Following the encouraging mass conversions in the Teso and Tilling areas of
eastern Uganda in the 1950's, the failure of the Bahá'í Faith to penetrate
very far into the majority of African cultures 40 years later gives us
cause to ponder whether or not the message of Bahá'u'lláh is being
presented in a way that reaches the hearts of the masses. A brief reading
of the literature available in Africa will leave little doubt that the
Bahá'í Faith is taught through the channels of Christian and (in the north)
Islamic scriptures and idioms. It is rather like trying to teach the
Bahá'í Faith in Ireland entirely through the sayings attributed to the
Buddha. There are, however, a great many corners of the continent where,
despite outward appearances, the attachment to these religions is
superficial and whose belief systems are only partially accepted. The
traditional African world view or belief system is often deeply at odds
with the modern tenets of these Faiths, and is, perhaps surprisingly,
frequently more in line with Bahá'í teachings.
Most foreign pioneers to Africa come from either a Christian or Islamic
religious background. Both of these groups naturally believe that the
Bahá'í teachings justify and confirm their previous belief system,
symbolized by the nine doors leading into a Bahá'í Temple. Upon arrival in
Africa they find at least three types of religious belief: traditional
systems, Christian and Moslem ones. In a great many cases, the traditional
belief systems are in open conflict with the other two. In the Bahá'í
community there is a natural gravitation towards teaching through the two
"mainline" religions and it is on these that Bahá'í instruction and
literature have concentrated.
If the Bahá'í teachers were to understand that the traditional belief
systems so widely and firmly held in most African countries have a Divine
origin, and are in fact the corrupted remnants of an earlier glorious
Revelation, they might engender a far greater acceptance of the Bahá'í
message by the masses. This paper attempts to describe the similarities
between the recently revealed Bahá'í Faith and the ancient traditional
beliefs of the Swazi people of Southern Africa. Its purpose is to raise an
awareness in the reader of the remarkable similarities between many aspects
of the two, and to raise the possibility that the Bahá'í Faith may be
carried directly from the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh into the hearts of the
Africans without passing through the corrupted and degenerated
interpretations of Christian and Islamic clerics. Until Africans feel
truly free to accept the message of Bahá'u'lláh without having to
simultaneously accept a great number of questionable doctrines, they will
remain only mildly attached to the Cause and live their lives firmly
attached to the remnants of the cultures that have served them so well for
Monotheistic Religion in Africa
The Example of
the Swazi People
"A weak person goes where he is smiled at."
- Herero saying, central Namibia
One of the blessings conferred on us as Bahá'ís is that we can, in
retrospect, recognize what essential elements of a true religion are still
in evidence in an apparently corrupted religious system. Through an
examination of a culture or group of cultural traditions, we might identify
which religions have had an influence on them. For example, a culture of
monogamy in a Western country might be presumed to have had the influence
of the Roman system which first prescribed it. Later it became the norm in
both Judaism and Christian societies. The development in Christianity of
"Satan" as an evil opposer of God apparently finds it roots in Zoroastrian
teachings. Observing a number of Amerindian beliefs and traditions can
lead one to understand that they are from a belief system whose major
attributes are similar in structure to the "Big Nine", and thus presumably
Divine in origin.
This paper attempts to dispel the prevailing and incorrect views that
Africans worship trees, stones, ancestors, totems, amulets and fetishes as
their gods. By looking briefly into the structure of the Swazi traditional
belief system, we will attempt to show that it has the characteristics of a
major religion, and that from a Bahá'í point of view, it represents a faded
but nonetheless "legitimate" belief system of Divine origin on a par with
the better known religions.
Following a number of communications with David Garcia in Swaziland and
Andrew Pemberton-Pigott at the University of Alberta, it is clear that
religious scholars presume that mankind has moved from an ancient
polytheistic religion to a more "modern" monotheistic one. This could be
because modern religious historians have seen a progression in the
Greek/Roman/Semitic people and assume that describes all human history.
