Bahá'í Faith in Armenia

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The earliest contact documented to date, between Armenians and the Bábí-Bahá’í religion began on an unfortunate note in the banishments and execution of the Báb,[1] the Founder of the Bábí Faith, viewed by Bahá'ís as a precursor religion, but ended courageously to the credit of the Armenian officer. In that same year the teachings of the new religion were taken to Armenia.[2] More research is necessary to determine the details. Decades later, during the time of Soviet repression of religion, Bahá’ís in Armenia were isolated from Bahá’ís elsewhere.[3] Eventually, by 1963, Bahá’í communities had been identified[4] in Yerevan and Artez and communication re-established.[5] Later, in the time of Perestroika, when increasing freedoms were allowed, there were enough Bahá’ís in some cities that Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies could be formed in those Bahá’í communities in 1991.[6] Armenian Bahá’ís were able to elect their own National Spiritual Assembly in 1995.[5] In such a situation, where religious observance had been a criminal activity, a religious census is problematic. Operation World, published in 2001, approximated the number of Bahá’ís in Armenia at 1400.[7] Three years later, Bahá’ís counted only about 200.[8] Bahá’ís generally count only adult voting members of the community, the other may have been statistically generated from a random sample to include all ages.

Early period[edit]

Contact between Armenia and the Bahá'í Faith begins with the history of the interactions between Haji Mirza Aqasi and Mírzá `Abbás Núrí, followed by three successive banishments of the Báb by order of Aqasi and a trial as an apostate. For acts such as these Aqasi was termed "the Antichrist of the Bábí Revelation" by Shoghi Effendi[1] When younger, Aqasi fell from favor for a few years from 1821 as a result of repercussions from rivalry between Bahá'u'lláh's elder brothers in the Court of the Shah but later when Aqasi was Prime Minister he instigated several actions against Bahá'u'lláh's father.[9] After Aqasi fell from power the movement against the Báb he had fostered resulted in the plans to execute him. It was Armenian soldiers who took part in the first attempt of the Execution of the Báb. According to the report of the execution, written to Lord Palmerston, the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by Sir Justin Shiel, Queen Victoria's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Tehran on July 22, 1850, records: "When the smoke and dust cleared away after the volley, Báb was not to be seen, and the populace proclaimed that he had ascended to the skies. The balls had broken the ropes by which he was bound…"[10] Shortly, the Báb and his young companion were found and brought out for execution. The Armenian troops refused to fire, and a Muslim firing squad was assembled and ordered to shoot.[11] From 1850 onwards small groups of Bábís spread across the Caucasus including Armenia.[2]

By the time the effects of the October Revolution began to spread across the Russian Empire transforming it into the Soviet Union, Bahá'ís had spread through much of Soviet territory.[12] However, with the Soviet policy of religious oppression, the Bahá'ís, strictly adhering to their principle of obedience to legal government, abandoned its administration and any properties were nationalized. By 1938 most communities across the Soviet Union had lost contact with the Bahá'ís elsewhere.[3] In 1953 Bahá'ís started to move to the Soviet Republics in Asia, after the head of the religion at the time, Shoghi Effendi, initiated a plan called the Ten Year Crusade. At the culmination of this plan, in 1963, various centers were restored in the region including Armenia,[4] and at the time there was a Bahá'í community not only in Yerevan but also in Artez.[5]

Modern community[edit]

Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women,[13] promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern,[14] and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.[13] The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released.[15] Bahá'ís were urged to seek out ways, compatible with the Bahá'í teachings, in which they could become involved in the social and economic development of the communities in which they lived. World-wide in 1979 there were 129 officially recognized Bahá'í socio-economic development projects. By 1987, the number of officially recognized development projects had increased to 1482. When Perestroika allowed an atmosphere in which the Bahá'ís began to meet and organize again, the first Local Spiritual Assemblies of Armenia formed in 1991.[6] After being part of the regional national assembly with Russia since 1992, Armenian Bahá'ís elected their first National Spiritual Assembly in 1995[5] with Hand of the Cause, Rúhíyyih Khanum representing the Universal House of Justice.[16] Despite a history of contributing to societies in which the Bahá'ís are located, there are laws proposed in the Armenian legislature in 2009 proposing to circumscribe religious activities: one proposes that those who organise campaigns to spread their faith would face up to two years' imprisonment, while those who simply engage in spreading their faith would face up to one year's imprisonment or a fine of more than eight years' minimum wages while the other proposes that gaining legal status would require 1,000 adult members and other restrictions.[17][18] The Armenian daily newspaper, Golos Armenii, wrote in 1995, 'It seems that in our society there is a group of absolutely defenceless people, who can be constantly beaten and terrorised.' Later in the report it stated, 'In other words, we are dealing with a case of pre-planned and widespread assault on (various religions including the Bahá'ís).'[19]

