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56.       The First Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, 1957

      One of the goals of the Guardian's Ten Year Crusade was to form a national spiritual assembly in Japan. At the time the Crusade was launched in 1953, there was only one local spiritual assembly in the northern Asia area. However, just four years later the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia was elected. Its seat was to be in Tokyo and its scope was Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The islands of Hainan, off the coast of China, and Sakhalin, north of Japan, were included in the original jurisdiction. Later Hainan Island was assigned elsewhere and Sakhalin Island remains one of the areas for the National Spiritual Assembly of Japan to open.

      The year before, 1956, a total of eight local spiritual assemblies were elected or formed by joint declaration in Japan. Four additional assemblies were elected in Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. With twelve local spiritual assemblies participating, the National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia was elected by the delegates.

      Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalal Khazeh, as the Guardian's representative to the convention, presented the Guardian's message (in part here): "With feelings of exultation, joy and pride I hail the convocation of this history-making Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, paving the way for the emergence of a Regional Spiritual Assembly with an area of jurisdiction embracing Japan, Korea, Formosa, Macao, Hong Kong, Hainan Island and Sakhalin Island.

      "This auspicious event, which posterity will regard as the culmination of a process initiated, half a century ago, in the capital city of Japan, under the watchful care and through the direct inspiration of the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, marks the opening of the second chapter in the history of the evolution of His Faith in the North Pacific area. Such a consummation cannot fail to lend a tremendous impetus to its onward march in the entire Pacific Ocean.

      Elected to the first National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia were two Japanese, three Persians and four Americans, one of whom was Miss Agnes Alexander, who just the month before,


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      The First Annual Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, held at Gakushi Kaikan in Tokyo, Japan, 1957. Hands of the Cause Miss Alexander and Mr. Khazeh are holding the frame containing the "Greatest Name."


had been elevated to the high station of Hand of the Cause. The Guardian was pleased with the membership of the new national assembly and wrote (through his secretary): "... He (the Guardian) was very happy to see that your Assembly has represented on it members of the three great races of mankind, a living demonstration of the fundamental teaching of our Holy Faith..."

      A new era in the development of the Faith in the North East Pacific area had begun.

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      The first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, 1957. Seated: Mr. Noureddin Mumtazi, Hand of the Cause Miss Agnes Alexander, Mrs. Barbara R. Sims and Mr. Hiroyasu Takano. Standing: Mr. Ataullah Moghbel, Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto, Mr. Philip Marangella, Mr. Yadollah Rafaat and Mr. William Maxwell.


57.       Anthony Yuen Seto, 1890-1957

      Mr. Seto was the first Bahá'í of American-Chinese ancestry. His parents came from Canton, China and settled in Hawaii, where he was born. He became a successful attorney and an astute businessman. He married Miss Mamie O'Connor, a bright-eyed woman of Irish background. Together in 1916 they accepted the Faith and served it until the end of their days. In 1920 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in a Tablet to them "The East and the West have embraced each other."

      Mrs. Seto was a fine speaker, deepener, and an administrator,

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      This classic photograph was taken during the Nikko Conference in 1955. Mr. Fujita (left), the second Japanese to become a Bahá'í, and Mr. Seto, the one of the first Bahá'ís of American-Chinese ancestry.


having served on the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States.

      After Mr. Seto retired from his law practice, he and his wife answered the Guardian's call for pioneers during the Ten Year Crusade. It was 1954 when they landed in Hong Kong, among the first pioneers to settle there to establish the Faith.

      When the first Convention of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, which included Hong Kong, was held in Tokyo in 1957, Mr. and Mrs. Seto attended. He was the only Bahá'í of Chinese background at the convention. A few days after the convention, as he and his wife were boarding the plane to return to Hong Kong, Mr. Seto was stricken with a heart attack and died. He is buried in the Yamate-machi Foreign Cemetery on the bluff in Yokohama.

      Shortly after Mr. Seto's passing the Guardian wrote to the newly-elected National Spiritual Assembly of North East Asia these words about Mr. Seto, whose destiny laid him to rest in Japan.

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      Mrs. Mamie Seto (far right) visits her husband's grave in Yokohama about 1961. On the left is Mr. Philip Marangella, next Mrs. Akiko Schreiber (her husband Eugene was the photographer), and Mrs. Sims.


      "...Even the death of the devoted pioneer, Mr. Anthony Seto, has added a blessing to the work in that region, for he served in spite of failing health and remained at his post to rest in a distant land, his very dust testifying to the greatness of the love and nature of the ideals Bahá'u'lláh has inspired in His servants."

      Although her husband's death was a crushing blow, Mrs. Mamie Seto remained at her pioneer post in Hong Kong until the end of the Ten Year Crusade.