This is found, for example, in Zoroastrianism which describes a "good God"
and a second, evil one who opposes the good One(1). The whole concept may have been a corruption.
The later religions call people to one God, denounce idolatry and all
forms of polytheism.
African religions (which are lived as cultures, not "practised" at certain
times) are often described in literature as "animist". Sudan is routinely
described in the media as having a Moslem north and a Christian and animist
south. In dictionaries and encyclopaedia Swaziland's religions are
described as Christian and animist. This characterization of their
religion as essentially being the worshipping of animals or spirits in
trees, rivers, stones etc. does not go down very well with Africans in
general and Swazis in particular. The Swazi culture has within it a world
view that does not want for an explanation of anything from science to
administration to love. It is a complete system. People do not walk about
wondering what propels the universe and what the meaning of events are.
They "know". Any new belief accepted into the culture displaces an
existing belief. The introduction of Christianity has consequently caused
some radical changes to the Swazi culture.
(1) Andrew Pemberton-Pigott's Lecture notes The History of Heaven and Hell
and John MacCord, "...the Jews were exposed to Zoroastrian dualism (a
good God and an evil God) who will ultimately meet in a final battle
where the good God "Ahura Mazda" will triumph over evil ..."
WHERE DID THE SWAZI RELIGION COME FROM?
There are clear indications in the Bahá'í Writings that there existed, in
former times, a religion called Sabaeanism. While little is known from
literature about this religion, what information exists is tantalizing.
The first thing is that there are two different groups described in the
Bahá'í Writings, with the spelling varying with publication date.
Nonetheless, these days it is generally understood that Sabians are the
followers of the religion started by the followers of John the Baptist who
did not accept Jesus(2). Sabaeans are
"...the followers of an ancient religion who worship idols named after
stars and who claim to have taken their religion from Seth and
Seth was described by `Abdu'l-Bahá as one of the "sons of Adam"(4) which
would make Sabaeanism a very old religion. Quoting Muhammad, Idris is
described by Bahá'u'lláh thus:
"And commemorate Idris in the Book; for he was a man of truth, a
Prophet; And we uplifted him to a place on high." (5)
The Universal House of Justice Research Department comments,
"The connection between Idris and Sabaeanism is interesting because it
confirms not only the extreme antiquity of this group of Sabaeans, but
also the fact that knowledge of the religion has spread over the earth -
Bahá'u'lláh affirms concerning Idris, "In every tongue he hath a special
name". It should be noted, however, that Bahá'u'lláh does not
specifically name Idris as the Prophet of the Sabaeans." (6)
"...Shoghi Effendi in his talks to the pilgrims is reported to have
described the followers of the traditional pagan African beliefs as the
remnants of the Sabaeans. However, with the possible exception of the
statement in the Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh concerning Idris and the
suggestion that knowledge of this religion was spread over the earth,
the Research Department has not been able to locate any references in
the Bahá'í Writings... "(7)
(2) "This ... group, known to live in areas of the Arabian Peninsula,
is often spelled "Sabian" and may be pronounced differently in English
than "Sabaean." David Garcia, private communication.
(3) Bahá'u'lláh, in His Tablets in the Persian language, cited in a
letter from the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 6 August
(4) "... Abel, Cain and Seth, the sons of Adam..." `Abdu'l-Bahá,
Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks delivered by `Abdu'l-Bahá
during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912, p.365
(5) Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the
Kitab-I-Aqas, p.148 footnote, quoting the Qur'an, 19:57-58.
(6) Universal House of Justice, letter to an individual believer, 6
The Bahá'í scholar Mirza Abdu'l-Fazl also claimed Sabaeanism was very
widespread, saying it, "...prevailed throughout the world among all nations
except the Chinese and the Hindoo" (8) and that Enoch was its
A Divine religion, observed in all continents, opens wide the possibility
that a common global culture also existed - one that has been largely
forgotten. Such a global religion and civilization might have enjoyed
uniform laws and the use of a common language and script. That mankind
should have achieved such a stage of development and then lost it,
contradicts the conventional wisdom that we are still struggling to
establish the first global civilization, that we are always moving forward.
