Experiences with Anti-Baha'i Polemic in German-speaking Countries

By Udo Schaefer

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #8
Newcastle, England
December 8–10, 1995
(see list of papers from #8)

    From the beginning of this century, criticism against the Baha'i Faith has been voiced in German-speaking Europe almost exclusively by Protestant theologians, their Catholic counterparts preferring a policy of simply ignoring the Faith. Two monographs, based mainly on material published by the Comte Gobineau and E. G. Browne, were published in 1911 and 1949. These were highly critical, but not polemical. Anti-Baha'i polemics started with the publication of manuals on "sects" by ecclesiastical publishers, notably in a book by Paul Scheurlen brought out in 1921. After this early attack it was not until the 1960s that polemical writings appeared, primarily in publications brought out by a Protestant agency, the Evangelische Zentralstelle fuer Weltanschauungsfragen (founded in 1960). This agency and its head, Dr. Kurt Hutten, adopted a very polemical tone, especially focusing on Baha'i Administration, in which Dr. Hutten saw the "Fall from Grace of Baha'ism." He regarded the very small group of German Covenant-breakers, adherents of Ruth White who called themselves "free Baha'is," as the true community. In a chapter of his manual on "Sects" Dr. Hutten harshly attacked the Baha'i community, its structures and institutions.

    A new chapter in the history of opposition opened with the publication in 1981 of a malevolent monograph on the Baha'i Faith written by a Swiss Covenant-breaker, Francesco Ficicchia. The fact that this work was published by the above-mentioned Evangelische Zentralstelle indicates the adoption by the ecclesiastical opposition of a new strategy, namely the instrumentalization of dissidents (Covenant-breakers) for apologetic purposes.

    Ficicchia's highly polemical work and his entries on "Baha'ism" in two renowned Catholic encyclopedias, which present the Faith in a distorted and cynical manner, have had a disastrous impact on the public reputation of the Faith. In order to avoid the arena of religious controversy, the German-speaking Baha'i communities remained silent for fourteen years, a silence that was interpreted as an endorsement of Ficicchia's erroneous statements and absurd conclusions.

    At the instigation of the Universal House of Justice, a rebuttal of Ficicchia's publications has been written, and was published at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair. Desinformation als Methode: Die Baha'ismus-Monographie des F. Ficicchia, by Udo Schaefer, Nicola Towfigh, and Ulrich Gollmer, carefully analyzes and refutes Ficicchia's perfidious, cleverly thought-out attack on the religion of Baha'u'llah.

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