Celebrating 60 Years of the Baha’i Faith in Samoa

The first Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Samoa, 1957.

The first Baha’i Local Spiritual Assembly in Samoa, 1957. (Photo: Lilian Ala’i)

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the Baha’i Faith in Samoa, and last week the Baha’is and their friends got together to celebrate – and there’s a lot to celebrate about!

Besides being a part of what Shoghi Effendi calls The Spiritual Axis, Samoa is recognised as the first nation in the world where the reigning monarch, His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II, accepted the message of Baha’u’llah and became a Baha’i. His Highness was already aware of the Baha’i Faith, however in 1968, after the “Proclamation to the Kings” by Baha’u’llah was presented to him by visiting Hand of the Cause Dr. Ugo Giachery on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, the king declared his belief in Baha’u’llah.

Recalling the early days of the Faith in Samoa, His Highness had once said:

My brother (High Chief Savea, a retired judge) knew so much about the Baha’i teachings. He was the first of us to study this new religion. During the early years of independence we witnessed many denominations being established, but the Baha’i Faith was so different, its teachings, its approach to people, its concern for the meek and lowly, its lack of interest in worldly things, its regenerating spirit. I was readily attracted.

In 1971 the Universal House of Justice wrote of His Highness Susuga Malietoa Tanumafili II:

Seldom have we been as deeply touched as we were by the evident sincerity and abiding faith of this man who occupies a station to which Baha’u’llah has assigned so high a rank.

King-and-Ruhiyyeh Khanum - King ...... II and Ruhiyyeh Khanum ..... (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

Hand of the Cause of God, Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum with the King and Queen of Samoa(Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

Samoa is also home to one of several Baha’i Houses of Worship in the world, and in fact it’s considered the mother temple of the Pacific Islands. Located just outside Samoa’s capital city Apia, the House of Worship was designed by award-winning architect Hossein Amanat and it was completed in 1984, where His Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II and Hand of the Cause Ruhiyyih Khanum dedicated the Temple. There were also some 1,000 attendees from Samoa and around the world at the event.

The Baha’i Faith was first brought to the islands of Samoa in January 1954, when Lilian Wyss, a young 24 year old Swiss-Australian woman moved to Western Samoa. In a speech given at Samoa’s 50th Anniversary of the Faith celebrations, Lilian said:

I came home to Australia at age 23, and within a year, was off to Samoa; answering the call of the beloved Guardian to open and go to unopened countries and territories with no Baha’is, named by Abdu’l-Baha in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. There were 131 countries left, can you believe that goal? Nothing like that had ever happened before.

Suhayl and Lilian Ala'i in Samoa, 1984. (Photo: Lilian Ala'i)

Suhayl and Lilian Ala’i in Samoa, 1984. (Photo: Lilian Ala’i)

In November 1954, Lilian married Mr. Suhayl Ala’i, a Persian student studying overseas who had just graduated from university in New Zealand. Within a couple of years, the first Samoan, Mrs. Lotoa Rock became a Baha’i, and by 1957 the first Local Spiritual Assembly was elected, followed by the first National Spiritual Assembly being elected in 1970 .

Just last week, the Baha’is of Samoa started their celebrations on the 14th of January with a special service at the Baha’i House of Worship, where families, friends and co-workers were all invited. The Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi also met with Baha’i representatives and he expressed his gratitude to the Baha’is by saying:

I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the government for the important contribution that you make to the spiritual life of our country…

Hossein Amanat - Baha'i Temple (Photo: Baha'i Media Bank)

At the opening of the Baha’i Temple in Samoa in 1984, the architect Hossein Amanat, held a model of the building that is seen completed in the background. (Photo: Baha’i Media Bank)

The Prime Minister also assured the Baha’is that the Government of Samoa would continue to work towards protecting freedom and the right to worship. The Prime Minister said:

We are also very conscious of abuses of human rights and freedom that persists in many countries around the world… As part of Samoa’s engagement internationally through its membership with the UN, Samoa endeavours to support efforts to protect the rights of people in various countries including Iran where the Baha’i Faith struggles through persecution.

Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly Peseta Demetrius Fogaseuga Taofiga, said that the celebrations are an opportunity for the community to reflect on the challenges and accomplishment during the last 60 years. He also said:

It is also an opportunity to consult on ways and means to build better communities, and to continue serving Samoa and its people…

On behalf of the team at Baha’i Blog, we’d like to wish the Samoan Baha’i community and all of their friends a very happy 60th anniversary!

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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Discussion 4 Comments

  1. Talofa lava
    Great article…as someone who has had the privilege to visit this beautiful fale, it was inspiring to read about the early efforts of this community and the sincerity and humility of the Maletoa. Alofa tele

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