(10) However, Bahá'u'lláh implies that mankind once shared
common laws and
customs, and spoke a single language:
"Consider the differences that have arisen since the days of Adam. The
divers and widely known languages now spoken by the peoples of the earth
were originally unknown, as were the varied rules and customs now
prevailing amongst them. The people of those times spoke a language
different from those now known." (11)
As for a common script used in pre-Adamic times, Bahá'u'lláh informs us
"Moreover such forms and modes of writing as are now current amongst men
were unknown to the generations that were before Adam. There was even a
time when men were wholly ignorant of the art of writing, and had
adopted a system entirely different from the one which they now
THE SWAZI PEOPLE
The Swazis(13) are members of the Nguni sub group of the
peoples. The Swazis migrated southwards over the past 2000 years from
Central Africa. One proof of this migration are the many common words -
especially animal names - shared by the scores of languages spoken over
vast the African territories. The cultures and languages of sub-Saharan
Africa are in many elements, remarkably similar, especially when compared
with the variety prevailing in Asia or the Middle East. The Swazis speak
SiSwati,(14) a dialect of the widely known Zulu language.
simultaneously one of the most accessible and well preserved cultures in
Africa, whose significant ceremonies have
(8) Mirza Abdu'l-Fazl, see Star of the West Vol VII No. 3 p. 17-24,
"Explanation of Daniel's Interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream"
(10) "For two days and two nights the Russian railway traverseth the
ruined cities and uninhabited villages of that wasteland. Formerly
that plain bore the fruit of the finest civilizations of the past."
`Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.298.
(11) Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 173
(12) Ibid, p. 172-3
(13) Technically speaking, the word "Swazi" is a Zulu word used by the
British to describe these people. They call themselves "AmaSwati"
which we English-speaking people say means "Swazis".
(14) Though not tonal, it is a descriptive language -- that is, varied
enunciation changes the meaning of words, even when the spelling is the
same. The word lapha can mean "here" or "there" depending on the
been observed throughout this century. Their religious practices,
encapsulated in their daily life, are overlain with a thin veneer of
Western Christianity. Theirs is arguably one of the best-preserved
traditional cultures on the continent(15).
While frequently described in the press as an "absolute monarchy",
Swaziland's traditional administrative system does not fit into any
European model of governance, traditional or modern. A CNN sound-bite can
not contain or describe it. Briefly, it is a Diarchy with two Royal
Persons, the King and his mother or senior wife. In the same way that
Queen Elizabeth II's husband is not the King of England, the King's wives
are not "Queens". There is only one Queen at a time. Her powers are
virtually equal to the King's. The King rules "in Council" which has no
direct European equivalent save perhaps the position of Henry II of 13th
century England, keeping in mind that England has no written Constitution
and Swaziland has no Magna Carta. Regional groupings of clans are headed
by what can be called "vassal kings" but who were given the title "Chiefs"
by the British.
Swazis traditionally did not use any form of writing as we understand it.
Indirect communications consisted of rectangular "letters" and strings or
necklaces all of which used a coloured bead-code. Unlike written
sentences, the beads can be images and or be made parallel and read either
simultaneously or as single lines. A battle story or love poem can be
rendered powerfully using this format as the actions or feelings can be
taken in simultaneously, rather like the cable TV channel that shows you
all the programmes at once. The colour and position of the beads is
interpreted in the same way that we read a string of letters in a sentence.
The string or necklace messages can be read frontwards or backwards with
the potential for deliberately humourous consequences, something that
cannot readily be done in English.
THE SWAZI RELIGION
As mentioned in detail above, there is a certain amount of evidence that
the religion and culture practised in Swaziland is a form of Sabaeanism.
While there are certain statements about this ancient religion generally
having degenerated into idol worshipping, this is not necessarily the case
as there may be pockets of adherents in the world who have held more firmly
to some of the original monotheistic teachings(16). There is
of a possible link or historical influence from Islam in that coastal
sailing traders had contact with the tribes along the eastern seaboard.
