As communities in Africa prepare for the upcoming bicentenary of the birth of the Bab celebrations, a diversity of efforts are bringing into focus the significance of the historic anniversary.
Creative projects, energizing planning gatherings, and endeavors to share accounts about the life of the Bab are occurring in the months before the celebrations.
In Kenya, a film team has been traveling the country and interviewing people about the Faith’s history there. The filmmakers have recorded conversations with some of the first Baha’is in Kenya, many of whom were attracted to the teachings of Baha’u’llah and the Bab several decades ago. In reflecting on the history of the Faith in their own country, these interviewees have also been recalling the early history of the Faith during the time of the Bab, said Edward Amaya, one of the filmmakers working on the project.
“In the process of recording these interviews, we have been joined by younger friends who are now seeing how to include these elder believers in the bicentenary celebrations,” Mr. Amaya explained.
One Kenyan Baha’i, currently living in Mombasa and who, as a young person, led a Baha’i choir, is now teaching younger people songs about the life and teachings of the Bab. Slightly up the coast in Kilifi, two older residents who are unable to attend celebrations at the distant Baha’i center offered their homes to host the bicentenary celebrations.
In other countries, traditional chiefs have been participating in a constructive dialogue about applying the Baha’i teachings in their villages. At one such gathering in the Plateaux region of the Central African Republic, chiefs also met to study Baha’i writings about prayer, life and death, and other topics. In the Western Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, traditional chiefs, who draw on the Baha’i teachings to administer their villages, discussed the transformative power of Baha’u’llah’s revelation.
Groups of young adults are also gathering to reflect on their role in society today. In South Africa, several hundred youth, engaged in serving their communities, gathered in recent months to study and make plans to further contribute to the life of their societies.
“The youth can see themselves serving their community, and this vision is becoming clearer,” explained Mlingane Poswayo, who works with a group of youth in the Mamelodi township of Pretoria, South Africa. For example, young adults are supporting each other to make strong moral choices while some are also arising to support groups of younger youth in studying and undertaking projects to improve life in their community.
More than 1,000 young people are expected to participate in a series of special local gatherings next month throughout South Africa, Mr. Poswayo added.
Young people in Kigali, Rwanda, have also been meeting at a weekly youth night to prepare for the bicentenary, turning their focus recently to developing the skill of storytelling. “It’s a space the youth love and enjoy,” said Nasim Parsa, who helps organize the youth nights. “They’re building closer friendships and are inspired. As we read about these young people in the history of the Faith, it also helps us to reflect on our lives and our choices.”
Energizing gatherings have also been occurring for participants to reflect on their communities and ways to be of service generously. In Cameroon, hundreds of people have attended eight such conferences throughout the country, enabling participants to “have meaningful conversations about participating in the preparations and celebrations of the bicentenary of the birth of the Bab,” explained Alidu Wirba of Cameroon’s Baha’i community.
The Baha’i World News Service is publishing a series of articles about preparations for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bab.