Sidney Sprague arrives in India and becomes the first American Baha’i traveling teacher in Asia. (‘The Baha’i Faith in America’, vol. 2, by Robert Stockman, p.XVI)
One of the earliest American believers, he was born on 15 May 1874 in Burlington, Vermont. A well-known and distinguished architect by profession, he accepted the Faith in Paris on 31 December 1899. He was declared a Covenant breaker following his absurd claim to be the second Guardian of the Baha'i Faith.
He received much love and praise from both 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi and gave sterling service to the Faith of Baha'u'llah in the United States and Hawaii, as well as making teaching visits to several countries including, notably, Japan. In November 1950, Shoghi Effendi appointed him to the newly formed International Baha'i Council and called him to live in Haifa. He was elevated to the rank of Hand of the Cause of God in the first contingent in December 1951 and then appointed president of the International Baha'i Council. He was among the Hands of the Cause present at all the 1953 (Intercontinental) International Teaching Conferences and represented the Guardian at the conference in New Delhi. He was subsequently appointed as the Guardian's representative at the conference in Sydney, Australia, in March 1958 and was present at the conference in Wilmette in May of that same year.His architectural achievements with the Baha'i community are truly significant. Under close guidance from Shoghi Effendi, he designed the Baha'i Houses of Worship (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar) for Kampala, Uganda, and Sydney, Australia. Moreover, Shoghi Effendi approved the design submitted by him for the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of Baha'u'llah's native land, as well as the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar to be constructed on Mount Carmel; Remey's designs for a number of other Mashriqu'l-Adhkars were also considered (including the Mother Temple of the West (Wilmette, Illinois). When his design for the Wilmette Temple tied with that of Louis Bourgeois, he withdrew it in favor of Bourgeois's and Europe (in Frankfurt, where it was left to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany to decide between Remey's and that of the German architect, Teuto Rocholl, with Rocholl's winning out). In addition, he designed the International Baha'i Archives building on the Arc on Mount Carmel.
December 1866: Birth of Marion Jack -- “a shining example to pioneers of present and future generations of East and West”
Born on December 1, 1866, she was an early Canadian believer who became a Baha'i in Paris. She was much loved by both 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. Miss Jack pioneered to Bulgaria in 1930, where she remained, despite considerable hardship, for 24 years until her passing in 1954. For a brief account of her life please visit Baha’i Heroes and Heroines. (Adapted from ‘Historical Dictionary of the Baha’i Faith’ by Hugh Adamson, and ‘A Basic Baha’i Chronology’, by Glenn Cameron)
At Naw-Ruz 1974, the Universal House of Justice called upon the Canadian Baha’i community as one of their goals in the Five Year Plan to:
'Cultivate opportunities for formal presentations, courses and lectureships on the Baha'i Faith in Canadian universities and other institutions of higher learning.'
In January, 1975, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada invited some thirty individuals to a 'policy conference', a device which the Assembly had frequently and successfully used to find a way of meeting various new challenges. The participants were from various backgrounds and from all parts of Canada, and were selected because it was felt they might contribute effectively to an examination of this particular subject. The conference, which was held at the University of Ottawa …The first and second annual meetings were held at Cedar Glen in Bolton, Ontario from 2-4 January 1976 and 31 December 1976-2 January 1977 respectively, and each was attended by more than one hundred individuals. The third annual meeting took place in Surrey, British Columbia from 30 December 1977-1 January 1978 and the fourth at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto from 26-27 January 1979, This latter meeting was open to the public … (The Baha’i World, volume 15, 1976-1979, pp. 197-198)
The persistent and decisive intervention of the Russian Minister, Prince Dolgorouki, who left no stone unturned to establish the innocence of Bahá'u'lláh; the public confession of Mulla Shaykh Aliy-i-Turshizi, surnamed Azim, who, in the Siyah-Chal, in the presence of the Hajibu'd-Dawlih and the Russian Minister's interpreter and of the government's representative, emphatically exonerated Him, and acknowledged his own complicity; the indisputable testimony established by competent tribunals; the unrelaxing efforts exerted by His own brothers, sisters and kindred, -- all these combined to effect His ultimate deliverance from the hands of His rapacious enemies. Another potent if less evident influence which must be acknowledged as having had a share in His liberation was the fate suffered by so large a number of His self-sacrificing fellow-disciples who languished with Him in that same prison. For, as Nabil truly remarks, "the blood, shed in the course of that fateful year in Tihran by that heroic band with whom Bahá'u'lláh had been imprisoned, was the ransom paid for His deliverance from the hand of a foe that sought to prevent Him from achieving the purpose for which God had destined Him. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 104)
