The Bahá’í Faith in Cameroon was established when it was in two colonies - British and French Cameroon. It began with Enoch Olinga, who had left his homeland of Uganda to bring the religion to British Cameroon in 1953. Meherangiz Munsiff, a young Indian woman who had moved from Britain, arrived in French Cameroon April 1954 - both Olinga and Munsiff were honored with the title Knight of Bahá’u’lláh.
In 1953 with the Ten Year Crusade initiated by Shoghi Effendi, Mr. and Mrs. Alí Nakhjavání drove by car with two youthful African pioneers from Uganda to open new countries to the religion. The first was Max Kinyerezi who was delivered to what was then French Equatorial Africa, and then Enoch Olinga to British Cameroon. In Limbe, through the efforts of Olinga, the first Cameroonian Bahá’í was Jacob Tabot Awo, and a Local Spiritual Assembly was able to be formed there by 21 April 1954. Many of these coverts were from the Basel Mission system of Protestant Christians. Meherangiz Munsiff, a young Indian woman, arrived in French Cameroon in April 1954 in Douala after helping to found the Bahá’í Faith in Madagasgar (she arrived there April 21st, 1953 and left January 1954 to come to Cameroon.) Five young Cameroonians pioneers left in 1954, each becoming a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh though the various protectorates they arrived in merged into the modern countries of Cameroon, Ghana, and Togo. Because of the successive waves of Knights, Enoch Olinga was entitled "Abd'l-Futuh", a Persian name meaning "the father of victories" by Shoghi Effendi.
In 1956 a regional National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of North West Africa is elected with Olinga as Chairman with its seat in Tunis, comprising areas from the Cameroons north to Tunisia and parts west including Islands like the Canary Islands.
In 1957 British Cameroon is noted as having some 300 Bahá'is while the younger community of French Cameroon had between 10 and 20 Bahá’ís and there was a conference of Bahá’ís on the progress of the religion held in Mutengene (near Tiko).
Growth in adherents and organization
By 1963 we have the following communities of Bahá’ís in Cameroon:
Local Spiritual Assemblies of Cameroon:
|Sabes||Sumbe||Takpa||Takwai||Tali||Tiko||Tinto (1)||Tinto (2)||Tintombu||Tombel||Victoria(Limbe)|
Groups (between 1 and 9 individuals):
In 1967 the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Cameroon was elected for the first time thus splitting off from the regional National Assembly established in 1956. There is a document, the Declaration of Loyalty to Government, by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Cameroon, perhaps dated 1968.
Ursula Samandari was among those annually elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Cameroon in the years of 1972-74 and 1975-80 after similar services in North East Africa and the British Isles. She had learned of the Bahá’í Faith from Richard St. Barbe Baker and Hasan Balyuzi in 1936. Among the comments at her 2003 funeral were these from the paramount chief of Buea, HRH Samuel L. Endeley:
"My dear Sister, You lived with us like one of us, you served faithfully and lovingly to win souls into God's redeeming grace. You loved us and our country, Cameroon, and you have demonstrated this in dying here like the good soldier of God you have lived to be. You died with your boots on. We thank God for all you were to us. May your soul rest with the good God, our creator, in perfect peace."
Involvement in advocacy for women
The Cameroonian Bahá’í community has initiated and cooperated with a number of projects attempting to equalize the position of women, a primary principle of the Bahá’í Faith. In 1985 a National Women's Committee of the Bahá’ís of Cameroon produced a statement "Equal Rights for Women and Men". The Bahá’ís of Cameroon cooperated with an initiative of the Bahá’í International Community in cooperation with UNIFEM on a project to effect a change in the social status of women in village communities in eastern Cameroon and other countries. The changes in the community focused on the role of women but aimed strongly at educating the men. According to Tiati Zock, the national coordinator of the project in Cameroon, a survey done in early 1992 among some 45 families in each of the seven villages reported that the men made virtually all of the financial decisions alone. A follow-up survey, taken in 1993, indicated more than 80 percent of the families now make such decisions in consultation between husband and wife. The number of girls being sent to one village school had increased by 82 percent by 1993.
Growth of the community
By 2001 the National Spiritual Assembly was registered with the Government of Cameroon as one of the few non-Christian religions. In 2003 the Bahá’í community had 40,000 adherents and 58 Local Spiritual Assemblies, (there is another estimate from 2007-8 of more than 130,000 Bahá'is in Cameroon and another of members of the religion in 1744 localities in Cameroon.) Also in 2003 a project had begun to move the seat of the National Spiritual Assembly from Limbe, in the west, to the central capital, Yaoundé, together with the responsibility to acquire a new National Hazíratu'l-Quds which the Bahá’í community of the United Kingdom has been asked to share.
