HAIFA, Israel--One hundred years ago, 'Abdul-Baha, the eldest son of Baha'u'llah and His appointed successor as head of the Bahal Faith, embarked on a series of journeys which, over the course of three years, took Him from the Holy Land to the Nile delta, from the Pacific coast of North America to the banks of the River Danube.
Despite the advanced age of 66, 'Abdu'l-Baha set out in August 1910 to present Baha'u'llah's teachings about the dawning of a new age of peace and unity, to high and low alike. These historic journeys launched a fledgling faith on its way to becoming a world religion.
This historic journey will be commemorated in the coming years by Balai communities around the world, and especially in those countries outside the Middle East where 'Abdu'l-Baha visited.
Following the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, all prisoners of conscience of the Ottoman Empire--including 'Abdul'l-Baha and His family--were set free. Two years later He left the confines of the Holy Land, heading first to Egypt where he stayed for one year.
Then, in August 1911, 'Abdu'l-Baba set sail for Europe, spending a month in London and two months in Paris. After returning to Egypt for the winter, He set off again in March 1912 for an eightmonth tour of North America, followed by second visits to London and Paris, as well as to Austria, Germany, Hungary and Scotland.
Breakthrough to new cultures
"From the time of Baha'u'llah's passing [in 1892], the Bahal Faith's spread to North America and Europe had been a very significant development," said Moojan Momen, a historian based in the United Kingdom, "but these communities were rather few in number."
"So Abdu'l-Baha's visits not only saw Him generally proclaiming the Babel teachings further afield, but also consolidating the religion's breakthrough into new cultures."
At Abdu'l-Baha's first ever public talk--given at the City Temple church in London on 10 September 1911--'Abdu'l-Baba told the congregation, "The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion."
Paris-based writer Jan Jasion, who is researching 'Abdu'l-Baha's travels in Europe, said: "Over and over again, He stressed the need for understanding between people, for bringing religions together, for world peace. He wanted to bring people closer to God and for them to understand the reality of religion and rid themselves of superstitions."