Message from the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia
Message from the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia on the commemoration of the centenary of the arrival of the Baha'i Faith in Australia.
10 April 2020 (3 Jalal 177 B.E.)
Dearly cherished friends,
This is, indeed, an auspicious moment in our collective history. One hundred years ago today, Clara and John Henry Hyde Dunn arrived on our shores to plant the seeds of the Australian Baha'i Community. They arose, inspired by the call of the Beloved Master in His Tablets of the Divine Plan, armed with strength of spirit, confidence and reliance on God, undeterred by their age, health and relative poverty, to open our vast nation to the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. Thus they brought the Divine Teachings, destined to ultimately usher in peace and tranquillity for all humanity, to our "far-off continent."
The National Spiritual Assembly, alongside Local Spiritual Assemblies and agencies around the country, had hoped to celebrate this occasion together, with diverse and creative plans, including a special national service at the Continental House of Worship, a devotional gathering at the graveside of these two Hands of the Cause of God in Sutherland Shire, Sydney, and tours of sites around our nation that they had visited during their lives. Current world events mean that such gatherings must be postponed, but the joy and significance of this anniversary bring with them the opportunity to reflect on our past, our present and our future. We are also reminded of the spiritual foundations that our forebears planted here for us through their example, with qualities such as faith, courage, love, creativity and resilience.
Highlights abound in the evolution of the Baha'i Faith in Australia, which will be covered more fully in forthcoming publications. Prominent among them are the formation of the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand in 1934, and the contribution of First Nations people to our community, two of whom have served on the National Assembly to date. Three members of our community - Hyde Dunn, Clara Dunn and Collis Featherstone - were conferred the station of Hand of the Cause of God, with Clara Dunn herself placing plaster from Mah-Ku in the foundation of the Mother Temple of the Antipodes in 1958, before it was dedicated by Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum in 1961. Numerous Australian pioneers arose to serve both across our nation and in the Pacific and Asia, including many Knights of Baha'u'llah. We developed a strong educational process, strengthened by the donation of the Yerrinbool Centre of Learning, and contributed to the spiritual education of thousands of souls from the wider community through the children's education in state schools programme. Many of these individuals have reconnected with the Baha'i community as adults. The arrival of believers from the Cradle of the Faith blessed this nation with great diversity and closer connection with the Central Figures. We attracted national attention with our vibrant activities during the International Year of Peace. By 1994, the Australian Baha'i community was comprised of 80 ethnic and racial groups in 417 localities with over 190 Local Spiritual Assemblies.
Emerging from this solid foundation, in recent decades alongside all the countries of the world, we have strengthened our capacity to give practical expression to our belief in the principle of the oneness of humanity. Armed with a thriving institute process and the core activities it fosters, we have, in collaboration with thousands of our friends, continued to build neighbourhoods and communities founded on Baha'u'llah's vision of the unity of humankind. This inherent capacity for individual and collective transformation, through service to humanity, is being manifested in ever increasing numbers of diverse settings around our nation and is being recognised as a positive contribution to the society in which we live. Recent celebrations of the Bicentenaries of the Birth of the Twin Founders of the Baha'i Faith saw over 50,000 Australians participate, a testament to the power of these unity building endeavours, and their underlying spiritual principles.
Other examples of ways the Australian Baha'i community has contributed to building awareness of the oneness of humanity and the role individuals and institutions play are reflected in our increasing engagement with the Australian government, both to build support and understanding of the plight of Baha'is in countries such as Iran, Egypt and Yemen, and to contribute to discourse and influence thought in areas such as increasing social cohesion in our diverse cultural reality, enhancing the equality of women and men, the distinctive role of youth in building our community, environmental stability, the role of religion both in the advancement and development of society and its vital role in ensuring the wellbeing of the entire human race, and the role of the media in promoting peace and justice.
The Prime Minister of Australia, in recognition of the forthcoming Ridvan Celebration, recently wrote to the Australian Baha'i community saying: "The world is more in need than ever of the hope and strength of spirit that faith imparts. This year we also remember that April 2020 marks the centenary of the Baha'i community in Australia. Though small in number, you have contributed so much to our country. On this centenary, I thank you for your contribution to Australia."
'Abdu'l-Baha reminds us: "Look ye not upon the present, fix your gaze upon the times to come. In the beginning, how small is the seed, yet in the end it is a mighty tree. Look ye not upon the seed, look ye upon the tree, and its blossoms, and its leaves and its fruits." Starting from the seed planted a century ago, that foundational, transformative act of the Dunns, illumined by their spiritual consciousness, our community continues to grow in strength and capacity.
In a truly variegated nation, now characterised by diversity of race, culture, religion, temperament and interests, at the same time united and blessed by overwhelming natural beauty and resources, by many long years of peace, by a strong focus on education, justice and the inherent value of each individual, we stand in a unique position in these turbulent times to demonstrate our resilience, our generosity and our confidence in the glorious potential and future of mankind and to "call into being for all humankind, comfort and peace."
While, at this uncertain time, we may not be able to gather together in person, or travel long distances, we can pray for the wellbeing of all, we can look for new and creative ways to serve our neighbours and friends and continue the community building process. We invite each and every one of you to join the National Spiritual Assembly in offering prayers on this occasion and to continue to celebrate this Centenary throughout the year with the same creative approach and reliance on Divine Assistance demonstrated by our spiritual ancestors, Clara and Hyde Dunn.
We call to mind the words of the Beloved Master, written during another period of global crisis, World War 1, a few years prior to Clara and Hyde Dunn arising to pioneer to our shores, reminding us of our capacity, our destiny and the confident roles we must each play in the "steady march of humanity towards Peace, Justice and Harmony":
As for you, O ye lovers of God, make firm your steps in His Cause, with such resolve that ye shall not be shaken though the direst of calamities assail the world. By nothing, under no conditions, be ye perturbed. Be ye anchored fast as the high mountains, be stars that dawn over the horizon of life, be bright lamps in the gatherings of unity, be souls humble and lowly in the presence of the friends, be innocent in heart. Be ye symbols of guidance and lights of godliness, severed from the world, clinging to the handhold that is sure and strong, spreading abroad the spirit of life, riding the Ark of salvation. Be ye daysprings of generosity, dawning-points of the mysteries of existence, sites where inspiration alighteth, rising-places of splendours, souls that are sustained by the Holy Spirit, enamoured of the Lord, detached from all save Him, holy above the characteristics of humankind, clothed in the attributes of the angels of heaven, that ye may win for yourselves the highest bestowal of all, in this new time, this wondrous age.
With love and admiration for you today, as ever,
NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF THE BAHA'IS OF AUSTRALIA INC.
Anton Jones Secretary