Bahá'í Faith in Denmark

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The Bahá'í Faith in Denmark began in 1925, but it was more than 20 years before the Bahá'í community in Denmark began to grow after the arrival of American Bahá'í pioneers in 1946. Following that period of growth, the community established its Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly in 1962. In 2002, Bahá'í sources indicate about 300 Bahá'ís were recorded, including both Iranian Bahá'í refugees and Danish converts.[1] The Association of Religion Data Archives (relying mostly on the World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 1200 Bahá'ís in 2005.[2]

Early history[edit]

`Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan[edit]

`Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of the founder of the religion, wrote a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916–1917; these letters were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan. The seventh of the tablets was the first to mention several countries in Europe including beyond where `Abdu'l-Bahá had visited in 1911–12. Written on April 11, 1916, it was delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919 — after the end of World War I and the Spanish flu. World traveling Bahá'í journalist Martha Root subsequently visited King Haakon VII of Norway among her many trips.[3] The seventh tablet was translated and presented by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab on April 4, 1919, and published in Star of the West magazine on December 12, 1919.[4]

"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]

Following the release of these tablets a few Bahá'ís began moving to Scandinavian countries:

  • August Rudd became the first Bahá'í pioneer in Scandinavia (Sweden) in 1920.[6]
  • Johanna Schubartt moved to the United States and learned of the Bahá'í Faith from May Maxwell, Ruhiyyih Khanum's mother, in 1919 and returned to Norway in 1927.[7]
  • Johanne Sørensen, a Dane, became a Bahá'í while in the Territory of Hawaii in 1925. Returning to Denmark in the same year, she was the country's first Bahá'í, though there would be no others for more than 20 years perhaps in part due to her introverted personality.[1] During those years she was involved with translating, or seeing to translations being done, and corresponded in over 100 letters with Shoghi Effendi, then the head of the religion, about the translation work. In 1926 Sørensen published a translation credited as a work of John Esslemont's the year after his death.[8] She then translated John Esslemont's Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era which drew approving academic review. But there were no other converts to the religion during this early period. Sørensen remained active in her translation work until the community elected a Local Spiritual Assembly which then held the authority for the community's translating endeavours.

Period of Pioneers[edit]

Baha'i pioneers (circa 1956)

Starting in 1946, following World War II, Shoghi Effendi drew up plans for the American (US and Canada) Bahá'í community to send pioneers to Europe including Denmark; the pioneers set up a European Teaching Committee chaired by Edna True. Prominent members of the committee included the women Dagmar Dole and Elenoir Holliboaugh who arrived in Denmark in 1947 and who helped establish Denmark's first Bahá'í community[1] wirh the first converts in Denmark – May Vestby and Palle Bischoff.[9] Bischoff later pioneered to Greenland. Many of the early converts were supporters of the Det Radikale Venstre political party as part of a modern liberal outlook. From 1948 to 1952 thirty eight individuals converted to the Bahá'í Faith and none withdrew. In 1949 the first Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assembly in the country was elected in Copenhagen,[10] and in 1950 the Danish community hosted a number of continent-wide European Bahá'í events though still having about 50 Bahá'ís in the community. One of these meetings was a Conference coordinating pioneers to several places in Norway.[11] Some credit the success of the American pioneers in Denmark to the Danes being attracted to their "cultural style" – "emancipated, independent, and idealistic".[12] In 1957 Denmark, Scandinavia and Finland together formed a regional Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly.[13]


Protester strains under weight of Vietnamese flag carried in anti-war march in West Berlin, 1969.

In 1960, shortly after the death of Shoghi Effendi and the culminating period of the Ten Year Crusade, which was an international Bahá'í teaching plan, Denmark became the home of some Iranian Bahá'ís, increasing the community's population to over 60,[1] and the Danish National Spiritual Assembly was formed in 1962.[12] In the wake of the 1968-9 cultural changes across Europe including youth movements, war and environmental issues protests.[14] most Bahá'í communities experienced sizable growth; from 1971 to 1974 the community nearly doubled. By 1979 the community's progressing organization of assemblies and petitioning, lead to government recognition of the Bahá'í Faith as a legal institution with privileges, including the authority to grant marriages.[1] In 1979 with the Iranian Revolution and its severe persecution of Bahá'ís, which continues past 2007,[15][16] many thousands of Iranian Bahá'ís fled the country and the portion that came to Denmark almost doubled the community's population again.[1]

