Bahá'í Faith in Liberia
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The Bahá'í Faith in Liberia begins with the entrance of the first member of the religion in 1952 and the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly in 1958 in Monrovia. By the end of 1963 there were five assemblies and Liberian Bahá'ís elected their first National Spiritual Assembly in 1975. Hosting various conferences through the '70's the community was somewhat disrupted by the First Liberian Civil War with some refugees going to Côte d'Ivoire in 1990 and the re-establishment of the National Spiritual Assembly in 1998. Third parties invited the modern Bahá'í community into their dialogues in the country while Bahá'ís have continued their work supporting a private Bahá'í school, the Bahá'í Academy and a private radio station. The Association of Religion Data Archives(relying mostly on the World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 11,691 Bahá'ís in 2005.
In 1916-1917 `Abdu'l-Bahá, then head of the religion, wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States and Canada asking the followers of the religion to travel to regions of Africa; these letters were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan. The publication was delayed until 1919 in Star of the West magazine on December 12, 1919 after the end of World War I and the Spanish flu.
Particular plans to bring the religion to Uganda began in 1950 involving the cooperation of American, British, Egyptian, and Persian Bahá'í communities and reached a level of coordination and detail that materials were translated into languages widely used in Africa before pioneers reached Africa. Wide scale growth in the religion across Sub-Saharan Africa was observed to begin in the 1950s and extend in the 1960s. In 1952, American William Fosterpioneered to Liberia as the first presence of the religion in the country and began a Bahá'í school named the Bahá'í Academy. Granadan Hermione Vera Keens-Douglas Edwards and Jamaican Julius Edwards (Knight of Bahá'u'lláh for Ghana in 1953) moved to Liberia and Foster and others helped form the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly in 1958 in Monrovia. Mrs. Edwards served for many years under the Continental Board of Counsellors for Africa. In 1959 Muhammad Mustafa traveled to Liberia and was commissioned to explain some Muslim concerns about the Bahá'í Faith. This was ultimately published as Mustafa, Muhammad. Laura M. Herzog, ed. Baha'u'llah: The Great Announcement of the Qur'an. Rowshan Mustafa (trans.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Baha'i Publishing Trust. There was a second assembly in Bomi Hills (see Tubmanburg) before 1963.
In 1956, the western African region with about 1000 Bahá'ís was organized into the regional National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North-West Africa including Tunisia, Algeria, the various Moroccos and Cameroons, Togolands, the Gold Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Madeira, the Canary Island, Cape Verde Islands, and St. Thomas Island. At this time the Bahá'ís in Liberia had an endowment or a national center in Bomi Hills By the end of 1963 there were assemblies in Bomi Hills, Harper City, Pleebo, Gboweta, and Monrovia. There were smaller groups of Bahá'ís in the a district of Gbarnga, Mano River Camp and Totota. Individual Bahá'ís lived in Belefania, Gbarma, another district of Gbarnga, Harbel, Kakata, Knowoke, Lazamai, Soboreke, Suakoko, and districts of Webbo. In 1967, the Bahá'í marriage ceremony was accepted in Liberia. And Enoch Olinga also had a large influence on growth of the community including witnessing the first election of the National Spiritual Assembly in 1975.
In 1971, the Bahá'ís of Liberia hosted one of the Continental Conferences called for by the Universal House of Justice. The Bahá'í Faith was a recognized part of the intellectual milieu at the University of Liberia in the early 1970s. The community hosted a West African Bahá'í Women's Conference held at the University of Liberia in December 1978. However, between the First and Second Liberian Civil War stretching from 1989 to 2003, some 200 Liberian Bahá'í refuguees fled to Côte d'Ivoire in 1990 and there re-elected Local Assemblies, established regular Bahá'í meetings, invested the equivalent of $20 in order to buy tools for gardens and fish ponds and by ??? about 1,000 Bahá'ís and 25 Local Assemblies in the area. The use of folk art was mentioned as one reason for growth in the community - Liberian Bahá'ís had established a Light of Unity Project for promoting the arts. and Bahá'í radio stations of which Liberia has one.
Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women, promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern, and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics. The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released. 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. Worldwide 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. While Liberia was still in civil war Bahá'ís continued to be active in and near Liberia. In 2000 a Bahá'í was among the volunteers that gave relief to refugees in Ghana. In 2002, Kathleen and Brannon Underwood pioneered in Liberia for a short time. Brannon had just retired in 2002 from a 30-year career as a professor of rehabilitation counseling in the master's program at South Carolina State University. In 2005 the United States Embassy in Liberia supported a panel discussion among religious leaders from the Islamic, Christian, and Bahá'í faiths. In 2007, the Liberian Better Future Foundation (BFF), in collaboration with the United Nations Refugee Agency, invited Bahá'í youth to be among the participants in a two-day interfaith leadership workshop in Jacob Town and Chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly in 2007, James Peabody spoke to the assemblage.
In 2004, Kathleen Underwood returned to serve as principal of the K-12 Bahá'í Academy, which was on the verge of closing. It was broke, needed to repair the roof and didn't have the means necessary to secure a license from the ministry of education have no textbooks relying solely on their instructors for information. Near the end of their studies, students must pass the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) which is administered by the West African Examinations Council. Each day the students participate in Formation, which includes the raising of the Liberian Flag, morning prayer and the recitation of the pledge to their flag.
A small percentage of the Liberian population is Bahá'í, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or atheist. The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 11,691 Bahá'ís in 2005.
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