Some Baha’is are beaten and some received threats against their lives, and tragically some lost their lives. 700 Baha’is are homeless and their means of livelihood destroyed … (Adapted from The Baha’i World, vol. 17, p.79)
December 1925: The keys to the House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad, the Most Holy House, are given to the Shí'ahs
“We received last night news that the keys of the houses in Baghdad have been given to the Shi'ites and they had made a regular demonstration on the occasion. We await to see what will be done at last....” (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer dated 14 December 1925; ‘The Unfolding Destiny’, p. 45)
Ruhiyyih Khanum explains the background, the efforts made by the Guardian and the Baha’i World, and the final unfortunate result:
The National Spiritual Assembly of Egypt and the Sudan is formed, making it the first Baha’i national body on the continent of Africa. (Adapted from God Passess By, p. 333; The Babi and Baha’i Religions, by, Peter Smith, p.121)
December 1934: Tarbiyat and other Baha'i schools are closed down by the order of the Persian government
The Tarbiyat Boys' School and the Girls' School by the same name, together with all the other Bahá'í schools in major cities, were closed down in December 1934 by order of the government for not heeding a warning by the Ministry of Education (headed by 'Ali-Asghar-i-Hikmat, a well-known Azali) that the schools would officially be closed if they failed to remain open during Bahá'í holy days. Despite several representations by the National Spiritual Assembly, the authorities remained adamant and all the Bahá'í schools in Persia were closed down after closing on a Bahá'í holy day. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha'u'llah vol. 4, p. 313)
The Tarbiyat boys' school was established in 1898 in Tihran, while the girls' school was founded by Dr Susan Moody after her arrival in Tihran in 1909. Both schools were owned and managed entirely by Baha’is, although children of all religions attended, particularly the children of government and civic officials. The schools had always closed on the nine Baha'i holy days but on the pretext that the Baha’is belonged to a denomination not officially recognized in Iran, the Ministry of Education in 1934 demanded that the schools remain open for these days. Shoghi Effendi refused to allow this and ordered the schools to close on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the Báb. As he would not let the Baha'is deny their Faith, nor allow the schools to remain open on holy days, the government refused permission for the schools to re-open after the holy day. The Tarbiyat Schools remain closed to this day. (A Basic Baha’i Dictionary, by Wendi Momen)
Given the name “Sitarih Khanum” by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lady Sara Louisa Blomfield was an eminent early (1907) British Baha'i who is perhaps best remembered for her memoire detailing her meetings with 'Abdu'l-Baha (The Chosen Highway) and her assistance in the compilation of 'Abdu'l-Baha's talks while in Paris (Paris talks).
In December 1924 a publication came into being which was originally conceived by Horace Holley as a means of communications between the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada and its local communities. The first issue of the “Baha’i News” appeared on December 24, 1924 as the “Baha’i News Letter”. It was published in New York with Horace Holley as the editor. (Adapted from the Baha’i World, vol. 10, p.180; Some Baha’is to Remember, by Whitehead, p. 232)
The first Local Spiritual Assembly in Australia is formed in Melbourne during December 1923. (A Basic Baha'i Chronology, by Glenn Cameron)
December 1921: Shoghi Effendi arrives in Haifa from England a month after the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha
Owing to passport difficulties Shoghi Effendi cabled Haifa he could not arrive until the end of the month. He sailed from England on 16 December, accompanied by Lady Blomfield and Rouhangeze, and arrived in Haifa by train at 5.20 P.M. on 29 December from Egypt where his boat from England had docked. Many friends went to the station to bring him home; it is reported he was so overcome on his arrival that he had to be assisted up the steps. Awaiting him in the house was the only person who could in any measure assuage his suffering - his beloved great-aunt, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She had already - so frail, so quiet, so modest at all times - shown herself in these past weeks to be a strong rock to which the believers clung in the midst of the tempest that had so suddenly burst upon them. The calibre of her soul, her breeding, her station, fitted her for the role she played in the Cause and in Shoghi Effendi's life during this extremely difficult and dangerous period. (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 41)
