Bahá'í Faith in Hong Kong
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Hong Kong’s history as crown colony of the United Kingdom and then a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China has given it a unique history – a history that has impacted the structure and growth of the Bahá'í Faith there. Of course the cataclysm of the World Wars and other major events impacted the Bahá'í community there as it did the citizenry generally. In 2005 the Association of Religion Data Archives (relying mostly on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated the Bahá'í population of Hong Kong at about 1100.
As a commercial center and relatively open city even in the 1870s, Hong Kong became a location where non-Chinese Bahá'ís could settle and earn a living in trade or other commercial activities. The first Bahá'í in China was recorded as having lived in Shanghai in 1862 with that individual moving to Hong Kong in 1870. He was joined by his brother and they established a trading company.
In the period 1881–1882 a nephew of the wife of the Báb resided in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong was a frequent transit stop throughout the early 1900s for western Bahá'ís travelling to China and other parts of Asia. Martha Root was chief among these starting in 1924 and on several subsequent trips. In Hong Kong she met with editors, librarians, and the president of the university. She spoke on radio, at the Hong Kong University and had several press articles in local papers.
Association with so many Bahá'ís from other lands gave heart to the Hong Kong Bahá'í expatriate community and demonstrated to the first Hong Kong Bahá'ís the reality of the global community of which they had become a part.
Charles Duncan, Knight of Bahá'u'lláh to Brunei, recorded of this period that pioneers moved there and that slowly a community was built in Hong Kong consisting of longtime residents. They were of Chinese, Indian, British and Southeast Asian backgrounds. He indicated there was a constant stream of Bahá'í visitors from abroad.
Starting in 1953 there was a concerted effort to establish a permanent community of Bahá'ís in Hong Kong and with dedicated efforts this was accomplished by the mid1950s.
The enrolment of four new members allowed the Hong Kong Bahá'ís to form their first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly in 1956. The Local Spiritual Assembly was registered with the Hong Kong government as a society on 29 May 1958, then incorporated in 1969. These were transferred to the National Spiritual Assembly when it was formed in 1974. At the beginning of 1957 there were 14 members in the Hong Kong Bahá'í community.
From 1957 until 1974 Hong Kong was under the administration of the Regional Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia whose jurisdiction included Japan, Korea, Formosa, Macau, Hong Kong, Hainan Island and Sakhalin Island.
The Hong Kong and Macau Bahá'í communities had a close relationship fostered by their proximity and similar circumstances. They were jointly administered in this period until Macau established its own National Spiritual Assembly in 1989 – firstly by the Regional Spiritual Assembly, and later under the National Spiritual Assembly of Hong Kong.
By 1961 there were approximately 60 Bahá'ís in Hong Kong and three Local Spiritual Assemblies. Much of the growth was assisted by pioneers of Chinese background from the Malaysian Bahá'í community who could best help with contacts and support with the Chinese community living in Hong Kong. Hong Kong established a Bahá'í Centre which officially opened in August 1968. It housed the secretariat, and had live-in facilities as well as having a room for study classes and public meetings.
By 1974 there were five local assemblies in Hong Kong and the Universal House of Justice decided it was time for the Hong Kong Bahá'ís to establish a National Spiritual Assembly. The formation of the national assembly was the culmination of efforts commenced by Bahá'ís some 104 years before and a cause for great celebration in the Bahá'í communities of Hong Kong and elsewhere.
In the years since the formation of the national assembly, the Hong Kong Bahá'í community continued to expand. By 1979 they had grown to ten local assemblies and a total of twenty-six localities. By 1991 there were twenty-two local assemblies in Hong Kong.
[ Updates for 2010 requested ]
Despite the agreement to transfer sovereignty of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997 and its designation as a special administrative region (SAR) (but with the retention of many unique governmental systems for at least 50 years), the position of the Bahá'í administration in Hong Kong – its administration, membership and communities – in the context of local laws has remained unchanged. The "National" Spiritual Assembly is now referred to as the “Spiritual Assembly” or “Main Spiritual Assembly” in Chinese and still retains jurisdiction over the Local Spiritual Assemblies in Hong Kong. It is elected from the generality of Bahá'í residents in the community of Hong Kong SAR.
Like numerous communities around the world, the Hong Kong Bahá'í Community undertakes community-building activities in the Hong Kong SAR. These consist of: “meetings that strengthen the devotional character of the community; classes that nurture the tender hearts and minds of children; groups that channel the surging energies of junior youth; circles of study, open to all, that enable people of varied backgrounds to advance on equal footing and explore the application of the teachings to their individual and collective lives."
The Hong Kong Bahá'í Community, together with the Macau Bahá'í Community, frequently act as liaison and contact points with the Government of the People's Republic of China since there is no administrative structure for the Bahá'í Faith operating in mainland China.
The Hong Kong Bahá'í Community has also been involved with exchanges, conferences and events with government, academic, and non-governmental organisations that explore the application of the Bahá'í teachings to the advancement of society. It also leads events and activities that promote religious and societal unity and advancement (such as the annual commemoration of World Religion Day which "call(s) attention to the harmony of the various religions’ spiritual principles and to emphasize that religion is the motivating force for world unity.")
- "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- Hassall, Graham (January 2000). The Bahá'í Faith in Hong Kong, Bahá'í Academic Library http://bahai-library.com/hassall_bahai_hong_kong
- Garis, M.R. (1983). Martha Root: Lioness at the Threshold. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.
- Datwani, Lachmi, (in collaboration with Mrs. Rose Ong). The Challenging years – Early history of the Bahai Faith in Hong Kong. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Hong Kong)
- Sims, Barbara R. (1991) “The Macau Bahá'í Community in the Early Years”, http://bahai-library.com/east-asia/macau/
- Universal House of Justice, “To the Baha’is of the World”, Ridvan 2010
- Baha'is of the United States website, http://www.bahai.us/world-religion-day
- David A. Palmer (2012). "From "Congregations" to "Small Group Community Building"". Chinese Sociological Review. 45 (2): 78–98. doi:10.2753/CSA2162-0555450205. ISSN 2162-0563.