Ethiopian Christianity or perhaps a combination of Indian and Persian
influences may also have played an role. Space does not permit much to be
said about this possibility, however it can be noted that the fundamental
Swazi concepts of God, Messengers and spiritual progress do not agree well
with Eastern religious teachings.
Glass beads from India have been traded deep into Africa and there is
linguistic evidence of trading contact. Significantly, Greco-Roman
polytheism undermines the belief current among religious
(15) Which is not to say that much - the culture is succumbing to
tremendous materialistic pressures and the influences of outside
(16) "...and the religion of the Sabaeans, which was originally
monotheistic, and became gradually corrupted, and to which Abraham's
forefathers are believed to have belonged."
From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi
Effendi, 9 July 1939 to an individual believer, cited by the Research Department, Universal
House of Justice, 6 August 1996 in a letter to another individual
scholars that mankind moves inexorably from polytheism to monotheism as it
probably evolved from monotheistic Sabaeanism in Europe.
WHO IS GOD?
The Creator, the Great Spirit, God Himself, is known as "The One Who Came
First" - Mvelincanti(17). The One Who Came First pre-
He is so great and creation so insignificant that He cannot enter into it.
THE ONENESS OF GOD'S MESSENGERS
The name given to God's messenger in Swaziland is "Mlentegamunye"(18).
There is only one Messenger and He returns from time to time. His name is
really a title, not a personal name. Mlentegamunye means "the One Legged
Man". Our interpretation is that it means "the Man who stands in only one
place", not with one foot here and another one there. He appears in the
high mountains and comes surrounded by clouds and mist. He can only be
seen by the young and the old. His messages are invariably beneficial and
He does not take communications back to God, He only delivers messages from
ABSENCE OF CLERGY
There is no formal priesthood in Swazi traditional religion, and anyone who
claims there are "high priests" and "spiritual leaders" is projecting
European understanding onto this culture. There are respected people who
are known to have well developed spiritual capacities, but this does not
confer any clerical or interpretive status. The highest spiritual position
one can have is that of being the oldest person living at a homestead,
whether male or female. The oldest male also has certain religious
responsibilities, even if there is an older female living in the kraal.
Between the head of an extended family homestead and all things in and of
the next world, there is no one.
SWAZI SOCIETY'S LEVEL OF UNITY
Swazi traditional society is organized on the family unit. Its level of
social organization, or level of unity, is no higher than the family. At
this time there are political problems related to this because, in the
final analysis, Swazi citizens are basically people who have agreed to live
under the Dlamini (19) chieftainship. In a sense they have
of the family, though their status hovers between family and tribal member.
This is a simpler level of unity than that attained by the tribe of
Abraham or the city-state of Rome. It is perhaps another indicator of a
very early beginning as we would expect from a Sabaean-derived culture.
The Swazi homestead is the living quarters for an extended family - a man,
one or more wives, their children and possibly grandchildren. Diviners,
healers, and herbalists are greatly respected if they have proven
abilities, but they have no formal status. Many people fear healers and
diviners because of their
(17) Pronounced "mmm-vay-lin-n!aan-tee" where the "!" is a soft click
(tsk!) made by the front of the tongue.
(18) Pronounced "mmm-len-tay-gah-moon-yay". He is the, "...one-legged
messenger of the Most High." Spirit of the Rocks, p. 22.
(19) Nkosi-Dlamini was the first Swazi "King", who established the
nation in about 1750.
reputed powers to grant or withhold anything from favours to health and
safety. A few claim the ability to "become" one of the ancestors and so
provide a means of communicating with the dead.(20)
Knowing as we do, that mankind strives to progress from lower levels of
social organization to higher ones, Bahá'ís see society progressing
lock-step with spiritual development. The concept of "tribe" as it is
understood in Europe is a late arrival projected on them by colonials. The
largest social unit is the clan, made up of a group of extended families,
each of which has its spiritual leader. The leader of the clan is assumed
to have greater spiritual powers, more wisdom and easier access to those in
the next world than his or her inferiors, but is not a priest.
