[Bahai World, Volume 5, p. 389]
American Bahá’í Sacrifices Her Life in Service to Persian Believers.
Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler’s Mission
THE death of Mrs. Keith Ransom-Keller at Isfahan, Persia, October 23, 1933, culminated a mission which constitutes one of the most poignant episodes in the current history of the Bahá’í Faith. The last year of this heroic believer’s life, devoted to the high aim of securing from the Persian government a removal of the ban on entry and circulation of Bahá’í literature, as well as a final lifting of the heavy disabilities laid for so many years upon Persian Bahá’ís, may be likened to a wave whose concentrated force breaks upon a rocklike obstacle, then recedes to be gathered into the body of the sea. While the obstacle remains, the force has not been spent in vain. In future years the effect of this valiant faith will be fully disclosed.
Mrs. Ransom-Keller carried forward a mighty task on which the American Bahá’í community has exerted itself over a long period of time: the consolidation of the spiritual unity of the East and West in fulfillment of the universal principles revealed by Bahá’u’lláh. The chief obstacle to this unity has throughout the eighty-nine years of Bahá’í history consisted in the resistance made by Persia to the new conceptions of amity and fellowship created by Bahá’u’lláh, a notable expression of which was the work known as “The Mysterious Forces of Civilization” written by Abdu’l-Baha to inspire his fellow Persians with the true spirit of enlightenment and progress.
The present era of the Cause, dating from the appointment of Shoghi Effendi as Guardian in Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, has witnessed a rapid development of the relations between the Bahá’í communities of Persia and America. By 1921, however, under Abdu’1-Baha’s guidance, a lasting foundation had already been laid in the cooperation extended by American Bahá’ís in the work of the Tarbiat School at Tihran, through donations for scholarships and also the important services rendered the School by Dr. Susan I. Moody, Miss Lillian Kappes, Dr. Clock, Dr. Genevieve Coy and Miss Elizabeth Stewart.
The Persian Bahá’ís, meanwhile, had made their own unique and eternal contribution to the American Bahá’í community through the visits of such influential Baha teachers as Mirza Abu’1-Fadl and Jinab-e-Fadel.
During 1925 an opportunity was afforded American believers to express their attitude of spiritual unity with their Persian coworkers by the transmission of funds for the relief of the believers afflicted by floods at Nariz. Since 1921, moreover, Dr. Genevieve Coy served for a term as teacher in the Tarbiat School, and her visit to Persia was followed by that of Miss Martha Root and Mrs. Siegfried Schopflocher.
In 1927 a fresh outbreak of persecutions led to the preparation of an appeal on the part of the American National Spiritual Assembly to His Majesty Reda Shah Pahlavi, copies of which were published and spread throughout the United States and Canada. Soon afterward a statement on the Cause prepared by the Assembly and addressed to leading Persian Moslems was translated into Persian by the Tihran Bahá’í community, and printed copies of this statement were sent to many hundreds of influential people in that country.
[Page 390 has a portrait, with the caption:
Keith Ransom-Kehler, a Hand of the Cause and the first American Bahá’í martyr. ]
Again, early in 1932 the American Bahá’í Assembly addressed petitions to the Shah and his Prime Minister that the ban on entry of Bahá’í literature be removed. This forma1 representation failing in its purpose, on June 10, 1932, the American National Spiritual Assembly addressed a communication to His Majesty requesting the recognition of Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehier as its representative duly chosen and empowered to present in person its renewed appeal. This letter, sent to Mrs. Ransom-Kehier as her credentials for the important mission with which she had been entrusted at Shoghi Effendi’s request, stated in part:
“Mrs Keith Ransom-Kehier, an American citizen, a member of the Bahá’í community of this country, and a distinguished student of the teachings and history of the Bahá’í Faith, can, with your Majesty’s gracious permission, amplify and supplement the statements made by this Assembly in the written petition addressed to your Majesty under date of January 12, 1932.
“More effectively than in our written communication, this personal representative can make clear to your Majesty how widely spread throughout America, and especially among the Bahá’ís, is the appreciation of the notable reforms which have been made in Persia as the result of your Majesty’s administration of affairs in that land. Mrs. Ransorn-Kehier can likewise affirm for your Majesty the importance of the spiritual ties binding Persia and America through the reverence of the believers in both countries for the enlightened religious teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, the extraordinary effect of these teachings in paying high tribute to the prophetic character of the mission of Muhammad, overcoming the prejudice and misunderstanding prevalent among Christians in opposition to Islam for more than one thousand years, and the high moral value Bahá’í religious teachings have had for Persia by inculcating loyalty to Government, forbidding sedition and upholding true ideals of education and humanitarian service.
