Sarandi Tchakreo


'One of the most important principles of the Faith in Africa is equality between men and women.'

My parents live in a village near the capital city of Chad, N'Djamena. There used to be Bahá'í pioneers1 in that area, and they had children's classes. I didn't know what the Faith was at that time, but I was interested in going to play soccer and some other games they had for children. And that's where I got to know the Bahá'í Faith.

Where my parents lived was really a Muslim community and I was interested in the Muslim religion, but some Christians were there, and I went around with them, too. I didn't take the Bahá'í Faith at that time as a religion. For me, it was a social thing. But then I started looking at some of my friends who were in that community, and some of them felt their life was changing, and so I was really interested.

My mom was impressed. She was always telling me, "You have to go to that class, because the children learn good things there." Seeing that change in my friends was something important for me, and so I went myself to a Bahá'í children's class. That was in 1984.

Because I was raised in a Muslim community and I was also close to Christianity I was already aware of what God is and the Prophets of God , and I knew who Jesus Christ was and who Muhammad was. And it wasn't a problem for me to know who Bahá'u'lláh was. I knew that Jesus Christ and Muhammad talked about Their return. And some of the imams and the priests had explained some things about the return of the Prophets. When I met the Bahá'ís, they explained Progressive Revelation to me. They said that Bahá'u'lláh is the Prophet of God for our age. All the promises were, for me, fulfilled. And the transition was easy for me, from Jesus Christ and Muhammad to Bahá'u'lláh. I said yes, He is a Manifestation.

In Chad, we have different religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and the Bahá'ís. We have also those they call animists, who believe in their ancestral religion. We have a lot of tribal groups -- more than 300 in the country, so you can see how diverse it is. In Africa, the biggest problem people have is lack of unity among the cultures or tribes. For example, in a town, it is difficult for people from different cultural backgrounds to be together. They can't get married to someone who is not from their culture or their dialect. People don't know each other, it is difficult, and there is fear. It is easy for Bahá'ís to break those barriers because there are prophecies and promises in the Bahá'í writings, and people can just forget and say OK, we are one.

There are a lot of things in the Bahá'í writings that are like a gift for people from my culture -- the oneness of mankind, the unity of religion, the love for one to another. My people believe in unity, but their unity is limited to one of cultures, not the unity of humankind.

My father is an animist. Animists believe in God through their ancestors. Their religion has said you have to love your neighbor, and they have certain kinds of prophesies that in the future different cultures will be united and will be like one country. But what is amazing is that in the Bahá'í Faith the whole world will be united. That was something good for me. I read a lot of books about literature, because I was taking literature, and I was interested in some aspects that can bring people together. And the unity of mankind was really interesting. For my people, I think it is something important. All the Bahá'í principles are important, like a universal language. One of the most important principles of the Faith in Africa is equality between men and women. It is one of the gifts the Faith can offer to the African people.

The more and more my understanding of the Bahá'í teachings has been growing, the more things have been changing every day. I think that everything I do in my life from now on has to be something to do with the writings. What is Bahá'u'lláh asking me to do? What is His vision for mankind? Anything or any step I take, I try always to focus on what exactly the writings and Bahá'u'lláh want me to do. The thing I am doing or the step I am taking, I always ask myself, "Is it really good for the Faith? Is it good for the Manifestation? Is it good for God?" And I can say that my life is somehow directed or guided by God , because I can't take any decision without viewing this spiritual aspect.

Unfortunately, we have challenges and tests . How to avoid them and how to deal with them is part of daily life, the spiritual life. We just have to pray , to ask for forgiveness, and try to change, improve. They have to happen for spiritual change, because without any test we can never change. When we have tests, we start getting close to God. We pray and read more about ourselves and we try to come to God and ask for forgiveness. By doing this we will feel close to God.

One thing that attracts me in the Faith is prayer. I have twin sisters. In my tradition it is said that if you have twins, they have to be respected in the family. You have to take care of them, and you have to make a special sacrifice in their honor the day they are born and every year. If you don't do that, something may happen to them. They are called sons and daughters of God.

My father was going through the traditional rites, but one of the twins fell sick, and it was a quick fever and she died. I remember there was something going on at that time in the city and the way was blocked and there was no way for my father to take her to the hospital. She was one of the sisters I loved very much. That was a big test for my parents. A year after that, the sister after the twins fell sick. She was really, really, really sick. And I remember there was a terrible situation again at that time. I was really shocked, because I remembered what the tradition said. I'm sure my father and the whole family had the same feeling, that maybe God is saying there is something wrong with the sacrifice. I went into my room, and I remembered a talk by a Bahá'í Counsellor in Cameroon. In that talk, he said that prayer can really solve all the problems we have. So I went into my bedroom and I said a prayer about difficulties a few times. And when I came out, my sister recovered. It was really a mystery for me. It was just amazing how I was really purely asking God for help and that happened. It was one of the greatest feelings I've had in my life.

My hope for the world is that people will accept Bahá'u'lláh and practise the writings, and I think if they will the world can change.

  1. A "pioneer" is a Bahá'í who leaves his or her home to journey to another country for the purpose of teaching the Bahá'í Faith.

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