On November 29, 2019, the Bahá'í community of Rwanda celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of the Báb, the herald of the Baha'i Faith, and 67 years of existence in the country. Bahá'ís stressed the religion's desire to contribute to making Rwanda and the world a better place through young people's education and women's empowerment, among other activities.
For Bahá'ís, the teachings of the Báb mark a turning point in human history. Born Siyyid 'Ali-Muhammad in 1819, he took the name the Báb, meaning "the Gate" in Arabic. His public mission, from 1844 to 1850, represented a spiritual revolution that upended the prevailing social, political, and religious order in Persia, opening the door to the new, unifying vision brought by Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. The religion currently has several million adherents in 234 countries. The Bahá'í community started its activities in Rwanda in 1953.
"We are fortunate to live in a land of acceptance where respect of various cultures and beliefs is a fundamental value. We see new patterns of values like unity and peace emerging", said Linda Habimana, one of the religion's representatives.
The Rwanda Bahá'í community is present in most districts of the country, with its members engaging in community-building activities such as the provision of spiritual and moral education to children and adolescents, the organization of spiritual discussions and service opportunities for youth and adults, and the hosting of prayer gatherings opened to all. These activities emphasize the unity of all people and of all religions, the main purpose of the Baha'i Faith.
"We are really honored to have Bahá'ís in our community. They are supportive in all government programs. They help us provide a moral education to children through the teachings of peace and unity", said Nyirahabimana Godence, the village leader of Sakirwa in Kicukiro sector.
The two Bahá'í centers in Kigali are located in Nyamirambo and Rebero mountain. Since 1994, the Bahá'í community in Rwanda has grown to a few thousand members.
"In our youth group, they teach us to live in harmony and inclusiveness. We are very glad that the Bahá'ís do not select participants based on religion. Some of us are from different religions, but we are treated the same," says Ineza Landry, one of the young participants of the program.
Israeli Ambassador Ron Adam, one of the guests of honor, hailed the Baha'i community for working towards making the world a better place and Rwanda for hosting the Bahá'í community.
"I am very proud of the Baha'i community in a land of a thousand hills. This is a symbolic sign of a special 'Igihango' between Rwanda and Israel. Rwanda is a place of unity where leaders and people together brought harmony to transform a dark chapter into one of light", said the Ambassador.
At the event, several Bahá'ís shared their stories on how they came to know the Baha'i Faith and how it has helped them develop their spiritual capacities by walking a path of service to the community and humanity.
"As the Bahá'í writings say, we are all the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch. As a Rwandan, this belief inspires me every day to help build a country founded on unity and harmony," said Guillaume Nyagatare, a senior lecturer at the University of Rwanda who embraced the Faith in 1988.