“The appointment of a representative to journey to Tihran for the purpose of presenting in person the petition of this Assembly will make it evident to your Majesty how profoundly the American Bahá’ís are moved by their inability to communicate fully with their fellow-religionists in Persia by reason of the Postal regulations still prohibiting the entry of Bahá’í books and magazines published in the United States and Canada.”
It will be recalled that in Bahá’í News dated October, 1932, was published this reference to Mrs. Ransom-Kehler from a Letter written to the National Spiritual Assembly by the Guardian’s secretary: “Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehier is now with us in Haifa and in a few days will start for Persia. She rendered wonderful services in both Australia and India, and Shoghi Effendi trusts that she will do the same in Persia.”
On August 20, 1932, the following cablegram was received: “Mission successful. (Signed) Keith.”
On September 14 the National Spiritual Assembly, rejoiced by this swift consummation, despatched a cablegram to the Court Minister at Tihran as follows:
“On behalf American Bahá’ís we express abiding gratitude for removal ban on entry Bahá’í literature into Persia. This noble action of His Imperial Majesty’s Government has profoundly impressed Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada who have already felt strong attachment to Bahá’u’lláh’s native land. We wish to assure your Highness of our sympathy for his Imperial Majesty, our great interest in the progress and welfare of his Empire and our desire to assist in enhancing its prestige throughout the world.” This message was brought to the attention of the Persian Minister at Washington in a letter dated October 21, 1932. A statement to the American press was also issued reporting that Mrs. Ransom-Kehier had received firm assurance from the Court Minister that the postal regulations under which Bahá’í literature had been confiscated would be immediately annulled.
Before taking up the events which destroyed this hope, it is interesting to learn of the impressive reception given Mrs. Ransom-Kehler by the Persian Bahá’ís on her arrival in that land. In November, 1932, the Spiritual Assembly of Haifa, Palestine, issued a general letter throughout the Bahá’í world, from which the following excerpts are taken: “Mrs Keith Ransorn-Kehler, the energetic and faithful Bahá’í teacher, has been the object of great enthusiasm and loving devotion on the part of the Persian believers.
… In Tabriz several meetings were held in the Hazirut-ul-Quds where large numbers of Bahá’ís, both men and women, had the pleasure of greeting the international Bahá’í teacher. From Tabriz
she proceeded to Milan, accompanied by a group of believers. But before leaving Tabriz, the police authorities, apparently disturbed by the scenes of Bahá’í rejoicing, sent warning and forbade the believers to hold any meetings in honor of Mrs. Ransom-Keller at Tabriz, and requested her to abandon her visit to Milan. But the Spiritual Assembly immediately sent a delegation to the authorities and upon assuring them that no demonstrations held by the Bahá’ís would disturb the public peace, permission was granted for her journey to Milan.
“A most thrilling meeting was held in Milan, where old and young believers witnessed in Mrs. Ransom-Keller’s visit the dawn of the fulfillment of the prophecy found more than once in the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’1-Bahi to the Persian Bahá’ís, that the day will come when brothers and sisters from the ‘West will arrive and help you in promoting the Cause.’
“After proceeding to Sisan, Mianej, Azarbayejan and Qazwin, Mrs. Ransom-Kehier proceeded to Tihran. A reception committee, followed by a group of more than a hundred believers, met the guest at a garden about four miles from the city. Her entrance in Tihran was like the visit of a queen, amid the acclamations of thousands of rejoicing Bahá’ís. Never had Tihran so welcomed any guest from the West.”
Mrs. Ransom-Keller’s own report of her successful interview with the Court Minister was written to the American National Spiritual Assembly on August 20, 1932, the brevity of the communication revealing the pressure of that physical weakness against which she struggled so gallantly to the end. “On August 15 I saw His Highness Taymur Tash and received from him the direct, unqualified assurance that Bahá’í literature would be admitted freely into Persia and permitted to circulate.”
