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A unifying and festive ceremony marked the groundbreaking of the local Baha’i House of Worship for the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
About 2,000 people were joined by representatives of the national government and members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the country for Sunday’s ceremony, which was held on the Temple site in the town of Lenakel.
“This House of Worship will be a place for joy and delight, a collective center for the hearts of all people, a place that will unite us all, a place where we will chant the words of God,” said Annick Nakal Nanua, a member of the country’s Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly. Speaking about the decades-long history of the development of the Baha’i community in Vanuatu, she continued, “Today we are not just celebrating the groundbreaking, but also celebrating a significant milestone of a process that began many, many years ago.”
Government and traditional leaders recognized the significance of the occasion and expressed their gratitude to the Universal House of Justice for choosing Tanna as the site of a Baha’i Temple. Many senior officials attended Sunday’s ceremony, including Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu and all 17 members of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs.
“This Temple will symbolize what we wish to see in Vanuatu in the years to come, which is peace and unity among us all, irrespective of belief,” noted Minister Regenvanu. “This is what we need in Vanuatu.”
Paul Windie, the vice president of the Tafea Provincial Council, also addressed the audience: “In our culture when a person—child or adult—wishes to find peace, he or she takes shelter under a banyan tree. This House of Worship provides us a place where we can meditate deeply about our spiritual reality. This is where an individual makes a spiritual connection with God.”
“The House of Worship is where an individual listens to his or her soul,” he commented.
Following prayers, speeches, and celebratory dances, the gathering culminated with the official breaking of the ground. A traditional wooden spade, called a kakel, was passed from representatives of the local and national Baha’i communities and eventually to Minister Regenvanu and the president of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Willie Plasua. Standing before the gathering’s attendees under the hot midday sun, the two national leaders together drove the kakel into the earth.
Local chiefs had presented the kakel to the Baha’i community in a customary ceremony the day before to honor the eight tribes of Tanna that together offered the land for the Temple.
One of the traditional chiefs, Allan Dan of the Nalu people, spoke on behalf of the eight tribes that unitedly offered the land. “This sacred project will be the source of harmony and will ensure our region will have healthy growth, where the material and the spiritual are in harmony.”The Universal House of Justice first announced in 2012 that Tanna would be home to one of five local Temples to be built around the world. In July 2017, the Temple’s design was unveiled in a festive and galvanizing ceremony. In a 2014 message, the House of Justice highlighted Tanna as an example of a community where an entire population is moving toward a vision of material and spiritual prosperity, for which Baha’is around the world are striving.