá'ís have gone on to raise up communities in the island nations across the Southern Pacific.
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