A Letter of NSA of New Zealand to its members

16 December, 1996

To the Baha'is of New Zealand

Dear Baha'i Friends

Lamentable Situation Calls for Loyal Response

With heavy hearts, the National Spiritual Assembly announces to the Baha'i community that Ms Pauline Smith, of Masterton, has broken the Covenant and been expelled from the Faith by the Universal House of Justice. Ms Smith has unfortunately not heeded the guidance and warnings she has been given over a period of some months, and has decided to maintain contact and association with known Covenant-breakers, who are some of the relatives of Shoghi Effendi, and in particular, Ms Parvine Afnan Shahid.

Ms Smith, who had known about the Faith for some years in New Zealand, went to the United Kingdom where she continued learning about the Faith from believers she met there. While in England she also happened to meet the family of Covenant-breakers and became friends with them. Ms Smith later became a Baha'i in England and, soon afterwards, returned to New Zealand (in 1995). Since then, there have been attempts by the institutions of the Faith to counsel Ms Smith about her association with Ms Shahid, who intends to come to live in Masterton from early 1997. The Universal House of Justice says:

"It has been determined that Parvine Shahid, who is the granddaughter of the notorious Covenant-breaker Nayyir Afnan, is infected with the spirit of Covenant-breaking and should be treated as a Covenant-breaker."(1)

Friends wishing to know more about the history of Ms Shahid's family should refer to a book by Mr Adib Taherzadeh, entitled *The Covenant of Baha'u'llah* which provides full information about this matter. A four page summary of relevant details is being sent to all Local Spiritual Assemblies and groups, and is available from the National Office on request.

A fundamental principle of the Faith is that no believer can have any contact or association with a believer who has been deemed by the Head of the Faith to break the Covenant, whether by correspondence, telephone, or in person. Strict adherence to this rule is obligatory. The essential reason for this is to preserve the unity of the Baha'i Faith. It is because of division within themselves that the religions of the past have not fulfilled their purpose to unify mankind. For a further elaboration of this principle please see the attached extracts from a letter of the Universal House of Justice dated 9 December 1996, to a believer in Masterton [not supplied].

Over the next few months the National Spiritual Assembly will implement, in collaboration with the Arm of the Learned and working through the Local Spiritual Assemblies and assistants, a systematic deepening programme on the Covenant aimed at every believer in New Zealand. In the meantime, the friends are urged to rededicate themselves to study of 'Abdul-Baha's Will and Testament, and to familiarise themselves with guidance regarding firmness in the Covenant, which is found in such publications as *Lights of Guidance*. All communities were recently sent a copy of a publication entitled *The Power of the Covenant* which consists of a set of three booklets. This provides further reference material for any questions you may have about this matter. Audio cassette tapes on the subject of the Covenant are also available from the Audio-Visual Unit. The National Spiritual Assembly urges you to make a concerted effort to study deeply the subject of the Covenant, individually and in groups.

Meeting this challenge represents a new stage in the growth of the Faith in New Zealand. These words of a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi provide reassurance of the progress that comes from a crisis:

"He urges you not to be discouraged or depressed, but rest assured that Baha'u'llah will assist you. Every set-back this Cause receives is invariably a means of ensuring a future victory, for God will never permit His Faith to be put out or uprooted."(2)

As the believers strengthen their understanding of the Covenant and more faithfully adhere to its provisions, such firmness will not only increase their own understanding of Baha'u'llah's Revelation and provide protection for our national community, but will also give additional impetus to deepening our commitment to achieving the purpose and goals of God's plan.

We are fully conscious of the distress and shock that many believers will go through as a result of this severe test and we do not underestimate the severe challenge this poses.

The Universal House of Justice says:

"We are confident that the dearly loved New Zealand believers will not allow this lamentable situation to deflect them from their meritorious endeavours to further develop their Baha'i community and to maintain its unity."(3)

Be assured of the ardent prayers of this institution for your reassurance, comfort and strength of faith.

Warmest Baha'i love

Suzanne Mahon

enc: Extract from a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 December 1996

1. From a letter dated 12 December 1996 from the Department of the Secretariat, Universal House of Justice, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of New Zealand[.]

2. From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated 26 January 1950 to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Panama, quoted in The Compilation of Compilations: Volume l, #323.

3. From a letter of the Universal House of Justice dated 12 December 1996 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of New Zealand.

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