CommuNIqué - Newsletter of the Bahá'í Community in Northern Ireland
Issue 106 - 16 ’Azamat 162 BE - 1 June 2005 CE




These notes were found in the papers of Katherine (Villiers-Stuart) Chauhan after she passed away in Australia. They relate to a talk she gave to the Bahá'í Youth of Perth in Western Australia, which encouraged some of them to pioneer, and were forwarded to CommuNIqué by her sister Sally.

I was born in Greenisland, Northern Ireland, the youngest of four children. My family were Church of Ireland. Every Sunday morning we used to go to church and Sunday School. It was the review of (George Townshend’s Promise of All Ages) in the local newspaper which my mother (Jane Villiers-Stuart) read in 1949 and which struck a chord with her. A chance meeting with a Bahá'í pioneer on the ferry to England took place around the time I was born and so began her investigation in earnest until she declared in 1953.

As a child I used to attend meetings in Belfast and remember catching the train and cycling in a line behind Mum on Sunday afternoon to attend a meeting. There were very few Bahá'í children, so I remember only one children’s class ever taking place. I attended my first summer school in Wales, when I was about 8 and went fairly regularly after that. The first weekend schools in the British Isles were held in Belfast Castle in 1956 and in 1957. The first Irish Summer School was held in the Mourne Mountains. There was a small group of very loving and united Bahá'ís who were totally dedicated to the Faith.

When I was 11, I attended the first Bahá'í World Congress in London in 1963 which was very exciting. For a few days we were in a different world of love. It was a great treat to meet my Malaysian pen-friend’s two brothers who had travelled to London specially to attend. Other outstanding travels were to the dedication of the German House of Worship by ferry and train in 1964, several German and Swiss winter schools and by sailing boat to the Palermo Conference in 1968, which was followed by a visit to the World Centre with about 1000 other Bahá'ís who had attended the conference. We all actually walked up the stairway of the kings from the base of Mount Carmel to the Shrine of the Báb.

I also remember the first Persian Bahá'ís to pioneer to Northern Ireland. They were from Zoroastrian background and were determined to fit in right from the start. They completed their education, married Irish wives and now their children are the very active Bahá'í youth.

In 1969 Bill Sears, the Hand of the Cause of God, visited the UK. He travelled all over and really galvanised the community. I left school and applied for universities in goal towns and was accepted for Dundee in Scotland which was a goal town with a university. Four very happy years were spent there; with studies being rather low on the agenda and holidays spent travel teaching in the Scottish Islands and North Berwick (a goal town). The Spiritual Assembly of Dundee was formed in 1972 and is still strong. That was the year we travel taught in Europe while attending the Padua Youth Conference.

However my heart was bent on pioneering and so in September 1976 I flew to Sri Lanka, having been accepted for a university course that turned out not to exist in English! Life was very tough, but after 2½ years I returned home determined to return again with a more secure visa, which turned out to be impossible to obtain, so after a pilgrimage in late 1979, in 1980 I returned and worked as a volunteer teacher in several Homes for handicapped children. Those three years were the most productive of my life in serving both the interests of the Faith and the disabled.

During 1985 I met Ashok, who had sailed from Caernarvon and was arrested on suspicion of being a Tamil terrorist on arrival! So after months of struggling with the research project to try and finish it, I left Sri Lanka in early 1987 and was married to Ashok in the first Bahá'í wedding in Ballymena in Northern Ireland. Since then, Maya Rose was born in Northern Ireland in 1989 and Asha after we came to Bunbury in 1992. This is the bare bones of my story.

My advice to others – especially the youth – is: be active when you are young, render service while you are studying, study in a goal town or country where Bahá'ís are needed, go travel teaching in your holidays. Choose subjects to study that will be of service to others. When you are young you are enthusiastic, optimistic and adaptable – you can sleep on the floor and try all sorts of food and adapt to different cultures. You are not limited by many inhibitions of older people so you happily go in and get things done. Mistakes are made but you learn from them and the achievements usually overshadow them. You have time to pray to be guided by divine inspiration and to be unrestrained as the wind’ and closer to God.

Katherine’s family would like to thank all who prayed for Katherine and sent cards. The prayers had a wonderful effect and Katherine became ever more serene as her illness advanced.