58.       Early Activities

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      Among the early teaching conferences in Japan was this one in Kyoto in September 1956. Fifty-eight adults and fifteen children attended. A greeting was sent to the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi. His answering cable was: "Deeply appreciate message. Welcome renewed dedication. Fervently supplicating great victories."

      About half of the attendants were Japanese, the rest were American and Persian pioneers. Most of the children were Persian.

      Miss Alexander is sitting in the second row, second from the left, between Mrs. Torii and Mrs. MacDonald.


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      The first regular Bahá'í meetings in Osaka were held in a hotel such as this. This meeting was either in 1956 or 1957. There are about twelve Persians in the photo. They were working very hard to establish the Faith in the Kansai area. Mr. Marangella is sitting third from the right, middle. He was often the speaker at such gatherings.

59.       The First Bahá'í Marriage of Japanese Believers

      The marriage of Miss Isao Sakamoto and Mr. Michitoshi Zenimoto in January 1956 was the first Bahá'í marriage between Japanese Bahá'ís in Japan, although a pioneer couple had married in Japan earlier.

      Miss Alexander was a prominent guest at the wedding as Mr. Zenimoto considered her to be his spiritual mother. Mr. Zenimoto recalls, "Miss Alexander was elated during the wedding. She insisted that I must have a daughter and call her Mary, and she went on to tell me that her dearest friend and spiritual mother,


beloved May Maxwell, had had a lovely little daughter whom she named Mary.

      "I protested to Miss Alexander that I had only just married, but that I appreciated her sentiment. Ten years later a daughter was born to my wife and me. There was no question as to her name, Mari, the Japanese version of Mary.

      "When Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum (the original Mary) blessed our home with her presence in 1979, she was very interested when we told her the story, because from her early childhood she had known and loved Miss Alexander."

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      At the wedding party of Mr. and Mrs. Michitoshi Zenimoto, at the Amagasaki Bahá'í Center, January 1956. To the left is Mr. Zenimoto's father. To the right is Miss Alexander.


60.       Participation in Conferences in the 1950s and 1960s, and One in 1970

      Bahá'ís have participated in various religious and cultural conferences in Japan through the years. They have also been on the programs of UNESCO meetings, and United Nations Day meetings. In addition, Miss Alexander and Mr. Torii took part on a more personal level in many Esperanto conferences and meetings of the Blind Association.

      One of the earliest conferences after World War II was a three day religious conference held in Tokyo, September 1848. Mr. Goro Horioka, a Tokyo Bahá'í, spoke on the Faith during the last day of the conference.

      After Miss Alexander returned to Japan, 1950, she continued to seek out opportunities to teach the Faith. In January 1952 she spoke at a meeting in Tokyo celebrating the third Annual World Religion Day. The meeting, which was sponsored by the Tokyo Local Spiritual Assembly was held at the YMCA. Announcements were put in both English and Japanese papers and information about the meeting was broadcast over NHK (the national radio network.) Mr. Horioka was chairman and Mr.

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      World Religion Day meeting in Tokyo, 1952. About thirty people attended. Miss Alexander is speaking with Mr. Hongo translating.


Tameo Hongo translated for Miss Alexander.

      Another conference in 1952 was the World Federalist Conference in Hiroshima. Miss Alexander officially represented the Bahá'í Faith. She said it was the Plan of God that she was seated next to a Chinese-Malaysian man who had come to Japan to attend the conference. Mr. Yan Kee Leong had heard of the Faith from Mrs. Shirin Fozdar in Malaysia, then called Malaya. He was greatly attracted to Miss Alexander and he felt she had the Truth. Shortly after he returned to Malaya he became a Bahá'í; the first Malayan Bahá'í. He was also the first Bahá'í of Chinese ancestry to be appointed as counsellor by the Universal House of Justice, some years later. He always felt a kinship with Japan and visited several times in subsequent years.

      Miss Alexander spoke several times at the Japanese Unitarian church in Tokyo through her connections made years earlier.

      In 1955 a Conference of World Religionists was held in Tokyo with some sessions in other cities. Dr. David Earl was the official Bahá'í representative. Three Bahá'ís attended every day, including Miss Alexander and Mr. Marangella. The Faith was brought to the attention of some two hundred religious leaders

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      Conference of World Religionists, August 1955. Three Bahá'ís attending various sessions are seen in this newspaper clipping. Mr. Marangella is in the middle, Dr. Earl, seen in profile, and Miss Alexander.


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      International Congress of World Fellowship of Faiths, Tokyo, October 1956. Miss Alexander is in the first row a little to the left. Several other Bahá'ís can be seen also. The photograph was taken after the second session.

      This building, fashioned after the Palace of Versailles, was later closed to general public gatherings and reserved for Heads of State.


from various parts of the world.

