By Elika Roohi
The last month of my life was effectively spent learning about the history of the early Baha’is in North America. Granted, I missed reading the relevant history for the celebration of the centennial of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to America by a year. But better late than never.
The Baha’i Faith has an exciting history across all parts of the world. I grew up on tales of the heroic Babís, Baha’u’llah’s life and exiles and Abdu’l-Baha’s journeys. But somehow my religious historical education didn’t spend a lot of time outside of the Middle East.
So when I sat down a few weeks ago with Robert Stockholm’s The Baha’i Faith in America: Volume I, I became engrossed in a few stories I wasn’t as familiar with.
And here is what I came away with: these guys had a lot of faith.
At the end of the 1800’s in the wake of Baha’u’llah’s passing, the Baha’i Faith had just reached America. At that time not many writings were translated into English. Those interested in the new Eastern religion they were catching whispers of here and there had to ferret information out of the teachers that were few and far between.
And yet, the early faith in America survived the blows they were dealt and thrived to lay the foundation of the Baha’i Faith and the administrative order. Eighteen years after Thorton Chase, who is regarded as the first Baha’i in America, learned about the faith, The Master himself came to the states to lay the cornerstone figuratively and literally.
In April of 1930 in a letter Shoghi Effendi wrote to an individual believer about the German Baha’is said, “There is always an important difference between friends and tested friends. No matter how precious the first type may be, the future of the Cause rests upon the latter.”
The Baha’i Faith in America was founded by tested, faithful, steadfast friends. In the beginning of this new year, we can all strive to be more like them.