Modern community[edit]

Since its inception the religion has had involvement in socio-economic development beginning by giving greater freedom to women,[17] promulgating the promotion of female education as a priority concern,[18] and that involvement was given practical expression by creating schools, agricultural coops, and clinics.[17] The religion entered a new phase of activity when a message of the Universal House of Justice dated 20 October 1983 was released.[19] 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. Though a small proportion in a nation of over 5 million, yet in 1995 when Denmark hosted the United Nations World Summit for Social Development the Bahá'ís participated in an NGO contribution to the Summit as well as to the NGO-Forum held alongside.[1][20] Additionally the Bahá'is of Denmark are an object of academic study by University of Copenhagen Professor Margit Warburg and her students.[21]


As of 2002 there are local estimates there are some 300 Bahá'ís in Denmark, and the community has also spread beyond Copenhagen into the countryside and rural provinces. It has been shown that there is a mix of liberal and conservative world views among the Bahá'ís of the Denmark community from academic study.[22] However, the Association of Religion Data Archives (relying on World Christian Encyclopedia) estimated some 1,251 Bahá'ís in 2005.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Warburg, Margit (2004). Peter Smith, ed. Bahá'ís in the West. Kalimat Press. pp. 228–63. ISBN 1-890688-11-8. 
  2. ^ a b "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  3. ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1944). God Passes By. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 388. ISBN 0-87743-020-9. 
  4. ^ Abbas, 'Abdu'l-Bahá; Mirza Ahmad Sohrab; trans. and comments (April 1919). Tablets, Instructions and Words of Explanation. 
  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. ^ Collins, William (1982). Moojan Momen, ed. Studies in Babi and Baha'i History, volumes 1, chapter: Kenosha, 1893–1912: History of an Early Bahá'í Community in the United States. Kalimat Press. p. 248. ISBN 1-890688-45-2. 
  7. ^ National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Norway (2008-03-25). "Johanna Schubarth". Official Website of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Norway. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Norway. Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  8. ^ MacEoin, Denis; William Collins. "Principles". The Babi and Baha'i Religions: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press's ongoing series of Bibliographies and Indexes in Religious Studies. Archived from the original on 15 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-12. 
  9. ^ Cameron, G.; Momen, W. (1996). A Basic Bahá'í Chronology. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. pp. 275, 282. ISBN 0-85398-404-2. 
  10. ^ Dr. Ahmadi. "Baha'i timeline". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  11. ^ van den Hoonaard, Will C. (1994-03-09). "Baha'i Faith in Circumpolar Regions (Arctic)". draft of "A Short Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith". Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 2008-12-21. 
  12. ^ a b Hassall, Graham; Fazel, Seena. "100 Years of the Bahá'í Faith in Europe". Bahá’í Studies Review. 1998 (8). pp. 35–44. 
  13. ^ Hassall, Graham; Universal House of Justice. "National Spiritual Assemblies statistics 1923–1999". Assorted Resource Tools. Bahá'í Library Online. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  14. ^ Rootes, Christopher. "1968 and the Environmental Movement in Europe." [1] Retrieved 02-2008
  15. ^ UN Doc. E/CN.4/1993/41, Commission on Human Rights, 49th session, 28 January 1993, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, paragraph 310.
  16. ^ Human Rights Watch (2006-06-06). "Iran: Scores Arrested in Anti-Baha'i Campaign". Human Rights News. Retrieved 2006-10-20. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi (1997). "Education of women and socio-economic development". Baha'i Studies Review. 7 (1). 
  19. ^ Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion. 19 (1): 63–91. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(89)90077-8. 
  20. ^ Boyles, Ann (1994–1995). Bahá'í International Community, eds. The Bahá'í World; Bahá'ís and the Arts: Language of the Heart. pp. 243–272. 
  21. ^ van den Hoonaard, Will C. "A bibliography of sociological or anthropological studies on the contemporary Baha'i Community". Bahá'í Library Online: see entries 17, 18, 41, 55, 56. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  22. ^ Warburg, Margit (1999). "Baha'i: A Religious Approach to Globalization". Social Compas. 46 (1). pp. 47–56. doi:10.1177/003776899046001005. 

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