From other sources the American Assembly learned further details of this interview. “His Highness received the Bahá’í delegate kindly and listened with attention to her appeal. He stated that the matter did not require her to seek audience with the Shah nor to send him the written petition. The former letter of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has been received and given due attention. ‘I hereby promise that the restrictions on the import of Bahá’í books will be removed.’ Mrs. Ransom-Kehier thereupon asked whether she could cable America and inform the American Bahá’ís of this assurance. The Court Minister replied that she most assuredly could do so and that she must consider the matter as finally settled. Mrs. Ransom-Kehier then asked whether she might arrange to have her own Bahá’í books sent to her for use while in Persia, and the Minister said there was no reason why she might not do so.”
It was not until the receipt of a letter from Mrs. Ransom-Kehier dated January 20, 1933, that the American Bahá’ís learned that the assurance given their representative by the Court Minister had not become fruitful in action. In that letter she stated that the Bahá’í books shipped to her from Beirut had been confiscated, and that she had written the Court Minister to acquaint him with this fact and renew her petition on behalf of the American Bahá’ís. This letter also conveyed the disturbing information that, during a visit to Azarbayejan, the Governor General had refused to receive her and moreover that police orders had been issued forcing the abandonment of meetings arranged in her honor by the local Bahá’ís.
Later, press dispatches from Persia reported that changes had been made in the office of Court Minister, making it clear that all of Mrs. Ransom-Keller’s work would have to be done over again.
Undiscouraged, Mrs. Ransom-Kehier immediately arranged an interview with the Secretary charged with American affairs at the Foreign Office. In a report of this conversation sent to the American Assembly, the following significant statement is quoted: “He informed me that at the present time our Bahá’í literature could not circulate in Persia for three reasons. First, that it is contrary to the constitution of Persia to recognize any religion founded after Islam, and, since the Bahá’í religion cannot legally receive recognition, it follows that our literature
must remain unrecognized.
Second, that it is contrary to the constitution of Persia to permit the circulation of any literature opposed to Islam. Third, that the circulation of Bahá’í literature at this time might cause grave internal disorders that would bring much suffering to the Bahá’ís themselves.”
This interview was in fact also reported to the Shah himself, in a letter which the valiant American Bahá’í addressed to him on February 25, 1933, in a supreme effort to fulfil her delicate and difficult mission. “In my report to America,” she informed his Majesty, “I shall be constrained to admit that I must have misunderstood completely the purpose and intent of the interpreter, for exhaustive investigation reveals no reference in the Constitution of Persia to the status of religions founded later than Islam.
“Since every Bahá’í before he can so designate himself must accept the validity of the Prophet Muhammad and display toward the Qur’án the same reverence as that shown by the most orthodox Muslim, and since this attitude is inculcated through Bahá’í literature, the point of excluding it because it is opposed to Islam will, I fear, be incomprehensible. … I shall await your Majesty’s authority to submit the result of my conversation with the Foreign Office, herein set forth, to the proper Bahá’í centers throughout the world; for I have no desire, a second time, to find myself mistaken as to your Majesty’s intention.”
This appeal to the Shah receiving no reply, the National Spiritual Assembly in America, realizing that its report to the press stating that the ban on entry of Bahá’í literature into Persia had been removed was proved untrue, dispatched to its representative in Persia another communication to be presented to the Shah. This communication was dated March 27, 1933. A portion is quoted, as follows:
“Information has been received which leads us to believe that the permission granted in your Majesty’s name by your Majesty’s Minister of Court some months ago removing the ban on the entrance of Bahá’í literature into Persia has now been withdrawn.
“We trust that events will prove our present understanding of your Majesty’s intention to be incorrect. The recent gracious action of your Majesty in asserting the power of religious freedom and opening the door to the amenities of international communication customary in modern lands was by us immediately communicated to all leading newspapers in the United States and Canada together with an expression of our grateful recognition of your Majesty’s response to our petition.
“This announcement to the press was considered by us of extreme importance in view of the fact that it is among American Bahá’ís that the love and admiration for Persia and its people is most pronounced. The effect of the Bahá’í teachings upon believers in all countries outside of Persia has for many years been to establish not only an attitude of spiritual respect for the historic greatness of Persia but also a firm and unyielding confidence in the future greatness and worldwide influence of the Persian people.
“The responsibility seems now resting upon us to inform the press that our previous communication, made in perfect good faith, must now be withdrawn.
