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The University of Haifa Lectures in Bahá’í Studies

Edited By Soli Shahvar

This volume brings together a selection of essays from the Lecture Series in Bahá’í studies at the University of Haifa. Each chapter explores an aspect of the Bahá’í religion, including its history, community, culture and theoretical perspectives on contemporary issues. The authors discuss topics including the family and descendants of the Báb (founder of the religion from which the Bahá’í Faith emerged), the influential role of Bahá’í schools in the modernization of education in Iran, the process of introducing the law of monogamy into the Iranian Bahá’í community, early connections between Swiss citizens and Bahá’ís in the Middle East, the rich and varied landscape of Persian Bahá’í poetry, and the role of African Americans in the development of the US Bahá’í community, particularly with regard to race relations and the principle of the oneness of humanity. Also presented in this volume are Bahá’í perspectives on contemporary topics including changing conceptions of work and work values, the role of apologetics in interfaith dialogue, and the issue of ‘defamation of religions’ in international human rights discourse. This book will be of interest to readers in various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences who want to become informed in more depth about a wider range of topics in the emerging field of Bahá’í studies.
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4. Episodes from the Early History of the Bahá’í Faith in Switzerland, with Particular Reference to the Middle East

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Switzerland was the sixth Western country to be opened to the Bahá’í religion; in 2003, it celebrated the centenary of the establishment of the first Bahá’í residents.1 This chapter will describe the earliest connections between the Bahá’í Faith and Switzerland and then present a selection of episodes in the early history of the development of the Swiss Bahá’í community. As is well known, the Bahá’í religion has its origins in nineteenth-century Qájár-era Persia and in the Bábí religion, which the Qájár authorities sought to eradicate through violence sanctioned by the Shí‘í clergy. The persecution of key Bahá’í figures and their exile in stages through the Ottoman Empire brought Swiss nationals into contact with adherents of the Bábí and Bahá’í religions not only in Persia but also in the Ottoman provinces of Iraq and Palestine, as well as in Egypt. By the early decades of the twentieth century, a small number of Bahá’ís, including Bahá’í students from the Middle East, were engaged in activities to spread the Bahá’í teachings in Switzerland. In the 1920s through the 1950s, when Shoghi Effendi was head of the Bahá’í Faith, the Swiss landscape became his favoured location for rest and rejuvenation.

The first mention of the Bahá’í Faith in the Swiss newspapers occurred in 1852,2 following the wave of persecution of the Bábís consequent to the ←87 | 88→attempt...

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