O ye loved ones of God! The wine-cup of Heaven overfloweth, the banquet of God’s Covenant is bright with festive lights, the dawn of all bestowals is breaking, the gentle winds of grace are blowing, and out of the invisible world come good tidings of bounties and gifts. In flower-spangled meadows hath the divine springtime pitched its tents, and the spiritual are inhaling sweet scents from the Sheba of the spirit, carried their way by the east wind. Now doth the mystic nightingale carol its odes, and buds of inner meaning are bursting into blossoms delicate and fair…
Now is the east lit up with a glory, and the west rose-sweet, and all the earth is fragrant with ambergris, and the winds that blow over the Holy Shrine are laden with musk. Erelong shall ye see that even the darkest lands are bright, and the continents of Europe and Africa have turned into gardens of flowers, and forests of blossoming trees. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 254-256.
Africa has a great contribution to make to the future of world civilization, explains Professor Techeste Ahderom, representative of the Baha’i International Community’s (BIC) regional office in Africa.
The BIC is an international non-governmental organization representing the worldwide Baha’i community. Established in 1948, the BIC has offices at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, as well as regional offices in Brussels, and most recently Jakarta and Addis Ababa.
The establishment of the BIC Addis Ababa Office (BIC AAO) two years ago was a significant step forward in the Baha’i community’s efforts to contribute to the development and prosperity of the African continent. The BIC AAO works in collaboration with governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental entities operating on the African stage for the betterment of society.
“We are interested in learning about those burning questions of the African people and our society as well as the issues that the African Union has formally identified as central to the progress of the continent,” says Prof. Ahderom.
“Institutions and governments are saying, ‘We will silence all guns in Africa’ and ‘Without peace there can be no development.’ But beyond these expressed hopes, we need to learn what these ideas mean in practice and how to achieve them.”
In this context, working with the African Union has been especially important for the BIC Office. The African Union is an organization which aims to achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and citizens.
In January of 2015, the BIC was one of only fifteen faith-based organizations invited to contribute to the African Union’s “Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want,” a visionary document approved by African leaders. Agenda 2063 provides a vision and strategy for the continent’s future. It captures the widespread aspirations of the African people to end conflict, establish freedom to pass across borders, realize the rights of women and children, and ensure that prosperity is shared across all populations.
“It was very interesting to note that what they intend to achieve in 50 years’ time is very much aligned with the vision of the Baha’i Faith—no more wars, conflicts settled, peace in a full sense,” said Prof. Ahderom. “Women will play their rightful role in society. And people will be able to travel across borders without problems.”
“There are understandably those who have a deep skepticism and are detractors, but we do not feel that this is the right attitude.”
One of the exciting developments of the last two years is that the BIC AAO has been able to work with a number of associates drawn from Baha’i communities across the continent, as the Office has focused its energies on engaging in some of the most critical issues facing Africa now: the environment and climate change, inequalities between the materially rich and poor, the equality of women and men, financing for development, universal education, and of course peace and security.
The BIC AAO believes that the long-term goals of Agenda 2063 can only be achieved with a commitment to the education of African children and youth. To this end, the Office has chosen to participate in venues dealing with this vital subject and was invited to address participants at the annual Day of the African Child event in June.
“Children’s education is a long-term strategy for the African continent. If at an early stage children can be taught the principles of the oneness of humanity and unity in diversity, if intellectual capacity can be cultivated with spiritual qualities, then we can build the future we want,” stated the BIC in a presentation at the event.
Commenting further on the topic, Prof. Ahderom says, “The long term goal of education and equality in Africa will be built one brick at a time. The short term goal is to end conflict, but the long term vision is to build.
“Contributing to the constructive processes in Africa is what Baha’i communities are trying to do as well. We are also early in this process, still at the learning stages.”
Looking into the future, Prof. Ahderom is very optimistic. “Yes there are challenges to be sure, some of the most tremendous challenges. But Africa also has the resources, the ingenuity, and the heart not only to address them but to be a light to the rest of the world.
“This is the BIC’s vision for Africa.”