“The press in America exercises such far-reaching influence that we have ever been most scrupulous and careful in authorizing only the most conservative and accurate statements. The American press has become aware that on account of the existence of Bahá’í communities in many lands the American National Spiritual Assembly is well informed and enjoys unusual sources of information. Our devotion to the spiritual character of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh makes it incumbent upon us to maintain our reputation with newspaper editors of unfailing sincerity and reliable accuracy.
“Our petition we entrust to our accredited representative, Mrs. Keith Ransorn-Kehier, who, at our request, traveled to Persia many months ago in order to represent the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada in our appeal to your Majesty and your Majesty’s Government for a favorable and final decision in the matter of the entrance and circulation of Bahá’í literature.”
Mrs. Ransom-Kehier presented the foregoing communication to the Shah in a letter dated Tihran, April 23, 1933. Meanwhile, on April 3, she addressed his Majesty once
again in a letter which pointed out her obligation to report the results of her mission in Persia, and with that letter enclosed a detailed summary of her interview with the Foreign Office.
Before the opening of the Annual Convention of American Bahá’ís on June 1, 1933, it had become clear to the National Spiritual Assembly that the matter had come to no favorable decision, and reports were received which indicated even a recurrence of the physical maltreatment of Persian Bahá’ís. On advice of Shoghi Effendi the problem was accordingly laid before the assembled Convention delegates, with the result that the delegates unanimously pledged their support in the National Assembly’s effort to alleviate these dire conditions.
In order to carry out the spirit of this action, the Assembly on July 10, 1933, sent personal representatives with a communication to present to the Persian Minister at Washington, thus opening a new phase in the progress of the matter.
Meanwhile, though her physical illness had increased, Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehier, as afterward learned, had been continuing her efforts in Tihran. Thus, in a letter dated June 8, 1933, she once more addressed the Persian Shah, in a letter which stands as an expression of deep concern at the unfavorable conditions existing for the Persian Bahá’ís, with a most passionate and devoted resolve to leave no stone unturned in effort to change the official attitude. Some excerpts follow:
“A year ago this month I reached Persia as representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, having traveled halfway around the world to present a petition on their behalf to your gracious Majesty requesting the removal of the ban on entry and circulation of Bahá’í literature in Persia.
“This petition was framed because of the incalculable blessings which your Majesty’s reign has bestowed upon Persia; because of the advancement, the liberation and the protection which, under the firm and spectacular power exhibited by your Majesty, have elevated this sacred land of ours to the forefront of progress and revival.
“Certainly it would have been folly to have sent such a communication in any period preceding your Majesty’s accession, for at that time ears were deaf to every plea of justice, and Persia had become the tragic plaything of wilful, corrupt and ruthless lords.
“But mindful of the great blessings which have flowed from your Majesty’s enlightened rule, the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada felt that the time was now ripe, that the amazing accomplishments of your Majesty now favored the idea of consummating the complete emancipation of the Bahá’ís of Persia from the trammels and deprivations inherited from the dark past. ….
“We must look not to Shah Abbas nor to Nadir Shah but to the distant past — to the days of Cyrus, Darius and Jamsheed — for anything comparable to the accomplishments which in twelve brief years have characterized your Majesty’s achievements. …
“These were the ideas we had in mind when petitioning your Majesty to remove this last barrier from the pathway of Bahá’í freedom and progress in Persia by according us the privilege of the press, an ordinary civil right in all but the most backward of countries.
“In fact, in the Minutes of the Twenty-Second Session of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations we find the statement (pages 41-42) “Was it said that the Bahá’ís were such a small minority in Iraq that there was no need to bother about them? It was the very fact that the minority was a small one that made it necessary for the authorities to safeguard its rights. It showed the weakness of the Iraqi Government; the power which an intolerant majority had over it — and this record has gone out not only to the fifty-six nations that comprise the League but to the whole world, carrying this reproach to the Iraqi Government for its treatment of the Bahá’ís.
“The Bahá’ís of Persia are not a weak and helpless minority; we stand in numbers next to the State religion; but as the League report further says, ‘The Bahá’ís are by their religion, tenets and character of an extremely conciliatory disposition.’
“For that reason they patiently endure whatever hardships are imposed upon them
by their governments, and for that same reason they are worthy of the utmost trust and confidence from those in authority. …
“The numerous communications which I have had the honor of addressing to the Crown since my interview at the Foreign Office have had but one purpose: that of ascertaining in definite and dependable form whether or not the amazing and feeble statements given me there were really in accord with your Majesty’s intent and desire.”