What may be surprising to Bahá'ís from outside Africa is the remarkable
consistencies the Swazi traditional religion has with what we know to be
the structures of a Divinely revealed religion. Their teachings point
strongly to a Divine source.
Although time is limited, here follows a brief description of the some
principal features of the Swazi Religion/Culture which in some way conform
to the Bahá'í Teachings
(Oneness of God) There is but one God, the Creator of all that is, called
different names by different people.
(Oneness of the Manifestations) Messages from God are brought by a special
person who delivers the necessary revelation to those who can see him. He
appears surrounded by "clouds" and "mist".
The intermediary Revelator reappears from time to time bringing new
guidance and instructions. There will be no surprise when another message
The "next world" has an eternal afterlife beyond the grave where one passes
from one condition to another growing ever closer to God.
Progress in the Next World
Those who are remarkably good pass sooner to a position where they can be
usefully requested for assistance in this world.(21) Some
require a period
of time before they are ready for such a position. The concept of
progression through worlds of God is clear.
The Supreme Concourse
Those holy souls who are able to assist in the mortal world make up a group
called Amadloti (best translated as "ancestors"). These souls are
supplicated in times of want or trouble. They are considered to be the
most powerful force in the mortal world safeguarding the best interests of
(20) This is exactly the same the "channelling" role played by a
European "spiritual medium". Its reality is denied by `Abdu'l-Bahá:
"Outside the bounty of the Holy Spirit, whatsoever thou hearest as to
the effect of trances, or the mediums' trumpets, conveying the
singing voices of the dead, is imagination pure and simple." Selections
from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.160.
(21) The Swazi concept of a righteous life being rewarded in heaven is
similar to that described in the Writings for a just king: they
"shall occupy a high rank and a sublime station amongst the Concourse
on high." Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 65
family.(22) Their desires or demands are interpreted in the
same way as,
"...the spiritual instructions of the Supreme Concourse..." (23) The Swazi
Concourse on High is limited to members of the extended family and any
other soul that has had contact with family members. The Concourse of
Amadloti is the focus of most private devotion and their influence is never
far from the mind of a Swazi.
Two Worlds Closely Related
It is believed that this world and the next are very closely connected.
They understand the meaning of "The veil shall be lifted and thou shalt
behold his face illumined in the Supreme Concourse." (24)
Intercession with God
Those who have most recently died are felt to be the most accessible to
mortals (for the purposes of intercession) as they are more familiar with
life on earth having recently left it. The purpose of this contact and
assistance revolves around problem-solving. Those long-dead are thought to
have progressed to higher planes and thus not as accessible. One might
pray asking a recently departed soul to ask a long-dead one for a special
favour such as protection, healing or inspiration.
There is no use of carved images or icons in matters relating to worship or
to the dead. (25)
Prayers are offered by men and women, usually in the cattle byre (kraal),
near the place where the family members are buried. Some devotions are
obligatory. This is the sacred place. The cattle byre has an inner
sanctum for special ceremonies.
Funerals are conducted at the homestead for the deceased with an
"introduction" being offered out loud so that the ancestors will accept the
The Abrahamic concept of animal (blood) sacrifices are evident, as demanded
by the ancestors. This is frequently the case when things are going badly
for the family and the material and spiritual blessings are withheld.
There are elements of human sacrifice evident in the culture which are
feared but not widely practised. This may be pre-Abrahamic in origin or a
(22) "The Concourse on High watches over them ready to vouchsafe its aid
and confer its blessings on their valiant and concerted
endeavours." Shoghi Effendi, The Power of Divine Assistence, quoted from
The Compilations, Volume 2, p.219, #1702.
(23) The Compilations, Vol I, # 612, p. 273
(24) `Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p.197
(25) The Bahá'í teaching is, "They that are the worshippers of the idol
which their imaginations have carved...are in truth accounted among the
heathen.", Bahá'u'lláh, Aqdas : Notes, p. 195.
