The unexpected arrival of Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Enoch Olinga to Kuala Lumpur was a pleasant surprise. In early 1971, Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Enoch Olinga, was in Singapore and right at the doorstep of Malaysia, but yet unsure of visiting this country. It was the ardent prayers of the believers that made it possible for him to visit this country. It is unfortunate that the beloved Hand of the Cause of God came to Malaysia only once, and that too on a lightning visit. His visit was to Kuala Lumpur alone that not many of the Bahá’ís in other parts of the country could have met him at such a short notice.
Mr. Olinga came to Malaysia some days after attending the Oceanic Conference of the South China Seas held in Singapore in early 1971. At the Oceanic Conference held in Singapore attended by 641 believers, the majority of who were Malaysian believers, were so moved by his majestic personality and radiating love that they urged him, some even begged him to visit this country. He kept smiling and not promising. Visa was not an issue for him to enter Malaysia. Why he did not respond positively to the invitations extended at the Oceanic Conference was not known. That he was very touched by the organisational ability of the National Spiritual Assembly in organising a flawless Oceanic Conference in Singapore was not something he could deny. It was the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia that had organised the Oceanic Conference and many uplifting reports on the achievements of the goals of the Nine Year Plan (1964-1973) at midpoint of the plan period were also mentioned there. The message from the Supreme Body mentioned that the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia was to be responsible for the election of the first national institution for Singapore the following Riḍván in 1972. He was equally impressed with an exhibition displayed by Counsellor Dr. Chellie J. Sundram of Penang Island, of which he said, “I have not seen anything in the world to compare with it. I am sure the designer had been guided by the Holy Spirit to produce such a magnificent, dignified, and beautiful exhibition.” He was happy that when the call for pioneers was made, more than sixty believers came up the stage to volunteer as pioneers, including Luke Lee Sim Poi from Malaysia who was visibly impaired. The Hand was so touched with what he witnessed that he sent a personal message to the Supreme Body on the resounding success of the Conference. The performance of the Malaysian community on the resounding must have truly created a great impression in him.
A group photograph taken at the Oceanic Conference.
Malaysians and some believers from abroad flocking the Hand of the Cause at the Oceanic Conference. L-R. Ganasamurthi Ramasamy, Choo Yeok Boon and Jami Subramaniam. To the right of Mr. Olinga is R. Krishnan. At the left are Satanam with hands clasped and Yin Hong Shuen in a batik shirt.
Since the Hand of the Cause did not promise of coming to Malaysia, no believer was at the Subang International Airport in Kuala Lumpur to receive him. Unwilling to be a bother to anyone, Mr. Olinga took a taxi from the airport and checked into the Federal Hotel in the Bukit Bintang area in Kuala Lumpur. That was a prestigious hotel with the first revolving restaurant on its top. He had been taken ill and was extremely tired and exhausted for a few days after his strenuous world tour lasting 14 months. Once he regained his strength, he telephoned the National Bahá’í Centre in Setapak, on Friday, 22 January 1971 to say that he was already in town and wanted to meet the community. Mr. Sandrakasan Rajoo, serving as a staff at the National Bahá’í Centre picked the receiver. Mr. Olinga spoke, “Alláh-u-Abhá. Is this the National Bahá’í Centre?” Sandrakasan answered “Yes, it is.” Mr. Olinga continued, “This is Enoch Olinga. I am in the Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I wish to meet the community this evening. Please inform the National Spiritual Assembly. I also want someone to help me out with my air tickets. Thank you very much.” Sandrakasan replied, “Sure Sir. Thank you.” And both of them hung up their receivers. Somehow it did not occur to Sandrakasan that it was Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Olinga who was at the other end of the line. Sandrakasan himself was among those who had been despatching letters to the community informing them of Mr. Olinga representing the Universal House of Justice at the Oceanic Conference. Sandrakasan never knew Mr. Enoch Olinga as he did not attend the Oceanic Conference in Singapore that was concluded just three weeks ago. Mr. Inbum Chinniah, the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly had requested Sandrakasan to stay back at the National Office during the Oceanic Conference days to relay telegrams that were anticipated. And Sandrakasan relayed many cables for the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia to Mr. Inbum Chinniah in Singapore, as and when they were received. And so he did not have the privilege of meeting the Hand of the Cause in person in Singapore. After hanging up the receiver, Sandrakasan inform Kanagaratnam, the Administrative Assistant of the phone call he received from one Mr. Enoch Olinga, who had checked into the Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and wanted to have his air tickets sorted out and wanted to meet the community. Hearing the name Enoch Olinga, Kanagaratnam jumped with joy, and said he was none other than the Hand of the Cause who was at the Oceanic Conference in Singapore. Sandrakasan too jumped with joy as he would be privileged to meet the ‘Father of Victories’ whom he could not meet in Singapore. At first the staff could not believe what they heard but once it was confirmed that Mr. Olinga was at the Federal Hotel they became overjoyed and quickly telephoned Mr. Inbum Chinniah, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly. Some quick decisions had to be made in that panicky situation, especially the logistics. The Bahá’ís in the Klang Valley and the Central Region had to be informed for a meeting with the beloved Hand the following evening, and the staff of the National Center were busy calling the communities and individuals. That was the time when very few had telephone facilities at their homes. Since it was a working day the friends were contacted in their offices as well. The parties receiving the calls were requested to quickly relay the glad tidings as widely and as quickly as possible. Those who had met Mr. Olinga at the Oceanic Conference were certainly thrilled that he had heeded to their invitations at last to step on Malaysian soil. Those who could not make it to the Oceanic Conference were very happy to see him in person especially after all the good reports they heard from those who went to the Conference.
