January 27, 2012

Historic worldwide travels of Hand of the Cause Ruhiyyih Khanum

Perhaps it can be stated that Ruhiyyih Khanum’s world travels for the Faith started with her appointment as a Hand of the Cause. She attended the Intercontinental Teaching Conference in Chicago-Wilmette, Illinois, April-May 1953 as Shoghi Effendi's representative. After the Guardian’s passing, she fulfilled his wish by acting as his representative in attending the second Intercontinental Conference in Kampala, Uganda, in January 1958.

A year after Shoghi Effendi's passing she supervised the construction of the monument at his grave in the New Southgate Cemetery, London. During this period she began to attend a series of meetings as representative of the World Centre of the Faith: conference of European Hands of the Cause, Copenhagen, 1959; conventions of United States and Canada, 1960; dedication of Baha'i Houses of Worship, Kampala, in January and Sydney, Australia, in September 1961. She toured centers in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanganyika, in January-February 1961, and centers in Australia, Malaya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma, in September-October 1961. She attended the European Hands of the Cause conference in Luxembourg, December 1962.

She traveled almost unceasingly, bringing the Message of Baha'u'llah and the love of Shoghi Effendi to as many of the world peoples as possible - from the highest in the land to the most primitive of villagers in the remotest of areas. Notable among these travels were trips to India, Southeast Asia, the Indian Ocean, Africa, Europe, and Central and South America. She visited places where neither Baha'i teachers nor Hands of the Cause had been. Commencing in February 1964 she traveled almost 55,000 miles in nine months in India. This took her to all but three states and included visits to some remote and almost extinct tribes; she was alsoreceived by the president, the prime minister and many notables, distinguished officials, and leaders of thought. She also attended several conventions and broke off her visit to the Indian subcontinent to attend the dedication of the Mother Temple (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar) of Europe in Frankfurt, Germany, in July. In 1967 she visited Sikkim, India, and the Indian Ocean islands of Reunion, Madagascar, and Mauritius, and in 1972 she visited the Seychelles. During this period she also attended the Intercontinental Conference in Panama (1967), after which she spent seven months visiting the tribal areas of Panama, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil. These trips often took place under the most arduous conditions, including transport by truck or jeep, on foot or horseback, along tortuous mountain trails at high altitudes, sometimes in rain and mud, often sleeping in the most primitive houses in hammocks or on the floor. In 1968 she visited Surinam and Guyana. From 1970 to 1973 she made four journeys throughout Africa, which became known as "The Great Safari." Interrupted only by visits to other parts of the world to attend functions of historic importance to the Baha'i world, she visited most parts of East, West, South, and Central Africa. She was by then in her mid-sixties and drove her Land Rover for well over half of the 36,000 miles of her journeys. It was during this period that she penned the series of poems, perhaps best described as a crie-de-coeur expression of her grief at the passing of her husband and Guardian, later published as Poems of the Passing.

Between 1973 and 1976, she visited India, Bangladesh, Burma, Hong Kong, the United States, and Canada. In 1975-1976, showing characteristic courage and audacity, at the age of 73, by which time she had already visited 109 countries, she was accompanied by a team of filmmakers on her epic voyage up the tributaries of the Amazon Basin and onward to the mountains ranges of Peru and Bolivia to visit the indigenous tribes of those regions. The film of this arduous and undoubtedly dangerous trip was later released as a two-hour documentary, ‘The Green Light Expedition’, with English, Spanish, and Persian commentaries. In August 1976 she attended the largest International Conference to date when over 6,000 Baha'is met in Paris. After this she spent some time in Bermuda and in 1977 returned to India, followed by visits to Australia and an eight-month round-the-world trip culminating with a nine-week tour of Australasia, when she represented the Universal House of Justice at the laying of the foundation stone of the Baha'i House of Worship in Samoa.

Her travels continued, and in 1980 she visited Europe and Canada, where she directed, edited, and narrated a two-hour documentary film she had written entitled The Pilgrimage, an attempt on her part to allow those unable to undertake an actual pilgrimage to the Holy Land to view vicariously several of the Holy Places as well as several precious archives in her personal care.

January 1981 found her attending a conference for members of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Panama followed by a tour of Central America and the Caribbean, where she was received by many dignitaries and a host of tribal villagers. She then completed an almost one-year tour of the Americas with a visit to Canada. Commencing 11 August 1982 she went on a tour of Canada, Greenland, and Iceland, where again she was well received by many dignitaries and senior officials and met with many hundreds of North American Indians and Eskimos. After visiting conferences and centers in Europe in mid-1983, she set out on an extensive tour of Asia and Australasia in April 1984, which included the dedication of the Samoan Temple (Mashriqu'l-Adhkar). In January 1985, after more visits to South America and Panama, she was in New York by 22 November to present the newly released "peace statement," entitled ‘The Promise of World Peace’ to the secretary-general of the United Nations. In 1988, at the age of 78, she undertook a grand tour of China and Mongolia. In 1992 she visited the republics of the USSR. (Adapted from the ‘Historical Dictionary of the Baha’i Faith’ by Hugh Adamson)