House of Worship, Tiapapata, Samoa
|Number of Bahá'ís|
|-||Bahá'í to visit||Clara and Hyde Dunn, 1920|
|-||Local Bahá'í||Saialala Tamasese|
|-||Pioneers||Lilian Wyss, 1954|
|-||Local Assembly||Iliili, 1961|
The Bahá’í Faith in Samoa and American Samoa begins with the then head of the religion, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, mentioning the islands in 1916, inspiring Bahá’ís on their way to Australia to stop in Samoa in 1920. Thirty four years later another Bahá’í from Australia pioneered to Samoa in 1954. With the first converts the first Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in 1961, and the Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly was first elected in 1970. Following the conversion of the then Head of State of Samoa, King Malietoa Tanumafili II, the first House of Worship of the Pacific Islands was finished in 1984 and the Bahá’í community reached a population of over 3000 in about the year 2000.
The first mention of the Samoan Islands in Bahá’í literature is in a series of letters, or tablets, to the followers of the religion in the United States in 1916-1917 by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asking the followers of the religion to travel to other countries; these letters were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan. The seventh of the tablets was the first to mention several island nations in the Pacific Ocean. Written in April 11, 1916, it was delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919 — after the end of the First World War and the Spanish flu. The seventh tablet was translated and presented by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab on April 4th, 1919, and published in Star of the West magazine on December 12th, 1919.
"A party speaking their languages, severed, holy, sanctified and filled with the love of God, must turn their faces to and travel through the three great island groups of the Pacific Ocean—Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia, and the islands attached to these groups, such as New Guinea, Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Philippine Islands, Solomon Islands, Fiji Islands, New Hebrides, Loyalty Islands, New Caledonia, Bismarck Archipelago, Ceram, Celebes, Friendly Islands, Samoa Islands, Society Islands, Caroline Islands, Low Archipelago, Marquesas, Hawaiian Islands, Gilbert Islands, Moluccas, Marshall Islands, Timor and the other islands. With hearts overflowing with the love of God, with tongues commemorating the mention of God, with eyes turned to the Kingdom of God, they must deliver the glad tidings of the manifestation of the Lord of Hosts to all the people."
Following this call to pioneer in 1919, Clara and Hyde Dunn moved from the United Kingdom to Australia in 1920 and stopped briefly in Samoa on their way. Shoghi Effendi launched the Ten Year Crusade and during this plan, 34 years after the first Bahá’ís of Australia had stopped at Samoa, a woman named Lilian Wyss pioneered to Western Samoa from Australia in January of 1954 leaving behind a position on the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia at the age of 24 while her brother, Frank Wyss, introduced the religion that year to the Cocos Island. For their service, Shoghi Effendi awarded both of them the accolade of Knight of Bahá’u’lláh. Saialala Tamasese was one of the first native Bahá’ís and the first Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assembly was elected in Iliili in 1961. Many of the early Bahá’ís were well educated and some had Christian theological training and after conversion sometimes held positions of high office in the religion.
In 1962 the religion had reached the island of Savai'i. By 1968 Malietoa Tanumafili II, Head of State of Western Samoa, privately became a Bahá’í and announced it so publicly in 1973. Russell Garcia and wife visited in 1967 on their way ultimately to New Zealand. In 1970, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Samoa was elected and in 1976 was registered with the United States. Bahá’í youth began to be noticed in the development of the community - three youth were sponsored in 1985 for the International Youth Year and participated in United Nations and international projects. By the 1990's there were youth workshops (see Oscar DeGruy) performing internationally.
Bahá’í House of Worship
Thirty years after the first Bahá’í came to the islands of Samoa the House of Worship in Tiapapata, 8 km from Apia, Samoa, was completed in 1984 and serves as the Mother Temple of the Pacific Islands. The corner stone was laid and the Temple later dedicated by King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa who was the first reigning Bahá’í monarch. Hand of the Cause Rúhíyyih Khanum was also present at the laying of the cornerstone and it's dedication. The structure is completely open to the island breezes. The lands of the Temple are also the resting place of Hand of the Cause Ugo Giachery. Some of the dependencies of a Bahá’í House of Worship have also been developed — - a cemetery and school have been set.
Across Samoa and American Samoa there are Bahá’í communities in Puleia, Papa-i-Palauli-le-Falefa, Sasina, Pu'apu'a, Faleasi'u-Uta, Faeasi'u-Tai, Laleta, Lepea, Pago Pago, Iliili, Tafuna, and Leone. The Bahá’ís of Samoa numbered too few to show up in the 2001 national census. The shared estimate of the Bahá’í population in Samoa circa 2000 according to a profile by the World Council of Churches and the online encyclopedia Encarta was 2% of the nation - some 3,500 people - and the only non-Christian community of any number. There are, however, some reports of oppression of the community.
The Samoan Bahá’í Charitable Trust for Social and Economic Development produced Samoa's first television series dedicated to a healthy diet, "O le Kuka Samoa," on 16 October, 2000 with Samoan comedian Sumeo, alias "O le King Kuka," and was aimed at rejuvenating Samoan cultural food practices to help provide better nutrition as well as reliance on local resources. The Bahá’í community also maintains five Bahá’í pre-schools across all the islands of Samoa, gains converts, attracts skilled professionals, and a national youth committee is coordinating volunteer youth to come and serve in the Samoan Bahá’í community.