There was already an air of excitement in Kuala Lumpur. A quick check was made to see who could be available to attend to this request. Sadly, since it was a Friday, most of the Bahá’ís were working. But Mr. N. Sivasathiyaseelan or popularly called N. S. S. Silan was contacted, and he was able to take some time off from the Inland Revenue Department where he worked and rushed to the Federal Hotel that morning itself. Silan had met Mr. Olinga at the Oceanic Conference. As Silan arrived at the hotel room door, he saw that the door was kept slightly open. Then Mr. Olinga came out of the washroom and opened the door and gave a warm greeting of ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’. Mr. Olinga who looked so sick and exhausted handed over a pile of tickets to Silan who was very shocked to see the number of tickets that looked more like the pages of a textbook. Firstly, Silan went to the nearby air ticketing office and sorted out the ticket issues pertaining to his onward journey. Once that was sorted out Silan met Mr. Olinga again in his hotel room. Mr. Olinga was very happy with the confirmation of his next flight out. Mr. Olinga then expressed his desire to see some places in Kuala Lumpur as it was his first visit ever to Malaysia. Silan gladly took him to some important landmarks in the city in his blue coloured Volkswagen with registration number BX 3434. Mr. Olinga was very comfortable in that simple car, which Silan had driven to several parts of the country for teaching and consolidation when he was on the National Coordinating Unit. Now for the first time, Silan found it the greatest privilege to drive none other than a Hand of the Cause in his car.
Meanwhile, the staff of the Bahá’í Centre kept communicating over the phone with whoever was available in the central region. There was no time to be missed. Quickly the Bahá’í youth were taught a new Bahá’í song to honour the Hand of the Cause of God. A few Bahá’ís of the Kuala Lumpur community went into town to buy a beautiful gift for the Hand of the Cause. The youth got together and composed a song to welcome the Hand of the Cause. Silan drove Mr. Olinga from the Federal Hotel in his blue Volkswagen to the National Bahá’í Centre. By the time Mr. Olinga arrived in the evening, about 50 Bahá’ís from Kuala Lumpur, Kajang, Petaling Jaya and Seremban had gathered. Some who were outside the Bahá’í Centre spotted the car that was approaching the National Bahá’í Center with the yellow emergency lights flashing brilliantly. The children shouted, “He is coming, he is coming”. The crowd organised itself and lined up from the front of the Centre, right to the entrance. When the car arrived, Inbum Chinniah opened the door and welcomed him. With Inbum Chinniah was Mr. Wong Kok Mee, a pillar of the Kuala Lumpur since April 1954 when he first accepted the Faith. He was also on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Kuala Lumpur. As Mr. Olinga walked he greeted each Bahá’í lining the walkway to the Centre. He paused at the entrance door of the Bahá’í Centre, when a chorus of Bahá’í youth started to sing the song they had composed for him- ‘Father of Victories we welcome you! Beloved Hand of God we welcome you! Father we welcome you. We, the people of Malaysia welcome you …”
After that he entered the Centre. As he entered, all the Bahá’ís greeted him by singing ‘Alláh-u-Abhá’. Before Mr. Olinga could respond, the Bahá’ís greeted him with, “Are you happy? ” The Hand together with all the friends laughed heartily as Mr. Olinga always began his speeches with his trademark question “Are you happy?” As he spotted Sandrakasan, who was handicapped, Mr. Olinga hugged and carried him and greeted, “Alláh-u-Abhá. Are you happy?” Sandrakasan could not believe the special bounty that he alone received in the crowd.