Marriage is ordained as an institution. Divorce is frowned upon and will
only be permitted in the most difficult of circumstances after a failure of
intermediaries to effect a reconciliation.
The consent of the parents of the bride is required before marriage, though
in practise it is frequently required from the groom's parents as well.
A dowry (usually cattle) is paid to the family of the bride. A minimum of
1 cow (or its equivalent) for each of the father, the mother, and the
maternal grandmother, plus a negotiable 10 or 12 more depending on the
birth order of the bride.
Spiritual & Moral Education
There are a large number of social laws like the banning of pre-marital
penetrative sex, respect for elders and so on. Adulthood is a stage that
is reached after proper training. (26) Sexual relations before
prohibited and the penalty prescribed.
Society is divided into three age groups: children, youth who have passed
"kutfhomba"(27) or "kusoka"(28) and married adults. Though a case can
be made to see only the young and adults, in practise 5 groups can be
observed: children, female youth, male youth, adult women and adult men.
There is a strong recognition of certain rights and powers of women, who,
while definitely not sharing equally in all matters and positions, were
accorded a number of important economic and property rights that were
severely eroded by the arrival of Christianity. European-style laws
reduced women's status to that of "chattel wives" and "perpetual minors"
married "in community of property"(29).
Lack of Priests or Clerics
There are no priests in the Swazi religious system. They simply do not
exist. Access to God has a practical meaning for the family when you want
some material thing, or want something to happen. Perhaps you want rain,
good crops or hunting or need protection, healing etc. This entreaty
cannot be handled on a "one-to-one" basis as the players are so completely
unequal (God and man). One accomplishes any task of this nature by
approaching someone who is closer to God than you are (one of the
Amadloti), and they will in turn pass it up the line until it reaches the
Divine Ear. This communication mechanism is also mirrored in Swaziland's
daily life. Thanks are given to the Amadloti by ceremony or sacrifice.
(26) Among the Swazis this event is not nearly a prominent as it used to
be though it is still well-preserved in the Xhosa areas 1000 km to
the south. Adulthood for men is reached after an initiation ceremony
which lasts several months and includes circumcision. The first
entirely "Bahá'í" initiation ceremony was organized last year (1996) in
the Stutterheim area of the Eastern Cape.
(27) To have become a woman (first menstruation).
(28) Circumcision ceremony.
(29) What's his is his and what's hers is his.
The traditional religion of the Swazi people has many of the
characteristics of the other major world religions. Significantly lacking
is the existence of a Book or codified body of Teachings. This is not too
surprising considering the age of the culture and that from antiquity it
used a different form of recording communications. In any case, such a
codified body of rules would be no more than a description of life itself
which is regarded as common knowledge and passed on orally.
Claims that the name of the Divine Manifestation of the Swazi religion is
unknown, thereby casting doubt on its Divine origin, is a "red herring".
His name in SiSwati is Mlentegamunye. It is a title, just like "Buddha" or
"Christ" or "Bab" or "Bahá'u'lláh" are titles, and not names.
There are significant quotations from the Bahá'í Writings that point to
this religion as having a Divine origin and to its possible descent from
Sabaeanism. As a spiritual and social system, it is possibly more intact
than Central African cultures and indeed, many branches of Buddhism whose
"doctrines gradually disappeared"(30) in
their entirety. It is possibly one
of the most intact examples of Sabaeanism extant.
There are a great many similarities between the Bahá'í and Swazi concepts
of things spiritual, but significant differences on social teachings.
This places the Swazi religion, whatever its origin and evolution, on a par
with the other major world religions.
That this important world religion has not been studied by Bahá'ís in the
same way that the other major faiths have has to be regarded as an
unfortunate oversight. You could not easily teach the Bahá'í Faith to the
Chinese through the precepts of Judaism, nor the Jews through the
philosophies of Confucius. To a large extent, the Bahá'í Faith has only
been accepted in Africa by those who have already demonstrated some
attachment to Christianity or Islam. Bahá'u'lláh came for all people, not
only those who recently converted to Middle Eastern religions.
