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Serving the Cause Through the Art of Storytelling

Serving the Cause Through the Art of Storytelling

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Published by Jheniefeer Sayyáh
Transcription of a talk given by Mr. Kiser Barnes
Transcription of a talk given by Mr. Kiser Barnes

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Jheniefeer Sayyáh on Aug 21, 2012
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08/21/2012

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29 January 2003Haifa, IsraelGood evening
Friends. I‟m delighted to be among so many lovers of stories and storytellers. In this presentation of a few stories, I‟ll make
some remarks about serving the Cause of God through the art of storytelling.
The Báb and Bahá‟u‟lláh
, like the Manifestations of God before Them,told educative stories. The Manifestations are Divine Educators whooften couched the most valuable lessons for humanity in penetratingstories. The use of parables by Jesus is greatly appreciated. In TheDawn-
Breakers, Nabíl has recorded narratives Bahá‟u‟lláh related to him. „Abdu‟l
-Bahá was a superb storyteller. It would be an excellent
contribution to learning if the Master‟s use of stories was examined.
What were His methods? What languages did He use? How did Hepromote the art of storytelling? What subjects did He stress? Of course,
God Passes By is Shoghi Effendi‟s unique account of the outstandingevents that occurred in the first century of the Faith‟s history. A treasure
of stories for the world is fou
nd in the Guardian‟s expositions and
commentaries. For example, in The Promised Day is Come, he relates
what happened to some eastern rulers who opposed Bahá‟u‟lláh. In
short, storytelling has been, and remains, a powerful instrument for the
Faith‟s advanc
ement.
Teaching the Oneness of Mankind
 The young lady who introduced me, Jacqueline Ambe, is from Cameroon.The first Cameroonian woman who accepted the Faith was Mrs. EstherTanyi. She told me how she became a believer. In her own way, sherelated how a believer taught her to believe in the oneness of mankindthrough his consumption of food.After Mr. Enoch Olinga, the late Hand of the Cause of God, settled inCameroon in 1953, the Guardian sent Mr. Alí Nakhjavání there with hisrequest that five of t
he new and only Cameroonian Bahá‟ís at that time
should arise to establish the Faith in other parts of West Africa. The onlyquestion these new believers had was this: Who among them would gainthis special honour? They had recently elected the first Local SpiritualAssembly in the city of Victoria. Therefore, they decided that the fivewho would become international pioneers would be selected by secretballot. Ballots were cast. Those chosen left their homes for other lands.Thus, five Cameroonians became
Knights of Bahá‟u‟lláh during the Ten
 
Year Crusade. Mr. David Tanyi, Esther‟s husband, established the Faith
in Togo.She told me that before this occurred, Mr. Olinga stayed with her family.
She said she didn‟t understand what he was “preaching.” She no
ticed,however, there was something different about him that made her like
the Bahá‟í Faith. In addition to his other noble qualities, what impressedher most was this: “Every dish of food I put before Mr. Olinga he atewith relish. This was very strange,” 
she related. For in her culture, onenever ate the food of someone from a different tribe. People could putharmful things in it. She said she was testing Mr. Olinga with hercooking. He ate everything she served. To Mrs. Tanyi, this proved Mr.Olinga truly believed what he was teaching of the oneness of peoples;that God had sent a new Prophet whose teachings meltedestrangements and differences between peoples. She became the first
woman believer in Cameroon. I don‟t know if our Cameroonian
introducer can cook, but she comes from a great nation of storytellers.
The Bahá’í Storytelling Tradition
 