… He[‘Abdu’l-Baha] sailed, on the S.S. Celtic, on December 5, from New York for Liverpool; and landing there He proceeded by train to London. Later He visited Oxford, Edinburgh and Bristol, and thence returning to London, left for Paris on January 21, 1913. On March 30 He traveled to Stuttgart, and from there proceeded, on April 9, to Budapest, visited Vienna nine days later, returned to Stuttgart on April 25, and to Paris on May first, where He remained until June 12, sailing the following day, on the S.S. Himalaya from Marseilles bound for Egypt, arriving in Port Said four days later, where after short visits to Isma'iliyyih and Abuqir, and a prolonged stay in Ramleh, He returned to Haifa, concluding His historic journeys on December 5, 1913. (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 280)
December 1863: Baha’u’llah and His family were banished from Constantinople for Adrianople (Edirne in European Turkey)
In one of the coldest Decembers that Turkey had seen for years, Bahá'u'lláh and, His family -- including His two faithful brothers Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim, and Mirza Muhammad-Quli, together with Mirza Yahya -- set out on their journey to the city of Adrianople. The officer commissioned to take charge of the journey was 'Ali Big Yuz-Bashi. According to a statement by Mirza Aqa Jan, it appears that Bahá'u'lláh was accompanied by 12 of His companions. Among them was the notorious Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani, whose evil spirit was increasingly casting its shadow upon the exiles. Through his satanic influence he brought much pain and anguish to their hearts and created severe tests and trials for them. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Child of the Covenant, p. 77)
Here is how Shoghi Effendi describes this very sad and inhumane event:
Professor Edward Granville Browne visited 'Abdu'l-Bahá on December 18th . It is certain that they had not met during 'Abdu'l-Bahá's previous visit to England. A letter from 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Edward Browne, preserved in Cambridge University Library, provides the definite evidence. Zarqani's Diary mentions only two meetings during 'Abdu'l-Bahá's second visit to London, whereas Lady Blomfield writes: 'Professor Edward Granville Browne, who had written much concerning the Bábís and the Bahá'ís, came from time to time, speaking in Persian with the Master, Who was delighted to see him, and talked over many things, especially the momentous occasion when that intrepid Cambridge Orientalist succeeded in obtaining permission to enter the presence of Bahá'u'lláh.' (H.M. Balyuzi, Abdu'l-Baha - The Centre of the Covenant, p. 346)
... Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani -- 'Abdu'l-Bahá's secretary in the course of His travels, and the chronicler of those memorable years in the West -- has recorded, Browne during his first visit wished to broach the subject of his writings in the past and offer apologies, but 'Abdu'l-Bahá drew away from this topic and said: 'Let us talk of other matters which would be conducive to amity' (H. M. Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and The Baha'i Faith, p. 96)
Nabil wrote The Dawn-Breakers for Bahá'u'lláh. He started the chronicle in 1888 and finished it in about a year and a half. Mirza Musa helped him with it; some parts of the manuscript were reviewed by Bahá'u'lláh, and some by the Master.
Nabil lived in 'Akká then, and when he had brought his narrative down to the point where the story of the Seven Martyrs was ended, he submitted the finished portions to Bahá'u'lláh, Who sent for him on December 11, 1888, a date Nabil records as one he will never forget. On that occasion, his Lord gave him an account of various historical episodes, including the gathering at Badasht.
He wrote: ‘At this stage of my narrative I was privileged to submit to Bahá'u'lláh such sections of my work as I had already revised and completed. How abundantly have my labours been rewarded by Him whose favour alone I seek, and for whose satisfaction I have addressed myself to this task! He graciously summoned me to His presence and vouchsafed me His blessings. I was in my home in the prison-city of 'Akká, and lived in the neighbourhood of the house of Aqay-i-Kalim, when the summons of my Beloved reached me. That day, the seventh of the month of Rabi'u'th-Thani in the year 1306 A.H.,[December 11, 1888 A.D.] I shall never forget.’ (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 458)
He was a disciple and the chosen successor of Shaykh Ahmad, who together were referred to by Baha’u’llah as the “twin resplendent lights” (Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 65) – both were forerunner of the Báb.
Siyyid Kazim was born in Rasht, Iran, in 1793, and as a boy showed great intellect and spirituality. At the age of twenty-two he went to Yazd, became a disciple of a Shaykh Ahmad and was designated to succeed him and continue the work of preparing his disciples to recognize the Promised Qa'im. After Shaykh Ahmad's death, the tide of opposition to Shayhi doctrines rose and Siyyid Kazim was attacked and denounced by the 'ulama.
Siyyid Kazim knew the identity of the Promised One and alluded to it clearly when Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad (the Báb) attended his lecture one day in Karbila. Seeing Him, Siyyid Kazim fell silent. When asked to continue his discourse he said: 'What more shall I say? . . . Lo, the Truth is more manifest than the ray of light that has fallen upon that lap!" But none understood his meaning.
