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Construction of the national Baha’i House of Worship in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was inaugurated on Sunday with a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of the future temple and broadcast on national television.
Situated on the outskirts of Kinshasa, the site was host to government officials, representatives of religious communities, and traditional chiefs. At the same time, celebrations were held across the vast country as countless people joined in prayer to mark this important milestone.
The National Spiritual Assembly, in a letter written for the occasion, says that the House of Worship embodies the essential elements of the Baha’i concept of worship and service, “both so vital to the regeneration of the world. Therein lies the secret of the loftiness, the potency, and the unique position of the House of Worship as one of the most outstanding institutions conceived by Baha’u’llah. … The ceremony today has great significance, comparable to the sowing of a seed in the soil in the hope of seeing it grow and, before long, produce the most valuable fruits.”
The arrival of this long-awaited moment and what it represents has stirred communities throughout the country. Bashilwango Mbaleeko, secretary of the Regional Baha’i Council of South Kivu, explains that although people throughout the vast country of the DRC are physically distant from the site, the spirit of oneness already emanating from that spot is fueling their efforts to serve their society with greater intensity. “Every step of progress has been celebrated across South Kivu and the country. We see the rise of this edifice as an outcome of decades of efforts toward social transformation.”
Lavoisier Mutombo Tshiongo, the secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the DRC, says that the presence of diverse people at the event signifies the unifying role of a House of Worship. “This is not only a Baha’i place of worship, it is a House of Worship for everyone to offer prayers to their Creator. This temple will be the embodiment of unity and represents a new milestone in the development of Congolese society. In one of His writings, Abdu’l-Baha has said that raising up such places of worship will allow people ‘to gather together, and, harmoniously attuned one to another, engage in prayer; with the result that out of this coming together, unity and affection shall grow and flourish in the human heart.’”
The immense impact of prayer on the patterns of community life was discussed by traditional chiefs in the Western Kasai region who had gathered on Friday to reflect on the House of Worship. Chief Bope Ngokadi of Mpempe village said, “We see in the Baha’i devotional gatherings the involvement of diverse people; we are all walking together in unity. Praying has brought a positive impact, the village has changed. I have changed.
“People who were always in conflict and not talking together are now together in harmony. The power of the Word of God is immense. This is what has united those who were in conflict.
“Even as the chief of this locality I was not always united with other officials, but we have become so through devotional gatherings. This is what has allowed us to live as one community. This is what the House of Worship represents.”
The groundbreaking ceremony coincided with the Baha’i Holy Day celebrating the Birth of the Bab. Current health guidelines allowed for a beautiful gathering to take place with the necessary protective measures. The ceremony, which was broadcast online through a live stream and covered on national TV news channels, culminated with the laying of a symbolic first stone on the spot where the new edifice will rise.
Plans to build a national House of Worship were announced in 2012. Since then the Baha’is of the DRC have been identifying architects and a suitable site for this unique structure.
This House of Worship is one of several Baha’i temples under construction around the world, each with a unique design that reflects the unifying roles of worship and service. The design of the House of Worship in Kinshasa is inspired by traditional artworks, structures and natural features of the DRC. The image of the Congo River, whose tributaries gather rain from every part of the country into one great stream, symbolizes a coming together and uniting of the world and is expressed through the patterns that will adorn the outside of the dome in a style reminiscent of the artwork of various Congolese peoples.