The History of the Bahá’í Faith in South Africa

Introduction

The Bahá'í Faith began in 1844 in Persia, present day Iran and teaches the oneness of God, the oneness of religion and the oneness of the human family. The Faith reached the shores of South Africa in the early years of the twentieth century, a period of great global change and a time in which the Bahá’í community emerged from obscurity demonstrating on a global scale the power of unity. Deeply motivated by the spiritual vision of Bahá'u'lláh’s teachings, the early Bahá’ís were inspired to participate in the betterment of the South African community. The Faith gained momentum in its expansion throughout South Africa largely as a result of the sacrificial efforts made by the Bahá’ís who left their homes in distant lands to participate in the unification of the diverse peoples of this region.

The growth and development of the Bahá’í community at both the local and national level led to the election in 1956 of the first Southern African National Spiritual Assembly, the governing body responsible for the administration of the affairs of the Bahá’í community in South Africa and neighbouring countries. By 1992, these neighbouring countries had all constituted their own National Bahá’í Assemblies. Today the Bahá’í Faith is a recognized religion in South Africa, with people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, spreading across all strata of society.

In the second half of the 20th century, the Bahá'í community in South Africa successfully collaborated with other like-minded communities and organisations to bring about transformation in a society divided by legislated racial segregation, Apartheid. These collaborative efforts underpin the Bahá'í principles of a shared humanity as Bahá'u'lláh describes it, “Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch…”