January 16, 2012

The First Oceanic Baha’i Conference was held in Palermo, Sicily, in August 1968

The significance of the conference and its location are described in the following excerpt from the message of the House of Justice:

The great sea, on one of whose chief islands you are now gathered, within whose hinterland and islands have flourished the Jewish, the Christian and Islamic civilizations is a befitting scene for the first Oceanic Bahá'í Conference. Two millenniums ago, in this arena, the disciples of Christ performed such deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice as are remembered to this day and are forever enshrined in the annals of His Cause. A thousand years later the lands, bordering the southern and western shores of this sea witnessed the glory of Islam's Golden Age. [The classical age of Islamic civilization, the eighth through thirteenth centuries.]

In the day of the Promised One this same sea achieved eternal fame through its association with the Heroic and Formative Ages of His Cause. It bore upon its bosom the King of kings Himself, the Centre of His Covenant crossed and re-crossed it in the course of His epoch-making journeys to the West, during which He left the indelible imprint of His presence upon European and African lands; the Sign of God on earth frequently journeyed upon it. [Bahá'u'lláh sailed upon the Mediterranean Sea in 1868 during His journey from Gallipoli to 'Akká. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, accompanied Bahá'u'lláh on that journey and later sailed upon the Mediterranean in the course of His travels to Egypt, Europe, and North America, 1910-13. Shoghi Effendi, the Sign of God on earth, traversed the Mediterranean in his travels to England to study at Oxford University and in the course of later visits to Europe.] It enshrines within its depths the mortal remains of the Hand of the Cause of God Dorothy Baker and around its shores lies the dust of apostles, martyrs and pioneers. Forty-six Knights of Bahá'u'lláh are identified with seven of its islands and five of its territories. Through such and many other episodes, Mediterranean lands -- ancient home of civilizations -- have been endowed with spiritual potentiality to dissolve the encrustations of those once glorious but now moribund social orders and to radiate once again the light of Divine guidance.

Through dedicated, heroic and sacrificial deeds during the course of the beloved Guardian's ministry, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh was established in this area. Eight pillars of the Universal House of Justice were raised, the first of an even larger number to be established now and during the course of future plans, to include, as envisioned by Shoghi Effendi, National Spiritual Assemblies in major islands of that historic sea. (The Universal House of Justice, excerpt from a message addressed to the friends attending the First Bahá'í Oceanic Conference in Palermo, Sicily, August 1968; ‘Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986’, pp. 137-138 ) (To read the entire message please visits Messages to the Baha’i World Community – by the Universal House of Justice)