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Uganda Bahá’í History

On 2 August 1951, the Bahá’í Faith was brought to Uganda by a group of 6 pioneers:Mr.Musa Banani, Mrs. Samiyyih Banani, Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, Mrs. Violette Nakhjavani, Miss Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, all from Iran, and Mr. Philip Hainsworth from the United Kingdom.

 

The Bahá’i Faith emerged as an independent world religion from 23/May/1844 when the Bab declared that He came to prepare the way for Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised One of God in Shiraz, Iran. One hundred seven years later, on 2 August 1951, the Bahá’í Faith was brought to Uganda by a group of 6 pioneers:Mr.Musa Banani, Mrs. Samiyyih Banani, Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, Mrs. Violette Nakhjavani, Miss Bahiyyih Nakhjavani, all from Iran, and Mr. Philip Hainsworth from the United Kingdom. These pioneers settled in Kampala and Jinja where they started their teaching efforts.

By 2nd February 1952, there were four native Ugandans who had become Bahá’ís, namely; Mr.Crispian Kajubi, Mr.Fred Bigambwa, Mr.Peter Musoke,and Mr.Enoch Olinga who was later appointed by Shoghi Effendi-Guardian of the Faith,as one of close collaborators known as Hands of the Cause of God. On April 1952, the first Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Kampala was formed – the first such institution in Sub-Saharan Africa.

By January 1953, more than 200 Ugandans had accepted the Bahá’í Faith, representing no less than sixteen tribes of all religious backgrounds and both highly educated and unschooled. Also early 1953, Uganda hosted one of the four Intercontinental Bahá’í Conferences to commemorate the 100th year of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation and to launch the Ten Year Teaching Plan that took the Baha'i Faith to most of the World’s countries between 1953-1963.

In April 1956 the first Regional Assembly comprising Uganda, Kenya and Tanganyika, Ruanda-Urundi, Belgian Congo, Comoros Islands and Seychelles was elected with its (headquarters) in Kampala. After the International Conferences, a number of African believers from Uganda arose to carry the faith to Ruanda-Urundi, Belgian congo, French Equatorial Africa and the British Cameroons.

In 1958, the construction of the first Bahá’í House of Worship (commonly known as the Bahá’í Temple) in Africa, was begun on Kikaaya Hill, situated between Kyebando, Kanyanya and Kisaasi .It was opened to the public in 15 January1961.

The decade of the 60s began with the completion of the construction of the Bahá’í House of Worship and its dedication for public worship, was attended by some 1,500 people including representatives of many races, creeds and nationalities on 15 January of that year.

A historical event of profound significance took place in April 1963: the election of the first Universal House of Justice, the supreme administrative body of the world. In October 1967, Uganda’s National Bahá’í Centre was built and in the same month, Uganda hosted one of the six International Conferences to celebrate the centenary of Baha’u’llah’s proclamation of His Faith to the Kings and Rulers of the world.

The 1970s witnessed the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Uganda being incorporated for, by the other countries that formed the Regional Assembly (of Central and East Africa since 1956) had also made up their own assemblies also made up their own National Assemblies.

In 1976 Uganda celebrated its Silver Jubilee. The following year, however, the Idi Amin’s military regime banned the Faith along with many other religious Faith communities. For two years the Faith was not talked about openly; and the administration was not allowed to function. After the ouster of Idi Amin and his government in 1979, the Faith embarked upon reconstruction of its community. The Universal House of Justice appointed a seven member interim national administrative body – the Administrative Committee of the Bahá’ís of Uganda – to revive the local communities and prepare the country for the re-election of the National Spiritual Assembly.

September 1979 saw another tragic event in Uganda’s history: the Hand of the Cause of God, Enoch Olinga was murdered along with his wife and 3 children. The 1980s came with renewed promise.

In April, 1981, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Uganda was re-elected; and the revitalization of the Baha’i Community was vigorously pursued. Systemization of the growth of the Faith was introduced in the 1990s with the introduction of the program for human resources development called the Ruhi Institute process, which, in Uganda, was inaugurated in 1995 continues to the present day. The Ruhi Institute process produces human resources to host neighbourhood devotional gatherings( meetings to where prayers are offered), conduct children classes that teach good morals to the young, animate Junior Youth to build their capacity to be of service to society, and produce Ruhi Institute Courses for those who wish to help.

The new millennium was ushered in with the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Bahá’í Faith in Uganda at the beginning of August, 2001. Four of the first six pioneers to Uganda, Mr. Ali Nakhjavani, Mrs.Violette Nakhjavani, Ms. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani and Mr. Philip Hainsworth attended these celebrations. Earlier of that same year 2001, some Bahá’ís from Uganda participated in the official opening of the Bahá’í Terraces on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.

2011 was yet another amazing year of bounty that ushered in the celebration of the Golden Jubilee-marking the 50 years anniversary of the Bahá’í House of Worship which stands as a symbol of Unity and progress. The concept of the Baha'i House of Worship, as envisaged by Baha'u'llah, not only incorporates a central meeting place for prayer and meditation but, in time, a range of facilities to serve the social and educational needs of the surrounding population.

This brief historical survey ends with the hosting in Uganda of one of the 114 Regional Bahá’í Youth Conferences on 12 – 16 September, 2013. Over 1,000 youth, both boys and girls, from all areas in Uganda and the South Sudan attended.