There are Bahá'ís among the Armenian Diaspora[20] as well as Bahá'í visitors to Armenia.[21] Some 15 Armenian Bahá'ís traveled to Kiev to be among the 730 participants in a regional conference of the religion in 2009.[22]

Demographics[edit]

There is no reliable system in place for compiling accurate census data, but the Bahá'ís claim about 200 members[8] but as of 2001 Operation World estimated about 1,400 adherents (0.04% of population),[7] which are mostly in Yerevan.[8] The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 1,100 Bahá'ís in 2005.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Quinn, Sholeh A. (2009). "Aqasi, Haji Mirza ('Abbas Iravani)". Bahá’í Encyclopedia Project. Evanston, IL: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States. 
  2. ^ a b Balci, Bayram; Jafarov, Azer (2007-02-21), "The Baha’is of the Caucasus: From Russian Tolerance to Soviet Repression {2/3}", Caucaz.com 
  3. ^ a b Effendi, Shoghi (1936-03-11). The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Haifa, Palestine: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1991 first pocket-size edition. pp. 64–67. 
  4. ^ a b Monakhova, Elena (2000). "From Islam to Feminism via Baha'i Faith". Women Plus… 2000 (03). 
  5. ^ a b c d Hassall, Graham. "Notes on Research on National Spiritual Assemblies". Research notes. Asia Pacific Bahá'í Studies. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  6. ^ a b Ahmadi, Dr. (2003). "Major events of the Century of Light". homepage for an online course on the book “Century of Light”. Association for Bahá’í Studies in Southern Africa. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  7. ^ a b "Republic of Armenia, Hayastan". Operation World. Paternoster Lifestyle. 2001. Archived from the original on 23 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  8. ^ a b c U.S. State Department (2005). "Armenia International Religious Freedom Report 2004". The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affair. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  9. ^ Stauffer, Rob. "History of the House of Baha'u'llah in Tihran, Iran". Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  10. ^ Ferraby, John (1975). All Things Made New: A Comprehensive Outline of the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'í Distribution Service. ISBN 81-86953-01-9. 
  11. ^ "The Báb, Forerunner of Bahá'u'lláh". Bahá'í Topics. Bahá'í International Community. 2009. Archived from the original on 22 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  12. ^ "Baha'i Faith History in Azerbaijan". National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Azerbaijan. Retrieved 2008-12-22. 
  13. ^ a b Momen, Moojan. "History of the Baha'i Faith in Iran". draft "A Short Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith". Bahai-library.com. Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  14. ^ Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi (1997). "Education of women and socio-economic development". Baha'i Studies Review 7 (1). 
  15. ^ Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion 19: 63–91. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(89)90077-8. 
  16. ^ Universal House of Justice (1995). "Ridván 1995". Ridván Messages. Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  17. ^ Corley, Felix (2009-03-24). "ARMENIA: A "serious setback to the development of a modern, progressive and liberal Armenia"". Forum 18 News Service. Archived from the original on 9 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  18. ^ Corley, Felix (2009-02-09). "ARMENIA: Two years' imprisonment for organising sharing of faith?". Forum 18 News Service. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  19. ^ "Update on the Repression of Religious Freedom in Armenia". ISKCON Communications Journal 03 (01). July 1995. 
  20. ^ "[Baha’i Perspective 03.01.2008]". [Baha’i Perspective]. Season 2008. Episode March 1st. 03.01.2008.
  21. ^ "What's up in Armenia?". The HeyDay.com (Australian National Baha'i Youth Committee). Feb 2006. Archived from the original on July 2008. 
  22. ^ Bahá'í International Community (2009-03-01). "At the Kiev Regional conference". Bahá'í World News Service. 
  23. ^ "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 

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