Mrs. Lily Chinniah, member of the Local Spiritual Assembly chaired the session. She had met Mr. Olinga at the First Bahá’í World Congress held in London in Riḍván 1963, and then at the recently concluded Oceanic Conference in Singapore. She was the only one in the crowd who had been to the First Bahá’í World Congress. At the Oceanic Conference in Singapore, both Inbum Chinniah and Lily Chinniah arose to pioneer and the couple, and children went on stage to greet him. He was so happy that they had risen as a family to pioneer. When Mr. Olinga came to Kuala Lumpur he had already known Inbum Chinniah and Lily Chinniah well.
The Chinniah family greeted by Mr. Olinga on the stage in Victoria Memorial Hall where the Oceanic Conference took place.
As everyone settled down, the meeting began with prayers. There was no special message that the Hand of the Cause of God had for that Bahá’í gathering, but what everyone received was the tremendous love he had for everyone. When addressing the community, he said that he had brought the love from all the Bahá’ís whom he had met in his recent world travels. In this gathering Mr. Olinga explained the background, spirit and the power of the prayer of Bahá’u’lláh, “God is sufficient unto me. He verily is the All-sufficing. In Him let the trusting trust.” He took the Bahá’ís on a journey through time right into the Síyáh-Chál prison where this prayer originated, in order to make the believers feel the power of this simple, and yet most potent prayer. The friends were thrilled to learn of the greatness of this prayer. All of them memorized that prayer on the spot!
Well, Mr. Olinga surprised everyone in Malaysia through this unexpected visit. Now it was Mr. Olinga’s turn to be pleasantly surprised. After the talks were over the Bahá’ís gave him their gift of love, which was a Batik shirt that was famous in Malaysia and Indonesia. He was so happy and equally surprised. He mentioned that he himself was thinking of buying exactly the same Batik shirt from the hotel gallery when he was shopping that afternoon, but something told him to hold on, so he did not buy. But now he realized that the Bahá’ís had already bought the exact shirt that he himself had intended to buy. What a delightful coincidence! When he came he was wearing a white coloured short sleeve shirt. When he was given this Batik shirt, he took it to the meeting room of the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly and changed into it. As he came out of the room everyone applauded as the Batik shirt, to the surprise of many fitted him very well. A few friends wanted to get him to sign an autograph. A staff of the National Center handed him a prayer book which autographed. Some had come with cameras, and they took photos with him. A group photograph was then taken outside the National Bahá’í Centre.
The Hand of the Cause looks at the gift, with Mrs. Lily Chinniah on the right.
At the National Bahá’í Bookshop, wearing the Batik shirt. The Hand holds a baby monkey brought by teachers to the Asli villages. To the left is the son of the Gibsons.
By the time the session with the Hand of the Cause was over, it was time for dinner. Some friends decided to take the Hand of the Cause for dinner, to honour the guest. But there was a big crowd and who to be invited and who to be left out became a problem. Silan and Auxiliary Board member Mrs. Betty Fernandez decided to invite some friends for the dinner and the hat could be passed around to collect funds to cover the cost of the meal. Wong Kok Mee who overheard the conversation said, “Whoever wants to join the dinner can come. We should not worry about paying for the dinner.” So, the friends were quietly invited. Some had to return to their homes while some stayed back for the dinner.
A group photo with Mr. Olinga, taken in front of the National Bahá’í Centre. Seated L-R: Wong Kok Mee, Mrs. Lily Chinniah, Mr. Olinga, Mrs. Betty Fernandez, Yin Hong Shuen and Isaac DCruz. To the left of Isaac is C. Kanagaratnam, the Administrative Assistant in the national office, carrying Soheil Chinniah. To the front of Kanagaratnam is S. Satanam. Squatting at the left are Jami Subramaniam, Govindasamy Alagiri and N.S.S. Silan. Standing at the back of them is Sandrakasan and at his back is S.L. Thevar.