Academic and civic forums
The Bahá’í community of Cameroon has been involved in forums for wrestling with social issues in Cameroon in both academic and civic forums. In 2002 the second Cameroon Bahá’í Academy took place at the Regional Bahá’í Centre at Yaoundé with 28 scholars from Buea, Douala, Dschang, Soa, and Yaoundé. The key research paper, “Cameroonian Tribal and Family Meetings and the Bahá’í Teachings,” was presented by Chongwain Nkuo, a teacher at the Post and Telecommunication School. It was published in the December 2002 volume of the Cameroon Bahá’í Studies journal. After his presentation there was an evaluation of his work by the members of a jury including David Nkwenti, Head of the Department of Anthropology of the University of Yaoundé. Nkwenti indicated he was going to expand academic interests in studying Bahá’í teachings and anthropological issues. Also in 2002, for United Nations Day on 24 October, members of the Buea religious community gathered for an interfaith panel discussion lead by the Secretary General of the South West Province included members or spokesmen of the Bahá’í Faith, the Muslim Imam, a representative of the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese, and a representative of the Hindu community. A January 20, 2007 service in Buea at the Baha’i Center of Learning commemorated World Religion Day among a similar breadth of representation.
Over 600 Bahá’ís and their friends gathered at the Palais de Congress in Yaoundé to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Bahá’í community in Cameroon. Mr. and Mrs. Nakhjavání and other guests of honor, went to Limbe to visit the Baha'is of the southwest province, and Buea where they were received by the paramount chief, and traveled to Douala.
- Mughrab, Jan (2004), "Jubilee Celebration in Cameroon", Journal of the Bahá’í Community of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 20 (5), http://www.bahaijournal.org.uk/cameroon.htm
- Lee, Tony (1997-06-25). "Conversions to the Baha'i Faith in Uganda". Research Notes in Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Studies, No. 5 (August, 1997). H-NET List for Bahai Studies at h-net.msu.edu. http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/notes/uganda1.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
- "Cameroon celebrates golden time", Bahá’í World News Service, 2003-09-23, http://news.bahai.org/story/249
- "Four islands unite in celebrations", Bahá’í World News Service (Bahá’í International Community), 2004-03-29, http://news.bahai.org/story/288
- Francis, N. Richard (1998), "Enoch Olinga -Hand of the Cause of God, Father of Victories", Bahá’í Faith Website of Reno, Nevada, http://bahai-library.com/index.php5?file=francis_olinga_biography
- Effendi, Shoghi (1973). Messages to the Bahá’í World: 1950–1957. US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1971 edition. pp. p.113, 115. ISBN 0877430365. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/MBW/mbw-54.html#pg113.
- The Bahá’í Faith: 1844-1963, Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá’í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953-1963. Israel: Peli - P.E.C. Printing World LTD. Ramat Gan. 1964. pp. pp. 10, 21, 22, 25, 42, 43, 47, 69, 82. http://bahai-library.com/index.php5?file=handscause_statistics_1953-63&chapter=all.
- MacEoin, Denis; William Collins. "Principles". The Babi and Baha'i Religions: An Annotated Bibliography. Greenwood Press's ongoing series of Bibliographies and Indexes in Religious Studies. http://bahai-library.com/books/biblio/principles.html. Retrieved 2008-03-26.
- "A love for all peoples", Bahá’í World News Service, 2003-07-17, http://news.bahai.org/story/230
- "UNIFEM/Bahá’í Project Raises Community Consciousness - By involving men in women's problems and using traditional media to communicate the results, grassroots changes are effected", One Country (October-December), 1993, http://info.bahai.org/article-1-7-6-14.html
- "Two Baha'i International Community Projects: Cameroon and Zambia", The Emerging Role of NGOs in African Sustainable Development, New York, USA: United Nations, 1996-06-20, BIC-Document Number: 96-0430, http://statements.bahai.org/pdf/96-0430.pdf
- Cameroon - International Religious Freedom Report, U.S. State Department, 2001-10-26, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5587.htm
- "Country Profile: Cameroon (Republic of Cameroon)". Religious Intelligence. Religious Intelligence Ltd.. 2007-8. http://www.religiousintelligence.co.uk/country/?CountryID=119. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Africa South of the Sahara 2004. Routledge. 2003. pp. 180. ISBN 1857431839. http://books.google.com/books?id=jj4J-AXGDaQC&pg=PA180&lpg=PA180&source=web&ots=JHlfw9riwv&sig=EQOUwFp0ecPMF84IDqqzP06O4a8&hl=en#PPA181,M1.
- Tanyi, Enoch N. (December 2003), "Cameroon", ABS Bulletin, Association for Bahá’í Studies - North America, pp. p. 3, http://www.bahai-library.com/east-asia/abs_bulletin82.pdf
- "Local Baha'is in Cameroon organize interfaith discussion for UN Day", Bahá’í World News Service, 2002-11-25, http://www.upliftingwords.org/News/20021125Camaroon.htm
- Emmanuel, Mohmbah (2007-01-31), "Praying For Peace and Prosperity", The Entrepreneur Newspaper, http://www.entrepreneurnewsonline.com/2007/01/praying_for_pro_1.html
- There is a Cameroonian Bahá’í Newsletter Synopsis Blog at www.buea.blogspot.com
- There is a Cameroonian Bahá’í Musician Myspace page at www.myspace.com/bahaisingers