It is fair to ask of what value is the (admittedly uncertain) knowledge
that all the peoples of the world may have shared a common language, common
laws, a common means of communication, a common religion (almost) and a
common culture? Apart from an obvious need to completely re-write the
history books, it confers upon the African traditional belief systems,
descended from an ancient true religion, authored by a Manifestation of
God,(31) no less an authenticity and due
esteem than, for example, Hinduism, a
more recognized religion of similar antiquity.(32) Were we to treat Africa
(30) "He established the Oneness of God, but later the original
principles of His doctrines gradually disappeared, and ignorant
customs and ceremonials arose and increased until they finally ended in
the worship of statues." `Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 165.
(31) "As to the religion of the Sabaeans, very little is known about the
origins of this religion, though we Bahá'ís are certain of one
thing, that the founder of it has been a divinely-sent Messenger."
From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 10 November 1939
to an individual believer, cited by the Research Department,
Universal House of Justice, 6 August 1996 in a letter to another
(32) "With reference to your question concerning the Sabaean and Hindu
religions: there is nothing in the Teachings that could help us in
ascertaining which one of these two Faiths is older. Neither history
seems to be able to provide a definite answer to this question. The
records concerning the origin of these religions are not sufficiently
detailed and reliable to offer any conclusive evidence on this
point." From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 9 November
1940 to an individual believer, cited by the Research Department,
Universal House of Justice, 6 August 1996 in a letter to another
we would be called upon to give as much respect to their traditional
beliefs as we do to Buddhism, a religion whose teachings have been so
obscured by the passage of time and the interventions of priests that
virtually nothing remains of its Founders' principles.(33) In short, the
traditional religion of Swaziland is as authentic, as legitimate, as Divine
in origin and as deserving of courtesy and recognition as a medium of
teaching the Faith as the other mainstream religions of the world.
(33) "Buddha also established a new religion, and Confucius renewed
morals and ancient virtues, but their institutions have been entirely
destroyed. The beliefs and rites of the Buddhists and Confucianists have
not continued in accordance with their fundamental teachings."
`Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 165
_Promulgation of Universal Peace_, `Abdu'l-Bahá
_Tablets Revealed After the Kitab-I-Aqdas_, Bahá'u'lláh
_Star of the West_, Volume VII, No 3
_Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh_
_The Compilations Volume I_
_The Compilations, Volume II_
Sullivan, Brenda, _Spirit of the Rocks_ Cape Town, Human and Russeau, p.22
Schuster-Campbell, Susan, _Called To Heal - My Visit With Swazi Healers_
Universal House of Justice, letter to an individual believer, 6 August 1996
on African-Based Religions, Section 1:
"The Bahá'í Attitude and Response to the Religion of Santeria (Lucumi,
Candomble) -- and to Palo Kongo (Monte, Mayombe) and Macumba (Umbanda,
About the Authors
Crispin and Margaret Pemberton-Pigott have been living in Southern Africa
for most of the past 20 years.
Crispin operates New Dawn Engineering, a company that specializes in
manufacturing labour intensive production equipment based in Matsapha,
Swaziland. (see _One Country_ Jul Sept '96, p.12) Originally from
Pickering, Ontario, Canada, his parents pioneered with the family to
Ibadan, Nigeria during the Ten Year Crusade. He returned to Africa with
his wife and three small children in 1977, living in Swaziland and
Margaret has a legal and administrative background with a degree in
Communications and comes originally from Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
When the family lived in Transkei, South Africa, she was for 5 years
variously the P.A. to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Transkei,
Corporate Secretary of the Mining Corporation and worked in marketing for a
large furniture manufacturer. After working for ten years with New Dawn
Engineering in Swaziland, she presently is the Administrator of "Imphilo
Clinic", private hospital in Manzini.