At the dinner session a few tables were booked and there were lots of fun, laughter and singing as well. The owner of the restaurant and the waiters there had known Bahá’ís frequenting the restaurant. But this time around, they witnessed a new kind of atmosphere, with the presence of a guest from the black race to whom the believers flocked with lots of love. The Hand enjoyed the evening very much with the singing going on as he himself was a great lover of music. At the dinner too the friends urged Mr. Olinga to come back to Malaysia for longer period of time. Mr. Olinga was scheduled to fly to Bangkok the following day. Meanwhile the organizers of the dinner went to the cashier’s counter to settle the bill, but they were informed that it had already been settled. This came as an unexpected surprise to them. On pressing to identify the good Samaritan, the restaurant owner pointed to an elderly Chinese believer who was limping away in the distance. That was Wong Kok Mee, who did it again with his usual magnanimity! No wonder he had said earlier when the dinner was planned, “Whoever wants to join the dinner can come. We should not worry about paying for the dinner.” It was this pillar of the community who had been financially blessed by the Blessed Beauty. He was one of the few who had his own car to provide transport to the visitors, cleaned and swept the National Bahá’í Centre, settled the utilities bill and switched on the lights every evening. He did this until late 1965 when S. Vasudevan, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia moved into the Bahá’í Centre as a tenant. So, when the dinner was over that night Silan drove Mr. Olinga back to the Federal Hotel.
Dinner for Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Enoch Olinga seated in the centre, attired in a ‘Batik’ shirt. To his right is Wong Kok Mee. To the left of the Hand of the Cause are Mrs. Lily Chinniah, Mrs. Elizabeth Gibson and Mr. Inbum Chinniah. Facing away from the camera on the left is S. Satanam from Seremban.
The following day a few Bahá’ís accompanied Mr. Olinga to the Subang International Airport to send him off. As the car passed through the University Malaya campus, he was informed of an active University Malaya Bahá’í Society which had carried out landmark activities there. Mr. Olinga, prayed for the success of the teaching work being carried out by the Bahá’í students there. At the airport he checked in the check-in counter and kept conversing with the believers until the departure of his plane to Bangkok was announced. The Bahá’ís very reluctantly bid him goodbye. They kept looking at him until he disappeared through the entrance gate, never in the least imagining that he would never return to this country. That noon he flew off to Bangkok. That was his first and the only visit to Malaysia. Though his visit was short, it had a lasting effect that could be felt even today. His magical words of “Are you happy? Are you all really happy? This is the day of happiness as the Supreme Manifestation of God has appeared in this day!” will ever be ringing in the ears of those who heard them.
It did not take long before other distantly placed communities in Malaysia came to hear of this lightning visit of Mr. Olinga to Kuala Lumpur. They were happy and sad at the same time–happy that he had visited the country, and sad that he came at very short notice and could not visit other parts of the country. Although this was his only visit to Malaysia, some Malaysian believers had the privilege of meeting him abroad after the year 1971. When a group of Malaysian believers went to Africa at the end of 1972 to assist in the fulfillment of the remaining goals of the Nine Year Plan, some of them met Mr. Olinga there. In early 1973, Kamachee met Mr. Olinga in Cameroon where she was serving and N.S. S. Silan met him in Nairobi, Kenya where he was serving. Mr Olinga passed through Nairobi on his way to the International Convention to be held in Haifa. Even before Mr. Olinga came to Malaysia, he had met a few Malaysian believers abroad. A. Sabapathy, our Malaysian pioneer was in Bangalore, India serving the Cause. When he married Miss Qudsiah of the illustrious Yaganagi family in Bangalore on 15 December 1968, the ceremony WAS performed by Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Enoch Olinga. And S. Vasudevan, our first pioneer to India was there at the wedding.
Mr. Olinga gracing the wedding of Sabapathy and Qudsiah in Bangalore. Standing next to Mr Olinga is S. Vasudevan.
However, the Bahá’í community was plunged into sorrow when it received the shocking news of the unexpected passing of the beloved Hand of the Cause of God Enoch Olinga on 16 September 1979 at the hands of unknown gunmen in the war-torn country of Uganda.
When the news arrived in Malaysia through the National Spiritual Assembly and relayed to the communities by phone, the believers were totally devastated at his most tragic passing and the manner in which he and his family were murdered. The believers wanted to know the manner in which he and his family were shot. What became clear was that it was a shooting spree in a war-torn country. The believers resigned to the Will of God and resorted to saying ardent prayers for the soul of this beloved Hand of the Cause of God, Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, and Father of Victories to progress in the worlds beyond under the sheltering and loving care of the Blessed Beauty.