To every Cabinet Minister and to the President of Parliament, Mrs. Ransom-Kehler sent on July 3, 1933, a letter containing the following statements: “It would give me great pleasure to place in your hands portions of our Bahá’í literature in order to prove the great contribution that it has made to the advancement of Islam in countries unfriendly to its reception; but although Jewish,
Christian and Zoroastrian literature, all opposed to Islam, is permitted to circulate, our Bahá’í literature that upholds and converts to Islam is denied this privilege.
Therefore I have nothing available to present to you.
“In the Post Offices and Customs of Persia, however, are thousands of volumes that have been confiscated. Even a brief survey of any one of these will prove that Bahá’u’lláh lays down as fundamental, loyalty to one’s government, and the sanctity and verity of Islam.”
On that same day, moreover, the representative of the American Bahá’ís felt compelled to appeal once more to the Shah. “To my horror and grief I have just heard of the burning, on the part of your Majesty’s officials in Kirmanshah, of the sacred photographs of Abdu’l-Baha. I am fully convinced that such a sacrilege has been committed without the knowledge of your Majesty, for it is fundamentally contrary to the policy of expansion, protection and tolerance that have characterized your Majesty’s evident intent with regard to the advancement of Persia.
“It is because I am certain that such an infamy was perpetrated without the knowledge or consent of your Majesty that I am presenting this memorandum to acquaint your Majesty with these highhanded and abominable outrages committed by your Majesty’s irresponsible servants….
“Assuredly the most precious and sacred
thing in life to any man is his religious conviction. Without hesitation thousands of Bahá’ís have given their lives for their faith. That flame that once burned in Persia alone has now enkindled the world. The Bahá’ís as a body stand ready if necessary to die for the protection of their belief. We are willing to endure any degree of injustice and persecution ourselves but, when it comes to regarding with other than outraged sentiment a gratuitous indignity offered to that illustrious example of human perfection, Abdu’l-Baha, the Bahá’ís of the world arise in the full strength of their solidarity to utter a vehement protest.
“In His Will and Testament, Abdu’l-Baha gives us this last instruction: ‘Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha; that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the light of unity.’
“Is the one who uttered such words of peace and reconciliation worthy of suppression and desecration?
“I now with the most intense fervor supplicate and implore your Majesty to put a final stop to these fanatical persecutions that disgrace in the eyes of men the annals of Persia’s former rulers, by removing this ban against Bahá’í literature, that bids fair if it continues to involve the world in contempt for this sacred land.”
The Minister of Education, replying in a letter dated “bitarikh 28 — 4 — 13 12. No. 9880/4320” to the communication which Mrs. Ransom-Keller sent to all members of the Cabinet, made this significant statement: “I would inform you that today all individuals and inhabitants of the country, whether Mubammadans or people of other nations, are resting in the cradle of tranquillity and security under the shadow of the power and grandeur of His Majesty Shahanshah
Pahlavi, may our souls be sacrificed for him, and they benefit equally from the privilege of existing laws. But in the meantime new publications which are considered contrary to the official religion of the country or its political aspect can not be agreed to.”
Meanwhile, as it became apparent that communications addressed to the ruler did not penetrate the official entourage and reach the Shah himself, the American Assembly, as already mentioned, applied to the Persian Minister at Washington. The letter dated July 10, 1933, was presented to the Minister by three representatives. It read, in part, as follows:
“Your Excellency: On October 21, 1932, the members of this American Bahá’í Assembly sent to the Persian Legation at Washington a copy of a cablegram which on September 14, 1932, had been dispatched to the Minister of the Court in Teheran.
“This communication was acknowledged by Mr. Y. Azodi, Charge d’Affaires, under date of October 22, 1932.
“In substance, the cablegram sent to the Court Minister on behalf of the American Bahá’ís expressed abiding gratitude for the decision to remove the ban on entry and circulation of Bahá’í literature in Persia.
“On March 27, 1933, as the result of unexpected information indicating that this decision had either been reversed or never made effective, we addressed a respectful petition to His Imperial Majesty Reza Shah Pahlavi, expressing our profound hope that our understanding of the matter was incorrect and referring to the fact that the American Bahá’ís had informed the press that the ban had been removed, and in the event that this statement proved to be unfounded the Bahá’í would be reluctantly obliged to make it clear to the press that Bahá’í literature is still prohibited from entry and circulation in Persia.