Representatives of the National Assemblies of Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Tonga as well as other dignitaries of the religion and Bahá’ís from the islands of Savai'i and Upolu and Bahá’í members of the royal family - King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa and daughter Susuga To'oa Tosi Malietoa - attended the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Bahá’ís Faith in Samoa in 2004 along with various members of the government of Samoa who highlighted many of the services the Bahá’ís have given to the general community.
King Malietoa Tanumafili II of Samoa
On the passing of King Malietoa Tanumafili II in 2007, the international governing body of the Bahá’ís, the Universal House of Justice wrote: "His service to the people of Samoa as Head of State was distinguished by the high principles, genuine compassion and personal humility that characterized the constancy of his concern for the welfare of all. As the first reigning sovereign to accept the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, he set a record that will forever illumine the annals of our Faith, one that future generations will increasingly extol. His great interest for well-nigh four decades in the Faith's progress was reflected in the enthusiastic affirmation of his belief whenever the opportunity presented itself and in the abiding joy with which he regarded the construction in 1984 of the Mother Temple of the Pacific Islands in Samoa...."
- ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1991). Tablets of the Divine Plan (Paperback ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá’í Publishing Trust. pp. p. 40. ISBN 0877432333. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/TDP/tdp-7.html.iso8859-1?#gr5.
- Hassall, Graham (1994-03-09). "Clara and Hyde Dunn". draft of "A Short Encyclopedia of the Baha'i Faith", Bahá’í Library Online. Retrieved on 2008-06-15.
- "50th Anniversary of the Bahá’í Faith in Samoa". Waves of One Ocean, Official Bahá’í website. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Samoa. February, 2004. http://bci.org/bahaisamoa/information.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- International Community, Bahá’í (2004-11-30), "Timeline of significant evens in the history of the Bahá’í Faith in Samoa and American Samoa (1954 -2004.)", Bahá’í World News Service, http://news.bahai.org/multimedia/slideshow.php?storyid=337
- International Community, Bahá’í (September 2006). Century of Light. Project Gutenberg: Bahá’í International Community. pp. p. 122. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19267/19267-h/19267-h.html.
- "Samoa Facts and Figures from Encarta - People". Encarta. Online. Microsoft. 2008. http://encarta.msn.com/fact_631504895/samoa_facts_and_figures.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Abbas, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, trans. and comments (1919). Tablets, Instructions and Words of Explanation. http://bahai-library.com/index.php5?file=abdulbaha_tablets_instructions_explanation.html.
- Hassall, Graham (1992), "Pacific Baha'i Communities 1950-1964", in H. Rubinstein, Donald, Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference, University of Guam Press & Micronesian Area Research Center, Guam, pp. pp.73-95, http://bahai-library.com/file.php5?file=hassall_bahai_pacific&language=
- Hassall, Graham (1988). "Yerrinbool Baha'i School 1938 - 1988 - An Account of the First Fifty Years". collections Asia-pacific and Article_published. Bahá’í Academics Resource Library. http://bahai-library.com/file.php5?file=hassall_yerrinbool_1938-1988&language=. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- International Community, Bahá’í (2004-11-30), "Royal welcome at jubilee gathering in Samoa", Bahá’í World News Service, http://news.bahai.org/story/337
- Hassall, Graham (1996). "Baha'i Faith in the Asia Pacific - Issues and Prospects". Bahá’í Studies Review (Association for Baha'i Studies (English-Speaking Europe)) Volume 6. http://www.breacais.demon.co.uk/abs/bsr06/61_hassall_pacific.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Report of Bahá’í International Community activities in support of the United Nations International Youth Year 3 June 1986
- Statement on the History of the Bahá’í Temple of Samoa
- Brogan, Todd (2008). "Baha'i House of Worship, Apia". SAMOA. Sacred Destinations. http://www.sacred-destinations.com/samoa/apia-bahai-temple.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2006-09-15). "International Religious Freedom Report - Samoa". United States State Department. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71356.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2007-09-14). "International Religious Freedom Report - Samoa". United States State Department. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2007/90152.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Samoa". WCC > Member churches > Regions > Pacific >. World Council of Churches. 2006-01-01. http://www.oikoumene.org/en/member-churches/regions/pacific/samoa.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Pearl of the Pacific (Mar 06)". HD FEATURES - ARCHIVES. Australian National Bahá’í Youth Committee. March 2006. http://www.theheyday.com/heydaydisplay.php?viewtopic=738. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- International Community, Bahá’í (2000-10-18), "Humor key ingredient in Samoan healthy cooking TV series", Bahá’í World News Service, http://news.bahai.org/story/70
- "O Le Kuka Samoa (Samoa)". Partners for Prosperity Projects. Partners for Prosperity. http://www.partnersforprosperity.org/projects.php?moreinfo=53. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "The Samoa project - Pre-schools on Samoan Islands". Projects. Baha'i Agency for Social and Economic Development, UK. http://www.baseduk.org.uk/project_samoa.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- "Study Circle Group in Samoa", Journal of the Bahá’í Community of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland ?? (??), May 2001, http://www.bahaijournal.org.uk/BJ200105/ciptt.htm
- "Penny Taylor: Lawyer attracted to deeds, not words". Who We Are. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Australia. http://www.bahai.org.au/scripts/WebObjects.exe/BNO.woa/wa/pages?page=who_we_are/profiles/penny_taylor.html. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Bahá’í International Community (2007-05-14). "Funeral and memorial service planned for Samoan head of state". Bahá’í World News Service. http://news.bahai.org/story/543. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
- Official Website of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Samoa (last updated 2004)
- Temple Website
- Second Temple Website
- More information on the Temple and it's history