On 24 September, the “Father of Victories” was laid to rest in a burial plot near the House of Worship in Uganda, next to the burial site of Mr. Músá Banání, his fellow Hand of the Cause of God who was designated the “Spiritual Conqueror of Africa”. On 17 September, the Universal House of Justice sent out the following cable to all National Spiritual Assemblies:
WITH GRIEF-STRICKEN HEARTS ANNOUNCE TRAGIC NEWS BRUTAL MURDER DEARLY LOVED GREATLY ADMIRED HAND CAUSE GOD ENOCH OLINGA BY UNKNOWN GUNMEN COURTYARD HIS KAMPALA HOME. HIS WIFE ELIZABETH AND THREE OF HIS CHILDREN BADÍ, LENNIE AND ṬÁHIRIH HAVE ALSO FALLEN INNOCENT VICTIMS THIS CRUEL ACT. MOTIVE ATTACK NOT YET ASCERTAINED. HIS RADIANT SPIRIT, HIS UNWAVERING FAITH, HIS ALL-EMBRACING LOVE, HIS LEONINE AUDACITY IN THE TEACHING FIELD, HIS TITLES KNIGHT BAHÁ’U’LLÁH, FATHER VICTORIES CONFERRED BELOVED GUARDIAN, ALL COMBINE DISTINGUISH HIM AS PREEMINENT MEMBER HIS RACE IN ANNALS FAITH AFRICAN CONTINENT URGE FRIENDS EVERYWHERE HOLD MEMORIAL GATHERINGS BEFITTING TRIBUTE HIS IMPERISHABLE MEMORY. FERVENTLY PRAYING HOLY SHRINES PROGRESS HIS NOBLE SOUL AND SOULS FOUR MEMBERS HIS PRECIOUS FAMILY
This cable from the Baháʼí World Centre, in a way settled all speculations, which went around at that time when there was no fast means of communications.
The shocked Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia sent this cable to the Supreme Body:
ENTIRE MALAYSIAN COMMUNITY SHOCKED GRIEF STRICKEN DEATH MOST DEARLY LOVED HAND CAUSE OLINGA AND WONDERFUL FAMILY STOP HIS RADIANT FACE FRESH OUR MINDS SINCE OCEANIC CONFERENCE SINGAPORE 1971 STOP MEMORIAL SERVICES BEING HELD OFFERING PRAYERS PROGRESS BELOVED SOULS STOP PLEASE CONVEY OUR BEHALF REMAINING MEMBERS FAMILY AFRICAN FRIENDS OUR HEARTFELT CONDOLENCE
Again, what a coincidence! Hand of the Cause of God Enoch Olinga passed away on 16 September 1979, and his fellow Hand of the Cause Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir passed away on 29 December 1979 in Ecuador. It was too short a period in which the Bahá’í community was robbed of two Hands of the Cause. And Shoghi Effendi, our beloved Guardian had appointed these two, along with a few others in the third contingent on 2 October 1957. They were the youngest among those appointed in the third contingent.
In 1953, he became the first Baháʼí pioneer to British Cameroon and was given the title Knight of Bahá’u’lláh for that country. Enoch Olinga was entitled ‘Abu’l-Futuh’, a Persian name meaning ‘Father of Victories’ by Shoghi Effendi.
The Malaysian believers were truly blessed by the visit Mr. Olinga made to this country, though the only one. Just one month before his visit to Malaysia, the local friends who met him at the Oceanic Conference of the South China Seas in early January 1971, earnestly requested him to visit the country. He could not answer in the affirmative. But when he came unannounced on a lightning visit, they were all thrilled. Today history has it that through that one visit, the beloved Hand of the Cause had blessed this country through the instrumentality of the mercy of the Blessed Beauty. Communities across Malaysia organised befitting memorial gatherings for him.
Final resting place of the Father of Victories in the premises of the House of Worship in Kampala, Uganda.
More on Mr. Olinga and eleven other Hands of the Cause who visited Malaysia could be read in the author’s soon to be published book of 800 pages:
DIFFUSERS OF DIVINE FRAGRANCES
An Account of the Hands of the Cause of God Who Visited Malaysia
30 September 2023
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