“This petition we forwarded to our personal representative in Teheran, Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler, a Bahá’í and American citizen, with the request that it be communicated to his Majesty on our behalf.
“To our astonishment and regret, during May, 1933, we learned that not only is the ban on literature still rigorously applied, but that Bahá’ís in Persia are even incurring physical maltreatment at the present time.
“These circumstances were considered by the delegates representing sixty American
cities who met in Annual Convention in the Foundation Hall of the Bahá’í House of Worship at Wilmette, Illinois, from June 1 to 4, 1933.
“It seems desirable to inform your Excellency that the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada adopted unanimously the following resolution:
‘Resolved, that the delegates of the Twenty-Fifth Annual Convention representing sixty communities of the United States and Canada, realizing the burdens of oppression still laid upon their brethren of Persia, recommend and urge the National Spiritual Assembly to take immediate action to bring about the cessation of the reported maltreatment of our Bahá’í brethren, to secure the entry of Bahá’í literature and to restore the Constitutional provision for the printing and circulation of Bahá’í literature within Persia;
‘And be it further resolved, that the delegates pledge the support of the local Bahá’í communities to the National Spiritual Assembly in its effort to carry out the terms of this appeal.’
“In view of this action on the part of the Annual Convention, expressing the deep concern and heartfelt anxiety of all American Bahá’ís to assist in bringing about a final alleviation of all civil disabilities still suffered by our beloved brothers and coworkers in Persia, the National Spiritual Assembly has requested its chairman and secretary to call upon your Excellency and respectfully request your good offices in bringing our petition to the notice of the Persian Government.
“In discharging this grave responsibility, we respectfully point out to your Excellency the unique ties of sympathetic fellowship which have long united the Bahá’ís of America and Persia. For many years the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada have courageously upheld the Prophethood of Muhammad as one of the divine Messengers, in the face of the traditional antipathy and indifference of a predominantly Christian population. In publishing and distributing the literature of our Faith we are actively promoting the reality of Mubammad as well as the reality of Jesus.
By accepting Muhammad as a Prophet inspired with the same Holy Spirit as Jesus, we have entered into a spiritual unity with the Persian Bahá’ís without parallel in the history of the East or of the West. We state with all emphasis that apart from this spiritual bond of faith in the one God of all mankind, the relations of the various peoples and nations of the world are uncertain and replete with peril of war and economic chaos.
“After entertaining the hope that the ancient land of Persia had been granted the high privilege of a regime based upon fearless justice, the very foundation of civilization, we cannot but deplore the survival from the past of indications that free intercourse on the part of American citizens with loyal citizens of Persia on matters of purely spiritual interest is prevented by Regulations imposed by Persian authorities.
“The Bahá’ís of America assert very frankly to your Excellency their unhappiness because of the fact that unfounded prejudice against the Bahá’ís of Persia, whether emanating from atheistic or from ecclesiastical sources, can in this day and age find sanction from authorities of the State. Without this sanction, active or passive, it would be impossible to forbid the entry and circulation of a sacred literature which one day will be recognized as the glory of Persia, while at the same time permitting the entry and circulation of other religious literature the essential purpose of which is to defame the founder of Islam and overthrow the very foundation of Persian culture and ideals.
“Thc outcome of this representation will, we trust, enable the National Spiritual Assembly to inform the local Bahá’í communities that their determined desire to assist in removing the disabilities and maltreatment of their Persian brothers has been completely realized.”
On July 26, 1933, the Assembly reported to Mrs. Ransom-Keller a summary of actions taken by American Bahá’ís in the matter of conditions affecting the Persian believers, with the request that she communicate these facts and the attitude of the American Bahá’ís, to the officials of the Persian Government, and report the results, that the Assembly might inform the local American Bahá’í
communities whether their Convention resolution had borne fruit. The answer came in this message, cabled by Mrs. Ransom-Keller on September 10: “Petition unanswered.”
The grief and disappointment caused by this outcome of her mission, magnified by exhaustion resulting from self-sacrificing effort to meet every opportunity to visit and address Bahá’í gatherings in Persia, reduced Mrs. Ransom-Kehier’s strength to such a degree that on October 23, 1933, while at Isfahan, this consecrated follower of Bahá’u’lláh fell victim to small pox and succumbed within a few brief hours.