Towards the end of his life, feeling that the advent of the Qa'im was at hand, he charged his disciples to scatter and search for the Promised One. One of those who arose in response was Mulla Husayn, the first to find the Báb. Siyyid Kazim died on 31 December 1843, less than six months before the Declaration of the Báb. (Adapted from ‘A Basic Baha’i Dictionary’ by Wendi Momen)
Born in Newark, New Jersey, 21 December 1898, Dorothy was the granddaughter of Mother Beecher, herself a Baha'i, who took her to see 'Abdu'l-Baha in New York in 1912. Dorothy was too shy to speak during that meeting, although she wrote afterward to Him stating that she wished to serve the Cause. 'Abdu'l-Baha responded that He would pray that God would grant her desire. She developed into a most eloquent, persuasive, and convincing teacher and in addition to an inimitable charm she had a sincerity that was with her always -- she was an ardent Baha'i first, last, and at all times.
By December 1896 there were about 30 Baha’is in Chicago. Their membership, however, increased to 225 by the end of January 1898. (Adapted from ‘The Baha’i Faith in America’, vol. 1, by Robert Stockman, p.26)
The Guardian appoints the first contingent of the Hands of the Cause on December 24, 1951:
Dorothy B. Baker (1898-1954)
Amelia E. Collins (1873-1962)
‘Ali-Akbar Furutan (1905-2004)
Ugo Giachery (1896-1989)
Hermann Grossmann (1899-1968)
Horace Holley (1887-1960)
Leroy Ioas (1896-1965)
William Sutherland Maxwell (1874-1952)
Charles Mason Remey (1874-1974)
Tarazu’llah Samandari (I874-1968)
George Townshend (1876-1957)
Valiyu’llah Varqa (1884-1955)
(Adapted from ‘A Basic Baha’i Dictionary’, by Wendi Momen, and from ‘A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith’, by Peter Smith)
At the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kinney on December 2, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá announced His departure. “These are the days of my farewell to you, for I am sailing on the 5th of the month. Wherever I went in this country I returned always to New York City.” The Master gave a beautiful exhortation ending with these words: “Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Bahá’í.”
This was not yet the end. In spite of all the final preparations, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to have meetings at the Kinneys’, mostly with Bahá’ís. However, ministers and rabbis still sought to reach Him for guidance until the last day. His final public appearance was made the evening before His departure, at the Theosophical Society, where He delivered an address on the eternity of creation, the evolution of the spirit, and the power of the Manifestation of God. (Eliane A. Hopson, ‘Abdu’l-Baha in New York: The City of the Covenant)
Lillian was among that first group of American Baha’is to be active in teaching the Faith at the turn of the 20th century. She pioneered to Persia, in 1911 to serve Dr. Susan Moody. Lillian had spent years in the face of unnumbered difficulties to build up Persia's Tarbiyat School for Girls in Tihran. She was much loved by students and staff, and her services highly valued, by 'Abdu'l-Baha. She died of typhus on December 1st, 1920. Hundreds of weeping mourners accompanied her coffin to its place near the Tomb of great Varqa. Soon a cable soon came from the Master in which He indicated that “Miss Kappes [is] very happy. I invite [the] world [to] be not grieved.” (Adapted from ‘Historical Dictionary of the Baha’i Faith’ by Hugh Adamson and ‘Arches of the Years’, by Marzieh Gail, p. 211)
Ibrahim Kheiralla was a Syrian Christian who declared his Baha'i allegiance in 1890, and quickly convinced his friend and business partner, Anton Haddad, to declare as well. In search of ways to promote their inventions and business, the two left Cairo, Egypt, in 1892. Haddad went directly to the United States, arriving in the summer of 1892 as the first Baha'i in the New World; Kheiralla joined him in December of the same year. Following unsuccessful business endeavours, they moved on, eventually arriving in Chicago, the "Windy City." (Contrary to popular opinion, the "Windy City" derives its name from its boasts of industrial and commercial accomplishments, Will C. van den Hoonaard, p. 25) Chicago exercised a magnetic attraction for other reformers. In the 1880s it was the fastest growing city in America (D. Smith, 1981:88). In the 1830s there were 100 people living in the middle of a "stinking wild onion swamp," but by 1880 half a million could already be found in the city, growing by some 50,000 every year. The high percentage of those with foreign parentage (80%) illustrates the far-reaching magnetism of the city.
