The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith set foot on Benelux soil at least once. Together with Rúḥíyyih Khánum, probably after World War II, he made a short stopover at Schiphol Airport and from there dashed off by taxi to the Rijksmuseum in nearby Amsterdam to see De Nachtwacht (‘The Night Watch’), Rembrandt’s famous painting.
As far as we know, the Guardian did not meet any believers on that occasion. In fact he never journeyed to officially meet with the Bahá’ís. He chose instead as an important means of guiding the worldwide Bahá’í Community an extensive correspondence, ranging from short cables to extensive monographs, well over 17,500 in total. The present book offers, for the first time, a compilation of his letters which were sent to Bahá’ís living in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The plan to compile these letters originated in Belgium during the Bahá’í Summer School of 2004, when Mr. ‘Alí Nakhjavání, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, suggested the idea to an attending Dutch Bahá’í. A few months later, the National Spiritual Assembly of Belgium presented the delegates to the 2005 Belgian National Convention with a small compilation. When the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the Netherlands received a copy of this booklet, it was impressed and took up Mr. Nakhjavání’s idea.
A task force was formed with members from the three National communities. It was charged to collect as many of Shoghi Effendi’s letters to the Benelux as possible and to give honour to those early pioneers to the Benelux and the first native Bahá’í’s for their memorable services. It is our hope that this book will connect us with those days, when, in accordance with Shoghi Effendi’s instructions, the foundation was laid for all our present Bahá’í work.
We feel honoured that the introductions were written by Mr. Hénuzet, one of the last living native Bahá’ís from that period and an active “co-worker” to this day, and by Mr. Nakhjavání who gave the impulse for this book. This compilation is the result of a special spirit of love, with wonderful assistance from the World Centre, the United States Archivist, and from individual friends both within and outside the Benelux. We are grateful to all those who contributed.
We hope that this book will be an inspiration for the Bahá’í’s living in the countries of the Benelux today. In 2001 the Universal House of Justice announced that the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had entered the fifth epoch of its Formative Age, a “milestone [that] falls within the patterns established by Shoghi Effendi for marking measures of time in the history of the Cause”. Under the inspiring guidance of the Universal House of Justice and the International Teaching Centre, the Bahá’í World has since then been engaged in a series of Five Year Plans aimed at the promotion of “entry by troops”, leading to the centenary of the Formative Age.
It is inspiring to read now what Shoghi Effendi wrote to the very first Regional Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í’s of the Benelux (elected by delegates of four Local Spiritual Assemblies) in a letter of July 5th 1957 about our three
On November 4th 1957 the Bahá’í World suffered an indescribable loss when our beloved Guardian suddenly passed away. How much we wish that Shoghi Effendi could have witnessed the formation only five years later of the National Spiritual Assemblies of our three ever-growing Bahá’í Communities that together comprise 45 Local Spiritual Assemblies at this time.
May we finish this preface with the moving words of Shoghi Effendi concluding that letter of July 5th 1957:
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Belgium
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Luxembourg
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of The Netherlands
After arriving in Haifa following the passing of the beloved Master, Shoghi Effendi set himself the task of translating into English the text of the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and of writing, in collaboration with Lady Blomfield, an account of the events leading to the Masters passing and of the funeral ceremony that followed. It was early in 1922 when he started corresponding with the friends in the East and West. For two years, from 1922 to 1924, for the most part he wrote his letters himself to the institutions and the friends.
As his work increased he developed the method of asking secretaries to write letters on his behalf, conveying his instructions and thoughts in response to reports received or questions asked. For sixteen years he regularly used three secretaries from among members of his family for correspondence with the friends in the West. These were two of his cousins, Rúḥí Afnán and Suhayl Afnán, and one of his brothers, Ḥusayn Rabbání. He always opened all correspondence addressed to himself, and when time permitted he would instruct his secretary on how to answer the points raised in each incoming letter. After reading and approving a drafted response, he would often append a few words of his own followed by his signature.