This grievous event was announced in Bahá’í News of November, 1933, as follows:
“On October 27, 1933, the Spiritual Assembly of Tihran, Persia, cabled the startling news that Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler had passed into the spiritual Kingdom. With burning hearts the Persian Bahá’ís conveyed their grief at this mysterious culmination of our sister’s special mission in the land of the birth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
“The beloved Guardian on October 30 dispatched this message: ‘Keith’s precious life offered up in sacrifice to beloved Cause in Bahá’u’lláh’s native land. On Persian soil, for Persia’s sake, she encountered, challenged and fought the forces of darkness with high distinction, indomitable will, unswerving, exemplary loyalty. The mass of her helpless Persian brethren mourns the sudden loss of their valiant emancipator. American believers grateful and proud of the memory of their first and distinguished martyr. Sorrow stricken, I lament my earthly separation from an invaluable collaborator, an unfailing counsellor, an esteemed and faithful friend. I urge the Local Assemblies befittingly to organize memorial gatherings in memory of one whose international services entitled her to an eminent rank among the Hands of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.’
“A message from the American Consul at Tihran, communicated through the Secretary of State, brought the information that Keith had passed on at Isfahan on October 23.
“With the approval of Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler’s nearest relative, a message was cabled to the Tihran Assembly asking that burial be arranged at Isfahan under Bahá’í auspices, and stating that the American Assembly will construct a permanent memorial.
“Shoghi Effendi, on November 3, sent this message: ‘Instructed Isfahan Assembly to inter Keith in the vicinity of the grave of Sultanushushuada, surnamed by Bahá’u’lláh ‘King of Martyrs.’”
“The detailed reports which our beloved sister has during the past year sent from Tihran, to convey information on the result of her mission, as the representative of the American believers chosen by the Guardian, to secure from the Persian Government the lifting of the ban on entry of Bahá’í literature and also removal of the difficulties and hardships placed upon the Persian Bahá’ís, form one of the precious and important historical records of the Cause. A summary of these reports will be published in Bahá’í News next month.
“Local Spiritual Assemblies and groups are requested to arrange memorial meetings in accordance with the Guardian’s wish.”
The papers of New York and other cities reported in detail the news of the death of this American citizen in Persia. The following statement was published in the “New York American” on October 28, 1933:
“Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehler, who spent the last year in Teheran, Persia, as representative of the American National Bahá’í Assembly, died in that city on October 25, it was reported in a cable received yesterday by the Assembly from the secretary of the Teheran Bahá’í community.
“In August, 1932, Mrs. Ransom-Kehier, after two years’ travel in China, Japan and India as a Bahá’í teacher, went to Persia on a special mission to represent the American Bahá’ís in appealing to the Shah’s government for removal of the ban on entry of Bahá’í literature into the country of the origin of the world religion established by Bahá’u’lláh nearly seventy years ago.
“From the Court Minister, Mrs. Keith Ransom-Kehier received assurance that the prohibition, passed under the former regime while the Muhammedan clergy were at the height of their power, would be rescinded.
“This promise was, however, unfulfilled, and Mrs. Keith Ransom-Keller devoted the remaining months of her life to the task of penetrating the imperial entourage and
[p. 399 contains photographs of the grave of Keith Ransom-Kehler]
presenting to the Shah in person a formal petition prepared by the American Bahá’í Assembly on behalf of the sixty Bahá’í communities of the United States and Canada.
“The American Bahá’ís will erect in Teheran (correctly Isfahan) a memorial to commemorate the work of Mrs. Ransom-Kehier, the second American Bahá’í to die in Persia while serving the cause of unity and international peace.”
That memorial, we may be assured, will in future be visited by innumerable Bahá’ís of West and East as a shrine marking the physical interment of a pure and valiant Bahá’í spirit who, not in vain, sacrificed its earthly existence for the sake of the believers in that land.
The above statement has been prepared in reverent acknowledgment of Mrs. Ransom-Kehler’s mighty services to the Bahá’í Faith, that the worldwide community of believers may know what has been done to this date in effort to assist in bringing about freedom and security for the Bahá’ís of Persia.
Bahai World, Volume 5, pages 389 -400
[Pages 400- continue with the texts of letters written by Ransom-Kehler to the Shah, reports of her activities and other materials]
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