Soon after their arrival, Kheiralla provided study classes, leading interested seekers to accept the Baha'i religion. In February 1894, the first five Westerners converted. (The first five Baha'is are William James, Marion Miller, Edward Dennis, Thornton Chase, and Kate C. Ives, Robert Stockman, Baha’i Faith in America, vol. 1, pp. 35-36). By May 1896 there were sixteen Baha'is in Chicago. Of middle-class background, these early converts were primarily white-collar workers; no factory workers could be found among them. They were of liberal religious backgrounds, namely, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, and Theosophists … (Will C. van den Hoonaard, ‘The Origins of the Baha'i Community of Canada, 1898-1948’, pp. 16-17)
December 1871-January 1872: Munirih Khanum (future wife of ‘Abdu’l-Baha) leaves Isfahan, Persia, for the Holy Land
Soon after the transfer of the exiles from the barracks to houses in the city, there was renewed concern in the Holy Family for the twenty-seven-year-old 'Abbas, 'Abdu'l-Baha, that it was timely for Him to marry. Not long thereafter, a girl from a distinguished family" of Isfahan, Fatimih Khanum, was called by the Blessed Beauty to the Holy Land. In Shavval 1288 (December 1871-January 1872), she travelled with her brother Siyyid Yahya and the courier Shaykh Salman via Shiraz, where she was privileged to be often with the wife of the Báb during a two-weeks' stay; then by steamer to Jiddah and on to Mecca for pilgrimage, to conceal their real destination; next, to Alexandria; and finally, when it was prudent, they were directed by Baha'u'llah to come by boat to 'Akka. Upon arrival in 'Akka, they were met by 'Abdu'l-Ahad, Aqay-i-Kalim (Mirza Musa, Baha’u’llah’s brother)) and Ilyas 'Abbud, and the very next day she attained the presence of Baha'u'llah. Fatimih Khanum lived for some five months in the house of Aqay-i-Kalim, during which time the Blessed Beauty often received her. He Himself bestowed upon her the name of Munirih (The Illumined One). (David Ruhe, ‘Door of Hope’, p. 45)
Human Rights Day on December 10 is a United Nations-sponsored special event day. It is the anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This Day is observed by many Baha'i communities around the world, as well as by United Nations Associations. (Adapted from ‘A Basic Baha’i Dictionary’)
December 1844: The Báb arrives in Mecca as a pilgrim, accompanied by Quddus and His Ethiopian servant
The Báb “embarked from Bushihr on the 19th of Ramadan (October, 1844) on a sailing vessel, accompanied by Quddus whom He was assiduously preparing for the assumption of his future office. Landing at Jaddih after a stormy voyage of over a month's duration, He donned the pilgrim's garb, mounted a camel, and set out for Mecca, arriving on the first of Dhi'l-Hajjih (December 12). Quddus, holding the bridle in his hands, accompanied his Master on foot to that holy Shrine. On the day of Arafih, the Prophet-pilgrim of Shiraz, His chronicler relates, devoted His whole time to prayer. On the day of Nahr He proceeded to Muna, where He sacrificed according to custom nineteen lambs, nine in His own name, seven in the name of Quddus, and three in the name of the Ethiopian servant who attended Him. He afterwards, in company with the other pilgrims, encompassed the Kaaba and performed the rites prescribed for the pilgrimage.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 8)
Lua and Edward Getsinger arrived in Akka on 10 December 1898 and became the first North American Baha'is to visit 'Abdu'l-Baha. (Adapted from the Baha’i Faith in America, vol. 1, by Robert Stockman, p. 144)
December 1938: Shoghi Effendi writes a general letter to the Baha’is of North America which appears in 1939 under the title of ‘The Advent of Divine Justice’
Immediately after the publication of this diamond-mine of communion with God[Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh], unsurpassed in any religious literature of the world, Shoghi Effendi set to work on a longer general letter than he had ever before written, which appeared in 1939 under the title of The Advent of Divine Justice. With a kind but firm hand Shoghi Effendi held up before the face of the North American Community the mirror of the civilization by which they were surrounded and warned them, in terms that riveted the eye and chilled the heart against its evils, pointing out to them a truth few of them had ever pondered, namely, that the very evils of that civilization were the mystic reason for their homeland having been chosen by God as the cradle of His World Order in this day. As the warnings contained in The Advent of Divine Justice are an integral part of the vision and guidance Shoghi Effendi gave to the faithful throughout his ministry, they cannot be passed over in silence if we are to obtain any correct understanding of his own mission. In no uncertain terms he castigated the moral laxity, political corruption, racial prejudice and corrosive materialism of their society, contrasting it with the exalted standards inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh in His Teachings, and enjoined by Him upon His followers. It warned them of the war so soon to come and admonished them to stand fast, in spite of every trial that might in future afflict them and their nations, and discharge their sacred trust by prosecuting to a triumphal outcome the Plan they had so recently inaugurated throughout the Western Hemisphere. (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, p. 93)
It is interesting to know that this document – the Advent of Divine Justice – became known among the early Baha’is in the West as “the Bible of Baha'i pioneers”. (Marzieh Gale, ‘Arches of the Years’, p. 307)