In the Bahá‟í world, a great storytelling tradition exists. Wheneverbelievers attained Bahá‟u‟lláh‟s presence, they treasured whatever He
said. There are soul-stirring accounts of stories He told the friends of Himself, the Báb, of outstanding believers, and of the greatness of theCause. In the Holy Land, He continued this practice. Thus, it is not
surprising that at the Bahá‟í World Centre the storytelling tra
dition
continues. Individuals relating how they became Bahá‟ís is a fascinating
part of our social life here. When we hear these stories, when we tell
stories of our Bahá‟í experiences, the love for Bahá‟u‟lláh and the Faith
that is expressed penetrates the heart. Our stories may expandconsciousness of spiritual realities. They deepen bonds of affection andlove.
Bahá‟u‟lláh loved humour. He often made believers feel at ease in Hispresence by mentioning amusing, trivial things. Here‟s a story you may
li
ke. Mírzá Ja‟far had been a Mullá in Iran. Soon after he met Bahá‟u‟lláh
in Baghdád, he accepted the Faith. He threw away prestige and power asa prominent religious leader. He was a servant in the household of 
Bahá‟u‟lláh in „Akká. One day, the Muftí of „Akká visited Bahá‟u‟lláh. He
asked the Blessed Beauty to explain the meaning of a specific religious
theme. Bahá‟u‟lláh instructed Mírzá Ja‟far to answer the Muftí. He did so
brilliantly. The Muftí was astonished
 
a mere servant in Bahá‟u‟lláh‟s
household was so learned.
Mírzá Ja‟far was quick
-
witted. He often made Bahá‟u‟lláh laugh. One day,Bahá‟u‟lláh asked, “Mírzá Ja‟far, would you like me to reveal for yousome of your bad qualities?” Mírzá Ja‟far quickly, and very wisely,responded, “No, thank you!” 
 Storytelling is one of the oldest arts. It exists in every culture. In Africa,
 
some villages have a resident storyteller: the person who, at the end of the day, over the night fires, tells stories from the culture and history of the people. There are also traveling storytellers.It may be that the great explosion of storytelling in the world is
connected with the influence of Bahá‟u‟lláh‟s Manifestation. As you know,
the Revelation places before mankind the great story of religion. It is anepical acco
unt of the Almighty‟s loving intervention in mankind‟s affairs.
This story is being revealed with a fullness and clarity never seen beforein human history. Since the appearance of the Twin Manifestations,
Bahá‟u‟lláh and the Báb, the world has had fresh a
nd stirring accounts of the spiritual rebirth of Their followers and the extraordinary recreation of society.The teaching of progressive revelation is part of the story, as are thoseof the oneness of religion and the oneness of God. The equality of menand women is a portion. The ushering in of a divine, equitable WorldOrder is another feature. It is, perhaps, the most profound account everrevealed of the desperate opposition of religious and secular leaders
against God‟s Prophets. Of course, the unfo
ldment of the story
continues. The recent message to the world‟s religious leaders has its
place in it. Efforts believers are making to understand the station and
mission of Bahá‟u‟lláh, to appreciate more deeply the nature and the
purpose of religion are other sections of the lofty tale. The victories wonin the current Plan are another part. Is it not a wonder that the Báb and
Bahá‟u‟lláh, and „Abdu‟l
-Bahá in His own sphere, have made peopleacross the planet fall in love with the story of religion?A u
nique feature of the divine story, it seems, is that Bahá‟ís are really
striving to understand it! The ones who are listening to the divine tale.The ones who are thrilled by the story! We know that two Manifestationsof God have appeared. We know that the
Mystery of God, „Abdu‟l
-Bahá,and the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, achieved the purposes of theirministries. We know that there remains in the world divine guidance formankind through the Universal House of Justice, a perpetual institutionthat will exist until the next Dispensation. These are major features of the story of religion that we are enjoying.
Stories of Spiritual Transformation
 At social gatherings at the World Centre, there are wonderful
storytellers. Believers share how they became Bahá‟ís a
nd more. Thissharing deepens love for the Faith. I was at a dinner last Friday withtwelve others. Individuals were asked to recount how they became
Bahá‟ís. Thirteen marvelous stories were presented. As I listened, I
thought how splendid it was to hear such stirring accounts from everypart of the planet as to how the teachings of the Faith had penetrated
receptive hearts. We learned about each other‟s backgrounds, families,
and how each person acquired a new consciousness, a new relationshipwith and commitment to God. There were two believers from Iranian

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