Bahá'í Faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The Bahá'í Faith in Bosnia and Herzegovina begins with mention by `Abdu'l-Bahá,[1] then head of the religion, of Austria-Hungary which Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of at the time. Between the World Wars when Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of Yugoslavia, several members of Yugoslavian royalty had contact with prominent members of the religion.[2] During the period of Communism in Yugoslavia, the first member of the Bahá'í Faith was in 1963 and the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was formed in 1990.[3] With the Yugoslavian civil war and separation into Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bahá'ís had not elected a Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly[3] but do have a small population in a few regions in the country.[4]

Early days[edit]

Before 1918, the regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. `Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the members of the religion in the United States in 1916-1917; these letters were compiled together in the book Tablets of the Divine Plan. The seventh of the tablets mentioned European regions and was written on April 11, 1916, but was delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919—after the end of the First World War and the Spanish flu. The seventh tablet was translated and presented on April 4, 1919, and published in Star of the West magazine on December 12, 1919 and mentioned Austria-Hungary.[1] He says:

"In brief, this world-consuming war has set such a conflagration to the hearts that no word can describe it. In all the countries of the world the longing for universal peace is taking possession of the consciousness of men. There is not a soul who does not yearn for concord and peace. A most wonderful state of receptivity is being realized.… Therefore, O ye believers of God! Show ye an effort and after this war spread ye the synopsis of the divine teachings in the British Isles, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Portugal, Rumania, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino, Balearic Isles, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, Crete, Malta, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides and Orkney Islands."[5]

From 1918 to the 1990s Bosnia and Herzegovina were part of Yugoslavia. Before World War II Yugoslavia continued to be ruled by monarchs and among them there was awareness of the Bahá'í Faith. In July, 1938, Marie of Edinburgh, a member of the religion[6] and Queen of Rumania, died. A message of condolence was communicated, in the name of all Bahá’í communities in East and West, to her daughter, Maria of Romania, then Queen of Yugoslavia, to which she replied expressing “sincere thanks to all of Bahá’u’lláh’s followers.”[2] Later Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, on being informed of the death of Hand of the Cause Martha Root in 1939, remarked “She was so kind and gentle, and a real worker for peace. I am sure she will be sadly missed in her work.”[2]

Following the disruption of World War II and oppression during the early period of communism (see for example what happened to the much larger Bahá'í community in Turkmenistan) the first member of the Bahá'í Faith in Yugoslavia was an isolated Bahá'í in Belgrade who converted to the religion in 1963.[3]


Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women,[7] promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern,[8] and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.[7] The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released.[9] 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. However in the Soviet Block the Bahá'ís had all but disappeared. With the relaxation of the restrictions of Communism through Perestroyka, Yugoslavia's first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly was established in November 1990 in Belgrade[3] though the World Christian Encyclopedia maintained there were no Bahá'ís in the country then.[10] By 1998 Yugoslavia was torn by civil war and did not have a Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly.[3] Activities increased with a burgeoning community of Bahá'ís. In 2001, Bahá'í youth gathered for a dance workshop (see Oscar DeGruy) in Zenica[11] By 2003 Bahá’ís had organized Bosnia and Herzegovina into 17 subregions, and four of these contained at least one Bahá'í and a few Ruhi Institute study circles were operating.[4] Despite this, the Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) still estimated there were no Bahá'ís in the country.[12]

Modern community[edit]

The small community of Baha'is of Bosnia and Herzegovina has continued to have a presence in events beyond the confines of the country. In November 2004 membership of Baha'i inspired General Assembly of the International Environment Forum lists one member.[13] In February 2008 the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina aligned themselves with the declaration of the President of Slovenia on behalf of the European Union on the deteriorating situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran.[14] See Persecution of Bahá'ís.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Abbas, `Abdu'l-Bahá; Mirza Ahmad Sohrab; trans. and comments (April 1919). Tablets, Instructions and Words of Explanation. 
  2. ^ a b c Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 389, 395. ISBN 0-87743-020-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hassall, Graham; Fazel, Seena. "100 Years of the Bahá'í Faith in Europe". Bahá'í Studies Review. 1998 (8). pp. 35–44. 
  4. ^ a b Committee for International Pioneering and Travel Teaching (January 2003). "Report of the Committee for International Pioneering and Travel Teaching" (PDF). Bahá'í Journal of the Bahá'í Community of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 19 (07). 
  5. ^ `Abdu'l-Bahá (1991) [1916-17]. Tablets of the Divine Plan (Paperback ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 43. ISBN 0-87743-233-3. 
  6. ^ Pakula, Hannah (1985). The last romantic: a biography of Queen Marie of Romania. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 337. ISBN 0-297-78598-2. 
  7. ^ a b Momen, Moojan. "History of the Baha'i Faith in Iran". draft "A Short Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith". Retrieved 2009-10-16. 
  8. ^ Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi (1997). "Education of women and socio-economic development". Baha'i Studies Review. 7 (1). 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "adherent statistic citations". Bahai Faith, continued... Archived from the original on 3 October 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  11. ^ Bahá'í International Community. "Worldwide Community, National Communities". Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bahá'í International Community. Retrieved 2008-10-31. 
  12. ^ "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  13. ^ "SUMMARY REPORT". Orlando, Florida, USA: National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. 2005-12-16. Archived from the original on 2008-10-13.  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help); |contribution= ignored (help)
  14. ^ "Declaration by the Presidency on behalf of the European Union on the deteriorating situation of the religious minority Baha’i in Iran" (Press release). Office of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union. 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 

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