      A meeting of the International Congress of World Fellowship of Faiths was held in Tokyo, October 1956. According to a booklet issued after the Congress, it was the tenth in a series of conferences, the first of which was the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, 1893, where the Bahá'í Faith was first mentioned publicly

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      The 12th National Conference for the Blind, Matsue, 1959. Miss Alexander is speaking with Mr. Torii translating.

      Regarding that particular trip to Matsue, Miss Alexander wrote, "In Matsue City, the 12th Annual Conference of the Blind Association was held. Through our brother, Mr. Tokujiro Torii, who is president of the Blind Association, I was given the privilege of speaking at the close of the conference for three minutes. It was translated into Japanese. Four hundred representatives from forty-six prefectures were present.

      "The time was short but after every translation there was tremendous applause."

      Miss Alexander stated that she had known Mr. Torii for forty years; that she was a Bahá'í; that the sight of the eyes was not the most important, but the sight of the heart was the all important; that everyone longed for peace but it could only come through the spiritual unity of all people.

      While she was speaking she noticed that a man holding bright lights was standing in front of them. It was NHK (Nihon Hoso Kyokai) Television Network. Miss Alexander stated, "This was shown throughout Japan giving prominence to the Faith."

      It was the second time the Faith was mentioned on television.


in the West. The name of the series was changed from Parliament of Religions to International Congress of World Fellowship of Faiths, at the second meeting (Calcutta 1929), but not used until the third meeting in London in 1936. At that Congress Japan was represented by the Buddhist scholar Dr. Daisetz Suzuki, (Ch. 34).

      The Congress in Tokyo was opened by the Vice President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan. Bahá'ís had been invited to participate and were represented on the program by Mr. Philip Marangella and Lt. Lawrence Hamilton. Miss Alexander and some twelve other Bahá'ís attended various sessions. Twenty-one different countries were listed as being represented, with three hundred and fifty people attending the first day.

      In 1959, the Ladies Society for Aid to the Blind held a concert in Tokyo, which was recorded for later radio broadcast. A

      This photograph was in Miss Alexander's effects. She did not label it, so we do not know the occasion. However, it seems rather typical. Miss Alexander often accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Torii to both Esperanto and Blind Association conferences.

      In both types of events she was usually able to speak publicly, in English or Esperanto, with Mr. Torii translating. This photograph was taken during one such conference, probably one of the Blind Association in the late 1950s or early 1960s. In those early days foreigners were somewhat of a novelty in Japan and Miss Alexander often attracted attention and people listened to what she had to say.


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      Esperanto Congress in Nagoya, May 1965. In the top photograph Miss Alexander is seen sitting among the participants. In the bottom one she is speaking to the Congress. An old friend, Mr. Kataoka is translating.

      Miss Alexander stayed as active as possible in Esperanto activities even through the later years. She felt that Esperantists were particularly receptive to the Faith.

      This was the last Esperanto Congress she was able to attend. She came to Tokyo two months later to attend another one but before it opened she fell and broke her hip. She was hospitalized from then on.


young blind friend of Miss Alexander, Mr. Kim Kyoung-whan sang fifteen songs, including a prayer by Bahá'u'lláh which had been set to music, "From the Sweet Scented Streams." After the concert, the man from Radio Tokyo who was recording it approached Miss Alexander who was attending the concert, and asked about her friendship with Mr. Kim. With this opportunity she was able to speak of the Faith on the radio.

      In 1963 there was a conference of World Federalists in Tokyo. Mr. Finley Hollinger from the United States represented the Bahá'ís.

      The World Conference on Religion and Peace, October 1970, in Kyoto was an important one. Mr. Glenford Mitchell, secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, was a delegate. Mrs. Shirin Fozdar was the Bahá'í delegate from Thailand. Dr. Toshio Suzuki, secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of North East Asia, was listed as an official observer from Japan. Three hundred delegates from more than one hundred and twenty-five countries attended. The three Bahá'ís mentioned had their photographs and biographies, in both English and Japanese, printed in the brochure which was distributed to all attendants.      

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      World Conference on Religion and Peace, Kyoto, October 1970. This photograph shows the Bahá'í representatives at the conference: Mrs. Shirin Fozdar, Mr. Glenford Mitchell, Dr. Toshio Suzuki and Mr. Rouhollah Mumtazi.


61.       The First Summer School under the Guardian's Six Year Plan for Japan, Takarazuka, 1957

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      The cable sent to the Guardian from the Summer School reported that there were one hundred attendants in all, representing sixteen cities. The Guardian answered by cable: "Congratulate attendants historic summer school fervently praying expansion valued activities, love, Shoghi"

      Hand of the Cause Miss Alexander is sitting under the banner. Mr. Carl Scherer, Auxiliary Board Member from Macau is standing, back row, middle of the right side. In this photograph we can see thirty-six Japanese, twenty-four Persians, including one youth, seven Americans, including one youth and twenty-one children, Persian and Japanese.


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